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Santa Barbara County Food Rescue : a CEC program

Information on laws protecting food donors.

Applicable Law & Analysis

In 1988, California passed its first law to limit the liability of food donors to nonprofit charitable organizations and food banks.[1] In October 2017, the Legislature passed a bill known as the California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (the “Act”)[2] to further encourage food donations and to clarify and expand the existing protections for food donors. The Act is effective as of January 1, 2018.

The Act provides limitations on liability for food donations made by any person, gleaner or food facility.[3] Under the Act, a person, gleaner, or food facility that donates food that is fit for human consumption is not liable for any injury resulting from the consumption of donated food. Liability results only if the injury is the result of the gross negligence or intentional misconduct of the donor in the preparation or handling of the donated food.[4] Gross negligence, the more lenient of these two standards, requires a lack of even scant care or an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of conduct.[5] Thus, if a person, gleaner, or food facility exercises even scant care, there is immunity from liability under the Act.

The immunity provided by the Act applies regardless of compliance with any other laws, regulations, or ordinances regulating the packaging or labeling of food, and regardless of compliance with any laws, regulations, or ordinances regulating the storage or handling of the food by the donee after the donation of the food.[6] The protections under the Act also apply even if the food has exceeded the labeled shelf life date recommended by the manufacturer; however, the Act distinguishes between non-perishable and perishable food.[7] If the food is non-perishable, immunity under the Act applies.[8] If the food is perishable, immunity attaches so long as the person that distributes the food to the end recipient makes a good faith evaluation that the food is wholesome.[9]


[1] See 1988 Cal. Legis. Serv. Ch. 735 (S.B. 2427) (adding Section 1714.25 to the California Civil Code and adding Article 18 (commencing with Section 27900) to Chapter 4 of Division 22 of the California Health and Safety Code).
[2] See 2017 Cal. Legis. Serv. Ch. 619 (A.B. 1219).
[3] Cal. Civ. Code § 1714.25. A “person” includes individuals, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, restaurants, caterers, hotels, schools, hospitals, corporations and other business entities, among others. Id. § 1714.25(d)(5). A “gleaner” is a person who harvests an agricultural crop for free distribution. Id. § 1714.25(d)(3). A “food facility” is an operation that stores, prepares, packages, serves, vends, or otherwise provides food for human consumption at the retail level. Id. § 1714.25(d)(2); Cal. Health & Safety Code § 113789(a).
[4] Cal. Civ. Code § 1714.25(a).
[5] City of Santa Barbara v. Super. Ct., 41 Cal.4th 747, 754 (2007).
[6] Cal. Civ. Code § 1714.25(a); Cal. Health & Safety Code § 114433.
[7] Cal. Civ. Code § 1714.25(a); Cal. Health & Safety Code § 114433.
[8] Cal. Civ. Code § 1714.25(a); Cal. Health & Safety Code § 114433.
[9] Cal. Civ. Code § 1714.25(a); Cal. Health & Safety Code § 114433.

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