Guidelines for Donated Food

Non-profit and religious-based organizations receiving donated foods for re-distribution to the needy must adhere to the same food safety guidelines that grocery retailers, food manufacturers and restaurants follow. The donated foods must be carefully screened to reduce the potential for distributing foods that could cause food-borne illness. Don't always rely on look or smell. Foods that cause food poisoning may look fine and smell acceptable.

Foods in the following condition should not be sold or given away for human consumption:

  • Crushed immediately under the double (end) seam
  • Moderate/severe dents at the juncture of side and double (end) seam
  • Rust pits severe enough to pierce the can
  • Swollen or bulging ends
  • Holes, fractures, or punctures
  • Evidence of leakage
  • Signs of spoilage (spurting; unusual odor or appearance) when opened
  • Baby food or formula past the expiration date
  • Missing label
Glass Jars
  • Home-canned instead of commercially canned
  • Raised, crooked, or loosened lid
  • Damaged tamper-resistant seal
  • Cracks or chips in the glass
  • Signs of spoilage (discolored food; cloudy liquid)
  • Dirt under the rim
  • Baby food past the expiration date
Paperboard Cartons
  • Torn or missing inner packaging in cartons that are slit or opened
  • Evidence of insects
  • Baby food past the expiration date
Plastic Containers
  • Damaged tamper-resistant seal
  • Signs of spoilage (mold, off odor)
  • Baby food past the expiration date
Foods Stored in the Refrigerator
  • Lukewarm food (above 41° F refrigerator temperature)
  • Signs of spoilage (unusual odor or appearance, molds)
  • Unsuitable containers (and/or covers) that allow food to be contaminated
  • Uncertain handling "history" (questionable reputation of food source)
  • Damaged tamper-resistant seals if commercially packaged
Foods Stored in the Freezer
  • Evidence of thawing (ice on the food or leaking)
  • Unsuitable packaging that allows food to be contaminated
Discarding food that does not meet the above criteria is not a waste. It helps protect the at-risk hunger community.

(Local, State of Federal laws may also apply for donated wild game or prepared meals.)