Legal Protections

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act (PUBLIC LAW 104–210—OCT. 1, 1996 110 STAT. 3011) established in 1996, protects businesses that donate food in good faith from being held liable should someone become sick from donated food. The only exception to the law is in the case of gross negligence or intentional misconduct. This Act gives uniform minimum federal protection to all donors, even those who may cross state lines. The law protects individuals, for-profit and non-profit businesses, and governmental entities.

Frozen meat labels

Even if the food may not be “readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus or other conditions,” the Federal Act protects food and grocery products as long as they meet all quality and labeling standards imposed by regulations at the federal, state, and local levels.

As a federal statute, The Good Samaritan Act creates a uniform minimum level of protection from liability for donors and gleaners nationwide.  In Maryland, the Maryland Health-General Code Ann §21-322, states, “A person [nonprofit corporation, organization, or association], shall have the immunity from liability described under § 5-634 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article for any act or omission that affects the nature, age, condition, or packaging of the donated food.”

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