SACRAMENTO – Earlier this week, the California state legislature passed two bills that offer solutions to some of the leading causes of wasted food. Over 5.5 million tons of food is dumped in landfills every year in California, and an alarming amount of that landfilled food is actually edible at the time it’s thrown out.
AB 1219, the California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act authored by Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman (D- Stockton), strengthens and expands a 1977 law that protects food donors from legal liability, in order to encourage food donations. Notably, the bill also requires health inspectors to promote donation and educate restaurants and grocery stores about these liability protections.
“Reducing food insecurity is an achievable goal. My bill will cut down the amount of food ending up in landfills by encouraging donors to help hungry Californians,” said Assemblymember Susan Eggman.
“Getting food to people who need it is the highest and best use of food that would have otherwise been sent to a landfill,” said Melissa Romero, Policy Associate for Californians Against Waste. “The requirements of this bill will dispel the myth that food donors can be sued and send a strong signal that good food should never go to waste.”
AB 954, authored by Assemblymember David Chiu (D- San Francisco), promotes the use of uniform phrases for food expiration dates in an effort to reduce the estimated 20% of consumer food waste that comes from the misinterpretation of date labels. This bill will help narrow the number of confusing phrases used (including “best by,” “best before,” “sell by,” “enjoy by”, “expires,” and others) down to two terms: a peak freshness dates, when food is likely to taste best, and a safety date, when food may be unsafe to eat. AB 954 would also discourage the use of consumer-visible sell-by dates that are inherently misleading and wasteful.
“Every day we open our refrigerators and wonder what the dates on our food mean,” said Assemblymember David Chiu. “In a state where 6 million families are food insecure, a startling amount of food is being wasted every single day because of arbitrary date labels. Consumers deserve to know what our labels mean and whether or not our food is safe to eat. This bill mirrors industry best practices and moves us closer to uniform date labels, which will reduce unnecessary food waste.”
“Many cautious consumers see these dates and toss out perfectly healthy and wholesome food just because it is past "the date" on the package,” said Nick Lapis, Director of Advocacy at Californians Against Waste. “Promoting consistent terminology for date labels will give consumers confidence that they’re food is safe to eat and may not need to be thrown out.”
Californians Against Waste sponsored AB 954 and co-sponsored AB 1219 with the California Association of Food Banks. The final vote for AB 954 was 33-6 in the Senate and 79-0 in the Assembly. The final vote for AB 1219 was 39-0 in the Senate and 79-0 in the Assembly. Both bills must now be approved by Governor Brown by the October 15th deadline.