Food donation without compromising safety

Food donation can be permitted to operate in compliance with procedures that differ from commercial operations, but no compromises regarding food safety can be allowed. Both the companies that donate food and charity organisations that distribute it are responsible for ensuring this approach. The Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry have jointly prepared guidelines for donation foodstuffs to charity purpose.

These products must be suitable for human consumption and may not pose a risk to human health or mislead consumers.

Foodstuffs intended for food donation may be frozen but not after the use-by date. It is recommended that frozen foodstuffs remain frozen when distributed to consumers. Due to the risk of listeria, for instance frozen vacuum- or CA-packed cold-smoked or salt-cured fish may only be used by the charity organisation that prepares a meal from the defrosted fish by heating up the food, if consumed after the use-by date.

If an unlabelled product is frozen, the date of freezing must be clearly indicated on the product. Charity organisations preparing food from donated foodstuffs may use the products after the use-by date as ingredients for meals on the next day, provided that the products are heated to a temperature of at least 70 degrees Celsius when cooked.

Food control measures apply to charity organisations that regularly distribute easily perishable foodstuffs to charity purpose. The guidelines contain not only the existing food regulations but also interpretations based on risk-based flexibility of legislation, applicable to charity operations only. The aim is to reduce the amount of food going to waste.

Not only the food industry companies donating food to charity organisations but the organisations themselves are responsible for ensuring that the food they give away is safe. Charity organisations are reminded of a variety of aspects, including the importance of a well-functioning cold chain, rapid handing over of food, and the storage cycle.

All food business operators, including primary producers, refiners, storage operators, retailers, institutional caterers and restaurants, may donate foodstuffs to charity purpose. Food aid can be distributed to consumers either via charity organisations or directly by food business operators.

The guidelines for foodstuffs donated to charity purpose are intended both for operators who distribute and mediate food aid, and the municipal food control authorities that supervise the operations.