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Charities receiving donated food

Food donation may arise at any stage of the food production and distribution chain for a number of different reasons. Due to difficulties in managing supply and demand, some food businesses may have a surplus of supply to meet orders and often orders for food may be cancelled resulting in excess stock. In certain cases, errors in the labelling or packaging could mean that the perfectly safe food will not be entered into the marketplace and so is available for donation.

This document relates to charities using surplus food within their organisation to feed clients who are the final consumers of the food. This includes charities that prepare sandwiches or snacks, e.g. a family resources centre that organises breakfast clubs, afterschool programmes, etc. or charities that cook and serve meals, e.g. ‘meals on wheels’ or day centres for the elderly.

Food businesses can choose to donate food once it is safe and in a condition that would allow the product to still be sold, i.e. an acceptable condition.

The process of food donation must also be considered within the food safety management system of the donating food business.

All food businesses whether donating or receiving and handling donated food must also make themselves aware of their legal responsibilities under food legislation.


This information is intended to provide an overview of general food safety guidance to charities receiving donated food to prepare for the final consumer.

It contains relevant questions and answers to help clarify the legal provisions in EU food legislation thus allowing the safe donation and receipt of food. It also includes links to guidance on compliance with relevant legislation. A summary of the main pieces of legislation that may apply to your business/charity is highlighted below.