Food donors who donate food to charities are generally protected from civil liability.
Certain conditions need to be met - such as the food must be safe to eat when it is donated and it must be given away for free.
We set out below a general overview of the relevant law for your information. You should seek legal advice if you have questions or about specific fact situations as they arise.
The law in all Australian states and territories provides that a food donor who donates food is protected from civil liability for personal injury or death resulting from its consumption if the donated food is:
- safe to eat when it leaves the possession or control of the donor;
- donated in good faith for a charitable or benevolent purpose;
- donated with the intention that the recipient does not have to pay for it.
In addition food donors need to provide any information necessary to ensure the ongoing safety of the food, with respect to both food handling and time limits for safe consumption.
Charities who receive and distribute donated food to their clients receive similar protection from civil liability under the laws of New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania.
Organisations in New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania who distribute donated food to charities are also similarly protected.
Charities and agencies in Northern Territory, the ACT, Victoria and Western Australia are not currently protected in this way, and so there is a risk of incurring civil liability if food causes harm to a third party.
In addition to ensuring that all donated food is fit for human consumption and maintained in that condition (you may like to refer to our Food Safety Information
page), charities in these states and territories may wish to consider other risk management solutions, such as insurance, to reduce the risk or effect of this potential liability.
VOLUNTEERING WITH LOCAL AGENCIES
We recommend that people interested in becoming involved in food rescue do so as a volunteer for a local community organisation.
There are a number of reasons for this. These include that your local community organisations will likely have a better understanding of the need for donated food in your community. In addition, as a volunteer you are able to benefit from the legal protection from civil liability given to people in all states and territories who do voluntary community work on behalf of a community organisation although, again, the legislative provisions vary between states. This protection is not available to people who perform volunteer work on behalf of themselves.
The above information is intended to provide a general overview on the statutory provisions applicable to food donors, agencies and distributors and volunteers and it should not be relied on as legal advice. These provisions vary between jurisdictions in Australia; matters differ according to their facts and the law changes. You should seek legal advice on specific fact situations as they arise.