The Emerson Act
The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act (Federal Legislation)
What sort of food is protected?
The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (the "Emerson Act") provides protection for food and grocery products that meet all quality and labeling standards imposed by Federal, State and local laws and regulations even though the food or product may not be "readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus or other conditions."
Food may include any "raw, cooked processed or prepared edible substance, ice, beverage or ingredient" used or intended for use by humans. Grocery products can include nonfood products, including "disposable paper or plastic products, household cleaning products, laundry detergent, cleaning products or miscellaneous household items." There are also provisions to deal with food and products that do not meet quality and labeling requirements of Federal, State and Local laws. The National law has received widespread bi-partisan in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Both legislative bodies passed the bill by unanimous consent. Furthermore, the Emerson Act moves the Good Samaritan Law from the National and Community Service Act of 1990 to the Childhood Nutrition Act of 1996.
Who is protected?
The national legislation protects food donors, including individuals, and non-profit feeding programs who act in good faith. While exceptions are noted for gross negligence, the law states that these groups will not be subject to civil or criminal liability arising from the "nature, age, packaging or condition of apparently wholesome food or an apparently fit grocery product..."
How does the law improve on the state laws already in place?
The national legislation replaces all state laws, including those in the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and all U.S. territories and possessions. Under the National law, food donors need only seek protection under one law. This should save significant time and resources on the donor's behalf and simplify the entire donation process.
How does the national law compare to state laws?
The Emerson Act has actually existed as a model for state laws since 1990 when it was placed in the National and Community Service Act of 1990, although it did not carry Bill Emerson's name until 1996. While state laws have never been tested in courts, and food-rescue programs have worked hard to prevent even a single case of food-borne illness, the national law is broader and simpler to apply.
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