Managing Food Waste and Charitable Giving

Did you know that a third of all food produced globally goes to waste? If food waste was a country, then it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the world.   

In the UK, 70% of food waste occurs in the home, but the hospitality and the retail sector still contribute a sizable 16% to the total. Donating unwanted food to charity is a great way to reduce the overall impact of waste and support the local community. Rob Easton, Head of Environment Health at Shield Safety, gives some useful guidance on how to do this safely.  

Good businesses will always do their best to reduce food waste. This will normally be through careful menu planning, stock control, and using par levels. Sometimes, however, events outside the control of the business, such as an unexpected change in weather, guest no-shows, or travel disruption can leave a business with excess food that is not able to be used. Unfortunately, this excess food often ends up in the bin, incurring waste disposal costs and meaning good quality food goes to waste.  

However, with a bit of planning and working with other organisations, this can be avoided and those in need can benefit from free food. Managing food waste is also a great way of reducing the carbon footprint of a business and helps towards net zero. 

Does the law still apply, even if I am giving the food away?  

Absolutely it does! The definition of the sale of food extends to free food and charitable giving, therefore the same laws apply to the food which is being given away as to food sold. This means the same standards of food safety must be upheld.  

What Controls Should Be in Place?  

Temperature Control 

If the food is a high risk, then temperature control will be key and the same disciplines in the business will continue. If food has been cooked and it is still hot, it is likely it will need to be cooled before being donated. If the food needs to be stored chilled, then this must continue up to the point of it being given as a donation. If possible, it is recommended that food is frozen down before being given as a donation. Freezing the food will extend the shelf life of the product and increases the likelihood of it being of benefit to those it’s donated to.  


It is important that food that has been prepared has allergen information provided when donated. You will be providing this information already to your customer, so it should not be too much extra work to provide it with the donated food.  


Containers donated food is placed into must be clean and prevent contamination of the food. Consideration must be given if extra containers are required for keeping food to be donated and make sure they are clean.  

Food Safety Management Systems 

If a food business is donating unwanted food, then the process and safe methods must be included within its Food Safety Management System (FSMS). If you are a client of Shield Safety and would like to include this in your current FSMS, then please drop us a line or talk with your Account Manager. If you are not a client and would like further information, you can get a FREE 30-minute business assessment by enquiring below.  

Working With Charities and Other Organisations 

A great way of ensuring the donation gets to those in need is to work with a specialist organisation. They will help arrange the collection of the food, advise on how best to have it ready, and any specific controls they stipulate. In addition to local charities, there are a number of online services that can help you connect with organisations and those in need. One of the most well-known services is Olio, which will organise 24/7 pick-ups at minimal disruption to your business. Other organisations can be found at feedback global.

FREE Business assessment

Enquire about a FREE 30-minute business assessment here


Rob Easton


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