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Mandatory Edible Food Recovery Requirements for Commercial Edible Food Generators

California Senate Bill 1383 is a first-of-its-kind climate action law. It requires a 75% reduction of the landfilling of organic waste by 2025 and mandates how large food generating businesses and organizations must handle and help recover their surplus edible food. Landfilling food and other organic waste creates a potent greenhouse gas called methane that intensifies climate change. Properly managing our surplus food and organic waste today is a vital step to address the climate emergency.

The good news is that we’ve been working with food generators and food recovery organizations to create a program to help all affected businesses and organizations meet their new mandatory requirements.

And it’s working! Through our partners, we recovered over 5,500,000 lbs. in San Mateo County alone! But there’s a lot of work left to be done too. There may be as much as 33,000,000 lbs. of edible food generated in San Mateo County from grocery stores and supermarkets alone to be recovered each year.

The purpose of this website is to help food generators understand their edible food recovery mandates, the San Mateo County Edible Food Recovery Program, and the big benefits that food recovery generates for our communities. Read through the following section to learn more.

WHAT IS EDIBLE FOOD RECOVERY?

Edible food recovery is the act of diverting surplus edible food from businesses, organizations, or events that otherwise would previously have been disposed of in a landfill or sent to compost. This recovery service is carried out by food recovery organizations, such as food banks and other community-based organizations.

Edible Food Recovery helps eradicate food insecurity and waste and may lessens the effects of climate change by reducing methane gas emissions. You must contract for Edible Food Recovery services just like your other waste and recycling services. In San Mateo County, and throughout the State of California, edible food recovery is now a mandatory program for many food generators and failure to arrange for adequate services will result in fines and penalties.

NEW EDIBLE FOOD RECOVERY REQUIREMENTS FOR LARGE BUSINESSES AND ORGANIZATIONS

Large food-generating businesses and organizations are required to hold contracts with food recovery organizations or services to recover the maximum amount of their surplus edible food as possible.  

It is your business’s or organization’s responsibility to establish these contracts, however, you may need to wait to do so until food recovery organizations or services in your area are ready to recover your surplus food.The County is working closely with food recovery organizations and services to expand their capacity. While it is your responsibility to establish these contracts, you need to wait until food recovery organizations or services in your area are ready to recovery your surplus food. Your business or organization will be contacted when your local food recovery organizations or services are ready to work with you, but feel free to ask us any questions you may have via email at ediblefoodrecovery@smcgov.org.

Finally, once your food recovery contract is in place, there are additional food handling, training, and record keeping and reporting requirements to assure edible food recovery is done safely and effectively. 

AFFECTED BUSINESSES AND ORGANIZATIONS

There are two categories of food generating businesses and organizations that have new food recovery mandates: Tier 1 generators and Tier 2 generators.

Tier 1 generators include:

Generator TypeGenerator Definitions—as defined in CA SB 1383 regulations adopted October 2020
SupermarketA full-line, self-service retail store with gross annual sales of two million dollars ($2,000,000), or more, and which sells a line of dry grocery, canned goods, or nonfood items and some perishable items.
Grocery Stores 10,000+ sq ft total facility size A store primarily engaged in the retail sale of canned food; dry goods; fresh fruits and vegetables; fresh meats, fish, and poultry; and any area that is not separately owned within the store where the food is prepared and served, including a bakery, deli, and meat and seafood departments
Food Service ProvidersAn entity primarily engaged in providing food services to institutional, governmental, commercial, or industrial locations of others based on contractual arrangements with these types of organizations.

This does not include catering companies that only provide food services on an order-by-order basis to clients without holding any long-term contracts.
Food distributorsA company that distributes food to entities including, but not limited to, supermarkets and grocery stores
Wholesale food vendorsA business or establishment engaged in the merchant wholesale distribution of food, where food (including fruits and vegetables) is received, shipped, stored, prepared for distribution to a retailer, warehouse, distributor, or other destination

Tier 2 generators include:

Generator TypeGenerator Definitions—as defined in CA SB 1383 regulations adopted October 2020
Large RestaurantsAn establishment primarily engaged in the retail sale of food and drinks for on-premises or immediate consumption with 250 or more seats, or a total facility size equal to or greater than 5,000 square feet.
Large Hotels any hotel, motel, bed and breakfast inn, or other similar transient lodging establishment with 200 or more rooms and an on-site food facility
Large Health Facilitiesa facility, place, or building that is organized, maintained, and operated for the diagnosis, care, prevention, and treatment of human illness, physical or mental, including convalescence and rehabilitation with 100 or more rooms and an on-site food facility
Local Education Agenciesa school district, charter school, or county office of education with an on-site food facility
Large Venuesa permanent venue facility that annually seats or serves an average of more than 2,000 individuals within the grounds of the facility per day of operation of the venue facility.
Large Eventsan event that charges an admission price, or is operated by a local agency, and serves an average of more than 2,000 individuals per day of operation of the event
THE OFFICE OF SUSTAINABILITY’S COUNTYWIDE EDIBLE FOOD RECOVERY PROGRAM: HELPING YOU COMPLY!

To help you comply with the new edible food recovery requirements, we’ve created one countywide Edible Food Recovery Program. The program is a collaboration between the jurisdiction in which your business or organization is located, the County of San Mateo, and a range of food recovery organizations and services.

The County will be responsible for outreach, education, and compliance inspection and enforcement countywide. We will provide you with information you need to know about edible food recovery.

This countywide program will improve the efficiency and increase the greenhouse gas emission reduction potential of edible food recovery countywide!

GET CONNECTED TO A FOOD RECOVERY ORGANIZATION TODAY!

The Office of Sustainability is offering a free consultation service to help match you to a food recovery organization or service in your community. As a first step, please contact us via email at: ediblefoodrecovery@smcgov.org

A map of food recovery organizations operating in San Mateo County can be found here.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is considered edible food?

SB 1383 defines “edible food” as any raw, cooked, or processed edible substance, ice, beverage, an ingredient used or intended for use or for sale in whole or in part for human consumption and chewing gum.

This definition is consistent with the State of California Retail Food Code.

Can my business offset the costs of edible food recovery services?

Your business may offset the cost of edible food recovery services and may even experience net savings. The following are options available to your business

  • Reduce your service levels with your hauler:
    Businesses recovering the maximum amount of their surplus edible food may find that they no longer need the same level/frequency of waste collection services from their haulers. Once you have your edible food recovery program in place, contact your hauler to determine if you are able to reduce your service levels and save on your trash bill.
  • Enhanced tax deductions:
    There may be tax advantages for the recovery of edible food by a non-profit food recovery organization or service. Organizations such as the Harvard University Food Law and Policy Clinic have developed a guide to help businesses understand this enhanced deduction. You can find it here.

Every business and edible food recovery arrangement will be different. Consult with a tax professional to determine how enhanced tax deduction applies to your situation.

Will I be held liable for the food recovered from my business?

There are both Federal and State legal protections against civil and criminal liability for food generating businesses and organizations that have their surplus edible food recovered by a non-profit organization. These protects exist if surplus food is provided in good faith, using standard food handling procedures, even if the recovered food later causes harm to an end recipient.

More information on liability protections can be found here.

Food generating businesses that have their surplus edible food recovered by a non-profit organization are protected from crimilnal and civil liability

Food recovered from a permitted food facility are considered donations when given to a non-profit organization in good faith, using standard food handling procedures, and when the non-profit then distributes this recovered food to needy individuals free of charge. Food recovery done in this manner is legally protected from criminal and civil liability even if a recovered food product later causes harm to the end recipient.

Lawsuits arising out of the donation or provision of recovered food are extremely uncommon, and there have not been any known cases of litigation that involved food donation following the rules above.

The primary legal protections for food donation include:

  • United States Code, Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food
  • Donation Act (Title 42, Chapter 13A, Section 1791 (c))
  • California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (AB 1219)
  • California Health and Safety Code (Section 114433)
  • California Civil Code (Section 1714.25 (a))
  • California Food and Agriculture Code (Section 58505)

More information on these liability protections can be found here.

How does edible food recovery help fight climate change?

When food is landfilled, it decomposes and emits methane gas, a super pollutant that traps heat in our atmosphere and intensifies climate change at a rate of 30 times that of carbon dioxide over a 100 year period.

San Mateo County is already facing the impacts of climate change in the form of extreme weather conditions, wildfires, and sea level rise. In 2019 the County’s Board of Supervisors declared a climate emergency and has developed climate action plans to help our communities address climate change.

Edible food recovery enables businesses and organizations like yours to take immediate action on climate change by keeping the maximum amount of your surplus food out of the landfill as possible. This prevents methane emissions and the global warming they cause. When comes to climate change, every ounce counts!

Will edible food recovery extend the life of our landfill?

Yes! The Ox Mountain Landfill is currently the only landfill in San Mateo County and, like all landfills, its space is limited. When it fills the County will either need to develop a new landfill or residents and businesses will need to pay to have their waste hauled to a neighboring County’s landfill at a greater cost.

It is in everyone’s best interest to extend the life of our landfill as long as possible. Edible food recovery will support this by diverting surplus edible food from our waste stream. Businesses that have their surplus recovered not only preserve our landfill for themselves, but the entire County.

Where can I find my local edible food recovery ordinance?

CA SB 1383 requires each jurisdiction to adopt its own enforceable edible food recovery ordinance. In San Mateo County, every jurisdiction has passed the same Edible Food Recovery Ordinance as part of the Office of Sustainability’s Edible Food Recovery Program.  Your jurisdiction’s ordinance can be found through the links below:

Edible Food Recovery Ordinances by Jurisdiction
City of AthertonCity of Menlo ParkTown of Colma
City of BelmontCity of MillbraeTown of Hillsborough
City of BrisbaneCity of PacificaTown of Portola Valley
City of BurlingameCity of Redwood CityTown of Woodside
City of Daly CityCity of San BrunoEl Granada Community Services District
City of East Palo AltoCity of San CarlosMontara Water and Sanitary District
City of Foster CityCity of San MateoWest Bay Sanitary District
City of Half Moon BayCity of South San FranciscoCounty of San Mateo

*Current as of 1/1/2022. This section will continue to be updated as necessary.