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New California Law May Make More Food Available to the Needy

September 29, 1988

Senate Bill 2427, signed into law by Gov. George Deukmejian on Aug. 31, will become effective on Jan. 1, 1989, and will make it less complicated for restaurants to donate their surplus food to the hungry and will protect restaurateurs from civil liability they were previously exposed to when making such donations.

Sponsored by state Sen. Newton Russell (R-Glendale) and backed by the California Restaurant Assn., the new law removes the key stumbling blocks that have made restaurants reluctant to donate leftover foods to the needy in the past.

Previously, California's "Good Samaritan" law covered the rendering of medical aid only. Regulations on food packaging, labeling, storage and handling, not only made donating food complicated, but also left the donor liable for civil damage suits for any injury resulting from the consumption of donated food.

Under the new law, except for negligent or willful conduct, restaurateurs will not be liable for injury resulting from the food they donate as long as the food is "fit for human consumption at the time it was donated."

Ironically, surplus foods that get trashed are often the most delectable and expensive. This occurs because gourmet restaurants tend to cycle their food out more frequently and cook in excess to avoid shortages.

The California Restaurant Assn. represents 2,900 firms that operate 9,000 food service businesses statewide.

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