The Knesset on Tuesday passed a law absolving food donors of legal responsibility for damages caused by donated food, a historic move proponents say will dramatically reduce the amount of wasted product and the number of citizens suffering from food insecurity.
The so-called Food Donation Act passed its second and third readings in the Knesset plenum, officially becoming a law, a week after organizations around the world marked World Food Day.
The law, promoted by MKs Uri Maklev and Eli Alaluf, encourages restaurants and others to collect and donate their excess food by absolving them of criminal and civil liability for the produce, provided that they adhere to food safety requirements set by the Ministry of Health.
Only four other countries — the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Italy — have similar laws, Leket Israel, an NGO that distributes surplus food to needy people in Israel, said in a statement. The charity had been pushing for such a law for a decade.
According to the explanatory notes attached to the law, the number of Israelis suffering from food insecurity — including children — has grown over the years. Restaurants, banquet halls, corporate dining rooms, retail chains, and hotels avoid donating excess food and prefer to let it go to waste for fear liability for damage caused by the donated food.
“One point eight million Israelis suffer from food insecurity while 2.3 million tons of food worth NIS 19.5 billion [$5 billion] are thrown away annually,” Gidi Kroch, Leket Israel’s CEO, said after the law passed.
“The Food Donation Act opens the door to hundreds of organizations and businesses that have quality and substantial amounts of surplus food but do not currently donate it out of fear of liability. According to estimates, the law will triple the scope of food donations,” he added, citing a “tremendous opportunity to address food insecurity and close social gaps in Israel.”
MK Maklev said: “In Israel, every third child suffers from hunger and every fourth person from poverty … Restaurant owners, hotels, and organizations should not be throwing away food since destroying food is like destroying the soul.”
Leket Israel, also called the National Food Bank, estimated in 2016 that Israel threw away approximately 35 percent of the food it produces.
The food waste in Israel has far-reaching implications, especially for the 17% of Israeli society considered “food insecure” — those who are not sure that they will have enough food over the course of the month.
“Wasted food” refers to items such as crooked, over-sized, or blemished produce that does not sell well at the market. It can also refer to expired dairy or meat products. Fruit and vegetables account for 75% of the wasted food.
Most of the food waste occurs during the harvesting and consumption stages of the food distribution chain. The “consumption” stage refers to when the food is distributed to supermarkets and stores.
Hotels, companies, and restaurants throw out thousands of kilos of cooked food every month. These companies could now be paired with local soup kitchens and food banks, which are in desperate need of donations.
Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.