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Food donations


Collecting and donating food can be a great way to help people, but precautions should be taken to ensure that any food distributed is of good quality.

Read on to learn how to safely donate and receive food and avoid food poisoning.

Food you have been given

There are some precautions you should take before eating food you have been given: 

  • Check that the food and packaging are intact. 
  • Make sure refrigerated food is cold to the touch. 

Food that shows signs of spoilage, such as food that has changed in colour or texture, smells bad or is mouldy, is not worth the risk. When in doubt, throw it out.  

People with food allergies should only eat food that has intact packaging and a full ingredient list.  

Food you want to donate

There are some precautions you should take before donating food: 

  • All foods must be labelled with basic information about the food (item name, the date it was packaged or portioned, storage instructions). 
  • Refrigerated and frozen food must be kept cold during transport. 
  • Containers must be clean and designed for food use. 
  • All equipment used to transport food must be cleaned prior to use. 
  • Standard health guidelines must be followed. For example, you must wash your hands before handling food or equipment used to transport food. 

If you are involved with an organization that collects and/or distributes surplus food, there are additional safety measures you need to follow. You are responsible for ensuring that all the food you distribute is safe to eat.

This means you must: 

  • Sort through the donated food 
  • Rotate your stock by packaging date or “best before” date; if you are ever unsure about whether to keep or dispose of a food item, refer to the info sheet Best Before, Still Good After?  (PDF, 454 kB) This hyperlink will open in a new window. (French only)
  • Check the temperature of your refrigeration (4°C) and freezer units (-18°C) on a daily basis 
  • Clean and sanitize the facility frequently 

The following documents can help you make sure that your donated food is safe to eat: (links in French only)

Best practices for cooking together This hyperlink will open in a new window.  (poster)

Distributing food safely This hyperlink will open in a new window.

Handwashing – Cleanliness at your fingertips This hyperlink will open in a new window.

Inspecting damaged cans This hyperlink will open in a new window. (poster)

Guide to inspecting damaged canned goods This hyperlink will open in a new window.

Food donated with care This hyperlink will open in a new window.  (poster)

Hygiene and safety for food assistance organizations This hyperlink will open in a new window.

See also the food hygiene and safety best practices guide This hyperlink will open in a new window. (French only) for food handlers in food establishments.

Foods you can donate 

  • Whole fresh fruits and vegetables 
  • Eggs and dairy products  
  • Dry goods such as pasta, crackers and nuts 
  • Commercially canned foods 

Foods you shouldn’t donate

Some types of food are considered high-risk and are not recommended for donation, such as: 

  • Raw meat, fish and seafood 
  • Leftovers of food served at a restaurant or buffet that may have been handled by members of the public 
  • Perishable foods that have been cut 

Never donate food that has been: 

  • Microbiologically, physically or chemically contaminated 
  • Salvaged from a disaster (flood, fire, smoke damage, etc.) and is likely contaminated 
  • Contaminated by pests (rodents, insects, etc.) 
  • Recalled
General notice

Meat products and animals

Do not give animals meat that has been produced for human consumption. 

Last update: March 26, 2024


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