(Last Updated 09/05/2023)
Massachusetts Date Labeling Regulations
Rating: Negative Policy
Massachusetts requires date labeling on some prepackaged perishables items that have an estimated shelf life of less than 90 days and shellfish. Fresh meat, poultry, fish, fruits, and vegetables that are unpackaged or in containers allowing sensory examination, and food products pre-packaged for retail sale weighing less than 1 1/2 ounces are exempt from this date labeling requirement. Massachusetts requires that that shellfish packages smaller than 1/2 gallon are marked with either a "sell-by" or "best if used by" date, and that shellfish packages with capacity of 1/2 gallon or more are labeled with the date of shucking. “[F]ood can only be sold past its ‘sell by’ or ‘best if used by’ date if: (1) it is wholesome and its sensory physical qualities have not significantly diminished; (2) it is segregated from the food products which are not past date; and (3) it is clearly marked as being past date.”
Date labels are the dates on food packaging that are accompanied by phrases such as "use by," "best before," "sell by," "enjoy by," and "expires on." Date labels are almost entirely unregulated under federal law, except for infant formula and some very limited instances related to poultry and egg products. Because federal law is so limited, states have broad discretion to regulate date labels, which has resulted in a patchwork of date label regulation across the United States. The inconsistency in date label laws leads to food waste because consumers may discard food after the date on the package due to confusion about product safety and retailers or manufacturers may discard food due to confusion about selling or donating the past-date food.
Massachusetts Liability Protection Regulations
Rating: Strong Policy
Donations made within the state are protected from liability according to the federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. In addition, the state protects donations of food that is past-date if the past-date food is separated and clearly labeled as such.
The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, as amended by the Food Donation Improvement Act, provides a strong federal baseline of protection for food donors against state and federal liability claims. It covers individuals, businesses, schools, nonprofit organizations, the officers of businesses and nonprofit organizations, and gleaners. A donor must donate in good faith to a nonprofit organization that distributes the donated food to needy populations, or, if the donor is a qualified direct donor, they may donate food directly to needy individuals. Donated food must meet all quality and labeling standards imposed by federal, state and local laws and regulations. A state’s liability protection law can provide more, but not less, protection than the Emerson Act.
Massachusetts TAX INCENTIVES
Rating: No Policy
Massachusetts does not offer additional tax incentives beyond federal incentives.
The federal government provides tax deductions to incentivize businesses to donate food. As of December 2015, all businesses—including C-corporations, S-corporations, limited liability corporations (LLCs), partnerships and sole proprietorships—are eligible for an enhanced tax deduction that exceeds the property’s basis for donated food if they meet certain requirements. If they do not meet the requirements, they can still claim a general tax deduction in the amount of the property’s basis.
Massachusetts FOOD SAFETY
Rating: Weak Policy
RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts, which is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection hosts a page of food donation guidance. Though the page provides links to other general food safety resources, it does not specify food safety rules, regulations, or best practices in the food donation context.
States often base their food safety regulations on the model food safety regulations for restaurants and retail stores within the FDA Food Code. While the Food Code states that food donation is permitted, it does not specify which food safety laws or regulations pertain to the food donation context. Without guidance or clarity coming from a governmental entity, food donors will often refuse to donate their safe, wholesome food. States vary broadly in terms of the level of guidance they provide on food safety rules for food donation, often providing limited guidance for a specialized context, such as share tables in schools, or no guidance at all.
Massachusetts Animal Feed Regulations
Rating: Negative Policy
For all livestock except swine, it is unlawful to feed the animal any animal waste. Swine may be fed animal waste that was heat treated for at least 30 minutes at 212 degrees Fahrenheit or treated in some other manner approved by the state. To feed waste to swine, annual animal-derived treated waste feeding permits must be obtained, but exceptions apply for individuals feeding household waste to swine raised for personal use. There are no restrictions on feeding vegetable waste to any animal.
For centuries, using food scraps as animal feed was common worldwide. The practice declined rapidly in the 1980s, when several disease outbreaks were linked to unsafe animal feed. In an attempt to prevent the spread of such diseases, federal laws and regulations were enacted to restrict what is often pejoratively referred to as “garbage feeding” to animals. However, using food scraps as animal feed in a safe, resource-efficient way can be environmentally friendly and energy-efficient, providing multiple benefits for both farmers and food waste generators, such as retailers, restaurants, and institutional cafeterias. Under federal law, food scraps can generally be fed to animals, so long as food scraps with animal derived by-products are heat-treated by a licensed facility before being fed to swine; and food scraps containing animal-derived by-products are not fed to ruminants. The federal regulations function as a floor, and most state regulations go beyond them.
Massachusetts Organic Waste Recycling Laws
Rating: Moderate Policy
Any commercial entity, excluding a residence, that produces more than 1/2 ton of organic waste in a given week must separate the organic waste and ensure proper recycling.
In order to push businesses and consumers to reduce food waste, a growing number of states and localities are enacting organic waste bans or waste recycling laws to restrict the amount of food waste an entity can send to the landfill. However, each state differs regarding the specifics of its waste ban or recycling law. For example, they vary with regard to the types of entities covered under the law, how much organic waste an entity must produce in order to be covered, and whether exceptions exist for entities located far from a facility that accepts food scraps. These differences have a significant impact on the reach of these laws, and therefore on the amount of food waste diverted.