(Last Updated 10/09/2023)
Washington DC Date Labeling Regulations
Rating: Moderate Policy*
Save Good Food Amendment Act of 2018; D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 25- A, § 9901; D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 25-A, § 718; D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 25-B, § 3606; D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 25-B, § 2403; D.C. Code § 48-301
District regulations require date labels on certain foods; however the Save Good Food Amendment Act of 2018 charges the D.C. Department of Health with updating these regulations with new ones that focus on reducing the amount of safe, quality food that is wasted. The act specifies that the Department of Health shall not require date labeling, nor limit the sale of past-date products. The new regulations were supposed to be released by March 30, 2019, but had yet to be issued as of March 2023.
*If changes were made according to the Save Good Food Amendment Act, D.C. regulations would be rated Moderate, but the current regulations are Negative.
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.
Washington DC Liability Protection Regulations
Rating: Moderate Policy
Donations made within the state are protected from liability according to the federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.
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.
Washington DC TAX INCENTIVES
Rating: Expired or Repealed
Washington, D.C. created a tax credit for food donations, which would have provided a tax credit for food donations made to food recovery organizations. The credit was valued at 50% of the fair market value of the food donation, with a $2,500 cap per year for individuals or a $5,000 cap per year for joint filings. The credit was limited to produce grown or food prepared within the district or certain donations made by retailers. However, the District repealed the credit in 2021.
Rating: Expired or Repealed
Washington, D.C. offered a tax credit for the donation of food grown at urban farms and community gardens to food banks and shelters within the District. The credit was valued at 50% of the food’s value with a cap of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for businesses.
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.
Washington DC FOOD SAFETY
Rating: Moderate Policy
D.C. issued extensive guidance on food donation safety, detailing storage, handling, and labeling requirements (as required by the Code of the District of Columbia § 48–304). The guidance also provides links to D.C. and federal donation liability laws. Moreover, D.C. provides share table guidance which specifies procedures for temperature sensitive food and allows food to be shared throughout the school day.
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.
Washington DC Animal Feed Regulations
Rating: Strong Policy
Washington, D.C. does not have any laws that bear on the feeding of garbage to animals.
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.
Washington DC Organic Waste Recycling Laws
Rating: Moderate Policy
On or before January 1, 2023, covered entities must separate their back of house organic material and either send to a composting, AD, or other processing facility, or process it on-site. Covered entities include: retail food stores with at least 10,000 square feet of floor area and college or university campuses with at least 2,000 students. Any other retail food store chain with combined floor area of 10,000 square feet, arenas or stadiums that hold at least 15,000 people, hospitals or nursing homes with at least 300 beds, and colleges or universities with at least 500 residential students, and other entities as determined by the Mayor must comply by January 1, 2024.
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.