Skip Navigation
Return to Layout View | Home | A-Z Directory | my UMaine | MaineStreet | Campus Map | Calendar
Follow UMaine on Twitter | Join UMaine on Facebook | Watch UMaine on YouTube | Admissions | Parents & Family | Apply | Give Now | Emergency

Cooperative Extension Publications


Site Navigation:


Bulletin #4302, Food Safety for Food-Pantry Donations

Food for ME: Citizen Action for Community Food Recovery

Food Safety for Food-Pantry Donations

Originally prepared by Nellie Hedstrom, Extension nutrition specialist. Revised and updated by Kate Yerxa, Extension educator.

For information about UMaine Extension programs and resources, visit extension.umaine.edu.
Find more of our publications and books at extensionpubs.umext.maine.edu.

Donating, recovering, and gleaning foods that would otherwise go to waste helps feed hungry Mainers. When recovering food, consider both safety and quality. Beware of the signs that food may be unsafe to eat. Use the following checklist to decide whether foods are unsafe to give to food pantries, cupboards, and shelters.

Foods Stored at Room Temperature

These signs may indicate that food is UNSAFE:

Cans

  • Too crushed to stack on shelves or open with a manual can opener
  • Crushed immediately under the end (double) seam
  • Moderate/severe dents where the side and end (double) seams meet
  • Rust pits severe enough to make a hole in the can
  • Swollen or bulging ends
  • Holes, fractures, or punctures
  • Evidence of leakage
  • Signs of spoilage (spurting, unusual odor or appearance) when opened
  • Baby food or infant formula past the expiration date
  • Missing label

Glass Jars

  • Home-canned instead of commercially canned
  • Raised, crooked, or loosened lid
  • Damaged tamper-resistant seal
  • Cracks or chips
  • Signs of spoilage (discolored food; cloudy liquid)
  • Dirt under the rim
  • Baby food past the expiration date

Cardboard Boxes

  • Torn or missing inner packaging in cartons that are slit or opened
  • Evidence of insects
  • Baby food past the expiration date

Plastic Containers

  • Damaged tamper-resistant seals
  • Signs of spoilage (mold, off odor)
  • Baby food or infant formula past the expiration date

Foods Stored in Refrigerator or Freezer

These signs may indicate that food is UNSAFE:

Refrigerator Foods

  • Lukewarm food (above the maximum safe refrigerator temperature of 40°F)
  • Signs of spoilage (unusual odor or appearance, mold)
  • Unsuitable containers and/or covers that allow food to be contaminated
  • Uncertain handling history

Freezer Foods

  • Evidence of thawing (ice on the food or leaking)
  • Unsuitable packaging that allows food to be contaminated

When in doubt, throw it out! Don’t rely solely on look or smell. Foods that cause food poisoning may look fine and smell okay. Never taste suspicious foods!

How you can help recover food

To get involved, use the ideas in the Food for ME fact sheets, call the National Hunger Hotline at 800-453-2648 (800-GLEAN-IT) or 866-348-6479 (866-3-HUNGRY), or visit www.whyhunger.org.

Food Recovery Resources

Reproduced and adapted with permission from the “Donated Food Checklist,” Food Safety References, Indiana’s Food for the Hungry (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University). http://www.cfs.purdue.edu/safefood/foodsafety/donatedchecklist.html


Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 1998, 2011
Published and distributed in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914, by the University of Maine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Cooperative Extension and other agencies of the USDA provide equal opportunities in programs and employment.

Call 800-287-0274 or TDD 800-287-8957 (in Maine), or 207-581-3188, for information on publications and program offerings from University of Maine Cooperative Extension, or visit extension.umaine.edu.

The University of Maine does not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, including transgender status and gender expression, national origin, citizenship status, age, disability, genetic information or veteran’s status in employment, education, and all other programs and activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies: Director, Office of Equal Opportunity, 101 North Stevens Hall, 581-1226.

Image Description: Print Friendly

Image Description: Extension staff distribute donated fresh produce; photo by Edwin Remsberg, USDA


Contact Information

Cooperative Extension Publications
University of Maine, 5741 Libby Hall, Room 114
Orono, ME 04469-5741
Phone: 207.581.3792 | Fax: 207.581.1387
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
207.581.1110
A Member of the University of Maine System