A Good Samaritan Food Donation law could potentially be implemented in Singapore in the near future.
The proposed law would essentially protect businesses that donate uneaten or surplus food from liability issues, if the donor has complied with food safety and hygiene laws, has not been dishonest, and the food was safe for consumption at the point of donation.
This would hopefully encourage more businesses to donate their extra food to help feed the hungry.
Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng currently chairs the Good Samaritan Legislation Review Committee (GSLRC), which is working to make this a reality.
Ng, along with several other MPs — Poh Li San, Hany Soh, and Edward Chia — plan to table this in Parliament through a Private Member's Bill.
Tackling food waste and food insecurity
For context, there are existing organisations in Singapore that collect and distribute food to the needy. One example is The Food Bank Singapore.
However, studies found that liability was a big concern for food manufacturers, and retailers worried about possibly poisoning consumers. These businesses have therefore been disposing the unsold food instead.
With the Bill, the committee thus aims to address food donors' concerns by waiving liability arising from the consumption of donated food, subject to food safety criteria, and ultimately encourage more businesses to participate in food donation.
Not only can the legislation help alleviate food insecurity by providing food for the needy, it could also help to reduce food waste in Singapore, which is one of the country's biggest waste streams.
Wong Jin Feng, a grassroots leader at Nee Soon East and member of the committee, said that the Bill, if passed, "will benefit residents who may not be able to afford their meals, the environment with lesser food waste and the society through greater efforts of caring for each other".
The committee carried out a a series of stakeholder consultations from October 2020 to February 2021 with restaurants, hotels, social enterprises, food producers, distributors, wholesalers, logistics providers, supermarkets, food merchants, bakeries, and NGOs.
An online public consultation to gauge public support for the legislation was also conducted from July 30 to Sep. 12.
Over 330 responses were received.
Here are some of the key findings:
- 99 per cent of respondents agreed that food waste is a problem in Singapore.
- 50 per cent of respondents agreed that Food Charitable Organisations (FCOs) handling food donations should be required to be accredited. Being accredited could boost the credibility of FCOs and increase the public's receptiveness to donated food.
- 83 per cent and 81 per cent of respondents agreed that donors to FCOs should be exempted from civil liability and criminal liability respectively for food they donate if the donor has complied with food safety and hygiene laws, has not been dishonest, and the food was safe for consumption at the point of donation.
- 81 per cent of respondents agreed that grants should be provided for donor organisations and FCOs to purchase assets such as blast chillers and refrigerated trucks for the dominant purpose of food donations.
- 83 per cent of respondents agreed that tax exemptions should be provided for donor organisations and FCOs to purchase assets such as blast chillers and refrigerated trucks for the dominant purpose of food donations.
Second round of consultations
Moving forward, the committee will review the results of the public consultation and prepare a draft Bill for further public consultation.
A second round of consultations is currently ongoing with government agencies.
Ng said that while there is no fixed timeframe for when the Bill will be tabled in Parliament, he places the date as "tentatively, 2022", adding that a previous Bill he proposed took two and half years of work before it was tabled.
At the moment, the Singapore Food Agency and Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment are also working on a Bill to enhance food safety for food that is sold instead of donated.
Top photo from The Food Bank Singapore / FB
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