Having worked in grocery stores for much more than 20 years, I know the answer, yet many shoppers wonder what happens to unsold food in supermarkets??

Here’s the sad truth:

Every year, more than 43 billion pounds of food from grocery store stores gets thrown away. Much of the food is still technically edible, yet most large grocery chains severely limit what food gets donated as soon as it’s no longer able to market it. The factor is the end of are afraid of litigation early out to poor or faint laws and regulations.

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But there’s a lot much more to say around grocery stores and how much expired or damaged food it s okay thrown away.

So in this article, we’ll acquire into what the legislations say and also how much food in reality gets donated, tossed or composted. But we’ll also answer even if it is or not food banks and also shelters will also take expired or damaged food items.

Let’s dive in!

#GoodNews! France now bans grocery store stores indigenous discarding unsold food #charity #compost https://t.co/wPZzAEjrHI pic.twitter.com/eVem3vxQDr

— Evangeline Lilly (
EvangelineLilly) January 13, 2016

How much do grocery stores throw away?

Grocery stores throw the end 43 billion pounds that food each year. This includes wilted, moldy produce, spoiled meat & seafood, dented and damaged canned and also boxed goods, and also baked products that space stale or moldy.


Beyond that, the facility for organic Diversity recently conducted a survey whereby they looked at certain grocery chains and also how fine they fared in regards to food donation.

They looked at the adhering to criteria:

Committing to move towards zero wasteTracking the expired foods and their donationsSystems in place to avoid or limit food waste

Then after examining each grocery store by those standards, they come up with a report map grade. Inspect out the here:


Do supermarkets litter away food?

Yes; grocery store stores throw-away billions the pounds the food each and every year. While several of it might be provided to food banks, food safety legislations actually prevent lot of it from gift donated.

In the 20+ year I operated for entirety Foods Market, countless spent in middle or upper administration positions, I deserve to tell you the the bulk of expired food and also damaged packaged goods do indeed acquire thrown away.

Now, ns don’t say the to do anyone foolish or do it seem prefer the grocery market is hiding a secret.

And I additionally don’t want you come think that all grocery store stores are the same and that nothing it s okay donated. There’s actually rather a little bit of food that gets donated.

But there’s a many that just ends increase in the landfill.

A current report by Harvard law School looked in ~ the legislations on the books in every 50 says as far as food safety and security regulations concerning food donation.

Their report concluded that:

“Guidance concerning food safety for food donations differ widely from state to state”“Many states have actually no regulations or guidance”12 states have actually laws or regulations pertaining come food security for food donations14 states have actually issued public “statements” concerning food safety and donations

In short, in terms of legislators encouraging, supporting, and also protecting retailers in donating more of what’s at this time being thrown away, we have actually a long method to go.

LizLovesFarms: check out the course that unsold food from grocery store stores have the right to take http://t.co/rct5eMXYtY #foodwaste pic.twitter.com/kMMfw1uOT4

— open up CINEMA (
opencinema) November 19, 2014

Can grocery store stores provide away expired food?

The brief answer, particularly if you mean legally, is yes. Grocery stores can legally donate food the is previous its expiration day according come the USDA.

To be specific, lock say:

“Yes. The high quality of perishable commodities may deteriorate after the date passes however the products should tho be wholesome if not exhibiting indicators of spoilage. Food banks, various other charitable organizations, and consumers must evaluate the high quality of the product before its distribution and also consumption to identify whether there are noticeable alters in wholesomeness”

That being said, in our litigious society, many large corporations are hesitant to donate some items that might be understood questionable in terms of food security out of are afraid of gaining sued.

So while it’s sad in a way that part grocery stores don’t donate every they might out simply as result of fear that being sued by a food bank or charity,

That being said, over there is some legal defense for those who donate under the invoice Emerson good Samaritan Food Donation Act. The act was put into law to encourage the donation that “food and grocery assets to nonprofit organizations for circulation to needy individuals”.

The problem with the law, and also why the didn’t reason as much donated food together they hoped is the it additionally states “This immunity does not use to one injury to or fatality of an ultimate user or receiver of the food or grocery product that results from an plot or omission of the donor constituting gross negligence or intentional misconduct.”

Since a big national grocery chain can’t control the process in every of their hundreds of stores, many would rather merely avoid any feasible claims that negligence or misconduct.

After all, they space risking millions of dollars and putting that risk in the hand of employees most likely making in between $10-$15 every hour. Many companies simply would fairly risk criticism end their policy than spend millions top top lawsuits.

UN us at love of Jesus Ministry collection unsold food from grocery stores and Food businesses. Pic.twitter.com/52B3DAsqxP

— ImHer2 (
pita1946) November 12, 2016

Will grocery store stores donate food?

Yes, is the short answer.

At all of the 10 various Whole foods stores I worked at end the years which ranged from east to west coasts, we donated the following:

Day-old bread and also pastriesDented cans and boxesDamaged (but no moldy) produce items

We did not, however, donate deli foods from the warm or cold salad bars, lot of which gained tossed ~ above a nightly basis. Also, it’s worth noting that numerous Whole foodstuffs stores (and more than likely others too) perform a good job that repurposing food the is still an excellent (and not expired) yet isn’t increase to display standards.

By that i mean, bruised apples might be moved from the create department come the Juice Bar. Or a bag of rolling oats with a torn label might be cut open and put into the bulk bins.

We additionally know indigenous the above report card, that the many donation-conscientious sleeve grocery chains (of the persons surveyed) are:

KrogerWal-MartWhole FoodsTarget Aldi

And the flip side, we see that the worst-performing grocery chains (again of the persons surveyed) include:

Trader JoesCostcoPublix

The genuine irony right here is the Trader Joes and also Aldi space owned through the same family (different parts of that family though).

Of course, there are numerous other grocery store chains and also local shop that likely weren’t component of that survey. So when in doubt, ask your local grocery what their food donation policies and programs include.

Do homeless shelters or food banks take expired food?

Of course, every shelter or food bank across the world may have various policies.

That being said, many only take it shelf-stable non-refrigerated canned, boxed, or bottled items as a safeguard against food-borne illness.

Feeding America is a nationwide network of end 200 food banks. Opportunities are the one in your town is affiliated v them. However even your site states to examine with your local branch to check out if they will certainly take donations that perishable (fresh, refrigerated, or frozen items).

And surprise, surprise, every the regional branches I checked either didn’t take it those points or were vague about it.

We’ve talked about how much food is wasted in the people on our social media prior to – we applaud Italy because that passing a invoice that method that unsold food native restaurants and also grocery stores walk to charities quite than dumpsters! Click the attach to discover more!https://t.co/Pp0DXtv1zD pic.twitter.com/6CPfyDhPNY

— RecycleSmart (
wastewatchers) December 12, 2019

Do homeless shelters or food banks take expired food?

Yes. Most homeless shelters and also food banks will accept expired food products. However most like to only take non-perishable items packaged in cans, boxes, or bottles.

Of course, every shelter or food bank across the globe may have different policies.

That gift said, countless only take shelf-stable non-refrigerated canned, boxed, or bottled items as a safeguard against food-borne illness.

Feeding America is a nationwide network of end 200 food banks. Opportunities are the one in your city is affiliated through them. But even their site claims to check with your local branch to see if they will take donations that perishable (fresh, refrigerated, or frozen items).

And surprise, surprise, every the regional branches I checked either didn’t take it those things or to be vague about it.

Bravo! “Montreal wants to bar grocery store stores native throwing food in trash. It will certainly encourage grocery stores, hospitals & educational establishments to create partnerships v food financial institutions & other neighborhood organizations to give unsold food come those in need.” https://t.co/C1lHH4g2q2 pic.twitter.com/pgKYKreWLe

— Mary-Lou Schagena (
radiogirl985) October 17, 2019

Why carry out grocery shop order much more food than they can sell?

Grocery stores do not over-order through the intent of throwing far products. Through profit margins together low as 2%, they can’t purchased to execute that. Instead, they shot and balance having actually their shelves full and also abundant if meeting and also not exceeding collection shrink targets that are often about 3% of the total.

But the reason here could surprise you unless you work-related retail.

In short, screens of food items offer much better when they look full. Currently sometimes good merchandisers usage dummy risers and other things to provide the illustration of fullness there is no over-committing to too much product.

But ultimately, if stores only had actually on display screen what they would certainly actually sell, their sales would certainly go under as numerous stores would certainly look favor a coastal store after ~ a hurricane warning was announced. In various other words, the shelves and displays can look type of barren and empty.

Psychologically we, as consumers, have tendency to answer poorly to that.

Think earlier to as soon as you were at a store and saw that they were almost sold the end of things and you mainly saw a huge empty shelf. Did you buy that last one? If you’re like most people, uneven you were desperate for the 1 point specifically, you most likely didn’t.

So grocery store stores, within reason, stimulate to make the save look full and abundant.

Then they balance that v not tie up too lot cash in list that might sit there because that months or spoil. There’s a fine art to merchandising a grocery store store.

So if you desire to learn even an ext about the mentality the grocers, and also why they are constantly relocating the aisles around, examine out a recent article whereby I break it all down.

Just click that connect to review it on mine site.

Did i cover whatever you want to know around how lot food grocery stores throw away?

In this article, we took an comprehensive look into the human being of grocery store stores and what they perform with out of date or damaged food items.

We discover the truth about how lot gets thrown away compared to donations or composting.

Ultimately, us answered the inquiry of how much carry out grocery stores litter away. Running a successful grocery store calls for wearing a most hats. After all, you room balancing client service, merchandising, employee relations, and trying to stay profitable so you can pay everyone.

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Learn much more about grocery keep profit margins, including why part grocery stores only earn 2% when others do 10% or more, in a recent article, where I describe it all.