Food

How to Dispose of Contaminated or Spoiled Food

A Notice from the FDA to Growers, Food Manufacturers, Food Warehouse Managers, and Transporters of Food Products

Grain and vegetable crops, and food manufacturing facilities, food warehouses, and food transporters may be flooded or lose power as a result of hurricanes or other severe weather events, so the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is providing important tips on how to properly dispose of contaminated or spoiled food. For food products that should be destroyed see Notice to Food Industry and food products that may, under certain circumstances, be reconditioned for future use, see the FDA Investigations Operations Manual, Subchapter 8.5.

Disposing of Contaminated or Spoiled Food

Decisions about disposing of food products are usually made by the owner of the product, along with the appropriate state agency and local authorities. In determining which contaminated food products should be disposed of, reconditioned or salvaged, the owners of the products must assess each product's quality, safety and condition.

Depending on the applicable local, state, and Federal regulations, owners may be able to dispose of contaminated food products in a landfill, by incineration, or rendering.

Key questions to consider when disposing of contaminated food include:

  • What is (are) the contaminant(s)?
  • How the contaminated food is categorized (e.g. hazardous waste, municipal waste, radiological waste, non-hazardous waste requiring special handling, or unknown)?
  • What is the quantity of the contaminated product for disposal?
  • Where is the final disposal facility?
  • What are the logistics for moving the contaminated products from the site to the disposal facility?
  • Is transportation required for the transfer of waste to the final disposal site?
  • What are the required permits associated with the disposal process and how are they procured? Is assistance from state, local, and Federal government agencies required?
  • Is there a health and safety protection plan for the workers who will be involved in the disposal process? If so, what is the plan?
  • Who and what organizations will be involved in overseeing the disposal process?
  • What organizations must be involved and concur with re-introducing the reconditioned product into the marketplace?

Oversight

FDA oversight ensures proper disposal so that contaminated products cannot be introduced into the food supply. Likewise, oversight by the Environmental Protection Agency or environmental quality authorities ensures that the contaminated products are disposed of in a manner that protects against further contamination of air, groundwater, or soil.

Vehicles Used in Transporting Contaminated Food Products

For vehicles, equipment, or localized contamination in facilities, the state (with FDA consultation and oversight) makes a determination as to when and whether the decontaminated vehicles, equipment, or facilities may be used for their original food-related purposes or for other purposes. And importantly, food producers will require these government officials to reissue the appropriate permits for startup and operation as well as the release of impounded vehicles or equipment.

In the case where any of the contamination or cleanup may expose the workforce, then additionally food producers must consult with the Department of Labor/Occupational Safety and Health Administration

For further information about disposing of contaminated, spoiled food as well as reconditioning, contact the Office of Compliance, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (240) 402-2359 or FDA's Nashville District Office (615) 781-5388 or FDA's Atlanta Regional Office (404) 253-1171.

Page Last Updated: 03/26/2014
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