Otten bills address food waste, food insecurity

State Rep. Danielle Friel Otten

State Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester, hosted constituents in her district office Tuesday evening for an overview and discussion of her proposed food waste reduction bills, followed by the screening of a documentary on food waste.

“More food reaches our landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our everyday trash stream,” Otten said. “Today, 40 percent of the food produced in the United States goes to waste, and food waste accounts for 20 percent of the material in our landfills. We need to both redefine what we think of as waste and create a more sustainable system for processing the waste we do produce.”

Otten has introduced legislation to reduce food waste, reduce food insecurity, and improve sustainability. House Bill 1950, Expanding Food Donor Immunity, would encourage food donations by ensuring that restaurants, farms, schools, institutions, and others who donate food to charitable organizations or needy individuals can do so without concerns over potential liability, as long as the donation is made in good faith and reasonable steps are taken to inspect the food at the time of donation.

House Bill 1959, Food Date Labeling Requirements, would reduce the amount of food unnecessarily thrown away by requiring food manufacturers to include a “use by” date on food labels that indicates the final date at which the food is safe for human consumption. Manufacturers could also list a voluntary “best if used by” date to indicate the window for peak freshness or appearance. Otten plans to introduce a separate Milk Date Labeling bill with similar goals, accommodating the distinct requirements for the bottling and sale of dairy products in Pennsylvania.

House Bill 2023, Making Pennsylvania a Leader in Composting, was first announced as part of the “Zero Waste PA” package of bills introduced in the spring by a group of House Democratic lawmakers. The bill would both divert organic waste from landfills and create a market for organic waste composting.

“This approach is like a pyramid, and the first step is reducing the amount of waste we generate. Every year, we throw out tons and tons of perfectly good food, while at the same time, we have organizations and state agencies trying desperately to combat the issue of food insecurity in our communities,” Otten said. “Once we get as much safe, consumable food as possible to the people who need it, the next step in the pyramid is agricultural, including use as feed for livestock. Finally, we would turn any remaining waste into compost, which can be applied to farmland to add nutrients to the soil, improve crop yields, and reduce our need for artificial, commercial fertilizers.”

House Bills 1950 and 1959 are currently in the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, while H.B. 2023 has been assigned to the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

For more information about any of the bills, call Otten’s office at 484-200-8259.

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