The One with the Coffee House


Dear Dharma,

I just started working at a VERY popular coffee chain company and I love the atmosphere and the people and I love that they give away their old pastry, muffins and loaves to the homeless.  What I DO NOT LOVE is that their refrigerated food (breakfast sandwiches, panini’s, fruit cups, yogurt etc.) is thrown out in the garbage on the day BEFORE its expiry date.

I’ve asked the manager why they do this and he said that it was basically a legal thing – if someone gets sick after eating their brand of food and decides to sue, the coffee company is at fault.  I was dumping out some of the food the other night and a gentleman who worked at the fire hall told me that he’d write a letter because he thought it was ridiculous to be throwing away food that wasn’t even expired (and I’m sure they are being modest with the expiry date too…I mean, who hasn’t had some day old milk) and that the boys at the fire hall would eat it all that night if it expired the next day.

So…my question is what can I do to stop this from happening?  If it’s a liability issue, do you think that the company could possibly get the receiving party to sign a waiver so if someone does get sick, their asses are covered?  Or maybe if they removed all of the packaging first before giving it away to the shelter so that it can’t be traced back to them?

I’d like to make a difference because 10 sandwiches a night adds up.


Barista Babe

p.s. (Love your posts, by the way!  You’re fantastic!)

Dear Barista Babe,

Thanks!  Dharma thinks you are fantastic too, and loves the spirit in which this letter was written.  And you’re right, 10 sandwiches a night does add up…

First of all, it’s great that the company you work for has a social conscience, as shown by the fact that they do donate their baked good to the homeless – so no matter what else, find solace in that.

In regards to the other foods – let’s first reiterate that Dharma is NOT a lawyer, and my thoughts around this are strictly that, just thoughts.

Having been around the catering business for many years, I’ve seen things handled in a few different ways, and the way your company is handling their leftover perishables (mainly things with meat, eggs and dairy) is quite common.  From what I’ve been able to find out, there are base guidelines set out by the Food and Beverage world, and from there each establishment is free to handle things however they choose, as set out within their own policies.

As much as this totally is a liability issue, it also has to do with protecting themselves and the perception of their brand – and rightfully so.  Imagine the headlines reading “Very popular coffee chain is killing people with their food!”  That wouldn’t have to happen more than once for them to have some very serious problems on their hands, right?  And as much as your heart is in the right place, you need to respect the fact that they do have a business to run.

I have dealt with companies that do pack up potentially poisonous leftovers, and they do make you sign a waiver saying if I die from eating the pastrami sandwich in my purse – I mean, in the package they put together for me, it’s 100% my problem.

You could certainly bring it up with management at your company to see if this is something they would be willing to entertain – but my gut says they still won’t be interested.  Even if the waiver protects them from being sued, it doesn’t eliminate the potential shit storm should the media get their hands on it…

That being said, there is probably quite a lot of research you can do around this, starting with Quest Food Exchange.  Front and centre on their webpage it says:

Every day, thousands of pounds of good quality food goes to waste, simply because it is part of a surplus that cannot be sold, or because it is oddly sized, blemished, nearing its expiry date…

Sounds like a good start, non?  So don’t give up hope!

If you make progress with this, please come back and let us know – we’d love to hear about your success!  And if any of Dharma’s readers know more about this topic, please chime in below in the comments section.


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  • foodie says:

    Major chains give away prepared food all the time. I know because I used to stock the walk in fridge at the Sal Ann when the truck came in. How these food companies want to maintain brand quality in these situations is that they asked us to remove labels that showed their company name. Also, many things that are a day or 2 past date are still perfectly fresh. They are required to pre-date expiry in production. So this, in fact, means the products are indeed still very fresh and edible. Only some items such as raw products – fish, dairy, poultry…. are discarded. But prepared meals and sandwiches and produce are all more than fine past the date on the label.

  • colonel sanders says:

    I think I would draw the line at having the firemen who could be trying to save me or my loved ones fuelling up on dodgy tofu wraps or staledated yogurt cups. Just sayin’ is all…

    • Dharma says:

      I don’t believe any of the food in question was stale dated, so I feel confident we would still be safe in the competent hands of our local fire fighters!

      Thanks for your comment!

Whether you agree with Dharma or think she missed the mark on this one, leave a Comment!

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