Starting a new FS - health office bans the idea of community fridge! What to do?

Hello amazing people who love foodsharing,

my name is Kerly. Please bare with me with this long e-mail, but this is the only way to express myself fully, so you would understand my concern.

I have been living in Berlin for few years and fallen in love with the concept of Foodsharing. Weather going to the regular public food sharing meetups or using the food sharing points.

I am originally from Estonia and I wanted to start the project also in Estonia. I started a FB page: Redirecting... and have some people on board for running FS.

However I wrote to the local Veterinary and Health Office and asked which rules apply to this activity and I got back such reply.

It is a Google Translation from Estonian to English.

For the purposes of legislation and regulations, these refrigerators can be considered as “vending machines” and can be considered as retail outlets that have to be notified. More specifically on our website .

This requires both information and a self-monitoring plan. Consideration may also be given to the differences in handling donated best practices in the donation guide.

We have no other solutions at this time, although we have discussed this topic at length.

The webpage link states following:

Retail and catering

Retail and catering is the distribution of food directly to the consumer (including free delivery of food). These activities include, for example:

food distribution in shops, online shops, events, kiosks, etc .;

preparation and serving of food (incl. sales) in a cafe, restaurant, school, hospital, etc.

These activities either require authorization or notification (ie, submission of an economic activity notice).


sales of foods that do not require a special temperature

serving food that does not require a special temperature

retail sale of packaged ice cream

sale of food in a mobile or temporary place of handling

preparation and / or serving of food in a mobile or temporary facility

preparation and serving of hot drinks (except beauty salon offer)

sale of food in vending machines


sale of food requiring special temperature

serving foods that require a special temperature

preparation and / or serving of foods requiring special temperature

processing, including preparation, or packaging and marketing of animal food in a mobile and / or temporary place of handling to another handler

year-round sales of food in a moving business in one sales area

Notification is not required in the case of incidental (not indicative of a certain continuity and organization) food preparation, storage and supply by individuals (eg school and church fairs, public events, charity events). Such a person is not considered to be an ‘economic operator’ and is therefore not subject to the requirements of European Union hygiene legislation.

So basically it means in here you can’t have such a wonderful movement as foodsharing.
The reply was lot of nonsense in my opinion.

I contacted FS for guidance and they also advised me to post my concern here and look for different opinions.

I hope somebody here can direct me or recommend what kind of reply to write to the lady at the office. Germany and Estonia are both in EU, so the rules must be more or less the same.

Looking VERY FORWARD for your reply,


Kerly in the name of the Tartu and Estonia Foodsharing team

Great topic! Excuse me if I’m very straightforward here: making contact with the authorities at such an initial stage was a big mistake (a very understandable one, as I see you’d like to do things the “correct” way).

The EU directive which dictates whether or not an organisation should be authorized or submit a notification is very open to interpretation regarding the activities of food saving and sharing. It was created to protect consumers and guarantee food safety in a business-consumer relationship. However, food saving and sharing is about final consumers getting the food that would be wasted and giving it to each other. A clear analogy is that of a shared fridge at a working place, at a collective housing project or simply the case of neighbours knocking at each other’s doors to offer food. None of these are subject to these regulations, because they are final consumers and/or do not have the level of organisation and continuity to be classified as a food business operators.

However, officials would hardly understand foodsharing this way. At best they’d see it as charity, which still might be subject to the same regulations. The matter of fact is that food saving/sharing and community fridges are in quite a big grey zone which depends a lot on how the local bureaucrats would interpret the law (specifically that part about the level of organisation and continuity). This is at least the experience we’ve had here in Gothenburg, where we have now about 8 fridges/sharing points. I knew when I started that it wouldn’t be a good idea, to avoid drawing their attention based on a misunderstanding of how it works, and later on we started contacting officials by different channels we often got very different answers, depending on whom and how you ask the question (and also who asks the questions).

We just follow the line of argumentation that we are the final consumers and the different sharing points do not have the level of organisation and continuity needed to be classified as a food business operator. I think you should reply something along these lines, or just plainly ignore the health office and do things quietly for a while, until you get food saving going up to a point when you can show the local society how it works perfectly from the point of view of hygiene and food safety.


Thank you for your answer, Bruno. Yes, you were correct, since I always try to do things the right way, this is the reason I ask, to avoid surprises in the future. I have spoken with people and they said just to ignore it and just go ahead with the fridges. Actually at the moment I have given up (a bit) on the fridge idea, as I would just get the closet first and see how would that start working. Cold times are ahead as well.

The other reason I also asked this and want to go public with it, is to draw more attention. As I think foodsharing should not belong to a specific group of people. More people know about it, better it is.

Which is another question for you, where are your fridges located and how you preserve them from the cold Swedish winters? Any photos to share, any tips? Looking forward for your reply.

Anybody else has their opinions to share?

1 Like

Cool, glad to hear you’re going ahead with your plans somehow! :slight_smile:

We were quite open here from the beginning and tried to reach out to people and just took the risk of attracting the attention of officials. But there’s a difference maybe in size of cities. Bigger cities might be easier in that sense.

They are usually located in places where there is some kind of similar project going on, on sharing and saving stuff (like Bike Kitchen or a Free Shop or whatever non-profit project). All of the fridges here are indoors, so we don’t have any problem with the cold. However there is one place, an old house, which does not have heating and I think it can drop to very cold temperatures there. I actually don’t know what happens in this case :sweat_smile:

Bruno, your reply is much appreciated!
Yes, we have to go on, I am not giving up because of that, this is not a crime, we are doing :stuck_out_tongue:

So your fridges are just outside, are they not in closets or cupboard or something like that? I have seen such practices in Germany. That is why I asked. I mean if the fridge is in closet, you will have more space to share food.

Do you have any photos to share of your foodsharing points, please? Thank you so much!

1 Like

They are indoors so it’s just the fridge + some shelves for dry food and maybe a box for bread. Don’t they put them in closets only when they are outdoors?

This one is from the first place we had a fridge (1 and a half + half a freezer)

This is the same place during rush hour, when we opened the doors in the evening and there was a lot of food on the table

This one we had once in a library, and them moved to a free shop nearby

Wow, Bruno, this is awesome. Your fridges really look awesome! When they are indoors, they do not need the closet around, indeed. We will open the first outside and the next one would be nice to have indoors. Probably in some student dorm. But first let’s hope the baby food sharing point will be a success. I will keep you updated. Thank you so much once again!

1 Like