The Real Junk Food Project (RJFP) uses donated surplus produce which would go to waste to provide meals for people who can pay as much as they like or nothing.
Volunteer chefs judge the quality of the food based on its smell, taste and touch.
But West Yorkshire Trading Standards (WYTS) has told co-director Adam Smith “offences may have been committed” under food safety and hygiene regulations and has invited him to an interview under caution.
Its letter to Mr Smith reads that officers found 444 items which were a cumulative 6,345 past the use-by date at a warehouse in Stanningley.
Joanne McManus, 42, who co-runs the RJFP’s Armley Junk-tion Cafe, said: “It’s a bit ridiculous. We don’t trade. It’s pay-as-you-feel. Some people don’t pay anything.”
Volunteer chef Marc Higgs branded Trading Standards’ involvement “laughable” because the project is a charitable trust.
Daily visitor Toni Bayliff, 33, said: “I’m short of money. I don’t have enough to buy a cooker so I can’t cook. Everybody’s always been really nice and it’s cooked properly.”
Regular George Goodwin, 54, said: “It’s a beautiful place with plenty of people. It’s human. Good meals, friendly faces and good company.”
A WYTS spokesperson said that the charity’s proprietor will be able to put forward information as part of that investigation process. “That will help inform the decision on what, if any, action will be taken.”
He said that the supply of food marked with a use-by date after the date marked on the pack is an offence. But it is not an offence to supply foods marked with a best before date beyond what is on the pack.
RJFP uses food which would be thrown away or go to landfill, donated by supermarkets.