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Food and Drink Law

Food safety is an increasingly serious problem and food poisoning has reached epidemic proportions in the US. From a manufacturer's or retailer's negligence to bad sanitation practices to chemical contamination, food poisoning lawsuits are increasing. Food poisoning law covers poisoning, recalls, false advertising, allergies and more. Food Law can include food poisoning cases, food product recalls, food allergies, false advertising or labeling, vitamins or supplements problems. Looking for Dietary Supplement, Energy Drink or Weight Loss Supplement lawsuit information?


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Foodborne Illness/Food Poisoning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated in 2011 that 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. Many food poisoning outbreaks result in food poisoning lawsuits against the manufacturers and vendors of tainted food products.

Food Poisoning Older adults, young children, and those who have weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to foodborne illness. Otherwise healthy individuals are also at risk if the contamination is severe or especially pathogenic. In a nutshell, anyone who eats contaminated food is at risk of serious illness and even death in a severe case of food poisoning. Symptoms of food borne illness vary by disease but with bacterial or viral infections the most common side symptoms are nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea.

More than 250 different food borne diseases have been identified to date - not inclusive of chemical agents. Most of these diseases are infections caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. E. Coli, Salmonella, and C. perfringens, represent some of the most common causes of foodborne illness.

Food Illness Trends and Outbreaks

Although the CDC reported that salmonella cases fell 9 percent in 2012, it estimates that Salmonella infection causes more hospitalizations and deaths than any other type of germ found in food.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) determined in 2013 about two and half times more illnesses are caused by foodborne illnesses picked up by dining at restaurants than by eating at home. Over the last decade restaurants were involved in 1,786 outbreaks, events associated with at least 32,919 illnesses. Private residences were involved in 922 outbreaks resulting in 12,666 illnesses. Another 1,229 outbreaks occurred in multiple locations —schools, jobsites, catered events, etc.—and were responsible for at least 42,301 illnesses.

If you have suffered food poisoning from a food outbreak, such as that caused by the ConAgra recall you may have the option of joining a class action lawsuit. Alternatively, you can bring about your own lawsuit such as those in 2013 against Darden, the company that owns the Olive Garden restaurant Restaurants. The FDA announced that Darden was responsible for sickening at least 425 in 16 states from cyclospora — a one-cell parasite that causes intenstinal infections — reportedly after eating its salad mix.

Foods can become contaminated with bacteria and viruses due to careless sanitation practices which can usually be avoided with simple preventative measures such as food handlers washing their hands before, during and after food preparation. Improperly packaged food stored at the wrong temperature also promotes contamination.

Foods that are contaminated with poisonous chemicals or harmful substances can also cause serious illness. Food poisoning with a toxic chemical will usually show severe symptoms very quickly, as will food allergies.

The FDA website has listed hundreds of voluntary nationwide recalls of products, from fresh vegetables to peanut butter to dog food.

FDA investigates adverse event reports related to food supplements, including products designated dietary supplements, such as energy drinks, as well as conventional foods. While the FDA regulates both under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the FFDCA), the requirements for them are different.

Read more about safety alerts and advisories .

Video from the FDA's YouTube channel

Food Poisoning Law

Food poisoning lawsuits typically fall under the category of defective product liability claims because you have been sold a defective product (food) that injured (poisoned) you.

Food PoisoningMany states have adopted stringent product liability laws, which means that you do not need to prove that the manufacturer or supplier of a contaminated food product was not sufficiently careful in making or distributing that product—which is to your advantage. You just have to show that the food product you ate was contaminated and that the contamination was the cause of your illness.

In addition to a claim based on strict products liability, you may be able to argue that the defendants in your case acted negligently in manufacturing or supplying the contaminated food product that caused your illness. In order to prove negligence, you must show that the defendants were not reasonably careful (called "failing to exercise reasonable care") in making or distributing the contaminated food product.

Most every state has certain minimum standards on products (known as "implied warranties"), and the contamination of the food product involved in your case may constitute a violation (called "breach,") of those implied warranties. As well, the contamination may also constitute a violation of any express guarantees supplied by the food processor (such as a "triple-washed" label on a pre-prepared salad pack).

To prove your claim, you generally have to show that the food you ate was contaminated and the contamination made you sick. Be aware that the statute of limitations varies: a lawyer can help determine the laws of the state where you are filing a claim.

If you have suffered food poisoning from a food outbreak, such as that caused by the ConAgra recall or the Peanut Corporation of America recall, you may have the option of joining a class action lawsuit. Alternatively, you can bring about your own lawsuit.

Food Safety Act

In July 2009, the House of Representatives passed the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, which is meant to improve the safety of food by giving the FDA greater regulatory powers over the national food supply and food providers. Its goal is to prevent food-borne illnesses and ensure food safety.

The Act would increase the frequency of FDA inspections of food processing plants, expand the FDA's traceback capabilities when outbreaks do occur, give the FDA mandatory recall authority, and require food facilities to have safety plans in place to avoid any hazards.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law by President Obama in January 2011.It aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. Read more about the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.

A food poisoning lawsuit or dietary supplement lawsuit may claim compensation for the following:
  • Significant medical bills
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • Lost work time
  • Lost income
  • Funeral and burial costs after a fatality
  • Loss of a relationship with a parent, spouse or child
  • Loss of financial support
  • Out-of-pocket expenses

False Advertising/Marketing Class Action Lawsuits

”All Natural” and “Organic” Lawsuits Consumer class actions against the food and beverage industry’s “all natural” and “organic” labeling and marketing of its products has spiked in the past few years—mainly in California where state laws are typically more favorable to plaintiffs, although cases are pending throughout the country.

Plaintiffs allege their supposed healthy and all natural claims contain synthetic ingredients or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or the processing of the product as grounds for suit.

Lawsuits allege the “All Natural” claims are false, misleading or deceptive under states’ applicable consumer fraud statutes. In 2011, 49 lawsuits were filed over all-natural claims, 85 in 2012 and 58 in 2013. But a number of those suits have been halted due to consumers’ inability to define “natural’. For instance, In Pelayo v. Nestle USA, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California dismissed a proposed consumer class action on the grounds that the plaintiff failed to offer an objective or plausible definition of “All Natural.”

However, in Astiana v. Kashi Company, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California refused to grant the defendant’s motion to dismiss. Two classes of consumers who purchased Kashi products labeled “All Natural” or “Nothing Artificial” were certified on the basis that certain of the challenged ingredients either were synthetic or were not permitted in organic foods.

Heinz has been hit with a false advertising lawsuit alleging it is misleading consumers by describing products made from GM crops as ‘all-natural’. The lawsuit alleges that its vinegar is not natural because it is made from genetically modified corn and therefore Heinz’s all natural representations are false, deceptive, misleading and unfair to consumers who are injured in fact by purchasing products that defendant claims are all natural when in fact they are not.

The class action lawsuit represents all consumers who purchased the product in California from March 17, 2010.

In Parker v. J.M. Smucker Co, the plaintiff alleged that the labeling of various Crisco cooking oils as “All Natural” misled consumers because of the chemical processing the oils had undergone. The defendant argued that merely describing the processing didn’t explain how the oils had been “chemically altered” but the court deemed the plaintiff’s allegation that this processing results in the oils no longer “retain[ing] the chemical composition occurring in nature” sufficient to withstand the motion to dismiss.

Naked Juice, a subsidiary of Pepsi Co., recently settled a lawsuit alleging that it falsely advertised some of its juice and smoothie products as "all natural" and not genetically modified. The company put aside a $9 million settlement fund for consumers who feel that they were duped by this marketing scam. “Members of the putative nationwide class will each be eligible under the proposed agreement to recover a maximum of $45 dollars," explains

Two California women in 2012 filed a suit against General Mills alleging deceptive marketing. The women claim the healthy look of Nature Valley's snack packaging is misleading, and that the products actually contain highly processed ingredients. The lawsuit cites several California laws governing misleading and deceptive advertising and fraudulent business practices, as well as Minnesota's Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is serving as co-counsel in the suit.

Raw Foods Lawsuits Raw foods are a fairly recent trend in nutrition and with it is a raw food lawsuit. A group of plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, claiming that the high-pressure processing (HPP) with which the defendant’s BluePrint Juice and BluePrint Cleanse products--that cost about $10 for a single bottle of juice-- are treated destroys “vital” enzymes and nutrients. The plaintiffs claim that the defendant’s “100% raw” and “never-heated” labels mislead consumers.

Food Poisoning Lawsuits

A food poisoning lawsuit brought by a man who allegedly suffered an E.coli infection and subsequent complications, has been awarded $695K as settlement of his lawsuit.

The plaintiff alleged that after eating food produced by the defendant, in May 2009, he had to be hospitalized for two weeks due to an E. coli infection. Complications of the infection led to acute renal failure and severe hypotension. He missed two months of work due to his condition.

A class action due to a suspected Norovirus outbreak on board Princess Cruises Crown Princess has been filed after at least 104 passengers and 24 crew members were sickened in April, 2014. There have been five major outbreaks of norovirus on cruise ships in 2014 alone, sickening over 1,000 people. The other cruise ship outbreaks included: Holland America MS Veendam (124 people), the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas (634 people), a Caribbean Princess (181 people), and a Norwegian Cruise (130 people).


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Food/Drink Legal Help

If you think you have suffered a serious harmful effect or illness from a food or drink product, the first thing you should do is contact or see your healthcare provider. It is important to get a stool sample right away and if you still have the food or source that you suspect caused the illness, store it in your refrigerator do not return it to the place where it was purchased. Cooperate with local, state, or federal investigators, in part to provide further confirmation of the illness as food poisoning. And if a government health agency has linked a particular food you ate to an outbreak of food poisoning, it can probably help your claim.

If you or a loved one thinks that you might have a foodborne illness claim, you should seek an experienced attorney familiar with Food poisoning law, Supplement Law, nutrition law, and/or dietary supplement law.

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