The legal implications of food poisoning can be difficult to prove. It is almost impossible to trace which food product over the course of one’s regular eating patterns, caused the illness. Yet it can be done. And below are 6 ways food poisoning could leave you needing a lawyer.
1. The Hospital
The hospital must first diagnose you with a disease, eg. Listeriosis. This is a complicated process of examining contents of the gut, blood and faecal matter. The organism causing the disease, needs to be isolated and identified.
2. The Bacteria
The same food product must have the organism that caused the contamination. And the source of the contamination must be identified. Once all these parameters are put together, either a criminal case or class action law suit can be lodged.
3. The Food
To achieve a successful claim, one must show that the food that one ate, was contaminated, and that this same contaminated food, was what made you sick in the first place. This is even more of a battle, if there had been a time delay between eating the food and exhibiting symptoms. In the case of Listeriosis, this could take up to 70 days. Yet, it is easier to prove if other people have become sick with food poisoning by eating the same contaminated food.
4. Personal Injury Claims
One successful method of prosecution is of personal injury cases arising from food poisoning. Most of the cases fall under product liability, making food poisoning cases like those from a defective product. Such as airbags in a vehicle that go off without warning. In other words, the contaminated food is the defective product and injured you by causing food poisoning. This is liability.
5. Product Liability
Other legal theories of product liability include negligence and the breach of warranty. For example, the restaurants could be liable for negligence if it didn’t provide a safe environment with safe food. This has become difficult to prove due to the general improvements in food safety worldwide. Even though there may be a good food safety system in place, contamination can still occur and cause food poisoning, opening the facility up to a law suit.
6. Breach of Warranty
In a breach of warranty case, there is the idea that a product will meet the expectations of an ordinary buyer. An ordinary buyer would not expect this food to be contaminated and may then have a legal claim. In most countries, the consumer laws protect the customer. Meaning that a restaurant or production facility must prove that it was not negligent in causing food poisoning.
How does the kitchen prevent such cases from happening?
The food safety pillars must be maintained at all times.
A documentation system must be developed to check the food safety pillars. Ensuring that these systems are in place and managed.
Regular microbiological testing needs to be performed to ensure that foods are safe for human consumption.
Besides this, the kitchen must also ensure that the supplied products, (raw ingredients), are of a suitable quality and will not cause contamination during the production process.
Production facilities are required by law to have good food safety systems in place. Even the transport of food is also governed by law of many countries. We know that regular food poisoning outbreaks occur throughout the world, despite having systems in place.
One needs to ask, if it is a fault in the system itself or if the management of that system has loopholes that allow for mismanagement.
For further legal advice on the implications of food poisoning, the best stop are those that specialise in consumer and food law.
Hahn & Hahn attorneys specialise in such law, and are currently involved in the Listeriosis outbreak in South Africa, significantly known as the largest food poisoning outbreak in history.