Every state has food safety laws intended to protect consumers from injuries such as food poisoning or food borne illness. These govern the way that food manufacturers, distributors, and restaurants provide food to consumers. For instance, food that is contaminated, spoiled, or expired should never be served to customers.
Many counties regularly inspect restaurants and other food-selling businesses to ensure that they’re complying with food safety standards. Some areas even have a rating system for restaurants that indicate how well they’re complying with standards. Food safety violations can occur when a restaurant or store fails to meet the state and local standards for the handling, preparation, and serving of meals and food products.
- How Can I Prove a Food Safety Violation?
- What are Some Examples of Food Safety Violations?
- Who Can Be Sued in a Food Safety Violation Lawsuit?
- What are Some Consequences of Food Safety Violations?
- What Are the Legal Remedies Available in a Food Quality Lawsuit?
- Do I Need a Lawyer for a Food Safety Violation?
Proving a food safety violation is challenging because the person bringing the lawsuit must prove that they were poisoned or became sick from the defendant’s establishment or restaurant and nowhere else. The plaintiff bringing the lawsuit must prove two things in order to win:
- The food that the plaintiff ate was contaminated and unsafe
- The contamination came from the defendant’s food, restaurant, or establishment
The plaintiff will also need to prove that your illness was caused by the contaminated food. The best way to do this is to have a stool sample scientifically tested for food poisoning.
Food safety violations can come in many different forms. Food safety regulations may vary depending on the type of restaurant or business involved, and the type of food in question. For instance, extremely perishable foods like dairy and eggs need to be handled with extra care compared with packaged persevered foods.
Some examples of food safety violations can include:
- Serving improperly cooked food (undercooked or raw)
- Serving food that has expired
- Improper food recall, or failure to recall affected food products
- Serving meals that have a foreign object in the food
- Distributing or serving contaminated food
- Failing to follow proper handwashing and sanitation procedures
- Serving the wrong dish to the wrong patron (can lead to food allergy injuries)
- Serving alcohol to minors or persons with alcohol allergies
- Failing to meet state or city public health inspection standards
Food safety violations can result in various injuries to a customer, including food poisoning, food allergy, choking, or other injuries. Many businesses lose a great deal of profit (or even lose their license) every year due to food safety violations.
Depending on the source of the food, one or more parties may be liable for injuries caused by improper food handling and food safety violation. The liable parties may include:
- Food companies which can include manufacturers and distributors
- Restaurants, food carts, and other food servers
- Health care institutions and hospitals
- Nursing care homes
- Common carriers such as train or airplane servicing food
For a restaurant or food chain, the consequences of food safety violations can be very negative for the business. Some penalties and consequences may include:
- Private civil lawsuit: An injured patron may sue the restaurant for damages, in which case the business may have to pay damages for medical costs, court fees, lost wages, and other losses.
- Loss of license: It’s not uncommon for a business to lose their operating license after being found liable for food safety violations
- Loss of employment: An employee who violates food safety laws may lose their job.
- Fines: A business may face fines for violating food safety regulations
- Injunction: A court may issue an injunction (court order) requiring the restaurant to change its food safety practices and policies
Generally, in order to recover damages, a person needs to prove that the food safety violation was a cause of their injury or losses. On the other hand, a business may still face legal consequences from authorities even if no consumers were found to be injured.
If a plaintiff is successful in a food poisoning or quality lawsuit, the defendant may be required to pay a monetary damages award. The defendant will likely be required to change their food quality practices so that they can avoid violations in the future. The damages that the plaintiff may recover are medical expenses, loss of wages, and any other direct monetary losses linked to the plaintiff’s injury.
Thus, food safety laws are enforced very strictly due to the risk that a violation may pose to the public. Large numbers of people can be affected by just one violation, and some food safety violation lawsuits are filed as a class action lawsuit. You may wish to hire a qualified personal injury lawyer if you need help filing a lawsuit. Your attorney can provide you with steps on how to proceed, and can represent you during court when filing for damages.