It seems like the most ordinary of activities. As Americans, we often take food shopping for granted. We trust that food will be available, and crucially, we trust that the food supply will be safe. Sadly, sometimes this trust is misplaced, and a dangerous pathogen makes its way into the food supply and onto grocery store shelves. When dangerous, contaminated food threatens the people of Northwest Florida, our Panama City food safety lawyer can help.
This week, CNN reported on the recall of more than 22,700 pounds of ground beef and beef products based on concerns the food items may be carrying the dangerous e. coli bacteria. Officials with the United States Food Safety and Inspection Service ("FSIS") have categorized the recall as "Class I," meaning the use of the contaminated product is reasonably likely to lead to serious, adverse health consequences or even death. At the time of the report, there were no known instances of illness stemming from the product. The contamination was discovered in a routine FSIS inspection.
The beef came from the National Beef Packing Company plant in Kansas and was shipped to wholesale locations, food service companies, and military commissaries in at least a dozen states. Details on the affected products can be found in the CNN piece and on the FSIS website.
Civil claims involving contaminated food typically fall under the theory of product liability, although more general negligence theories may also apply, and some cases may involve warranty-related legal claims. In most cases, a plaintiff in a food illness case will need to show that the food was contaminated, that the contamination caused the victim's illness, and the amount of damages that resulted. Depending on the nature of the claim, the plaintiff may also need to prove that the defendant was responsible for the contamination. Proof can be made more difficult by the fact that there is often a delay between consuming a food and becoming ill.
Foodborne illness cases may involve a number of different defendants. Liability for contaminated food may rest with a producer/manufacturer, grower, distributor, or seller. In some cases, the fault may rest with a restaurant or other party that failed to properly store and/or prepare the food.
Damages in a civil case stemming from food-related illness can include coverage of past and future medical bills, lost wages, and other financial consequences. Victims may also be able to recover for their pain and suffering, as well as for the emotional trauma related to the incident. In some cases, courts may also impose punitive damages, aimed at punishing the defendant rather than compensating the injured party.
We should be able to trust that the food we eat is safe. When this trust is violated and people fall ill as a result of foodborne bacteria or other forms of contamination, the victims deserve compensation. If you have suffered illness or lost a close relative due to contaminated food in the Florida Panhandle region, call our Panama City unsafe foods law firm. We can help you recover money damages and send a message to the food industry that unsafe food will not be tolerated.