Is Food Poisoning Considered an Accidental Injury?


Hopefully that is the case, and in the great majority of cases the answer is that food poisoning an accidental injury. However, there have been times over human history where food is intentionally tainted. Clearly, in those instances criminal sanctions are appropriate and warranted. In a commercial sale of food setting intentionally tainting product is unheard of. But there have been instances when food manufacturers acted “with conscious disregard 
of a known safety risk,” and were subject to criminal sanctions.

The best example of when a company – more specifically – its executive acted with conscious disregard was the infamous PCA Salmonella outbreak that sicked hundreds, killing nine and prompting the recall of nearly 4,000 products that shared the tainted peanut butter. Here executives knowingly shipped product that was likely tainted. They are now spending the next 20 years in federal prison.

Most businesses do not intend to poison their customers. As I have said numerous times: “It is a bad idea to poison your customers” – for moral and business reasons. So, most food poisoning incidents are accidental and are viewed under the lens of the law under either strict product liability or negligence.

Strict Liability – meaning liability without regard to fault – asks three questions: 1) Are you a manufacturer? 2) Was the product unsafe? And 3) Did the product cause injury? If the answer is yes to the three questions, the manufacturer of the food is legally liable, regardless of if it was an accident.

So, who is considered a manufacturer? A famous Court case defined a manufacturer as “a manufacturer” is defined as a “product seller who designs, produces, makes, fabricates, constructs, or remanufactures the relevant product or component part of a product before its sale to a user or consumer.” Hard to think who a manufacturer would not be.

Was the product unsafe? I would argue that it has a pathogen in it that can sicken or kill you, the answer is always, Yes.

Did it cause damage? Bottomline, is if the product did not make you sick, you do not have a claim.

In a food poisoning case – accidental or not – the manufacturer is going to be held responsible,