Health food stores are becoming increasingly popular as consumers’ preferences for different categories of food products have shifted. Perhaps one of the most popular health food chains in the U.S. is Whole Foods Market, a specialty store offering a variety of alternative products, including organics, gluten-free, and vegan. On June 8, 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency responsible for overseeing food safety and labeling for the vast majority of our food system, issued a warning letter to Whole Foods Market, identifying a number of “serious violations” it found after completing an inspection of one of its stores in Everett, Massachusetts, in February 2016.
Among the violations identified, Whole Foods Market failed to manufacture, package, and store foods under conditions that would reduce the growth or introduction of potential contaminants. For example, the inspectors observed that the company was preparing ready-to-eat pasta products under areas where moisture from ceiling joints above was dripping onto the counter space below.
In another example, an employee was observed failing to follow appropriate hand washing protocols when preparing ready-to-eat egg salad in individual retail packages. The employee was seen cleaning and contacting working surfaces and then packaging the products without changing gloves between tasks. In a similar incident identified in the letter, an employee’s unprotected shirt sleeves were observed frequently touching a ready-to-eat leafy green salad product.
Food safety is a critical aspect of our food system. Pathogens and other contaminants can cause serious injuries and health risks, particularly in vulnerable groups like children, the elderly, and people with health conditions that compromise their immune systems. One of the most commonly discussed pathogens is E. coli, as well as salmonella and listeria. All three of these can lead to serious health complications, requiring hospitalization and extensive therapies.
Food manufacturers have a duty to use reasonable care to prevent food from becoming contaminated or unsafe during the handling process. This includes identifying potential hazards and points of exposure, ensuring food is stored safely and appropriately, and using best practices when handling food items. Also, this duty encompasses an obligation to follow all applicable food safety handling rules and regulations. If a company is found to have violated an applicable rule or regulation at the time the contamination or adulteration occurred, the plaintiff can assert a rebuttable presumption that the defendant acted negligently.
In addition to negligence, a plaintiff who has suffered harm from food contamination can also assert a claim for strict product liability. To prevail, the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s product was unreasonably dangerous.
At Moll Law Group, our skilled team of food contamination lawyers has helped illness sufferers throughout the nation bring claims against the parties responsible for their damages, including victims in Florida, Texas, California, and Illinois. Since there are so many companies and individuals involved in the food production system, identifying the exact point at which the negligent conduct occurred can be difficult. We can help you investigate your claim and aggressively pursue the settlement or the judgment that you deserve. We offer a free consultation, so call us now at 312-462-1700 or contact us online to set up your appointment.