A brief synopsis is given for a selection of civil cases, with more detail being supplied if required.
Personal injury claim (small child)
When a small child injured her mouth on a piece of “sharp plastic/glass” found in an apple pie, her parents’ reaction was to take action against the food manufacturer. By demonstrating that the “plastic” was a small piece of fibrous apple core and it was normal to expect this in apple products, litigation was averted.
E coli O157 contaminated raw beef
A manufacturer who received and processed E coli O157 contaminated raw beef from a supplier, claimed that it had contaminated the whole of one day’s production and wanted damages to match. By looking at the initial contamination levels in the raw beef, and calculating the dilution effect of processing, a smaller sum was agreed and settled out of court.
Personal injury claim — food poisoning
A customer claimed that a meal containing tuna eaten in a hotel restaurant caused scombrotoxic food poisoning. However, the customer had also eaten crab as part of the meal and there was a possibility that the symptoms suffered were caused by an allergy to shellfish (the symptoms can be indistinguishable). Although the case came to court, the judge found the case not proved, and the hotel was exonerated.
Fraudulent sale of unfit meat
In a fraud case involving the ‘laundering’ (literally!) of chicken meat designated as pet food, the charges against one of the defendants, a meat trader, included that of handling of food which was unfit, and which could cause food poisoning. The evidence, however, pointed to the meat being of low quality rather than unfit, and the defendant was acquitted.
Contaminated product claim
A soft drinks manufacturer developed and marketed a new product which was subsequently withdrawn because mould growth was identified in some of the bottles. The subsequent insurance claim was successfully denied when an investigation into the product development and testing procedures were shown to have been inadequate.
Forensic-type auditing in the case of a dispute between companies and their suppliers/customers can be a valuable tool in apportioning responsibility, and assessing quantum. In one case a customer claimed it was supplied with a defective food product by an importer, which was disputed by the importing company. Investigation of the practices and documentation within the customer’s company showed that its systems were not adequate to implicate the product in question.