Adulterated or Contaminated Food Cases in South Carolina

We often see news stories regarding contaminated food causing people to get sick.  The Centers for Disease Control actually maintains a list of multistate foodborne outbreak investigations.  According to the CDC, in 2018 we have already seen numerous such outbreaks, including salmonella-contaminated chicken salad, kratom, raw sprouts, and frozen shredded coconuts.  The FDA maintains a database of food recalls.  It is vital that restaurants and distributors of food products follow food safety rules, and if they don’t, the consequences can be deadly for customers. If someone is injured by a contaminated product, they may have a claim against the food maker or seller, or any member of the distribution chain who made or sold the contaminated food, regardless of how the food became contaminated.

In South Carolina, like in many other states, restaurants and other business involved with food manufacture and distribution can be strictly liable if someone gets sick because the food is contaminated.  For the purpose of strict liability, it does not matter how the food became contaminated, as long as the Plaintiff can prove the food was contaminated.  The Plaintiff must prove that he or she suffered some injury as a result of the food contamination, and is can be sufficient if the injury is psychological.  The South Carolina Food and Cosmetic Act, the adulterated food law in South Carolina, is intended to protect the consumer from adulterated or misbranded food and cosmetics. S.C. Code Ann. §§ 39-25-10 et. seq. Under the Act, a food is deemed to be adulterated under a variety of circumstances, including if it contains any poisonous or harmful substance that makes it injurious to health or if it contains any diseased, contaminated, filthy, putrid or decomposed substance. Any entity, such as a restaurant or retailer, violates the Act if it manufactures, sells, delivers, holds, or offers for sale any adulterated food; adulterates any food; or receives in commerce any adulterated food. Coward v. Borden Foods, Inc., 267 S.C. 423, 229 S.E.2d 262 (1976), Fowler v. Coastal Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Inc., 252 S.C. 579, 167 S.E.2d 572 (1969).

Posted by Kyle White

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