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The Role of Negligence in Food Poisoning Cases

Posted in Food Policy on April 28, 2023

Negligence is a crucial factor in food poisoning cases. It is a legal term that refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm to others. In the context of food poisoning cases, negligence can occur at any stage of the food supply chain, from food production to food service. If the plaintiff (victim) in a food poisoning case can prove the defendant’s negligence caused their harm, then the defendant (at-fault party) can be held liable. Doing so requires establishing four elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages.

Duty of Care

Food suppliers have a duty to ensure that the food they provide is safe for consumption. This duty of care applies to all parties involved in the food supply chain, including manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and restaurants. Therefore, the plaintiff must show that the defendant was responsible for preparing, handling, or distributing the food that caused their illness to establish that a duty of care was owed.

Breach of Duty

A breach of duty of care in a food poisoning case occurs when a person or entity responsible for food preparation, handling, or distribution fails to take reasonable steps to ensure that the food is safe and free from harmful pathogens or toxins. Here are some examples of breach of duty of care in food poisoning cases:

  • Contaminated ingredients: If a food producer or supplier fails to properly store, handle, or transport ingredients, it can result in contamination of the final product.
  • Cross-contamination: Cross-contamination can occur when a person or object that has come into contact with a pathogen or toxin comes into contact with food that is not contaminated. This can happen if proper handwashing, cleaning, or sanitizing procedures are not followed.
  • Failure to cook or store food properly: Undercooking, improper storage, or inadequate temperature control can create an environment where harmful pathogens or toxins can grow and multiply.
  • Lack of training: If food handlers are not properly trained in food safety procedures, they may not be aware of the risks associated with handling and preparing food.
  • Failure to follow regulations: Food manufacturers are expected to follow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines to keep consumers safe, while restaurants must follow local health department regulations.


Causation refers to the link between the defendant’s breach of duty and the plaintiff’s harm. Once a breach of duty has been identified, it is necessary to establish a causal link between the breach and the plaintiff’s illness. This may involve demonstrating that the plaintiff consumed the contaminated food and that the illness was caused by the specific pathogen or toxin found in the food.


Proving damages in a food poisoning case involves demonstrating that the plaintiff suffered harm as a result of the defendant’s negligence or wrongdoing. The damages can include economic damages such as medical expenses and lost income, as well as non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. Medical records are crucial evidence in proving damages to establish the extent of the plaintiff’s harm, along with bills, a record of lost income, testimony from friends and family on how your life has been impacted, and expert testing to establish causation and the extent of your suffering.

If negligence is proven in a food poisoning case, the plaintiff can recover compensation for their losses and hold the defendant accountable for their actions. This can help promote better food safety practices and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. If you or a loved one became sick after ingesting contaminated food, speak with an experienced food poisoning lawyer.