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Pages:
7
School:
Henderson State University
Course:
Psc 1013 - Am Nat Govt
Am Nat Govt Documents
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Food Safety and Technology Jan 2009 FST 32 Good Food Safety Practices Managing Risks to Reduce or Avoid Legal Liability Elizabeth Haws Connally Esq 1 This publication was prepared for the CTAHR project Enhancing On Farm Performance in Food Safety to Market the Highest Quality Produce C USDA Economic Research Service estimates that more than 73 000 cases of illness caused by E coli strain O157 occur annually resulting in health related costs of more than 450 million 2 E coli is just one of several pathogens that have contaminated food and caused illnesses 3 Recent food scares such as the one involving spinach contaminated with E coli O157 H74 have heightened interest in food safety and awareness of food industry vulnerabilities In September 2006 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention informed the U S Food and Drug Administration FDA that it linked the outbreak of E coli O157 H7 to contaminated prepackaged freshcut spinach packed for Dole Foods by Natural Selection Foods LLC a California specialty lettuce processing company 5 This E coli outbreak spread to 26 states and resulted in 204 confirmed illnesses and three deaths 6 This one incident caused economic losses in California estimated at 37 74 million 7 In addition everyone in the spinach supply chain was exposed to and or embroiled in litigation for more than two years The total amounts Foodborne illness origins and impacts paid out in legal settlements are not known The most harmful of potential contaminants that can Lawsuits in the food industry are on the rise as attorcause foodborne illness are disease causing microbes neys are becoming more successful in proving foodborne pathogens of human or animal origin these pathogens illness causation thanks to better science In February are commonly called germs Food 2008 one law firm in Seattle WashThis publication is intended for edusuppliers and handlers must do all ington claimed to be handling more cational and informational purposes they can to reduce the chance of than 1 000 active foodborne illness only It is designed to provide only contaminating food products with cases originating in all 50 states 8 general information regarding the pathogens Many lawsuits settle before trial but subject matters covered It is not a One pathogen Escherichia coli not without significant expense substitute for legal advice or other professional services Due to the commonly referred to as E coli is In 2003 more than 650 people rapidly changing nature of the law currently the leading cause of foodwere sickened and four died from information contained in this publicaborne illness in the United States hepatitis A contracted from Mexition may become outdated The U S Department of Agriculture can green onions served at the Chionsumers today demand that the food they eat be safe and free from harmful contaminants that cause illness They require growers shippers wholesalers retailers and restaurants to take appropriate actions to ensure a safe food supply Consumers have also demonstrated that they will hold all these food suppliers indeed all segments of the food supply chain accountable for foodborne illnesses Aside from their potentially devastating public health effects these illnesses are costly to the consumer and the food industry For the food industry the impact may last beyond the resolution of the food illness outbreak Once consumer confidence is lost it may take a long time before consumers return to buying the product This publication reviews the potential liabilities that the food industry from farm to table faces from the increasing spread of foodborne illnesses In addition it addresses ways to manage these risks through using the Good Food Safety Practices and purchasing insurance Published by the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources CTAHR and issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work Acts of May 8 and June 30 1914 in cooperation with the U S Department of Agriculture Andrew G Hashimoto Director Dean Cooperative Extension Service CTAHR University of Hawai i at M noa Honolulu Hawai i 96822 An equal opportunity affirmative action institution providing programs and services to the people of Hawai i without regard to race sex age religion color national origin ancestry disability marital status arrest and court record sexual orientation or status as a covered veteran CTAHR publications can be found on the Web site http www ctahr hawaii edu freepubs UH CTAHR Good Food Safety Practices Chi s Mexican restaurant near Pittsburg Pennsylvania 9 FDA attributed the outbreak to poor sanitation This was the largest single source epidemic of hepatitis A in U S history 10 The total compensation paid by Chi Chi s was 50 million 11 Foodborne illness litigation A person affected by a foodborne illness may attempt to obtain financial compensation for his or her illness by pursuing legal action against the firms that produce process distribute cook or sell the food product that allegedly caused the illness 12 In order to prevail in foodborne illness litigation people filing the lawsuit plaintiffs must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the food supplier defendants committed wrongful acts that caused harm to the plaintiffs Potential causes of legal action A plaintiff in these lawsuits will identify specific claims causes of action and must cite facts that support these claims and a demand for damages There are three common causes of action in foodborne illness lawsuits product liability breach of express or implied warranty and negligence These however are not the only causes of actions that a plaintiff may allege All food suppliers are subject to these legal claims Product liability Product liability law is invoked in most foodborne illness lawsuits In a product liability case the plaintiff must prove that the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous when it left the food supplier s control and that the defect was the proximate cause of the plaintiff s injury 13 Proximate cause is the legal term for linking the illness or injury to the product Companies in the chain of production transfer and handling may be exposed to the claim to the extent that they participate in the production or alteration of the food item The core of product liability cases is the determination that the food item and its production or alteration was the proximate cause of the illness Breach of warranty A plaintiff may claim breach of warranty in a foodborne illness case by


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