Who Is Liable for Food Allergen Injuries?

Consumers who are injured by severe allergic reactions to food may have the right to sue the company or restaurant that is to blame. The law imposes at least some obligations on food merchants to be mindful of customers’ allergies and warn them of the possibility of a reaction.

Food Allergies Are a Dangerous and Growing Problem

The number of children and teenagers who suffer from food allergies is up by roughly 50% since 1999. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act requires that manufacturers warn the public about the presence of certain possible ingredients that could cause allergic reactions. If the product contains a possible allergen, the manufacturer must state that on the label. If there are no warnings, and a customer is injured, they may be able to sue for a failure to warn like any other product liability case.

Consumers should be very careful about the language on the label. Some manufacturers intentionally use vague warnings to cover their own backs. Nonetheless, there are a growing number of food manufacturers that are taking this law very seriously. If anything, more lawsuits today happen because of cross-contamination of food ingredients.

Restaurants Also Have Obligations to Protect Customers

Many allergic reactions happen in restaurants when patrons cannot see a list of ingredients. They are at the mercy of the staff and restaurant. The law puts most of the obligation on the customers to ask about ingredients. They must get the correct information. However, some states will have their own laws that require the restaurant to list allergens on the menu.

Restaurants have obligations to warn customers, but they are less than those of a food manufacturer. However, they must give accurate information about the contents of the food. For example, if a customer asks whether a product contains nuts, they could sue the restaurant if they are told no and have a reaction. In addition, if the restaurant has notice of a customer’s allergies, they cannot serve them food that contains those ingredients. In general, a lawsuit against a restaurant for food allergies would be a negligence case just like any other personal injury claim.


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