by Hal Kleinman
on June 4, 2012
I get calls all the time from people that have found a dead fly, mouse, or other foreign object in their food. Sometimes the caller reports finding insects, plastic, animal bone pieces and “things that look like worms.” These people are understandably upset. Who wouldn’t be? Just the thought of finding something unrecognizable (or worse, recognizable) in our food makes most of us queasy. We’re angry, and we want to make a point.
You can make a point, but you have not hit the lottery. Suing for big bucks usually is not an option. You may find this hard to believe, but federal laws do permit a certain amount of “natural contaminants” to be present in food.
If you have found an “unnatural contaminant” or an excessive amount of “natural contaminants” on your plate, to win at trial or even get a substantial settlement, you must prove actual damages. Actual damages might be a diagnosis of a physical/psychological injury, doctor and hospital bills, lost wages, or other past and future expenses. If you’re simply disgusted and freaked out, manufacturers and jurors will not pay.
What I advise people to do is write the company a letter of complaint. If possible, include a picture of the offending critter or foreign object. That way, somebody at the company can feel queasy, too. A lot of times, the company will either refund your money or send you coupons (hopefully for other products they manufacture). Although this might not put your mind at ease, it’s better than nothing.
If a simple letter to the company is not enough to give you peace of mind, there are other options. You can contact the USDA, FDA, consumer protection groups like Public Citizen, your state Secretary of State’s consumer protection division and the manufacturer’s state Secretary of State’s consumer protection division. Again, these efforts won’t result in any compensation, but at least you can rest easy that you have exhausted all of your options.
To learn more about what the government considers acceptable in food, read The Food Defect Action Levels: Levels of natural or unavoidable defects in foods that present no health hazards for humans.
Hal Kleinman’s practice focuses on the areas of medical negligence, mass torts and class actions representing victims of dangerous and defective pharmaceutical products and medical devices, as well as victims of food poisoning. READ FULL BIO