Grocery Store Food Contamination: Who’s At Fault and What Are Your Rights?

grocery food contamination

Food poisoning is a fairly common occurrence. For some, the symptoms are mild, causing nothing more than an upset stomach. For others, the effects can be severe and even fatal. According to the CDC, 48 million people get sick annually from food poisoning, and of those who fall ill, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die.

Imagine picking up what you think are quality, fresh ingredients for a nice dinner only to end up in the hospital a day or two later. Of course, no one expects to get food poisoning, especially when they’ve been buying their products from the same store for years. But it does happen. Unfortunately for those unlucky enough to suffer more than a mild stomach upset, the resulting medical bills and loss of income from being out of work can become a financial burden.

Many individuals don’t even consider the notion of getting compensated after a food poisoning incident, but it is an option. It is possible to hold grocery stores or even food service companies accountable for negligence or product liability. However, proving fault can be somewhat of a challenge. It’s helpful in these cases to work with an personal injury attorney experienced in food contamination cases. It is your right to pursue legal action for compensation to help cover any expenses and damages incurred.

How to Tell If You Have Food Poisoning

Food poisoning, also known as foodborne illness, results from eating contaminated food. The symptoms can range from mild to severe. Organisms such as viruses, parasites, and bacteria are the most common culprits of food poisoning. While there are many types of these contaminants, the ones we hear of most often are E. coli, Giardia, Salmonella, and Listeria.

The signs and symptoms of food poisoning can occur immediately after eating up to a couple of days or even weeks later. The symptoms can vary depending on the food you ate and what type of contaminant you were exposed to. However, the most common symptoms to look out for include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (particular if it’s watery or bloody)
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain

Who Is Liable for Contaminated Food From the Grocery Store?

Though you may think to immediately take action against the store where your food was purchased, the grocery store itself may not be to blame. It is possible, and you can still pursue a negligence or product liability claim against them, but other potential guilty parties can include the following:

  • Food product manufacturers
  • Food packaging companies
  • Food transport companies

To win your case, no matter who is at fault, you will need to either prove that the party was negligent or sue for product liability.


According to the principles of negligence, businesses must exercise reasonable care. If they fail to uphold this duty, they may be held liable. Essentially, it is a business’s responsibility to produce, distribute, or sell safe products. However, proving that they failed to do so can be a challenge and often requires the help of an attorney. To prove negligence and receive compensation, the plaintiff or victim must prove the following:

  1. The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care
  2. The defendant breached their duty of care
  3. The defendant’s negligence was the main factor in causing the plaintiff to become ill

Product Liability:

According to product liability laws, a business that sells, distributes, or manufactures an unreasonably dangerous and defective product is liable for any resulting injuries or illnesses. Even if the company was not negligent, they can still be held accountable. This means that anyone involved in the chain of distribution—from the manufacturer and distributor to the retailer or wholesaler—can be held liable if the defective product directly caused the illness. To prove this, the plaintiff must show:

  1. The defendant distributed, manufactured, or sold the contaminated product
  2. The product was contaminated when it left the defendant’s control
  3. The plaintiff used and consumed the product in a foreseeable manner
  4. The plaintiff became ill as a result of the contamination

What Damages Can I Receive Compensation for in a Food Poisoning Case?

If you become ill due to food contamination, you have a right to receive compensation for more than just medical expenses. You can recover damages for several things, including:

  • Medical bills
  • Future medical expenses related to the illness
  • Loss of wages
  • Future loss of income or earning capacity if the illness affects your ability to return to work
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma and mental anguish
  • Other out-of-pocket expenses

Poynter & Bucheri Accident Recovery — Indianapolis Personal Injury Attorneys

If you or a loved one have become ill due to food poisoning, the experts at Poynter & Bucheri can help. We understand the burden that can result from being exposed to food contaminants and the challenge of proving fault in these cases. Our team has experience helping victims and their loved ones get the compensation they deserve after suffering from food poisoning. Don’t hesitate to reach out — one of our experienced attorneys can assist you right away. Call 1-800-265-9881 for a free case review.