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If you need advice from a specialist, no win no fee, food poisoning or food allergy injury claim lawyer, please do call or email us.

Food related injury claims

Injury claims which arise from food poisoning, mislabelled foods or information about allergies being ignored by restaurants are among the more complex types of personal injury claims.

Whilst we, like many other firms, offer no win no fee arrangements for these types of claims, careful assessment is first needed by us and from a claimant’s perspective, choosing a specialist, experienced food injury claim lawyer is highly advisable.

Suki Chhokar, one of our Personal Injury partners, is an expert in claims arising from food poisoning and food allergies. He has over 20 years of experience in successfully representing clients.

The main reasons why food related legal claims are complex are:

  • Putting forward the right evidence – we all eat a number of times a day, so being able to prove that you fell ill due to eating a particular meal is not straightforward. See below about the importance of actions taken at the time you feel ill and other important aspects of proving a food poisoning claim.
  • Food related injury claims do not rely solely on negligence law. For obvious reasons the manufacture, preparation and sale of food is also regulated by statute. In particular, The Consumer Protection Act 1987 provides that a food retailer must sell products free from harmful bacteria which may cause food poisoning.
  • Food poisoning and allergy claims may relate to food prepared in a restaurant or food bought at a supermarket or shop and possibly prepared at home. The evidence available, such as packaging and whether others have also fallen ill will generally differ.
  • The potential difficulty of proving what illness has been suffered due to what type of bacteria and if there are any medium or long term implications of the illness will be complex.

In summary, to succeed it is necessary to prove that the food was not safe, what illness has occurred and that the cause of the illness was the food. With some claims these can be brought against several defendants such as the actual producers of the food, and also the food importers.

What causes Food Poisoning?

Typical causes of food poisoning are where :-

  • There is bacterial cross-contamination of food due to poor hygiene.
  • Food has not been correctly stored in fridges is past it’s safe date for preparation or consumption.
  • The cooking of food is wrong so that typically meat has not been cooked enough or at a sufficient temperature.
  • The bacterial infections caused by 1 or all of the above typically include Salmonella which is often associated with meat, poultry and eggs, E-coli or Norovirus.

How do Food Allergy claims arise?

Food allergy claims can be extremely severe in certain cases. Foods that may be safe to be consumed by most people could be dangerous, or even fatal, in trace quantities to a food allergy sufferer.

According to the Food Standards Agency, about 10 people die each year from food induced anaphylaxis in the UK alone. For these reasons, it is important for restaurants to ensure that their members of staff understand food allergens and have adequate measures, standards, and checks in place to ensure that customers who inform them of their allergies are not at risk.

Typical situations in which food allergy claims arise are where :-

  • A customer has informed members of staff of their food allergy and was still served food which contained ingredients that were not suitable.
  • A customer has informed members of staff of their food allergy and was served food that was cross contaminated with ingredients which were not suitable.
  • Menus at a restaurant are mislabelled and a customer consumes food which unknowingly contains ingredients which were not suitable.
  • Ingredient/Allergy labels displayed on packaged products contain misinformation and unknowingly contain ingredients which are not suitable.

In summary, it is necessary to either prove that a customer informed an individual/business of their allergy and that the necessary standards, requirements and procedures were not adhered to, or to prove that a customer unknowingly consumed mislabelled foods which were unsuitable for them to consume.

Important steps to collect the right evidence

Having the right evidence is vital for many food poisoning and/or food allergy claims. If you believe your illness was caused by something you bought at a shop, retaining the packaging and making sure it’s not further touched is very important.

If you feel ill, you should of course in many cases contact your GP or maybe even go to a hospital. Treatment records and physical evidence such as stool samples will be very important.

Where you believe your illness was caused by food consumed at a restaurant, things are more complex. This is where speaking to a lawyer early is important. Where you have a lawyer on side, early steps can include formally requesting food safety records from the restaurant or steps to find out whether anyone else at the restaurant also fell ill.

Documenting what happened to you both at the time you fell ill and afterwards if your recovery is slow or incomplete is also important. In the initial period you should list all the food you ate for at least 24 hours before you fell ill, retain receipts for the food bought or from the restaurant and also a record of your symptoms.

On an ongoing basis you should also document, including with any receipts all financial losses you incur, whether from loss of income or other reason and also any medical expenses. It’s essential to remember that unless you can prove loss and that you have taken steps to mitigate (minimise) your loss, a court will refuse that aspect of your claim or reduce it.

 

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