Law and Food Contamination
Food contamination is a serious problem affecting many consumers across the world. Although there are efforts to control the problem, it still happens in many restaurants, hotels as well as private homes. This essay examines the current law provision concerning food contamination. This is very essential because state laws, just like with other legal cases, can provide the best mechanism of guaranteeing justice to the victims through compensation and other legal means.
Food contamination often leads to food poisoning and subsequent death of the affected person. Food contamination can arise from viruses, bacteria, or toxins that get in contact with the food. A recent report by Centre for Disease Control (CDC) indicates that in United States about six to thirty-three million cases of food poisoning are reported each year. This necessitates a law provision regulating the food industry. As stated by Curtis, the Consumer Protection Act 1987 was established to protect the consumers from food contamination and poisoning. The Act requires retailers to sell only food products that are not contaminated.
Rard, states that many steps and processes are involved in getting food from the farms into the plate ready for consumption. For this reason, several different actors can be legally liable for food contamination. They may include farmers, growers, shippers, packagers, sellers as well as distributors. Actors in the food industry can be liable for different legal food contamination theories such as a defective product, breach of warranty, and negligence amongst others. It is important to prove that they particularly caused the food contamination to make any of these actors legally liable.
The 1987 Act imposes a ‘strict liability’ rule if the source of food contamination is established. However, the provision of this law does not require the culprit to prove any act of negligence. Instead, a person is required to prove that food was not safe, a person is ill, and the unsafe food was the primary cause of the illness. According to Curtis, proof of these is necessary in order to have a successful lawsuit. The culprit must have suffered symptoms of illness caused by the food contamination.
In conclusion, food contamination is a serious problem that has potential of affecting the life of millions of people. Subsequently, the state has come up with various legal provisions to protection consumers from food poisoning. Although they work on the same principles, these legal provisions may vary from country to country. The law ensures that the consumer is compensated if the offender is found liable.
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Sources of Food Pollution
The sources of food pollutionare numerous and hard to identify or exclude from our daily environment. They include various chemicals and/or microorganisms that get into contact with food during the growing, processing or packaging stages. Basically, any existent environmental pollutant might get into our food, one way or another. Thus, any of the sources polluting the air, water, and soil may also become sources of food pollution. Additionally, animal fodder contains antibiotics and potentially toxic chemicals that may be retained into animals (which later on become human food).
Food Pollution Risks
Food pollution risks depend on a variety of factors, including:
- Type of pollutant – while any pollutant present in food may pose a health risk, the pollutants that are persistent and bioaccumulative are those that pose the higher risks because they may accumulate in food over time resulting in concentrations much higher than in a surrounding environment (e.g., accumulation of persistent chemicals such as organomercurial compounds or PCBs in fish). Hormones in food may also pose serious risks that are still uncertain. For example, contamination of cow milk with an artificial hormone (rBGH) used to increase milk production may be linked to some types of cancers in humans. Thus, a safe alternative is to avoid, if possible consumption of food with hormones.
- Type of food – fish are more dangerous than other food due to their potential exposure to a higher variety of contaminants and the accumulation and concentration of certain compounds in fish. Also, any bird or animal consuming polluted fish may become contaminated itself and thus transmit the pollution further through the food chain.
- Each individual person’s health – children, elderly, as well as pregnant women are usually more sensitive to food pollution. So are people with chronic food diseases or illnesses, for which food pollution risks are higher. However, healthy individuals may also develop food-poisoning diseases and anyone may be at risk.
How Does Pollution Affect the Food Web?
Pollution from the environment (soil, sediments, water, and air) gets into the food web by polluting plants or animals that come in contact with environmental pollution. For example, water pollution may accumulate and concentrate in fish. Fish may be consumed by birds and other animals and the pollution gets transferred through the food chains until it reaches humans. By the time the polluted meat or fish reaches humans, the pollution may be substantially increased compared to the original concentration. Thus, human intoxication cases may be serious.
Safe Food Alternative
An alternative that may ensure production of less polluted food was recently proposed in Japan. Thus, it was proposed to grow vegetables in factories which would eliminate the unpredictable effect of environmental pollution, unpredictable weather, or pests. The process would be all computerized, controlling various factors affecting growth. This safe food alternative is proposed by the Ozu Corporation in Tokyo. Would this constitute the future of agriculture? Only time will tell… In the meantime, we are still dealing with food grown on dirty land subjected to various food pollutants, pests, and unpredictable weather! Food pollution risks are everywhere and all we can do is minimize individual exposure to polluted food by informing ourselves and taking action.