You or a family member is suddenly feeling sick. You subsequently discover that the package containing the food you included in your dinner a couple of days prior had passed its expiration date. This scenario is similar to others shared by many of the clients that we here at The Leigh Law Firm have worked with in the past. Like them, you may be questioning who is to blame. Is it your fault for using the food too late, or that of the grocer in The Woodlands for selling you nearly expired food? Or could the manufacturer be at fault?
Determining liability in this scenario may be difficult if you only have the label date to go off of. The Food Safety Inspection Service states that food label dates are not indicators of product safety. Instead, they simply offer an idea of when the product should be at its best quality. What is more, food label dates are not even required by law (except in the case of infant formula). The FSIS goes on to state that minus obvious signs of spoilage, food that has passed its label date should still be safe to use if it has been properly stored and handled.
Does this mean that label dates do not factor into liability? Not necessarily; if, for example, the date listed is a "Sell-By" date, then you may argue that a store that sold it after that date should not have made it available for purchase. Furthermore, the closed date code that indicates the date a food product was created could point to carelessness on the part of the manufacturer if it allowed it to be shipped long after its manufacturing date.
More information on assigning liability for defective products can be found here on our site.