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Posted by: OFT Food Safety & Injury Lawyers

Food tampering is a severe offense in the United States. While a typical food poisoning case is caused by negligence, food tampering refers to an individual’s deliberate contamination of food products. It’s like the difference between hitting a car while texting and knowingly hitting someone intending to harm them.

Although this is a criminal offense, you could still recover monetary compensation if the CDC and local health agencies successfully trace the source of an outbreak. Understanding the signs of food tampering and the many individuals that could be liable helps you stay safe and get the compensation you need to recover from your damages.

Food Tampering Laws

After a series of Tylenol poisoning deaths in Chicago, the federal government passed the Federal Anti-Tampering Act in 1983, which prohibits anyone from tampering with the labeling or container of any consumer product that affects interstate or foreign commerce.

This includes any products that are being manufactured, distributed, or held for sale. The law also states that the tampering must be done with “reckless disregard for the risk that another person will be placed in danger of death or bodily injury” for it to be charged as a criminal offense.

The Consumer Product Protection Act of 2002 makes it illegal to stamp, print, place, or insert any writing in or on any consumer product that affects interstate or foreign commerce, or the box, package, or another container of any such product before its sale.

Penalties for Food Tampering

Anyone who attempts tampering faces a fine of up to $25,000 and as much as ten years in prison. If the tampering causes death, the fine increases to $100,000, and the prison sentence increases to up to 20 years. Other cases result in a $50,000 fine and up to ten years in jail.

Anyone who violates the conditions set under the Consumer Product Protection Act faces up to a year in prison.

Examples of Food Tampering

Your food might have been tampered with if you notice the following:

  • Broken or missing safety seals
  • Unusual stains
  • Cuts or tears in a product’s packaging
  • Discoloration
  • Foul odor
  • Leakage
  • Mold

Who’s Liable for Food Tampering?

Anyone could be at fault for intentionally contaminating food products, and it’s up to the CDC and local health officials to properly trace the outbreak back to its source.

Their investigation might reveal that a disgruntled employee, activist, or competitor intentionally contaminated food products to disrupt a business. Food tampering could also be an act of terrorism that intends to harm as many victims as possible. In other cases, delivery drivers might intentionally contaminate a customer’s food en route to their home.

There have been several food tampering incidents over the years that all range in severity. One food tampering case involved a man who intentionally poured bleach on freezer items at a Target in Phoenix. In another case, a man stuck razor blades in his former employer’s pizza dough.

Tips to Protect Yourself from Food Tampering

The FDA offers the following tips to help you detect food tampering:

  • Thoroughly examine a food product’s packaging to ensure nothing is out of the ordinary
  • Check to make sure any anti-tampering devices are still intact, such as the safety button on the lid of a jar
  • Check to make sure the product has not surpassed its “sell-by” date
  • Don’t purchase items with damaged or torn packaging

How to Report Food Tampering

You might have to report food tampering to multiple individuals or agencies. If you see damaged products in a grocery store, report it to the manager. You should also report the food tampering incident to your local police department since this is a criminal offense.

If the damaged product is meat, poultry, or eggs, report it to the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline. You could contact the FDA Main Emergency Number or your state’s consumer complaint coordinator for all other foods. If you believe your food was tampered with at a restaurant, you can report it to your local health department.

Did Food Tampering Cause Your Illness? Call OFT Today

You should report the incident immediately if you suspect your food was tampered with. If you believe tampered food caused you to suffer from food poisoning, contact the food poisoning lawyers at OFT Food Safety & Injury Lawyers today. We’ll work with experts to determine the cause of your food poisoning and find the party responsible.

Contact our law office today at (888) 828-7087 for a free consultation.

Notable Recoveries

$10 million

Seven infants were sickened after consuming a contaminated food product marketed to infants

$6.5 million

Verdict on behalf of a little boy who contracted a severe Salmonella infection from chicken

$7.55 million

Verdict on behalf of a little girl who contracted E. coli at a petting zoo

$2.25 million

E. coli infections contracted from a major fast food chain

$45 million

An over-the-counter medication caused severe kidney damage to multiple users

$3.4 million

A pregnant woman contracted a Listeria infection from contaminated fruit and passed the infection to her child

$3 million

Multistate Cyclospora outbreaks


A couple contracted Salmonella from a restaurant


A pedestrian was struck by a left-turning car, fracturing her tibia


A semi-truck rear-ended a motorcyclist causing a collapsed lung, rib fractures and road rash