South Carolina Food Law: Why Is There a Needle in My Turkey Sandwich?

Foreign substances not common to the food they are found in can range from a caterpillar in a salad to a sewing needle in a packaged sandwich. That is what passengers on a recent Delta flight found when they bit into their turkey sandwich, a metal needle. ABC and WSJ are reporting that at least two passengers found a metal, sewing needle in their food while traveling on a Delta flight from Amsterdam.

I remember eating a salad at a “nice” restaurant when I was in college and the leaf kept moving.  I realized there was actually a live animal enjoying my salad, too. Although not far fetched to find a caterpillar enjoying leaves of lettuce it was not something: a) I wanted to see; b) I was accustomed to by growing up in the United States; and c) I felt exemplified sanitary conditions.  The waiter offered to bring me a new salad but for some reason my appetite had curbed.

That real life example in comparison to another one this past weekend when my wife and I were eating crab cakes and encountered small fragments of crab shell-offer two different scenarios. The crab shell was nothing to be alarmed with as crab cakes are made from crab meat found inside the crab shell. Now had we bitten into or found:

  • a metal hook;
  • hypodermic needle;
  • bullet; or
  • other substance not found naturally with the substance of the food…

that would have been odd. Thus the meaning of “foreign substance” in a food product.

No worries South Carolinians as your legislatures have set forth the  South Carolina Food and Cosmetic Act, found at South Carolina Code Section 39-25-10, to define many instances of adulterated or misbranded food that may cause you or your loved ones injuries. If not defined by the statutory definitions there may be other causes of actions under common law negligence.

We are currently representing and have represented clients that have experienced the following:

  1. Ingested a “finishing nail” while eating a birthday cake from a supermarket where the bakery was undergoing construction;
  2. Broken teeth from a metal object found in their hamburger at a local fast food chain; and
  3. A dozen or more clients impacted by the lot and batch number of peanut butterjars contaminated with animal feces from a neighboring plant.

Other articles I encountered while putting this article together provide varying insights:

  1. Immediately alert your restaurant server;
  2. Get medical care;
  3. Document proof of purchase;
  4. Secure physical evidence;
  5. Take photographs;
  6. Make a complaint;
  7. Notify health agencies; and
  8. Inquire about your legal rights.

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