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Food Manufacturer Liability in Allergy Lawsuits: Explained

 Posted on February 23, 2024 in Food Allergies

Nearly 1 out of 20 people in the US suffers from a food allergy, which can cause an anaphylactic shock. This is why it is important to look at the food labels before buying your favorite soup can or any other product.

However, the question that remains is who should be held responsible if you find yourself in the emergency room of a hospital getting treated for a swollen throat and hives.

The answer is, the food manufacturer!

Food manufacturers in Chicago can face significant legal charges and challenges when it comes to allergy lawsuits. These cases typically revolve around allergic reactions to certain ingredients in food products, and the liability of the manufacturer depends on various factors.

Labeling Requirements

One of the primary considerations in a food manufacturer liability allergy lawsuit is the accuracy and clarity of food labels. Food manufacturers are legally obligated to provide clear and detailed information about the ingredients in their products. This includes specifying potential allergens, such as nuts, dairy, soy, and gluten. Failure to accurately label these can result in severe consequences for manufacturers.

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) in the United States mandates that packaged food must disclose the presence of any major food allergens, which they refer to as the “Big Eight.”

These allergens include peanuts, soybeans, milk, eggs, fish, tree nuts, crustacean shellfish, and wheat. Manufacturers need to ensure that their product labels are not only compliant with these regulations but are also easy for consumers to understand.

Product Testing and Quality Control

To lower the risk of allergic reactions and potential lawsuits, food manufacturers must implement strict product testing and quality control measures. This involves thoroughly testing raw ingredients for allergens and ensuring that there’s no risk of cross-contamination during the production process.

In cases where a manufacturer can show they adhered to industry standards for testing and quality control, they can build a stronger defense against allergy-related lawsuits in Arlington Heights. On the other hand, if it’s revealed that inadequate testing or careless quality control measures led to contamination, the manufacturer could be held liable for resulting injuries.

Causation and Proximate Cause

In allergy lawsuits, establishing causation is essential. Plaintiffs must demonstrate that the allergic reaction was directly caused by the consumption of the defendant’s (brand) product. The legal cause requires showing that the harm was a conceivable consequence of the manufacturer’s actions and negligence.

Manufacturers may argue that other factors, such as pre-existing allergies or a consumer’s failure to read labels, contributed to the allergic reaction. However, if it can be proven that the manufacturer’s actions were a substantial factor in causing the harm, they will be held liable.

Real-Life Example of Food Manufacturer Liability Allergy Lawsuit

The Spanos vs. Whole Foods

Husband and wife, Jeff and Debbie Spano, filed a lawsuit against Whole Foods Inc. alleging product liability, deceptive trade practices, marketing and manufacturing defects, loss of earnings, negligence, and breaches of implied and express warranties under Texas law.

A family friend purchased a cupcake labeled “Vegan” and presented it to the Spanos’ child. The boy experienced a severe allergic reaction after eating the cupcake. His father administered epinephrine immediately before taking him to the hospital.

Thereafter, the boy experienced various psychological challenges related to food consumption and social interactions. As a result, his mother had to resign from her job to take care of her son full-time.

The case was dismissed by the Federal District Court as Whole Foods claimed that under the FD&C Action, consumers don’t have the right to private action. However, the case was overturned by a 3-judge panel, and the Spanos got their compensation. The couple pled tort claims, citing that Whole Foods wronged them.

Filing an Allergy Lawsuit

Here are the vital steps to follow when filing an allergy lawsuit:

Seek Medical Attention Immediately

The first and foremost step when facing an allergic reaction to a food product is to seek prompt medical attention. Visit an emergency room or consult with a healthcare professional to document the allergic reaction and establish a link between the consumption of the specific food item and the adverse effects experienced.

Document the Allergic Reaction

Take note of the symptoms, the severity of the reaction, and the timeline of events. If possible, gather evidence such as photographs of the food packaging, the ingredient list, and any relevant timestamps.

Preserve the Evidence

Preserve all evidence related to the allergic reaction, including the offending food product, packaging, and any receipts or proof of purchase.

Identify the Responsible Parties

Determine the parties involved in the food manufacturing process. This may include the food manufacturer, distributors, retailers, or even the packaging company.

Consult with an Allergy Lawyer

Choose a legal professional in Joliet with expertise in food safety and product liability cases. During the consultation, provide all the documentation and details of the allergic reaction to help the lawyer assess the strength of your case.

Determine Legal Grounds for the Lawsuit

Work closely with your lawyer in Crystal Lake to determine the legal grounds for your lawsuit. This may include negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty.

Gather Witness Statements

If there were witnesses to the allergic reaction, get their statements. Witness testimonies can add credibility to your case and provide additional perspectives on the events leading to the allergic reaction.

File a Complaint

Once you and your lawyer have gathered sufficient evidence, it’s time to file a complaint against the responsible parties. The complaint outlines the details of the allergic reaction, the damages incurred, and the legal grounds for the lawsuit.

Negotiate or Initiate Legal Proceedings

After filing the complaint, the defendant may choose to negotiate a settlement to avoid a lengthy legal process. If a fair settlement cannot be reached, your lawyer will initiate legal proceedings, and the case will proceed to court.


During the litigation process, both parties will exchange evidence. Your lawyer will build a compelling case, present evidence, and argue your position in court.


Food manufacturers bear a huge responsibility when it comes to providing accurate allergen information. Such liability lawsuits highlight the importance of strictly following labeling regulations and testing and quality control measures.

Illinois Food Poisoning Attorney is dedicated to advocating for individuals and families who have been affected by food allergy incidents. Our mission is clear: To hold manufacturers accountable for failing to uphold food safety standards and to secure the compensation our clients deserve. For a free consultation, call 312-981-0409.

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