Saturday, July 3, 2010


Can any one imagine a food company in India being sued by a consumer because of infection contracted by eating processed food from that company? It can at best be a dream! Of course there are consumer redressal forums which are supposed to provide socour to those feeling cheated or affected by faulty products or services. Proving that food purchased was unsafe or contaminated or sub-quality is not an easy task especially for a layman and every body knows about the futility of approaching the consumer forum with food complaint. The product liability provision, empowering the consumer to get financial compensation, has no relevance in India where the retailers take the stand that "once billed it is yours". In contrast most of the established retailers in the US entertain product returns by the consumer if not satisfied within 3 months with no questions asked. On top of it there are hundreds of trial lawyers who are specialized in product liability cases who are ever willing to get "compensation" to the complainants for alleged "damages" caused by consuming "unsafe" foods sold by the industry.

"An Oregon man who is part of the multistate outbreak of Salmonella Chester linked to Marie Callender's Cheesey Chicken and Rice frozen meals is planning to file a lawsuit today against Omaha-based ConAgra Foods. Dave Smith, a Clackamus County, Oregon resident, says he became infected with Salmonella Chester from eating one of the ConAgra-produced Marie Callender's Cheesy Chicken and Rice frozen meals. The infection caused Smith to faint and fall in his bathroom on May 21. After he awoke in a pool of blood, Smith's wife called 911 and paramedics transferred him to the local Emergency Room. He was admitted to the hospital and remained there for five days under treatment both for his fall and the Salmonella infection. Smith, represented by the Seattle-based food safety law firm Marler Clark, is suing ConAgra in Oregon's U.S. District Court for damages exceeding $75,000".

It was anticipated that establishment and spread of organized retailing would introduce the concept of product liability but with less than 5% retailing under the control of large retailers it may take a long time before one can expect international standards gaining a foot hold in India. Even the existing retailers in the organized sector do not give sufficient flexibility for the consumer to make care free shopping. One of the merits of product liability and returns system is that it creates confidence on the retailer regarding the quality and safety of products offered and consumer can have an "inhibition-free" buying experience knowing fully well that unsatisfactory products can always be returned or exchanged.

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