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Product tampering can lead to consumer illnesses

In recent months, videos of shoppers opening, licking and returning products to supermarket shelves have gone viral. After an incident in another state where a shopper intentionally coughed all over meats, bakery items and fresh produce, the store owner was forced to dump groceries worth more than $35,000.

That store owner made the right decision after the contamination occurred. But, would all business owners be so responsible after an incident of food contamination? Some store owners may be more concerned with their store's bottom line than their customers' health.

Then, too, not all episodes where the food products were contaminated may be identified and managed before a customer purchases and consumes a tainted product. They could potentially become very ill or even die from eating or drinking a tainted food or drink.

In response to these criminal acts of tampering, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers some suggestions to consumers to help them avoid problems.

  • Examine products carefully, including the packaging

Never buy or consume a product with a missing seal or wrapper. On food packages with anti-tampering devices, make sure they are intact and functioning.

  • If it looks odd or as if it has been breached, take it to the manager

Don't just put it back on the shelf. The next consumer may not notice the tampering and get sick from it.

  • Report any incidents of suspected tampering to the store manager

If you have already purchased the product when you notice the signs of possible tampering, call the police and make a report. Poultry and other meat products that might have been tainted can be reported by dialing the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Meat and Poultry hotline (800) 535-4555.

If you were sickened by a tainted grocery item, you may be able to seek recourse through the Illinois civil courts.

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