There might be times when you purchase a product from a grocery store to find that there is a wrong date or the wrong list of ingredients. While this could be done by accident, it is often a case of mislabeling food. It is commonly done on meat items in order to display a lower price. Some family members and friends who know someone working in a grocery store will have the worker put a different label on the item in order to get a lower price for the meat. It can also happen with produce and bakery goods as the labels can easily be changed.
The act of mislabeling food is a crime under Health and Safety Codes of California. It is considered a crime whether it is done at a restaurant or at a grocery store. If the act is done at a restaurant, it is often because managers will change the labels of the food on the menu so that customers believe they are getting one type of food, such as an expensive cut of meat, when they are really getting a cut that is less expensive and often has a higher fat content.
The law in California is sometimes referred to as the “honest presentation of food.” There are criminal penalties in order to protect the customers who purchase these goods from grocery stores and restaurants. There are a few components to the legal definition that need to be considered. The food has to be labeled for human consumption. The label has to be presented in a way that misleads the consumer. When the mislabeling is performed, it is done so in a manner that is intentional or with a criminal negligence.
An example would be a restaurant claiming that it serves lobster rolls with fresh meat when it reality the meat is nothing more than an inexpensive imitation seafood or a seafood that is of a lesser value than lobster. This also happens in privately owned bakeries. Owners will claim that items are made without gluten or with wheat flour, but the products are still made with plain flour. At times, employees are unaware of any mislabeling. They simply offer the products to customers as they would any other day. In this situation, the employees usually wouldn’t be the people who receive criminal charges. The managers would be the people who receive the charges because they would know of the mislabeling. Food coloring and additives are not to be added to cover the true appearance of most foods as this is deceptive to the consumer.
In most situations, mislabeling of food is considered a misdemeanor. An attorney can help decrease the amount of jail time if there is a prior background or keep the person from jail if it is a first offense by asking for probation. Most sentences have a maximum of six months in jail and a small fine. The fine could range from $25 to $1,000. A common defense is that the person mislabeled the food by accident.
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