Life Threatening Consumer Fraud 

Of the six types of consumer crimes, those involving adulterated food are the most serious. This is because adulterated food not only has the ability to adversely affect both healthy and unhealthy individuals, but also puts individuals at risk of developing lifelong debilitating diseases and deadly illnesses. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) attempts to maintain policies intended to combat the negative effects of adulterated foods, however, they are unable to effectively do so as their policies are reactive measures to a situation that requires proactive barriers.

Under Title 21 United States Code § 342, adulterated food encompasses nine categories. Arguably, the most important categories are non-compliant transportation practices or manufacturing standards, mislabeled foods, or foods deemed poisonous, insanitary, filthy or putrid. Unlike other consumer crimes, where the damages are primarily financial or emotional, adulterated food damages often affect the consumers’ physical well-being.

In the United States, data suggest that roughly 10.8% of adults are food allergic (Gupta, Warren, & Smith, 2019).

This percentage translates to more than twenty-six million consumers (Gupta, Warren, & Smith, 2019). Mislabeling of adulterated foods is a considerable concern for otherwise healthy individuals as lapses in oversight, or bold omittances, may result in potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Barring individuals with allergic reactions, appropriately labeled foods are paramount to effectively maintaining a multitude of other health conditions.

These include, but are not limited to, obesity, diabetes, and thyroid conditions. The effects of food adulteration are so profound that they can be detected within an individual’s deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) showing the potentially disastrous impact adulterated foods can have upon the genetic structure and overall well-being of a biological system (Madheslu, Sadasivam, & Kasiviswanathan, 2017; Schell, Gallo, & Cook, 2012).

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Another critical concern with adulterated food items is the increased prevalence of food-borne illnesses caused by inappropriate manufacturer or distribution practices (Bintsis, 2017). The Federal government annually estimates the prevalence of such illnesses to affect one in six individuals.

This translates to over forty-eight million individuals or an estimated 128,000 cases requiring hospitalization with an additional 3,000 cases resulting in death ( Food-borne illnesses, such as the deadly listeria causing bacteria, are often the result of inappropriately manufactured or transported food items. Under consumer crimes, these would be labeled poisonous, unsanitary, or putrid (Bintsis, 2017). Other deadly food-borne illnesses caused by inappropriate food practices and regulations include E.coli, Salmonella, staph, and hepatitis A contaminated food (Bintsis, 2017).

The Food and Drug Act of 1906, was the first federal law to prohibit misbranding or adulterated food and drugs ( In 1938, this law was further expanded upon by the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The Act was prompted by the instance of a deadly untested pharmaceutical that was responsible for killing multiple people. It allowed the federal government more lenience to regulate and control unlawful food, cosmetics, and medical devices ( ). In modern times, this allows the FDA the ability to require food producers to recall their products from the marketplace should they be contaminated or mislabeled.

However, the FDA usually relies upon the food companies to voluntarily comply with current regulations (Negowetti, 2014). Following an adulterated food violation, a warning letter may be issued (Negowetti, 2014). If the problem persists, financial penalties may be imposed upon the offending party (Negowetti, 2014). Ergo, the policies in place present themselves as a reactive deterrence response to an issue that requires a proactive preventative approach.

Considering the associated risk to human health, adulterated food is the most deleterious consumer crime. This crime not only has the potential to directly affect a single individual’s health, but it also has the potential to be the root cause of wide-spread food-borne pandemics. Arguably, the most serious contrast between adulterated food and other types of consumer crimes is the fact that adulterated foods may lead to death as opposed to emotional or financial damages.

To the detriment of Americans’ health, the FDA currently employs a reactive approach. It would behoove them to develop better regulatory and oversight procedures to ensure food companies are compliant rather than relying upon voluntary compliance. Additionally, a re-work of the penalty system that takes into account the severity of the violation and repeat offenders is in order.


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Life Threatening Consumer Fraud . (2022, Jun 21). Retrieved from

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