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Messing with Food in a Grocery Store Is a Federal Crime


Laws are in place to protect every person in this nation from being harmed. Although you might think that applies mainly to physical offenses that occur between two people, such as assault and battery or murder, statutes are also written to prevent others from carrying out actions that could indirectly cause injury to others. Such as with the federal law that prohibits tampering with consumer products, such as food, cosmetics, drugs, or devices.

What are the food tampering laws in the United States?

Various subsections of the federal tampering with consumer products law exist. The first one concerns engaging in this action and knowing that it could cause injury or death to someone else, but doing it regardless. This is what's known as acting recklessly.

A person violates 18 U.S. Code § 1365 if they tamper with:

  • A consumer product,
  • The label of a product, or
  • The container of the product

What this law means is that if you go into a grocery store, pick up a bottle of bleach, and pour it over food items, you're committing a federal crime. This is true even if you didn't actually complete the offense, meaning you picked up the bottle of bleach with the intent to empty it on a product but were stopped before you were able to do so.

The punishments for product and food tampering offenses are harsh, and if you're convicted, you could be looking at spending years in federal prison.

The incarceration sentences for tampering with consumer products include:

  • Up to 10 years for attempting the offense
  • Up to life for causing the death of another
  • Up to 20 years for causing serious bodily injury
  • Up to 10 years for any case other than those mentioned above

Is food tampering a felony?

The criminal count of tampering with a consumer product is a second-degree felony. If charged, this offense carries a sentence of between 2 and 20 years in prison. There is also the possibility of owing up to $10,000 in fines.

Causing Harm to a Business

Let's say that your intent when tampering with a consumer product wasn't to injure or kill another person; you only meant to hurt the business owned by a specific individual. Your actions are still prohibited under the law. If you are convicted of this offense, you could be imprisoned for up to 3 years.

Providing False Information About Tampering with a Consumer Product

Take another scenario where you weren't the one who messed with the grocery store food – your friend did it. However, when questioned about the offense, you knowingly gave law enforcement officials incorrect information. Doing such is also a federal crime, and it could land you in federal prison for up to 5 years.

Federal crimes are serious matters with severe consequences. If you've been charged in Santa Barbara, get effective legal counsel from our skilled lawyers at Appel & Morse by calling us at (805) 467-6060 or contacting us online.

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