Can I Sue a Grocery Store for Selling Expired Food? – Find Out

While it’s good practice to always check the expiry date of items you buy in a store, you may forget to do so sometimes. Though consuming some expired grocery items doesn’t cause any harm, it’s not worth the risk. It begs the question, “can I sue a grocery store for selling expired food?”

Well, from my decades of experience, the answer is “yes”. You can file a lawsuit against grocery store owners for just about anything. However, is suing the store the best action to take after consuming expired food? 

Will they be penalized in any way? What is the best line of action to take legally against a store that sells expired food items consistently? Can you sue a grocery store for food poisoning?

In this write-up, we’ll provide answers to these questions and related ones.

Can you file a lawsuit against grocery stores for selling expired food?

That depends on a number of factors. If an expired food item purchased at Walmart makes you sick after or while consuming it, you can sue the store. For instance, if you chipped a tooth on old hard candy, then you can file a lawsuit.

Even though you can sue anyone for just about anything, the question shouldn’t be whether you can file a lawsuit against Walmart. What you should be contemplating is, “Can I find a lawyer that will help?” 

Since lawsuits are extremely costly, you’ll need to be in a severe condition or must’ve spent a significant amount for your treatment. If not, an attorney won’t find taking the case worthy. 

For example, if you chipped a tooth and have to pay a $200 dentist bill, an attorney will probably not take your case. However, imagine that after consuming a bottle of expired milk, you ended up spending many days in the hospital. After spending thousands of dollars for your hospital bill, a lawyer will be more likely to accept the case.

Why are extreme cases more attractive to lawyers?

The damages are higher, meaning the monetary expenses involved are heavier. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t sue for minimal or repairable damages like a chipped a tooth on expired candy. There are two ways to go about situations like that; Either file a case through small claims court or contact the store directly.

Small claims courts don’t operate the same way in every state. So if you want to go down that path, consider reaching out to your local court to know the process.

A lawyer reviewing documents in an office

However, if you prefer to talk to Walmart directly about the incident, you should save your receipt and what’s left of the expired product. If you have the packaging as well, that will help.

You also need to visit a dentist and ensure that you keep all the bills related to the incident. You can even tell your dentist to write up something concerning how severe the damage is and whether you’ll require additional care.

If you show the required proof to back your claim, Walmart could settle with you. However, litigating your case may not be worth it. 

What will happen if a supermarket sells expired food?

Unfortunately, the majority of expired food items end up in the landfill. Most grocery stores are fond of throwing food away. Food items that are either about to expire or aren’t at peak quality any longer are unfit to be made available for sale. This policy is valid irrespective of whether it’s already out of date.

Items like fresh vegetables and meat that’s no longer in its prime, but hasn’t expired, could be cooked up for the in-store deli and salad counters. 

Though some of it is discarded in the rubbish dump, expired food could be donated to local food banks, offered for sale to salvage stores, or shared with employees.

If you buy an expired food item such as milk, simply walk into the store and return it. The majority of stores will refund you fully.

However, mostly, stores do sell expired food, especially canned goods, without facing any consequence.

No uniform dating system exists, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As a matter of fact, manufacturers aren’t even mandated to provide quality-based labels on food, except baby formula. 

Thus, those dates you see on canned food are arbitrary and are only there to make the consumer feel good about the item they want to buy.

Additionally, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), low acid foods have good quality between 2 and 5 years. If cans don’t have any obvious signs of damage and are generally in good condition, they’re safe for consumption indefinitely.

Can a store be fined for selling expired food, and how much is the fine?

I wasn’t able to get the exact figures on this. However, I found where 21 shops in Port Chester, NY, and White Plains, NY, received a total of $59,600 in fines for selling expired food items in 2009. So stores won’t be fined a hefty sum for selling expired food in the grand scheme of things. 

Since expiration dates aren’t required federally, each state will probably follow its own rules and regulations about the sale of expired food. That’s why I wasn’t able to find much about it.

Thus, it’s not an offense to sell expired food. The majority of dates on food are put there to let you know when the maximum flavor and freshness of the food will start diminishing.

There’s no federal law that mandates manufacturers to provide an expiration date on products. So, if no requirement is made available to do something, then you can’t face a legal penalty for it.

However, baby formula has to carry an expiration date on it. Also, in California, every baby food has to contain an expiration date. 

To avoid buying an outdated food item, do your due diligence at the store by checking the date of expiry of what you’re buying.