Contamination of Food and Drinks: Product Liability in Australia

Pelma Jacinth Rajapakse


This article examines the Australian law determining liability of manufacturers and retailers for injury or death allegedly caused by food and drink products which were spoiled, contaminated, or otherwise in a deleterious condition. Product liability and the issue of negligence associated with consumption of foods or drinks deemed as contaminated form the key points of discussion in this article. The liability of manufacturers, processors, wholesalers and retailers are explored with reference to elements of negligence, breach of express or implied warranty, misrepresentation, and strict liability in tort. Australian case law as it pertains to duty of care, breach, causation, and damage has been established and there are consumer protection and product safety laws at both state and federal levels that provide for those affected by contamination/harmful condition of food and drink products. This article explores examples of negligence as the basis of manufacturer’s, processor’s and retailer’s liability in tort (common law and Civil Liability Act 2003 (Qld)) as well as liability under the federal and state legislation such as the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth), the Food Act 2006 (Qld) and the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code). The various defences of contributory negligence of consumers, and obvious risk of injury suffered, as well as those established by manufacturers/retailers in the relevant proceedings are used to show the complexity of this issue. The article concludes with recommendations for consumers and businesses to avoid the risk of food contamination and to maintain food safety.


Product liability; Manufacturer liability; Food contamination; Negligence

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