Mislabeling Food in California

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Mislabeling food in California is a law that usually only impacts people who own or operate things like coffee shops, delis, grocery stores, and restaurants. It doesn’t matter how badly the food was mislabeled, if evidence of mislabeling exists, the people involved will be arrested and charged with mislabeling of food. If convicted, they’ll not only have a permanent criminal record, it’s unlikely that they’ll ever be able to find employment in the food industry ever again.

The issue of mislabeling food in California is dealt with in Health & Safety Code 114087 HS.

The law states:

“(a) Food offered for human consumption shall be honestly presented in a way that does not mislead or misinform the consumer.

(b) Food or color additives, colored overwraps, lights or other misleading artificial means shall not be used to misrepresent the true appearance, color, or quality of food.”

There are several different reasons ways that a business can get into trouble for mislabeling food.

These include:

  • A retailer taking food that has either passed its expiration date or is actually meant for pets and passing it off as food that is fit for human consumption
  • Labeling food in such a way that it results in the consumer not having the proper information about things like quality, calories, or even accurate ingredients.

It’s worth noting that while most people assume a person who is charged with mislabeling food in California acts intentionally, that’s not always the case. Even if the food was accidentally mislabeled, the person involved could be charged on grounds of criminal negligence.

Violating Health and Safety Code 114395 HS is a misdemeanor. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of six months in jail and/or a fine that ranges from $25 to $1000. It is also likely that the health department will take a long look at the business and potentially close it down forever.

If someone becomes seriously ill or even dies as a result of the mislabeled food, the defendant will likely face additional criminal and civil charges.