Farm-to-Table Liabilities


When it comes to safeguarding fresh foods, restaurants and chefs must establish processes and practices for sourcing, handling, and even growing their own produce.

Barely a week goes by without some sort of food product recall in the news.

Whether it’s a California company selling fruit potentially contaminated with listeria, or a Texas meat packer with fresh beef products that possibly contain metal shavings—two incidents that occurred in July alone—there are dozens of recalls every month.

That’s one reason the farm-to-table restaurant movement continues to grow among American chefs and consumers. The perception is strong that ingredients grown by local farms are not only fresher and better-tasting, but also safer.

Still, farm-to-table restaurant owners and chefs need to have safeguards in place for sourcing, handling, and serving various meats, produce, herbs, and other products from local farmers and even from their own gardens.

“There are huge potential liability issues,” says Jesse Richardson, associate professor and lead land-use attorney at West Virginia University College of Law. “If someone eats something and gets sick, they might sue the restaurant and the farmer, and anyone else who touched that food.”

Even if there’s no lawsuit, the public airing of a food-borne illness can cause irreparable damage to a restaurant’s reputation. Similar reactions from consumers can occur with an incorrectly labeled menu item, such as calling something organic when it’s not.

Just as it’s logical for restaurants to have liability insurance in case of a suit, Richardson says it’s crucial for farm-to-table eateries and chefs to enact practices to source good ingredients, inspect the food when it arrives, and make sure it is handled safely.

“These are smart steps to make customers comfortable,” he explains.

The best approach is to know the farmer or rancher producing the food, notes Chef Larry Forgione, who oversees the farm-to-table cooking concentration at the Culinary Institute of America’s campus in St. Helena, California.



There are in fact FDA-recommended guidelines for wild mushroom inspection, but it's up to the states to decide what to implement and how. For more info, contact me through my website,


Add new comment