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Food Law Casebook

Jackson v. Nestle-Beich, Inc.

1. Services or Food? When a restaurant serves food to its patrons are they selling a good or providing a service? The difference is consequential legally because the sale of goods can generate a warranty of merchantability, whereas the provision of services will not. Which does a restaurant meal seem most like? 2. The Foreign Natural Doctrine. As the court notes, many jurisdictions can employed the foreign-natural doctrine. Although the doctrine has some variants, it provides that if a substance in a manufactured food product is natural to any of the ingredients of the product, there is no liability for injuries caused thereby; whereas, if the substance is foreign to any of the ingredients, the manufacturer will be liable for any injury caused thereby. 3. Reasonable Expectations. In Jackson v. Nestle-Beich, the majority rejects the foreign-natural doctrine and replaces it with a reasonable expectations model. The reasonable expectation test provides that, regardless whether a substance in a food product is natural to an ingredient thereof, liability will lie for injuries caused by the substance where the consumer of the product would not reasonably have expected to find the substance in the product. Which test seems like a better rule to govern liability for food harms and why? For a discussion, see Michael I Spak, Bone of Contention: The Foreign-Natural Test and the Implied Warrant of Merchantability for Food Products, J.L. & Com. 23 (1992-1993); Products Liability--The Test of Consumer Expectation for Natural Defects in Food Products, 37 Ohio St. L.J. 634 (1976).