By: Rebecca Ayers
North Carolina Supreme Court: Damages Awarded against Packer Because of Death Caused by Eating Unwholesome Fish. Ward. V. Morehead City Sea Food Co. (1916).
Ward is a packer of fish in Morehead City, and he negligently sold salt mullets that caused 11 people to be ill and one person to die. This public health report details the North Carolina Supreme Court Case on who was liable for this death, caused by the “unwholesome fish.” The court ultimately decided that it was Ward’s fault because he packed the fish. Ward delayed cleaning and packing for 36 hours which would already cause the fish to be dangerous, especially during September which was one of the hottest months of the year. Ward failed to send a telegram to recall the fish, and then an individual of Edenton, North Carolina who bought Ward’s salt mullets, died.
Although Ward is of Morehead City and the death of the person is of Edenton, this court case is relevant to the food story of Chapel Hill because Chapel Hill often bought fish from Morehead City and surrounding coastal areas. The coast of North Carolina, especially in the early 1900’s, was an imperative place for the sale of fish and shellfish. This is also relevant to the food safety of Chapel Hill because this was a time period when food safety regulations and warranties were being put in place to warn or assure consumers of the food safety of the product. This incident took place in 1914, and it had only been 30 years since the discovery of bacteria (1). This was a time period when food was being regulated in a different way, and that packers of fresh food and sellers would be held liable for their actions if they didn’t ensure absolute safety of the products they were selling. This court case reflects the importance of food manufacturers and their role in safely distributing their products for the health of consumers. This was during a time period where North Carolina and Chapel Hill residents were understanding the preservation and keep of food in a different way than they ever had before, and especially when it comes to keeping fish and shellfish, safety is of the utmost importance.
Source: “North Carolina Supreme Court. Foodstuffs. Damages Awarded against Packer Because of Death Caused by Eating Unwholesome Fish. Ward v. Morehead City Sea Food Co. (Feb. 23, 1916).” Public Health Reports (1896-1970), vol. 31, no. 34, 1916, pp. 2302–2303. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4574030.
1. “Szathmary Recipe Pamphlet Digital Collection – Eating in America, 1880-1930.” Szathmary Recipe Pamphlet Digital Collection – Eating in America, 1880-1930 – The University of Iowa Libraries. Accessed October 10, 2018. http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/szathmary/eating.html.