Food Expert Witness Testimony Allowed

Plaintiff filed suit against the defendant related to the detention of food products.  Plaintiff hired a Food Expert Witness to provide testimony.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert witness.  The court denied the motion to exclude.

Facts:  This case (F.E.I. Company v. The United States of America – United States District Court – Middle District of Pennsylvania – August 12th, 2019) involves a claim against the Government.  The plaintiff has filed a Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) action alleging that the United States negligently initiated the detention of around one million pounds of food products in the plaintiff’s cold storage facility and continued that that detention for numerous months after the permitted 20-day detention period has ended.  The plaintiff alleges that they suffered over $2 million dollars in damages.  The plaintiff has hired Dr. Catherine Adams Hutt (Food Expert Witness) to provide testimony.  The Government has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  The Government argues that Dr. Hutt is not qualified to offer an opinion about ammonia adulteration and that her expert opinion lacks a reliable foundation.  The Government first argues that although Dr. Hutt is qualified to offer expert opinions in food science, food safety, and nutrition, she doesn’t have academic or professional experience dealing with ammonia adulteration or the use of ammonia in food.

Second the Government argues that Dr. Hutt’s expert opinion regarding ammonia adulteration is not reliable.  The Government argues that the sources that Dr. Hutt relied on are not reliable.  In her report, Dr. Hutt relied on a non peer-reviewed article from the International Food Information Council (“IFIC”) and a webpage from the website of Beef Products, Inc., which is a meat processing company.  The government alleges that these sources are not reliable to offer an opinion on ammonia adulteration.

The plaintiff argues that Dr. Hutt’s experience about ammonia adulteration in the public and private sectors means that she is qualified to offer expert testimony regarding ammonia adulteration.  In addition the plaintiff argues that Dr. Hutt’s expert opinion lays on a reliable foundation.  The plaintiff defends Dr. Hutt’s reliance on an article published by the IFIC and notes that the citation to the Beef Products website referred to findings that are contained in a World Health Organization document.

The court opines that Dr. Hutt is qualified to offer expert testimony on ammonia adulteration of USDA-regulated products.  The court notes that Dr. Hutt has significant academic experience in the area of food safety and nutrition and the interaction between food products and ammonia.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Catherine Adams Hutt is denied.