Food Recall Insurance Coverage

Keller and Heckman LLP's Insurance Coverage team provides advice, counseling, and representation to food companies and food trade associations (for its members) on insurance coverage and recovery in the event of a food recall. 

In our experience, having the right insurance coverage for a recall situation is one of the most important, but most overlooked and misunderstood, issues for food companies. We have learned from our many food company clients what insurance responds effectively and efficiently to food recall crises and, perhaps more importantly, we have learned what insurance does not.  We handle our client’s first-party recall recovery claims and, if a third-party bodily injury claim or lawsuit is eventually filed by a consumer or our clients’ downstream customer claims property damage or economic loss, our team of attorneys will work to secure a defense and maximize the indemnity insurance dollars.


Our Insurance Coverage team offers a full range of food recall insurance coverage services, including:

Counseling on the purchase/renewal of food recall insurance.  Many of our food clients want to know if their existing insurance policies or those under consideration are adequate to weather a food recall crisis.  “Food recall insurance” is more than just the specialized product contamination insurance policies; it is really a company’s entire insurance portfolio. Any one or all of a company’s insurance policies could be triggered for different reasons in the event of a food recall.  For this reason, our counsel and advice expands to cover all necessary first-party and third-party liability insurance:  what the policy limits should be; what specific policy endorsements are necessary; and what exclusions are unacceptable. 

Specifically, we analyze a company’s:  (1) general liability policies (primary, umbrella and excess) to make sure a third-party bodily injury (contamination) claim and/or downstream customer property damage claim will be covered; (2) first-party property coverage (and ocean marine cargo (stock through-put)) to assure “contaminated stock” will be covered and to trigger “business interruption/extra expense” coverage; (3) D&O (and any E&O coverage) to check that “wrongful acts” are defined broad enough to cover company personnel in a recall crisis; and (4) ensure that any specialized “food recall” (product contamination) insurance will provide coverage in the event of a “voluntary” recall and that if it is triggered, will reimburse our client for, among other costs, its crisis consultant, recall, rehabilitation, business interruption, replacement and destruction costs.

Counseling on food insurer’s defense/coverage responsibilities.  Our team advises our client policyholders on whether, in the event of a food recall/contamination event, and any ensuing third-party consumer bodily injury or customer property damage claims, its insurer owes them a defense and/or coverage under their liability insurance policy(ies).  Our team analyzes the liability policy and interfaces with the insurance adjuster to attempt to lock down the defense and indemnity for all current and future claims.  If coverage limits happen to be an issue, we work with the adjuster (or alongside insurance defense counsel) to ensure the best use of limits to resolve all third-party claims.

Representing food policyholders in defense/coverage litigation.  When dealing behind the scenes with the adjuster does not get the defense and/or coverage secured, our insurance coverage team will represent our client policyholders in direct negotiations or litigation against its insurance carrier(s) to attempt to ultimately secure the defense and coverage on the underlying claim and all future claims.  We usually seek reimbursement of our client’s attorneys’ fees incurred in prosecuting the insurance coverage action. 


Our Insurance Coverage attorneys have extensive experience with food recall incidents:

  • Securing defense/coverage from numerous first-party and third-party liability insurers in multiple food recall incidents, including cumin, parsley, pomegranate arils and cheese.
  • Litigating client indemnity and insurer subrogation claims against suppliers of the contaminated food product.
  • Handling disputes between food insurers in the food supply chain concerning “other insurance,” “additional insured” and “primary v. excess” coverage issues.
  • Review and negotiation of numerous specialized “food recall” policies (e.g., Chartis, XL Catlin, Starr Surplus, Houston Casualty, Crum+Forster, ACE) for global food companies.  

Our Insurance Coverage team represents clients in other insurance litigation arenas as well:

  • Litigation against a technology E&O insurer in federal district court in Portland, Oregon.
  • Litigation against an insurer in Virginia state court, resulting in seven-figure judgment for environmental clean-up costs and a six-figure award for the insured’s attorneys’ fees.
  • Representation of corporate policyholders in negotiation with liability insurers over defense costs and coverage for toxic tort claims in New Jersey and California.
  • Advising client on insurer’s “duty to defend” in connection with the successful settlement of eight-figure wrongful death/fire loss claim in Hawaii.

For more information on our Food Recall Insurance capabilities, please contact Mel Drozen (Washington, D.C.) at or Arthur S. Garrett III (Washington, D.C.) at

Chambers USA ranks Keller and Heckman LLP “Band 1” for Food & Beverages:  Regulatory & Litigation.

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