Breaking News
More () »

Sacramento's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Sacramento, California | ABC10.com

What are the consequences for tampering with food in California?

Food tampering is a serious crime.
A person shops in Whole Foods Market in the Brooklyn borough on May 7, 2014 in New York City.

Food tampering is a serious crime.

At least one victim has been reported after police say a man tampered with food at restaurants in South Lake Tahoe.

South Lake Tahoe Police said a suspect poured an unknown substance into the salsa bar at a Baja Fresh in the 'Crescent V' shopping center.

The same suspect tampered with the food at the Hot Wok self-serve court at Raley’s at 4000 Lake Tahoe Boulevard, according to police.

Investigators are still searching for the suspect but if caught, what could the consequences look like for tampering with food?

California law (Penal Code Section 347) clearly states, any person who knowingly adds poison or a harmful substance to any food, drink, medicine, or pharmaceutical product where another person could be harmed, is guilty of a felony punishable by a prison sentence of two to five years.

The law also applies to harming a public supply of water, such as a well or reservoir.

If the substance could cause death or great bodily injury to a person, an additional three years is added to the sentence.

A person doesn't necessarily have to take action with food tampering to be in trouble.

If a person maliciously reports food, medicine or water as being poisoned or tampered with, while knowing the report is false, they could face up to a year in jail or prison.

While the law states the report has to be malicious, even if it was a prank gone wrong the intentions would need to be proven in court.

Also, a person doesn't necessarily have to add poison or chemicals to food for it to be considered a legal offense.

Spitting in someone's food could be considered battery. Under California Penal Code 242, battery is defined as any willful and unlawful use of force or violence against another person. This applies to any indirect or direct physical contact.

Battery is a misdemeanor punishable with up to six months in jail and a $2000 fine.