Manufacturer Product Liability

Analytical Investigation Saves Franchise Millions
by Determining Liability in Manufacturing Dispute

Problem:

A national fast food franchise lost millions of dollars in unusable stock when their gift bags were found to be defective. Multiple franchises reported that the bags, which contained candy and a plastic toy, emitted a strong chemical odor when opened. As the direct cause of the odor was unknown the ensuing dispute involved the supplier of the bags, the supplier of the candy, and the manufacturer of the plastic toy. The franchise contacted Avomeen Analytical Services CEO, Shri Thanedar, Ph.D. to provide an investigative chemical analysis in order to determine who was liable for the loss.

Solution:

The analysis was conducted using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), Mass Spectroscopy (MS), and Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectroscopy (GC/MS). Scientists initially separated the contents of the bag and performed headspace analysis on the GC-MS in an attempt to identify all of the potential odor-causing components. No contaminants were detected during this initial analysis.

To identify the unknown source of the odor the fumes required further concentration. To do that, the scientists constructed a device that relied on activated charcoal to capture the chemical vapors coming from the bag and its contents. The bag, candy and toy were run separately and once the ultra-absorbent activated charcoal captured the vapors, the concentrated chemicals were then desorbed and analyzed via GC/MS.

The Mass Spectrum revealed two contaminants, Xylene and Methyl Methacrylate. Both chemicals were only found within the plastic toy. It was determined that Xylene was a residual solvent that remained on the toy from its manufacturing process and Methyl Methacrylate was a residual monomer leftover from incomplete polymerization.

Due to these results, the scientists concluded that the sole source of the chemical odor was the toy, ruling out both the bag and candy suppliers as potential contributors. The toy manufacturer was therefore liable for all losses experienced by the franchise due to the defective product.