Tips to Enjoy a Safe and Happy Holiday Season

By Paul Gagliardi

Now that the holiday season is upon us, it is time to make sure that everyone is extra careful to keep loved ones safe and protected from fraud.  While the season of giving brings out the best in most people, there are always those who set aside safety and take advantage of others.

The Wisconsin Association for Justice members across the state are the lawyers who represent people when they are harmed by the negligent acts of others.  Our members fight for justice for those wronged parties and tell their often-tragic stories.   This holiday season, we would like to offer some helpful suggestions for consumers to consider in hopes of helping people avoid any trouble, disappointment or worse.

Safe Food

Pressure to overhaul the food safety system has grown following several high-profile outbreaks of food-borne illnesses involving lettuce, peppers, peanuts and spinach that have sickened thousands and killed several. The last real overhaul of the regulations overseeing the safety and quality of food was nearly 50 years ago.  Congress is considering changes in the food safety system to address today’s concerns, but these new consumer protections will not be in place in time for your 2009 holiday celebrations. 

What can you do to make sure you reduce the risk for your family?  First, try to buy locally grown produce.   The closer your food is grown to your home, the less time it has spent being shipped around and the fresher it will be, not to mention the positive effect on the financial well-being of your local farmers.  Next, keep yourself up-to-date on any food that is being recalled by visiting, where you can sign up to receive email updates on any food recalls that are issued.

Safe Toys

In 2003 an estimated 155,400 children ages 14 and under were treated in hospital emergency rooms for toy-related injuries. Children ages 4 and under accounted for 34 percent of these injuries. As parents, it can be difficult to determine which toys are safe for your kids and which toys are not, but there are some good resources to help you.  Of course, common sense is the first line of defense.  Make sure young children do not get toys with small pieces that they can swallow and remember, if a toy looks dangerous, it probably is.

Each year, several groups come out with lists of dangerous toys.  While these do not list all dangerous products, it is a good idea to steer clear of the “worst offenders.”  

The Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group has released its 2009 list.  It can be found at:


Use Caution with Gift Cards

Gift cards are a popular item at the holidays and most of them are just fine, but there are a couple of points to remember to help ensure that your gift can be used by the recipient.  First, ask about fees and expiration dates.   Some companies begin to subtract from the balance on cards not used by a certain date and some cards may expire too quickly to be used.  A quick inquiry before purchasing may prevent frustration down the road.  Secondly, make sure you purchase gift cards from businesses that you know will still be there after the holidays.  The downturn in the economy has taken its toll on many businesses and there are some that may be just trying to hold on through the holidays.  If you are not sure about the business (especially if it is a single location store) or if it looks like the store may be set up only temporarily for the holidays, think twice about a gift card.

With these tips in mind, may you and your family enjoy a safe and happy holiday season.

Paul Gagliardi is the President of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, the state’s largest statewide voluntary bar organization. WAJ is committed to a fair and effective justice system that ensures justice for all, not just the privileged few. 



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