A report released last year revealed that many baby food brands contain alarmingly high levels of hazardous metals such as arsenic, lead, mercury. This discovery has spawned a steady stream of consumer class-action lawsuits against various baby food manufacturers around the country. It may also lead to product liability lawsuits alleging that consumption of the contaminated foods caused neurologic damage. In this post, we will look at the various consumer class action cases that have been filed in state and federal courts around the country.
Discovery of Toxic Metals in Baby Foods
Last February, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Economic and Consumer Policy published an investigation report which disclosed that numerous baby food products contain dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and arsenic. The report showed many popular baby food products contained levels of these toxins that are hundreds of times higher than the maximum safe levels set by the FDA for other products like bottled water. Testing revealed baby food products with 91 times the maximum safe arsenic level, 177 times the maximum lead level, and 69 times the safe level of cadmium.
The Congressional Report explained that these toxic elements come from the raw ingredient components used to make many of the products. The report also revealed that most of the food manufacturers were actually fully aware that their products contained these shockingly high levels of toxic metals. In fact, many of the manufacturers perform internal testing on their products, which confirms the presence of highly toxic metals, and still continue to sell them. It is depressing. Classic profits over people.
Heavy Metals in Baby Foods Prompts Lawsuits
The Congressional Report regarding the levels of toxic elements in baby food products gained national attention which initiated a steady incoming stream of lawsuits against the baby food companies. The toxic baby food lawsuits fall into 2 categories: (1) “consumer class action” lawsuits, and (2) product liability lawsuits alleging autism or neurologic injuries.
(1) Consumer Class Action Lawsuits Over Toxic Baby Food
The first category lawsuits that have spawned out of the report regarding toxic metals in baby food are what are commonly known as “consumer class action” cases. These are lawsuits brought by a small group of named plaintiffs on behalf of a larger group (“class”) of unnamed persons with common claims (e.g., all parents who bought baby foods with high toxic metal levels). Consumer class action lawsuits pursue economic damages rather than damages for physical injuries.
The toxic baby food class action cases allege that the baby food manufacturers engaged in fraudulent or deceptive marketing practices because they represented to consumers that their products were safe and healthy when, in fact, the manufacturers were aware that they contained unsafe levels of toxic heavy metals. The lawsuits assert that the plaintiffs were economically injured when they paid the purchase price for the baby food products on the assumption that they were safe and free of harmful toxins. These consumer class action lawsuits effectively seek to force the defendants to pay a mass refund to all the countless consumers who were induced to buy their products.
As of March 2022, a full year after the Congressional Report, a total of at least 20 consumer class action lawsuits regarding toxic metals in baby foods have been filed in federal courts against various baby food manufacturers. The table below shows pending consumer class action cases found on PACER:
|3/4/2021||Gancarz v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Co.||1:2021cv00258||NDNY|
|3/5/2021||AG et al v. Plum, PBC et al||4:2021cv01600||NDCA|
|3/9/2021||Smiley v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Co.||1:2021cv00271||NDNY|
|3/10/2021||Lawrence et al v. Hain Celestial Group et al||1:2021cv01287||EDNY|
|3/11/2021||Eldridge v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Co. et al||1:2021cv00283||NDNY|
|3/11/2021||Henry et al v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Co.||1:2021cv00285||NDNY|
|3/24/2021||Ibert v. Plum, PBC et al||4:2021cv02066||NDCA|
|3/24/2021||Wilson et al v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Co. et al||1:2021cv00334||NDNY|
|3/29/2021||Andrews v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Co. et. al.||2:2021cv01704||EDNY|
|4/7/2021||Smith v. Plum. PBC et al||4:2021cv02519||NDCA|
|4/28/2021||Loggins v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Co.||1:2021cv00483||NDNY|
|5/4/2021||Douglas v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Co.||1:2021cv00511||NDNY|
|5/21/2021||Tipton et. al. v. Hain Celestial Group, et. al.||2:2021cv02887||NDNY|
|6/21/2021||Orsak et al v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Company||1:2021cv00722||NDNY|
|6/23/2021||Eldridge v. Gerber Products, et al.||2:2021cv12910||NJ|
|7/2/2021||Mezile v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Co.||1:2021cv00756||NDNY|
|7/10/2021||Rose et al v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Co.||1:2021cv00789||NDNY|
|7/16/2021||Andrews v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Co.||1:2021cv00815||NDNY|
|7/19/2021||Abbott et al vs. Beech-Nut Co.||1:2021cv00822||NDNY|
|8/6/2021||Ashbourne et al v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Co.||1:2021cv00887||NDNY|
|8/26/2021||Gavula et al v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Co. et al||3:2021cv01275||OR|
|11/19/2021||Halcon v. Hain Celestial Group||2:2021cv06527||EDNY|
|1/26/2022||Howard v. Hain Celestial Group||3:2022cv00527||NDCA|
About half of the cases listed above are filed against a group of several baby food manufacturers. The other half of the lawsuits name either one or two manufacturers as defendants. The baby food companies most frequently targeted as defendants in these lawsuits include Beech-Nut Nutrition Co., Hain Celestial Group, Nuture Inc., and Sprout Foods, Inc.
The 22 consumer class action cases listed above only include cases that were filed in federal courts. A number of parallel consumer class action lawsuits have been filed in state courts. Just last week, a new consumer class-action lawsuit alleging violations of California consumer protection laws was filed by a group of 13 named plaintiffs in Losa Angeles County Superior Court (Cullors, et al. v. Beech-Nut Nutrition Co., et al. 22STCV07017). The defendants named in this action are Beech-Nut, Nurture, Inc., Plum, Inc. Gerber Products Company, Walmart, Inc., and Sprout Foods, Inc.
(2) Product Liability Lawsuits
Prolonged exposure or consumption of the toxic metals discovered in baby foods has been scientifically linked to neurologic injuries and to autism. As a result, the baby food companies will likely be defending a number of traditional product liability lawsuits by plaintiffs alleging that the toxins in the baby food caused them to develop autism or other neurologic conditions.
As of the date of this post, we are only aware of 1 product liability lawsuit in the federal court system involving the toxic metals in baby food. That case is Ibert v. Plum, PBC, et al. (4:21-cv-02066) which was filed in the Northern District of California last April. The case alleges that the plaintiff developed autism spectrum disorder from consumption of toxic metals in baby foods.
Contact Our Toxic Baby Food Attorneys
If your child has been diagnosed with autism and you believe it may be related to the ingestion of heavy metals in baby foods, call our baby food autism lawyers at 800-553-8082 or contact us online.