At least two more proposed class action lawsuits have been filed against major baby food manufacturers in the wake of a scathing congressional report that revealed the products have high levels of toxic heavy metals.
The two cases, one against Gerber Products Co. and Hain Celestial Group and the other against Hain by itself, claim the companies have misled consumers by representing that certain baby foods were safe and healthy while failing to disclose the presence of arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury in the products.
According to the FDA, exposure to heavy metals can “lead to illness, impairment, and in high doses, death,” the 39-page suit against Gerber and Hain states. Per the case, the risks are multiplied when it comes to babies and young children, who may suffer “untreatable and permanent brain damage” as a result of heavy metals exposure.
The lawsuits allege Gerber and Hain knowingly sold baby foods that contained toxic heavy metals in amounts considered to be unsafe while “omit[ing] and conceal[ing] that fact from consumers.” According to the complaints, the defendants knew consumers would never buy their products if the presence of heavy metals was disclosed, and buyers “reasonably believed” based on Gerber and Hain’s representations and reputations that the baby foods would be free from toxins that could impair their children’s development.
“Had Plaintiff and Class members known the truth—i.e., that Defendants’ respective brands of baby food contained elevated levels of toxic heavy metals, rendering them unsafe for consumption by children—they would not have been willing to purchase them at all,” the lawsuit against Gerber and Hain states.
The putative class actions, filed on February 8 and 9, respectively, come on the heels of at least three other lawsuits filed against baby food product makers as the ink dried on a report released by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy. According to the report released on February 4, 2021, internal documents and testing revealed that products made by four of the largest commercial baby food producers “are tainted with significant levels” of heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury. The companies that responded to the subcommittee’s request include Gerber, Hain, Nurture, and Beech-Nut, while Walmart, Campbell, and Sprout Organic Foods “refused to cooperate” with the investigation, the report states.
New York Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday called on the FDA to take action in response to the congressional report, stressing that it is “the government’s responsibility to ensure the health and safety of our future generations, especially our youngest children.” In a letter to acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock, James urged the FDA to implement the suggestions set forth in the report, including by setting standards for heavy metal levels across all baby foods and requiring manufacturers to test their finished products, and not just ingredients, for toxic heavy metals. The letter further argued that consumers should be able to “clearly see” the reported levels of heavy metals on baby product labels so they can be fully informed.
“It is critical that our government take immediate action to protect our children from these negative health consequences,” James wrote.
The lawsuit against Gerber and Hain looks to represent anyone in the U.S. who purchased Earth’s Best baby food made by Hain or Gerber-branded baby food made by Gerber.
The lawsuit against Hain looks to represent anyone in Ohio who, within the statute of limitations period and through the date of class certification, purchased and consumed baby foods sold by Hain that contain one or more of the following ingredients: “organic barley flour, organic chopped broccoli, organic date paste, organic cinnamon powder, organic brown flax milled, organic yellow papaya puree, organic whole what fine, organic red lentils, organic oat flakes, organic oat flour, organic vitamin pre-mix, organic brown rice flour, organic whole raisins, organic soft white wheat flour, organic spelt flour, organic barley malt extract, organic yellow split pea powder, medium grain whole rice, organic butternut squash puree, and organic blueberry puree.” More specifically, the case mentions Hain’s Stage 1: Baby Chicken & Chicken Broth, Stage 2: Sweet Potato and Chicken Dinner, and Stage 2: Chicken & Rice products, while others may be added at a later date.
The most recent updates about baby food-toxic heavy metals lawsuits can be found over on ClassAction.org’s blog page.
Keep in mind that, as with most class actions, there’s nothing you need to do to join any of these lawsuits. If the cases move forward and settle, that’s when “class members,” i.e., those who are considered to be “covered” by a lawsuit, would be able to claim whatever compensation the court deems appropriate. You can find out more about the process here.
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