Food companies have been the target of lawsuits over anything from questionable labeling and unwanted ingredients to the spread of salmonella and E. coli. These cases have the potential to alter both recipes and the way manufacturers conduct business.
Food-related epidemics, lawsuits contesting label claims, defective slack fill, and glyphosate contamination have all kept lawyers busy, they told Food Dive. Attorney Bill Marler, a pioneer in the field, can attest to the recent rise in lawsuits involving foodborne illnesses.
5 Lawsuits against Giant Food Companies
This year, LaCroix came under fire for allegedly mislabeling their water as “natural” even though the real components are synthetic and non-natural substances, which is not what its devoted following wants to hear. According to the legal complaint, which was submitted on October 1, the product contains ethyl butanoate, limonene, linalool, and linalool propionate. Insecticide for cockroaches contains linalool.
LaCroix markets its product as a “natural” substitute for soda, but a jury may have to decide if the ingredients in the sparkling drink are indeed derived from natural sources and what qualifies as “natural.”
The components of LaCroix are “derived from the natural essence oils from the named fruit used in each of the flavors,” according to the National Beverage Corporation, and are “100% natural.” The decision could mean the company to change its labeling.
According to research cited by CBS News, there have been roughly 300 lawsuits against the use of the word “natural” on food goods in the last three years. These allegations regarding artificial ingredients are becoming more prevalent. Since there is no accepted definition of the term “natural,” label claims are a significant problem.
- Impact of JBS’ massive meat recall
About 7 million pounds of raw beef products were recalled by JBS Tolleson, Inc. in Arizona in October due to possible salmonella contamination. The business then increased this month’s recall to include more than 12 million pounds of raw beef. On October 5, a complaint was brought against JBS Tolleson in Arizona Superior Court on behalf of Dana Raab, who consumed ground beef from the business and became infected with salmonella, leading to severe dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
A large-scale outbreak like this requires prompt cleanup and product recall, and it exposes manufacturers to more scrutiny when lawsuits are brought months later.
A recall of this size can result in a lot of lawsuits, especially since the 12 million pounds of recall was increased. Marler predicted that since many people would have used the substance, similar lawsuits would likely be brought.
A man in Missouri filed a federal complaint alleging that Hershey knowingly distributed candy like Whoppers and Reese’s Pieces in semi-full packets that had excessive amounts of non-functional slack fill. According to the customer, Hershey was “misleading, deceptive, and unlawful.” According to the lawsuit, Hershey only filled a $1-sized box of Whoppers to around 59% of its capacity.
The U.S. district judge decided that because the plaintiff kept purchasing partially complete packages, he was not damaged by them. He bought more than 600 packages of Hershey’s chocolate in one go.
In August, a California jury awarded $289 million to a former school groundskeeper because glyphosate in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer most definitely contributed to his illness. A Florida lady filed a lawsuit against General Mills for neglecting to disclose the use of glyphosate in its Cheerios products a short time afterward. Following the filing of the lawsuit, a General Mills spokeswoman assured Food Navigator that the company’s goods are secure and adhere to all relevant safety standards.
Given how prior glyphosate cases involving food have ended, this plaintiff may not have a strong chance of victory. In most cases, businesses win by claiming the amount of glyphosate in their products is incredibly low and won’t harm customers’ health.
Regardless of the outcome of the case, the negative press may have harmed the reputation of any glyphosate-containing products. No of the outcome of the legal dispute, recipes, and formulation may need to change if consumers don’t trust products made with ingredients that could have come in contact with glyphosate.
- E. coli romaine outbreak
This year’s first E. coli outbreak, which was connected to Arizona-grown romaine lettuce, affected 149 people in 29 states. For many victims who have filed suit in connection with this outbreak, the legal phase has barely started. Marler has legally filed approximately a dozen cases against different restaurants, retailers, and suppliers in the romaine supply chain. There are at least 31 cases connected to Arizona-grown romaine in all the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said.
Depending on the outcomes of the numerous instances and how ill the victims were made by the greens, these cases may wind up costing those in the romaine business a lot of money in damages.
Already, changes have been sparked by the outbreaks of lettuce. Better processes had to be implemented by companies and retailers to reduce problems with food safety in the supply chain. A report on how to stop another outbreak like this was published, and Walmart ordered lettuce suppliers to use blockchain to track products.