LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A new lawsuit has been filed in Clark County District Court against four baby food manufacturers and three grocery store distributors. The lawsuit filed by Eglet Adams and Kemp Jones claims the baby food sold in local grocery stores contained high levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of seven minors and their guardians who reportedly purchased or consumed toxic baby food. The defendants named in the suit are Beech-Nut Nutrition Inc. (Beech), Hain Celestial Group Inc. (Hain) known by its brand name earth’s Best Organic, Gerber Products Co Inc. and Nurture Inc. known by its brand name Happy Baby. The Clark County supermarkets include Mariana’s Supermarkets and La Bonita Grocery and Meat Market.
The 26-page complaint cites a report released by the United States House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy. The report, titled “Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury,” found that several brands of baby food sold in the United States contained unsafe levels of toxic heavy metals, including those sold by the defendants.
The report states that the presence of toxic heavy metals which have been classified by the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization as being dangerous to human health, have no established health benefit and can lead to illness, impairment and in high doses, death. These effects reportedly are further exacerbated in the vulnerable bodies and brains of babies and children and can result in untreatable and permanent brain damage. This can lead to reduced intelligence and behavioral problems like a substantial decrease in IQ points, diminished future economic productivity, and increased risk of future criminal and antisocial behavior.
According to the Subcommittee Report, arsenic was present in all brands of baby foods subject to the House Subcommittee’s investigation. Gerber Brand Baby Food allegedly used high-arsenic ingredients, including rice flour that contained over 90 ppb arsenic; Beech reportedly used ingredients that tested as high as 913.4 ppb arsenic and used high arsenic additives that tested at over 300 ppb arsenic to address product characteristics such as “crumb softness.” Nurture supposedly sold baby foods after tests showed they contained as much as 180 parts ppb of arsenic and Hain allegedly sold finished baby food products containing as much as 129 ppb of arsenic. As a comparison the FDA has set the maximum level of arsenic in bottled water at 10 ppb. Current known risks of arsenic consumption include respiratory, gastrointestinal, hematological, hepatic, renal, skin, neurological and immunological effects, as well as damaging effects on the central nervous system and cognitive development in children.
The Subcommittee Report also cited the negative effects of lead in baby foods. Beech Baby Food reportedly contains as much as 886.9 ppb. Gerber Brand Baby Food also supposedly used high-lead ingredients that contained over 48 ppb lead, compared to the FDA maximum level of lead in bottled water at 5 ppb.
Cadmium another toxic heavy metal was found in all brands of baby foods in the House Subcommittee’s Investigation, according to the news releases sent to local media outlets. Beech allegedly used 105 ingredients that contained over 20 ppb cadmium and Hain reportedly had 102 ingredients in its baby food products that tested over 20 ppb cadmium. Regarding Nurture, 65% of this company’s finished baby products supposedly contained more than 5 ppb cadmium. The FDA maximum level of cadmium in bottled water is 5 ppb.
The lawsuits allege that the plaintiffs were exposed to, saw, read, and understood defendants’ respective representations and omissions regarding the safety of their baby food and relied upon the companies’ misrepresentation of the lack of harmful ingredients which led them to purchasing only the baby food products of these brands due to their belief that they did not contain elevated levels of toxic heavy metals. The lawsuit further states that had the plaintiffs been aware that the defendants’ brands of baby food contained elevated levels of toxic heavy metals they would not have purchased them.
The lawsuit brings forth seven causes of action including Strict Liability-Failure to Warn, Breach of Implied Warranty of Merchantability, Negligence Per Se- Adulterated Product, Negligence, Violation of Nevada Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Strict Liability- Unreasonably Dangerous and Unjust Enrichment.
The plaintiffs are seeking medical damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, all attorneys’ fees and costs and any further relief that the Court deems just and appropriate due to the wrongful conduct of the Defendants.
13 Action News has reached out for statements from the companies involved.
Beech-Nut Nutrition statement:
While we do not comment on specific, pending litigation, we want to assure parents that Beech-Nut products are, and have always been, safe and nutritious. We look forward to continuing to work with the FDA, in partnership with the Baby Food Council, on science-based standards that food suppliers can implement across our industry. Beech-Nut is committed to continually refining its internal standards and testing processes as technology and knowledge develops. Beech-Nut has been and will continue to be a leader in providing high-quality baby food products.
While Gerber as a matter of policy does not comment on pending or threatened litigation, we fully stand behind the safety of all of our products. At Gerber, babies are our highest priority. The standards we have in place for the safety and quality of our baby foods are industry-leading, and among the strictest in not just the U.S., but the world.