Following a recent Congressional report highlighting the levels of toxic heavy metals in baby food, a mother from New York has filed a class action lawsuit against Gerber, Beech-Nut and other popular manufacturers.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Michelle Walls in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of New York on February 17, alleging the baby food manufacturers falsely advertised their products as safe for children, while failing to disclose dangerous levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury, which are toxic to infants and may result in permanent neurological damage.
Walls, of Staten Island, seeks class action status for the lawsuit, which joins a number of similar claims being filed on behalf of parents and caregivers nationwide.
The litigation emerged following a report released by the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy on February 4, which highlighted internal documents and testing data showing baby food products manufactured by Gerber (d/b/a Nestlé Nutrition), Beech-Nut Nutrition, Plum and others contain dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals.
Walls alleges consumers were intentionally deceived for years by false advertising practices claiming the baby food products were organic and safe. However, the lawsuit indicates, in reality, Walls unknowingly exposed her one year old to dangerous toxic metals which may cause lifelong health consequences.
“Like so many parents, Walls reasonably believed that Defendants’ baby foods were safe to feed to her son,” the lawsuit states. “But as Walls discovered two weeks ago—and as Defendants already knew—that was not the case.”
The House report found some baby foods contained more than 91 times the maximum level of arsenic allowed in bottled water; 177 times the allowable levels of lead, 69 times the limits on cadmium, and five times the levels of allowable mercury.
Due to the exposure, Walls states she must now have her one year old son undergo difficult and painful testing procedures which require extracting seven vials of blood to test for dangerous levels of heavy metal.
The complaint names Beech-Nut Nutrition Company, The Hain Celestial Group Inc., Nurture Inc. (d/b/a Happy Family Organics, Gerber Products Company and Plum PBC as defendants, raising allegations of unjust enrichment, intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, negligence, gross negligence, strict product liability, breach of express warranty, and breach of implied warranty.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have long maintained that exposing infants and children to toxic heavy metals can cause a permanent decrease in IQ, an increased risk of future criminal and antisocial behavior, and untreatable and frequently permanent brain damage.
Following the Congressional report, lawmakers are calling on the FDA to require baby food manufacturers to test finished products, not just individual ingredients. The requests specifically call for manufacturers to report the test results on food labels, so consumers can see them. They are also calling on the baby food industry to phase out ingredients like rice, which are known to be laden with heavy metals.