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Coca-Cola, Del Monte, Dole and others dismiss lead-in-juice allegations

By Helen Glaberson , 03-Aug-2011
Last updated the 03-Aug-2011 at 13:27 GMT

A troop of beverage companies in the US, including Coca-Cola, Del Monte and Dole, have made a move to dismiss allegations that their fruit juices contain harmful lead traces.

The plaintiffs’ claim they were “exposed” to “potential adverse health effects” from trace amounts of lead in packaged fruit and fruit juice should be denied as that none of the plaintiffs in the case had been injured, said the companies involved.

The motion for dismissal on the multidistrict litigation was filed in the US district court of Massachusetts.

“Plaintiffs, who used up the packaged fruit and fruit juice they purchased, without incident, have suffered no economic injury. They therefore lack standing, and their claims must be dismissed,” comment the companies.

In addition, claims that the six plaintiffs were “misled into purchasing” the products are insufficient, said the 11 companies involved.

The eight other defendants in the case are Gerber Products Company, The Hain Celestial Group, The JM Smucker Company, KFP International, Mott’s LLP, Topco Associates, Trader Joe’s Company, and Welch Foods.

Trace amounts of lead

The claimants did not state that the products had been recalled, withdrawn or that they were unable to consume them, said the defendants.

The plaintiffs consumed the products “regularly” until they learned of a letter from an environmental activist group reporting that the products contained trace amounts of lead below the permissible level set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to the companies.

The defendants said that the FDA had tested the products referenced in the activist group’s letter and found that none of the products contained lead levels that would pose an unacceptable risk to health.

Lead exists in small amounts throughout the environment and therefore is also present in many other foods, said the FDA.

The claimants also seek to impose the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA), a federal law that sets specific requirements for the disclosure of ingredients on food labels.

NLEA expressly preempts state laws that impose requirements “not identical to” the federal requirements.

The NLEA would require the companies to disclose trace levels of lead, well below permissible lead level of 50 parts per billion set by the FDA, said the companies.

However, the defendants claim the disclosure is not required or permitted by federal law.