Lawsuits regarding alleged fraud in the baby food industry following a House Subcommittee report continued to develop on Friday. Walmart and Sprouts were named as defendants in a District of Kansas class-action complaint along with Beech-Nut Nutrition Company; Campbell Soup Company, which produces Plum Organic foods; Gerber Products Company; Hain Celestial Group; and Nurture, Inc; each of which has been involved in multiple previous lawsuits concerning heavy metals found in baby food products.
Specifically, the defendants included North Castle Partners, which does business as Sprout Foods, Inc., and Walmart, Inc., which produces Parent’s Choice brand baby foods. These two companies were not listed among the others previously, possibly because the report published by the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy on February 4, 2021, did not contain information about these two company’s levels of heavy metals, instead reporting that they did not respond to requests for information.
The complaint reported that these two defendants, along with Campbell, did not cooperate with its requests. Campbell, however, has been named in previous lawsuits and said in a press release that it had responded and the company did not know why information from their response, which they published online, was not included in the report.
Friday’s 129-page complaint accused the companies, many of which are involved in the Baby Food Council which reportedly works towards eliminating heavy metals in baby food, of “using big tobacco’s playbook” and using this council as a means to commit fraud. The plaintiffs, including Jenna Johnson and others, claimed that the defendants are involved in “rampant criminal activity” and are seeking monetary gain over providing healthy products for babies.
Friday’s complaint cited Upton Sinclair’s novel “The Jungle,” which reportedly was written “to expose the horrors that were occurring in the American meat-packing industry,” and claimed the actions of the baby food companies were similar. The plaintiffs purported that food fraud “siphons millions of dollars from unsuspecting consumers.”
The plaintiffs said in the complaint, “the greed of executives at baby food companies has caused them to engage long-running, ongoing schemes to defraud involving premium baby food. Several companies have promised and reassured parents that their baby food products are pure, natural, safe, and healthy; in reality, these products contain heavy metals that are not pure, unnatural, unsafe, and pose a major risk to babies and infants.”
Some of the defendants have responded to the allegations that their respective baby foods are unsafe in press releases reporting that the heavy metals are found in the soil and water where plants are grown and are naturally part of the foods used to make baby food. The Baby Food Council is reportedly working to improve the environment in an effort to address this issue.
Johnson and the other plaintiffs, represented by Sharp Law, LLP, asked for damages, interest, litigation expenses, and class certification.