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Hain Celestial Latest Baby Food Maker Sued Over Heavy Metals

Feb. 9, 2021, 3:55 PM

Hain Celestial Group Inc. is the latest company to be hit with a proposed class suit in a New York federal court alleging it misleads parents into believing its premium baby foods are healthy, nutritious, and non-toxic, when they actually contain undisclosed dangerous levels of lead and other toxic heavy metals.

Gerber Products Co. and Beech-Nut Nutrition Co. also face similar suits.

Hain misleadingly portrays its Earth’s Best Organic line of products as “time-trusted and safe,” and says its products “are made from pure ingredients to help children grow up strong and healthy,” according to the suit, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

The suit, like the ones against other makers,comes days after a House Oversight Subcommittee report that found seven brands of commercial baby food, including Hain’s Earth’s Best Organic, are tainted with “significant levels” of heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.

The Food and Drug Administration and others have set rules or issued guidelines for the maximum allowable or advisable levels of inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury, the suit says.

Test results of Hain baby foods and their ingredients “eclipse those levels for inorganic arsenic, lead and cadmium and, shockingly, Hain does not even test for mercury in its baby food,” the suit alleges.

Hain’s internal company standards permit dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals, the suit alleges. And Hain typically only tested ingredients, not finished products. But only final product testing can measure the true risk posed by baby foods, the suit says.

Even low levels of exposure to heavy metals can cause serious and often irreversible damage to brain development, Nicole Stewart, Elizabeth Agramonte and Summer Apicella allege.

Causes of Action: New York General Business Law §§ 349 and 350 (consumer protection and false advertising laws); Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act; unjust enrichment.

Relief: Injunctive relief requiring full disclosure of all such ingredients in the company’s marketing, advertising, and labeling, and testing of all ingredients and final products; damages; punitive damages; attorneys’ fees and costs.

Potential Class Size: Unknown number of persons in nationwide class, and New York and Florida subclasses.

Response: Hain Celestial didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Attorneys: Calcaterra Pollack LLP represented the plaintiffs.

The case is Stewart v. Hain Celestial Group, Inc., E.D.N.Y., No. 2:21-cv-00678, complaint 2/8/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Steinberg in Washington at jsteinberg@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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