February 10, 2022

Hundreds of consumer class actions allege household items like spices, baby food, sunscreen and deodorant contain toxic substances, such as arsenic, lead and benzene.

What You Need to Know

  • Half a dozen class actions target spices, the latest household items alleged to contain toxic metals.
  • More than 100 lawsuits claim toxic metals are in baby food, with at least one judge refusing to dismiss cases over Plum Organics.
  • The lawsuits all cite scientific research from nonprofit organizations, such as Healthy Babies Bright Futures and Consumer Reports.

Dried oregano, thyme and an array of other spices are the targets of half a dozen class actions, the latest household items alleged to contain dangerous levels of toxic substances unbeknownst to consumers.

The spice lawsuits, filed in the past month, join more than 100 consumer lawsuits across the country already claiming the same metals are in baby food. Other class actions target sunscreen and deodorant containing benzene, a known carcinogen.

The lawsuits all cite scientific research from nonprofit organizations, such as Healthy Babies Bright Futures and Consumer Reports, which found trace amounts of toxic substances in the products. The cases are still in their early stages: federal judges mostly have consolidated the lawsuits and appointed lead counsel. But the class action bar is enthusiastic about the success of the lawsuits.

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The cases have attracted big-name law firms. Defendants brought in White & Case, Jenner & Block, Dechert and Covington & Burling. Plaintiffs firms include Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, Labaton Sucharow, Levin Sedran & Berman and Lockridge Grindal Nauen.

Most of the firms specialize in class actions but not personal injuries or, in some cases, consumer law.

Cohen Milstein, for instance, has a diversified practice portfolio in which about 10% are consumer cases, said the Washington, D.C., firm’s managing partner, Steven Toll.

The firm submitted leadership applications in the lawsuits against Hain Celestial, maker of Earth’s Best brand of baby food, now coordinated in the Eastern District of New York, and Gerber, consolidated in the Eastern District of Virginia.

“It’s not a new area for us, but we’re very selective,” Toll said of the firm’s consumer cases. “Every once in a while, if a case may jump out because it’s high profile and looks strong on the merits, we’ll get involved.”

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