A New York federal judge has consolidated several lawsuits alleging that Hain Celestial Group Inc.’s baby foods contain toxic heavy metals and it hid this from consumers, while excising similar claims against Gerber Products Co. from consolidation.
U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert consolidated 13 suits within the Eastern District of New York under the case led by named plaintiff Nicole Stewart, each alleging consumer protection claims against Hain Celestial.
Stewart filed one of several proposed class actions against major baby food manufacturers, alleging that they allow high levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury into their products and mislead consumers about how healthy their baby food is.
The lawsuits followed a February report from the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform that found high levels of heavy metals in products from Gerber, Hain and other companies.
On Feb. 28, the Stewart plaintiffs asked the judge to consolidate numerous lawsuits that were filed in the Eastern District, saying the actions make “nearly identical factual allegations and legal claims” and consolidation is in the best interests of judicial resources and resources of the plaintiffs and defendants.
Meanwhile, the judge denied the motion to consolidate three suits involving Gerber as a defendant. In March, Gerber Products Co., Plum Public Benefit Corp. and Nurture Inc. — as well as Michelle Walls, one of the plaintiffs who sued them — asked the district court not to consolidate their cases with those of Hain Celestial, arguing the Gerber claims should stay separate as the Hain suits are largely unrelated to the company.