A New Jersey federal judge tossed a putative class action alleging Sprout Food Inc. falsely advertised its baby food products as “healthy” and “organic” despite containing allegedly unsafe levels of toxic metals, finding that the alleged harm is “simply speculation” and the consumers don’t have standing to sue.
U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler held that the proposed class action filed by parents who purchased Sprout baby food products sufficiently alleged there were levels of heavy metals in a dozen Sprout baby food products.
However, the judge said the lawsuit doesn’t allege those levels of heavy metals substantially increased the risk of future harm to their children, particularly since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated in a letter last year that “at the levels we have found through our testing … children are not at an immediate health risk from exposure to toxic elements in foods.”
The ruling is the latest development in one of dozens of similar lawsuits against baby food manufacturers over the acceptable levels of heavy metals in such products and labeling requirements.
The flood of litigation followed the February 2021 release of a report from the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which showed that heavy metals were present at dangerous levels in baby food made by Sprout Foods and six other major manufacturers. The report was put together by the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy.
While four companies provided test results and other information, Sprout Foods and two other businesses refused to cooperate with the subcommittee’s probe, which cited a 2019 report from nonprofit Healthy Babies Bright Futures, or HBBF, which said independent testing revealed heavy metals in certain Sprout Foods products.
Named plaintiffs Irida Kimca of Orange, Connecticut, and Derrick Sampson of Forest Park, Illinois hit the Montvale, New Jersey-based Sprout with the present lawsuit in June, and amended their complaint in December to add more plaintiffs.
The judge noted that the complaint doesn’t say whether the FDA’s acceptable levels of heavy metals are specifically applicable to baby food, and other district courts in rulings like Boysen v. Walgreen Co. have concluded that it’s not appropriate to compare products like baby food to water bottles to establish injury at the motion to dismiss stage.
In addition, Judge Chesler ruled that the plaintiffs also don’t have standing to seek injunctive relief, because even if they were harmed by the product’s labels, it’s “common sense” they are now aware of the products’ alleged risks and won’t be deceived again.