US baby-food makers turn to MoFo for lead dispute

Morrison & Foerster (MoFo) is acting for some of America’s largest baby food and juice makers in a trial that is seeing the Environmental Law Foundation try to force food companies to post lead warnings on their products.

The trial, which started yesterday, centres on the alleged violation of a California law that requires companies to warn consumers of unsafe levels of lead in childen’s foods.

In a 2011 suit the Environmental Law Foundation claimed that various food products targeted at children, including packaged peaches and baby food made from carrots, sweet potatoes, peaches or pears, contained traces of lead and therefore needed to carry a warning label. Defendents named in the lawsuit include some of the world’s biggest manufacturers, retailers anddistributors, including Walmart, Whole Foods, Safeways, Del Monte Foods, Dole and Beech-Nut Nutrition.

In a 59-page copy of the defendents’ trial brief sent to The Lawyer the companies argue that the lead is naturally present in the soils where the fruit and vegetables used in the products are grown, and not added by man.

“Despite the trace amounts of lead in the products at issue, the federal government has determined that Americans need to eat more – not less – of these nutritious foods,” the court document says.

San Francisco-based MoFo partner Michèle Corash, who previously worked as a deputy general counsel for the US Department of Energy, is leading for the defendents. Other MoFo partners named on the case include San Francisco-based Linda Shostak, Robert Falk and James Schurz, who is co-chair of the firm’s commercial litigation group.

US firm Baron & Budd, along with California-based April Strauss, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Environmental Law Foundation.

The trial has no jury and is being heard by Judge Steven Brick.

The full list of tested products is listed here.