The Chanler Group Files Three Lawsuits Against National Food Suppliers Over Prop 65 for Environmentalists

Posted: 04/02/2013  browse the blog archive

BERKELEY, Calif. – April 2, 2013 – The Chanler Group (, a Connecticut-based environmental law firm, has filed Proposition 65 civil complaints on behalf of Whitney R. Leeman, Ph.D., against three prominent national food suppliers: spice and flavoring manufacturer McCormick & Company, Inc.; coffee and flavoring manufacturer Farmer Bros. Co.; as well as Adams Extract & Spice, LLC.  All complaints are filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, San Francisco County for the firm’s client. The complaints charge the three defendants with distributing food extracts, flavors and colorings containing unacceptable levels of the carcinogenic chemical 4-MEI, or 4-Methylimidazole, without a proper consumer warning label.

The Chanler Group had previously issued 60-day notices of violation, urging the manufacturers to comply with California's Proposition 65 requirements.  The state law calls for manufacturers and retailers to label products containing known carcinogenic toxins with a warning to inform consumers prior to exposure.  The 4-MEI compound is frequently added to food products for its caramel color.  It was first added to Prop. 65's list of chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer in January of 2011.

“This particular compound has been listed as a carcinogen for two years now, but many products still contain the toxic chemical without the labeling required by law,” said Clifford Chanler, founder and spokesperson for The Chanler Group.  “The safety of consumers is important to us.  These three companies are united by a responsibility to either remove the toxic chemicals from their manufacturing processes, or to label those products in compliance with the law.”

Beginning in 2012, The Chanler Group independently purchased a variety of products from McCormick & Company, Inc., Farmer Bros. Co., and Adams Extract & Spice, LLC.  The products were then tested in a certified laboratory, where significant levels of 4-MEI were detected.  The 4-MEI compound is also commonly found in pharmaceuticals, photographic chemicals, dyes, pigments, cleaning products, and rubber products.

The three civil complaints call for injunctive action on the part of the court, which would compel McCormick & Company, Inc., Farmer Bros. Co., and Adams Extract & Spice, LLC to either change their manufacturing processes to reduce or eliminate the presence of 4-MEI, or to clearly label all products containing the chemical.  Chanler Group is also seeking civil penalties, 75% of which are payable to California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, against these defendants in accordance with California's Health and Safety Code.

The Chanler Group represents citizen enforcers and whistleblowers who promote awareness of toxic chemicals found in our everyday environment and to enhance the health of the general public by advocating for the removal of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm from consumer products.  The Chanler Group and its clients apply over 20 years of knowledge and experience to their ongoing enforcement activities with the goal of holding those responsible for toxic exposures accountable for their violations of state and federal law. 

In addition to strict compliance with the law, The Chanler Group’s clients have forced hundreds of companies to reformulate commonly used products, eliminating chemicals that are known to cause cancer or birth defects.  Some of those companies now manufacture only non-toxic products.  Additionally, The Chanler Group has been instrumental in generating over $100 million in civil fines and other funds for projects that educate children, workers and consumers about precautions they can take to significantly reduce toxic chemical exposure.  The Chanler Group’s ongoing efforts effectuate change for a cleaner environment.  For more information, please visit

Gary Pike, APR
(415) 585-2100