The Chanler Group Settles Toxic Food Additive Case

Posted: 10/30/2013  browse the blog archive

The Chanler Group, an environmental law firm, reached a settlement on behalf of its client Whitney Leeman, Ph.D. with food service company Farmer Bros., which serves products to over 60,000 hospitality, healthcare, gaming and retail establishments in the United States.  Dr. Leeman claimed that Farmer Bros. violated California’s Proposition 65 by selling a food extract, flavor and coloring alleged to contain the carcinogenic toxin 4-methylimidazole, commonly known as 4-MEI, to California consumers without providing the requisite health hazard warning to consumers.  The Honorable Marla J. Miller of the San Francisco County Superior Court approved the settlement on October 22, 2013.

“This case sets an important precedent for manufacturers, distributors and suppliers all over the United States,” said Clifford Chanler, the founder of The Chanler Group.  “They must take responsibility for their products or face legal consequences.  We are proud that our clients continue to improve consumer safety and protect our bodies from dangerous chemicals.”

As a result of the settlement, Farmer Bros. has agreed to reformulate the extract to virtually eliminate 4-MEI.  After September 1, 2013, Farmer Bros. may manufacture, distribute, or sell the extract in California only if meets reformulation specifications.  Farmer Bros. is additionally responsible for paying a civil penalty of up to $30,000, 75 percent of which is paid to the State of California.  This is the first time that a manufacturer, distributor, or supplier has ever been successfully held responsible for selling products in California containing 4-MEI.  Dr. Leeman and The Chanler Group anticipate yet more settlements and reformulations in the coming months.

The Chanler Group represents citizen enforcers and whistleblowers to 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.  For more information, please visit: