A Connecticut-based law firm has filed Proposition 65 (Prop. 65) lawsuits against three companies that make food extracts and flavorings, alleging that they fail to disclose the presence of 4-Methylimidazole (4-MEI), a substance known to California to cause cancer. Leeman v. Adams Extract & Spice Co., LLC, No. 13-529493; Leeman v. McCormick & Co., Inc., No. 13-529494; Leeman v. Farmer Bros. Co., No. 13 529495 (Cal. Super. Ct., San Francisco Cty., filed March 13, 2013). Named plaintiff Whitney Leeman claims to hold a doctorate in environmental engineering and seeks “to promote awareness of exposures to toxic chemicals in products sold in California.” She provided 60-day notices of violation to the companies in December 2012 concerning their alleged failure to warn consumers about 4-MEI exposure.

The products specifically named in the complaints are Adams’ “Extract Maple Imitation Maple Flavor,” McCormick’s “Culinary Imitation Maple Flavor” and “Culinary Caramel Color,” and Farmer’s “Sierra Brand Premium Products Imitation Maple Flavor.” The complaint states that California “identified and listed 4-MEI as a chemical known to cause cancer” on January 7, 2011, and that the defendants have violated Prop. 65 since that time. Information about California’s approval of a no significant risk level for 4-MEI appears in Issue 424 of this Update. Leeman seeks preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to compel the defendants to provide the warnings and civil penalties of $2,500 per day for each violation. See Chanler Group Blog Post, April 2, 2013.

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For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.