SAN FRANCISCO – A final hearing date has been set for the class-action lawsuit claiming a soft drink producer has used cancer-causing ingredients in its soft drinks.
Mary Hall, along with others, filed the lawsuit against PepsiCo., claiming it failed to warn consumers that its soft drinks allegedly contain high levels of 4-Methylimidazole (4-Mel).
Hall filed the lawsuit after tests by Consumer Reports were published indicating that more than 29 micrograms of Mel-4 were found in Pepsi’s cans and bottles. This level, under California’s Proposition 65, requires warning by the manufacturer for consumers.
“Proposition 65 lawsuits are filed daily in the state of California,” said Julie Griffiths, Central California regional director at California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) told the Northern California Record. “Proposition 65 is just another 'gotcha' lawsuit that small and big businesses alike face if they are doing business in California. CALA has worked for years to educate the public about these frivolous lawsuits which are doing nothing to help the consumers in this state."
While the lawsuit is set for a final hearing on Aug. 25, Pepsi has agreed to an injunctive relief as well as to requiring its caramel coloring suppliers to provide 4-Mel concentrations that are below 100 parts per billion, which is below Proposition 65 required levels. It said it will also test products using an agreed upon protocol. 4-Mel is used in the manufacture of Pepsi’s soft drinks’ caramel color.
“Our products and the ingredients used to make them, including the caramel coloring contained in some of our beverages, are in full compliance with the law and are always safe for consumption," Aurora Gonzalez, a spokesperson for Pepsi told the Northern California Record. “Our beverage products in the U.S. meet California’s Prop 65 requirement related to caramel coloring.”
The final hearing will be heard by Judge Edward M. Chen of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California. Chen also certified a settlement class.
The injunctive relief that Pepsi has agreed to is in line with the same agreement it made in a settlement with California’s Center for Environmental Health in 2015.
“While PepsiCo complies with laws and regulations everywhere we do business, we voluntarily implemented a few additional standards beyond the California requirement to give consumers further confidence in the quality of our products,” Gonzalez said.
Proposition 65, which was passed by voters in 1985, requires manufactures to give clear and reasonable warning to consumers when they will be exposed cancer-causing or toxic chemicals.
“There is nothing surprising about this case,” said Griffiths. “There are cases currently filed against orange and rice growers in the state of California because the ground in which they grow these products naturally contains chemicals listed in the Prop. 65 chemical list. Also, charbroiling burgers causes Prop. 65 warnings because the act of roasting and charbroiling produces the chemicals listed in the Prop. 65 chemical list.
“All this means is that, going forward, Pepsi must place a warning label on each of its cans,” said Griffiths.