Vineet Dubey on March 7 filed a lawsuit against the Kroger Co. for selling products containing dangerous levels of lead — as much as 140 times the amount in one serving as allowed under California law.
"Kroger is betraying the American public by selling over a dozen products tainted with extraordinarily high amounts of lead,” said Dubey, partner and co-founder of Custodio & Dubey LLP.
The lawsuit was featured on ABC 9 Cincinnati's nightly news, the city where Kroger is headquartered. It also gained national attention with coverage from Business Insider, Cincinnati Enquirer, Mashed, Cincinnati Business Courier, Kaiser Health News, California Healthline and many other outlets throughout the country.
An independent food testing lab determined that 15 products sold by Kroger-owned stores — including Ralphs and Food 4 Less — under the company’s Kroger, Simple Truth and Private Selection labels violate California’s maximum limit of .5 micrograms of lead per serving.
Products containing heavy amounts of lead per serving included Kroger Single Serving Canned Sweet Peas & Carrots, with 33.1 micrograms per serving, Simple Truth Organic Yellow Cling Diced Peaches & Pears, with 11.7 micrograms per serving, Kroger Crumbdillyicious Graham Crackers, with 11.2 micrograms per serving, Simple Truth Organic Frozen Berry Medley, with 8.34 micrograms per serving, Kroger Cinnamon Raisin Pre-Sliced Bagels, with 6.82 micrograms per serving and Simple Truth Organic 100% Whole Wheat Spaghetti, with 6.77 micrograms per serving.
Other products with high lead exposure risk per serving were Simple Truth Organic Raisin Bran, Simple Truth Organic Cinnamon Breakfast Cookies, Private Selection Frozen Whole Strawberries, Kroger Canned Diced Jalapeno Peppers, Kroger Canned Sliced Beets, Kroger Frozen Italian Style Green Beans, Kroger Cinnapuff Breakfast Cereal and Kroger Strawberry Applesauce.
While no amount of lead is considered safe to consume, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that heavy metals can become extremely harmful when they accumulate in large quantities in your body. Lead poisoning in adults, for example, can result in miscarriages, male infertility, hypertension and neurological problems including mood disorders, memory loss, tremors and hallucinations.
In children, lead poisoning can cause brain and nervous system damage, growth and development issues, and hearing and speech impairment. It also increases the risk for diseases such as cancer.
“Every day, people walk into Kroger supermarkets to spend their hard-earned money, expecting to be able to purchase healthy, safe foods for their families,” Dubey said. “Unfortunately, Kroger has not lived up to its end of the deal with consumers by ensuring that it is selling non-toxic foods. It should immediately remove these items from its shelves and put into place new quality controls so that Americans are never poisoned by lead from another Kroger food item."
Cincinnati-based Kroger is the U.S.’s largest supermarket chain by revenue and the second-largest general retailer behind Walmart. It operates a total of 2,922 grocery retail stores under its own name as well as under various regional banners, with the largest store concentrations in California, Ohio, Texas, North Carolina and the Pacific Northwest. Its chains include Harris Teeter, Ralphs, Smith’s Food and Drug, Fred Meyer, QFC, King Soopers, Mariano’s and more.