SunOpta, the Canadian natural and organic food group, has said it will "vigorously defend itself" against class action claims in the US and Canada in relation to its hefty estimated write-down.

Lawsuits have been filed in the Southern district of New York and the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, for claims which SunOpta believes are without merit.

The write-down, which is estimated between CAD$9m (US$8.95m) and $11m, was initially disclosed in January and stemmed from overstated inventories in the company's fruit business.

SunOpta has since delayed filing its 2007 annual report. The company estimated in late January that the write-down would slash its 2007 net income to between $0.12 to $0.14 per share, sharply below its previous outlook of $0.35 to $0.40 per share.

SunOpta said it continues to make progress in its investigation of the write-down and is continuing to take action to address the root causes and improve its business processes within the unit.

The company also stated that outside of the activities specifically focused on the SunOpta Fruit Group, its other operating groups are performing to expectation and remain focused on execution of their short and long term business objectives.