Dole Food Co. today (16 July) attacked the "fraudulent" claims levelled against the US-based fruit and vegetable giant after a US court overturned a ruling that said the company had left workers sterile through pesticide use.

A judge in Los Angeles threw out a 2007 ruling that said Dole had left six workers in Nicaragua sterile through the use of the DBCP pesticide and awarded the employees US$2.3m.

Judge Victoria Chaney ruled that "some or all of the claimants" had made "fraudulent claims" and dismissed the plantiffs' contention that Dole had bribed witnesses.

The judge said Juan Dominguez, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, had been "actively involved in activating and perpetuating this fraud and scheme on the court".

The 2007 ruling was based around the use of DBCP, which was banned in the US but used by Dole on plantations in Central America in the 1970s. The verdict was seen by some as possibly opening the way for other workers to pursue compensation.

However, Michael Carter, executive vice president and general counsel at Dole, said Judge Chaney's ruling had "brought closure to these fraudulent Nicaraguan claims".

"These claims are a fraud on the California courts and never should have been brought in the first place," Carter said.

Dole is facing cases from workers based in other Central American countries, including Honduras.

"While Dole believes there is no reliable scientific basis for alleged injuries from the agricultural field application of DBCP, Dole continues to seek reasonable resolution of pending litigation and claims in the U.S. and Latin America," Carter said.