US baby-food firm Beech-Nut Nutrition has been sued by the Washington DC attorney general over allegations its products contain toxic metals.

Karl Racine’s lawsuit, filed yesterday (21 April), accuses the New York State-based company – owned by Swiss food manufacturer Hero Group and one of the largest baby food businesses in the US – of misleading consumers by claiming its products were safe even though they allegedly contained high levels of toxic metals.

The lawsuit, filed in Washington’s Superior Court, follows a Congressional report in February that found toxic metals including arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury in baby-food products, resulting in a number of consumer-led legal actions. In March, US lawmakers tabled a bill which would implement new rules on metal in baby food.

A statement from the Washington DC attorney general’s office alleges that “Beech-Nut’s deceptive and misleading advertising violated the District’s consumer-protection laws and misled parents that its baby food underwent the most stringent testing and was fully safe for babies when, in fact, the food contained high levels of toxic heavy metals”.

The lawsuit seeks to compel Beech-Nut to “stop misrepresenting its products and pay civil penalties.”.

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Racine said: “Parents across the District and the country trusted Beech-Nut when it advertised its baby-food products as organic and safe but the reality is much different, as parents unknowingly fed their babies food containing high levels of toxic metals which can lead to life-long health complications.

“No company should profit by illegally deceiving parents about products that actually jeopardise the health and safety of their children. We are seeking to put a stop to it and put other baby-food companies on notice that they must provide truthful and complete information about their products.”

The statement claimed that Beech-Nut “falsely represents that its baby food does not contain harmful ingredients”.

It added: “Multiple studies in recent years have found high levels of toxic heavy metals in Beech-Nut’s baby foods.”

Racine is seeking a court order to force Beech-Nut to “stop making false claims about the safety of its foods and to disclose the levels of toxic heavy metals in its products”.

The lawsuit also seeks restitution for consumers and civil penalties for violating the District’s consumer-protection laws.

Toxic heavy metals – including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury – are neurotoxins that are harmful to a baby’s developing brain and nervous system, research has shown.

just-food has contacted Beech-Nut outside of normal US working hours seeking a reaction to the legal action.

Earlier this month, the US government launched an action plan to cut toxic elements in baby food.