Rainforest Alliance Sued By Seattle Non-Profit, Citing Unfair And Deceptive Marketing Practices

SEATTLE, Dec. 18, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Water and Sanitation Health (WASH), a non-profit organization based in Seattle, Washington, has filed a civil lawsuit against the Rainforest Alliance and their Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), citing unfair and deceptive marketing practices.

According to the legal claim filed yesterday in King County Superior Court (Case number 14-2-33522-9 SEA), the Rainforest Alliance "sells certification marks to multinational corporation Chiquita (NYSE: CQB) which uses the recognized marks for marketing their products to environmentally and socially conscious consumers."  WASH President Eric Harrison filed the lawsuit because the clean-water organization believes the Rainforest Alliance's sale of their endorsements to Chiquita misleads many consumers to perceive that products which receive the Rainforest Alliance's certification seals are farmed ecologically without harm to humans or the environment.  "We believe that the Rainforest Alliance's marketing scheme is a deliberate misrepresentation to consumers," Harrison states.

According to tax records, the Rainforest Alliance grossed more than $46-million dollars in 2013.  Rainforest Alliance's partner, SAN, asserts specific criteria (described on their website and posted on WASH's Truth in Advertising page) requiring separation and branding of non-owned farm products (aka sourced products) which have not been "certified." Harrison agrees that "consumers have a right to know which products are indeed sustainably grown, and which aren't." To view SAN's "Critical Criteria," go to www.waterandsanitationhealth.org/truthinadvertising.

The lawsuit names six Guatemala communities near the Nahualate and Madre Vieja Rivers suffer from water pollution and airborne exposure to toxic chemicals from plantations that provide so-called "Rainforest Certified" bananas grown for Chiquita.  Harrison has seen the effects first hand. "Drinking water is contaminated from toxic fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and organic matter," Harrison states.  Plantations near the affected villages and communities spread approximately 420 gallons of various fungicides over their banana trees every 8 – 10 days, including dithane, paraquat, and mocap.

Harrison recently returned from Guatemala, and says he "witnessed local workers who don't have protective gear against direct exposure from pesticide spray, and drinking water tested in communities near the plantations showed levels of nitrites, nitrates, and heavy metals ten times higher than the maximum levels recommended by the World Health Organization."  Harrison adds, "WASH appreciates the outward philosophy of the Rainforest Alliance.  We hope they will assist in getting affected communities the clean water they need for health and sanitation purposes."

A trial date has been set for January 11, 2016.  A copy of the 15 page legal complaint can be found at www.waterandsanitationhealth.org/newsroom  

WASH is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing sustainable clean-water systems to people in impoverished villages around the world.  To learn more, go to www.waterandsanitationhealth.org  


To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/rainforest-alliance-sued-by-seattle-non-profit-citing-unfair-and-deceptive-marketing-practices-300011749.html

SOURCE Water and Sanitation Health (WASH)

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