A U.S. consumer today sued Chiquita Brands International, Inc. (NYSE: CQB), one of the world’s largest producers and marketers of fruits and vegetables, claiming the company misleads consumers in stating it is an environmentally friendly and socially responsible company in terms of how its bananas are grown, when in fact Chiquita’s bananas are manufactured in ways that poison local residents, destroy ecosystems and contaminate drinking water, according to attorneys at Hagens Berman.
The lawsuit, filed on Feb. 9, 2015, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, alleges that in spite of Chiquita's promises to act as a safe and sustainable company in communities where its products are grown, the company knowingly hid the fact that its production practices were environmentally harmful.
"Chiquita promised its customers it follows 'strict standards' of ecofriendly production including practices that ‘conserve wildlife habitats, national resources and promote community wellbeing,’ yet, its business practices have wreaked havoc on local communities where it grows and harvests its produce," said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “Chiquita knew that consumers valued environmentally sound production methods, and used its deceptive marketing to cover up its foul production methods.”
The lawsuit alleges that Chiquita fails to disclose in its marketing materials and at the point of sale that its bananas are produced with methods that contaminate water supplies, destroy the crops of local communities, and cause illnesses in children.
“Chiquita’s blue sticker is supposedly an ‘iconic symbol for high quality fruit,’ but Chiquita’s trademark sticker is only serving as a subterfuge to blindside consumers for its own profits,” Berman said. “Over the last 20 years, Chiquita has presented itself as a company with a renewed sense of corporate social responsibility, and we believe the evidence will show that Chiquita has concealed its true practices.”
The suit alleges that Chiquita’s false claims to its customers violate the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act, the California Unfair Competition Law and California Common Law in relation to fraud and unjust enrichment.
California residents who purchased Chiquita bananas are encouraged to contact Hagens Berman to discuss the case. Consumers can contact an attorney by calling 206-623-7292 or email Chiquita@hbsslaw.com.
The complaint states that in its 2009-2012 Corporate Social Responsibility Report (“CSR Report”) published on its public website, Chiquita states: “In the past, our reputation was not what we aspire to today. We have learned from that history and it has helped form the basis of our commitment to high ethical standards,” and lists other methods the company marketed itself as a socially responsible and environmentally conscious company, while ultimately acting in opposition.
According to the complaint, Chiquita purchases millions of pounds of bananas per year from plantations that have caused significant environmental harm to ecosystems that have historically provided sustenance and livelihoods to approximately 7,200 Guatemalan people.
"We strongly believe that Chiquita knew about these harmful practices that have been so damaging to local ecosystems," Berman noted. "No company should be able to get away with such a blatant disregard for the environment and community in which it operates, especially when a company profits so heavily by misleading consumers, as we allege Chiquita has done."
The plaintiff in the suit alleges that if he had been informed of the damaging methods used to produce Chiquita bananas he would not have purchased them.
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with offices in nine cities. The firm has been named to the National Law Journal’s Plaintiffs’ Hot List seven times. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.
Ashley Klann, 206-268-9363