Lockyer Files Suit Over Lead Levels in Mexican Candy
Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) on Friday filed suit against 33 companies that manufacture or sell imported candies from Mexico and Brazil, alleging that the candy contains harmful levels of lead in excess of those allowed under California law, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports. Lockyer filed the suit in a Los Angeles Superior Court after tests by the Department of Health Services found that the candy allegedly became contaminated with dangerous levels of lead during the manufacturing process. The suit, which also lists the Alameda County district attorney and Los Angeles city attorney as plaintiffs, seeks to block sales of the candy until it includes warning labels and to impose a $2,500 fine for each violation, which the judge would define. The suit names major Mexican candy makers and two subsidiaries of Virginia-based Mars candy company as defendants. All of the companies make candy in Mexico except for one that imports candy from Brazil (Thompson, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 7/9). The litigation was filed under Proposition 65, the state's anti-toxics law, which requires labeling for products that could cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm, and follows notification by two national environmental groups that they planned to file suit. Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health on Friday planned to file a parallel suit against the candy makers and said it will work in tandem with Lockyer's office. A bill that would have increased DHS regulation over imported candies died in the Senate last week, but the legislation may be reintroduced in the future, the Orange County Register reports.
DHS, which environmental groups have criticized for not supporting the Senate bill, on Wednesday minimized the issue in an e-mail to local media and lawmakers that said federal and state health authorities should collaborate with Mexican officials to address lead in candy, the Register reports (McKim, Orange County Register, 7/9). Lockyer said in a statement, "When a product as popular among children as candy contains lead, consumers and parents deserve to know" (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 7/9). Tom Dresslar, a spokesperson for Lockyer's office, said, "The best outcome from our perspective is not a warning. It's reformulation of the products so a warning isn't required." Arturo Gonzalez, counsel for the candy companies and a spokesperson for the National Confectioners Association, said, "Our members' Mexican candy products are safe and enjoyable to eat." Gonzalez added that Proposition 65 does not apply to products containing trace amounts of lead (Orange County Register, 7/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.