OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - A licorice maker had to issue a nationwide recall after a supplier sold it lead-tainted molasses, the candymaker claims in court.
American Licorice Co. sued Total Sweeteners and Batory Foods in Federal Court.
American Licorice, which makes red and black licorice, agreed to buy 1.5 million lbs. of molasses from Batory, it says in the complaint. Total Sweeteners is a manufacturer, Batory a distributor.
Molasses, aka bulk refiners syrup, is "the major constituent" of black licorice, American Licorice says.
"In 2011, plaintiff American Licorice, through personnel located in Union City, Calif., negotiated with a representative of defendant Batory Foods, who was located in Hayward, Calif., for the purchase of certain goods consisting of 1,500,000 lbs. of 'bulk refiners syrup,'" the complaint states.
"Refiners syrup is commonly known as molasses. On or about Dec. 14, 2011, plaintiff American Licorice entered into a purchase agreement with defendants, and in particular with defendant Batory Foods, for the purchase of this material to be used in the production of candy."
The California Department of Public Health discovered the excessive lead content, American Licorice says.
"On or about Aug. 21, 2012, American Licorice was visited by the California Department of Public Health and informed that at least one lot of the Red Vines black licorice was tested and that the test results showed levels of lead in excess of the limit of 0.1 parts per million (ppm) set by the United States Food and Drug Administration and CDPH for candy frequently consumed by small children," the complaint states.
American Licorice says it conducted more testing, which showed "black licorice produced prior to May 2012 contained significantly less lead than 0.1 ppm."
"Testing of all ingredients contained in Red Vines black licorice showed that the elevated level of lead was due to the molasses received from defendants, not other ingredients.
"As a result of the testing, and based on the permissible limit or 0.1 ppm of lead for candy, American Licorice was compelled to expand its recall to include all Red Vines black licorice available for sale and in possession of consumers throughout the United States, including packaging containing mixed red and black licorice, and to halt production of Red Vines black licorice to ensure that all relevant product was removed from commerce and not available for consumption," the complaint states.
"As a result of the contaminated molasses supplied by defendants and the subsequent recalls, American Licorice incurred substantial costs and lost sales in excess of $2 million."
American Licorice seeks incidental and consequential damages, including lost profits, for breach of warranty and breach contract.
It is represented by Lauren Michals with Nixon Peabody.
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