September 30, 2014 / Week N° 40

U.S. individual to litigate against Dole over “misleading consumers”

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November 15th, 2012

A Californian individual has sought to sue the Dole Food Company for alleged “unfair and deceptive” business practices in relation to bananas sourced from a Guatemalan farm.

The plaintiff is represented by Seattle law firm Hagens Berman, who  filed the lawsuit to the United States District Court for the Central District of California on Nov. 13.

A Hagens Berman release claims Dole knowingly purchased bananas from a Guatemalan plantation that had “devastated” the local environment and community.

Dole is alleged to have bought almost 300 million pounds of bananas from the plantation, Agro-Industrial Company Bananera Nacional, between January 2010 and January 2011.

The law firm’s managing partner Steve Berman said the the contractor built a dam in the Department of San Marcos to protect its banana and palm oil plantations, leading to extensive flooding and draining 1,200 acres of pristine wetlands.

“Dole promised its customers it had an ‘unwavering commitment’ to environmental responsibility,” Berman said. “Yet, it gave its business to a plantation that showed a complete disregard for the local environment.”

The lawsuit alleges the dam resulted in severe flooding downstream from the banana plantation, destroying local farmers’ crops.

“Farmers in this region – many of which are subsistence farmers – could previously count on two harvests each year,” Berman said. “Since the dam was constructed, many are barely harvesting enough to make it through the season.

“The plantation contaminates local rivers with toxic fertilizers and pesticides. The drinking water that local people rely on has nitrate levels ten times the maximum level recommended by the World Health Organization.”

The plaintiff is acting for himself and others “similarly situated”, claiming he had regularly bought Dole bananas and would not have done so had he known about what was happening with Agro-Industrial Company Bananera Nacional, which the lawsuit claims sold 76% of its bananas to Dole during the period concerned.

The lawsuit has an amount in controversy that exceeds US$5 million.

Dole did not respond to requests for comment.

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