Gerber Faces Claims of Toxic Heavy Metals and Antitrust Violations — What to Know

One suit claims that heavy metals found in the baby food caused brain injuries that led to an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis for a child who had eaten the food.

Lauren Wellbank - Author

Apr. 26 2024, Published 3:07 p.m. ET

Gerber baby food
Source: gerber/Instagram

Almost everyone is familiar with the popular baby food brand Gerber. The company's name is pretty much synonymous with the idea of cute kids, thanks to the annual crowning of a new Gerber Baby. Unfortunately for Gerber, and the parents and caregivers who rely on their products to keep their little ones happy and healthy come mealtime, the company's name is also rapidly becoming associated with legal trouble.

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Gerber is facing multiple lawsuits in states across the country, with claims against them varying from antitrust violations to accusations that the company's products cause Autism Spectrum Disorder. With such scary words being thrown around, it's important to know exactly what's happening with the lawsuits against Gerber, including what they're actually being accused of with these cases.

Gerber baby food products
Source: Getty Images
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Is there a lawsuit against Gerber?

The short answer is yes, Gerber is currently in a bit of legal hot water. How many lawsuits, and what the company stands accused of, varies by case though, so it does take a little sleuthing to understand exactly where things stand. The Lawsuit Information Center website, which offers the average person updates on class action lawsuits and settlements for personal injury claims, has broken down the legalese of the cases against Gerber, including the names of the other companies facing suits.

Gerber baby food and cereal for sale at a New Jersey Shoprite supermarket.
Source: Getty Images
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One lawsuit alleges that Gerber's baby food contains high levels of toxic metals.

First up is the "Baby Food Autism Lawsuit." In February 2022, Gerber was named alongside other baby food manufactures like Sprout Foods, Beech-Nut, Plum Inc., Nurture Inc., and Walmart in a class action suit. The paperwork was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, and claimed that the companies were in violation of multiple consumer protection laws after it was discovered that their baby foods contained toxic levels of heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and mercury.

Per personal injury law firm Miller & Zois, exposure to heavy metals in baby foods can potentially cause ADHD, autism, and other developmental issues. And though various studies corroborate this possibility, it has not been explicitly confirmed.

Heavy metals in baby food is a serious issue. Certain heavy metals, such as lead, are naturally present in the environment due to pollution, meaning they are are naturally present in foods that grow in the environment, per the FDA and Axios. Babies and children are much more susceptible to the harms of heavy metal exposure than adults are, since they are still developing, as noted by the CDC.

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The Lawsuit Information Center says that the 13 original people who came forward did so after learning about a report filed by a U.S. Congressional subcommittee tasked with investigating baby food contamination, specifically as it pertained to toxic metals.

By May 2022, a California court gave lawyers permission to move ahead with the case, prompting several other individuals to file their own separate lawsuits. While many of those suits were dismissed for lack of evidence, some of the others gained steam over the years. Many of the class action lawsuits have since been combined into a Multidistrict Litigation (MDL), consolidating the cases so that judges can come up with guidelines for overseeing what is estimated to a massive list of plaintiffs.

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Another lawsuit against Gerber alleges the company violated antitrust laws.

The antitrust proceedings are a bit more difficult to follow, because they involve allegations that Gerber and other manufacturers of infant formula colluded to artificially drive up the cost of store-brand formulas so that they could beat out competitors at retailers like Walgreens, Walmart, and others. According to Reuters, Gerber allegedly offered Perrigo the option to buy the excess formula from Gerber's manufacturers instead of allowing competitors to purchase it and sell it on their own.

In exchange for the excess formula, Gerber is alleged to have worked out a deal where the company would get a share of whatever Perrigo made of the sale of the Gerber formula. This allegedly hit cash-strapped shoppers where it hurt, since it inflated formula prices and prevented more affordable options from hitting the shelves.

If nothing else, it looks like Gerber's attorneys will be busy for the foreseeable future.

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