OAKLAND (CBS / AP) — An expert witness testified Monday that average lead levels in baby foods fall below the threshold for warning labels mandated under a California reporting standard.
Barbara Petersen, a food safety scientist, was the first witness in the civil trial involving a lawsuit filed by an environmental group against the nation’s largest baby food makers aimed at forcing the companies to alert consumers that some products contain low amounts of lead.
The trial will help determine if the products must carry warning labels in California.
Gerber Products Co., Del Monte Foods, Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp. and many other makers of baby foods and juices are selling products containing lead at levels that require warning labels under California Proposition 65, the Environmental Law Foundation asserts in the suit filed in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland.
The plaintiffs countered that Petersen’s analysis was misleading because it averaged the lead level in the entirety of the companies’ products — rather than looking at each individually.
“Under their argument you could consume the entire (legal limit) of lead in one day, so as long as you didn’t eat any more of it over the rest of the month,” Jim Wheaton, an attorney for the foundation, said after the proceedings ended for the day.
There is no jury in the trial. Instead, Judge Steven Brick will hear testimony from about a dozen lead and toxicology experts before issuing his ruling.
Lawyers for the food companies say the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tested products targeted in the lawsuit and decided levels were below the federal standards that require a warning.