Listeria-laced Frozen Fruit Subject of Milberg Class Action Lawsuit

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August 19, 2023

by Brian Eckert

The frozen fruit in your freezer may have a hidden ingredient: Listeria monocytogenes, the bacteria that causes the foodborne illness listeria.

Sunrise Growers Inc. recalled dozens of frozen fruit products in June over bacterial contamination concerns, leading to a consumer class action that accuses the company of false, deceptive, and misleading marketing. If you purchased one of these products, you may be automatically eligible to join the lawsuit.

What Frozen Fruit Products Were Recalled?

Sunrise Growers, a subsidiary of SunOpta Inc., issued a voluntary recall on June 21, 2023 of prepackaged frozen fruit that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The fruit products were distributed by Walmart, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Target, Aldi, and AWG in stores nationwide under a variety of brand names. They include bags of mixed fruit containing cherries, mango, tropical fruit, pineapple, strawberries, bananas, blueberries, and mixed berries.

A full list of the recalled products is available on the FDA website. Only products with certain lots and best by dates are impacted.

Consumers are urged to check their freezers for affected products and discard or return them to the store for a refund. In addition, consumers who bought the recalled fruit may be able to participate in Milberg’s frozen fruit class action lawsuit.

How Dangerous is Listeria Infection?

Listeria, or listeriosis, is a serious disease that is particularly dangerous to pregnant women, newborns, older adults, and immunocompromised individuals, reports the CDC. It can cause symptoms like fever and diarrhea and usually requires hospital care.

Listeria infection can also lead to severe infections of the bloodstream or brain. About 1 in 5 people with the infection die and listeriosis during pregnancy results in fetal loss in about 20% of cases.

Why Was a Lawsuit Filed?

Issuing a recall does not let a manufacturer off the hook for harm that its products may cause.

Sunrise Growers said in June that, “To date, there have been no illnesses associated with this voluntary recall.” But even if this holds true, and no consumers are sickened by its frozen fruit, they suffered economic harm from purchasing products that could hurt them, according to a complaint filed by Milberg class action attorney Nick Suciu.

By failing to disclose that its frozen fruit products contain, or are at risk of containing, Listeria monocytogenes, Sunrise Growers “improperly, deceptively, and misleadingly labeled and marketed its products to reasonable consumers,” states the lawsuit.

Defendant has improperly, deceptively, and misleadingly labeled and marketed its Products to reasonable consumers, like Plaintiff, by omitting and not disclosing to consumers on its packaging that consumption of the Products may increase the risk of contracting invasive infections.

The United States frozen fruits and vegetables market was worth $7.1 billion in 2022 and is projected to have a market size of $8.3 billion in 2028. Today’s consumers have become increasingly health-conscious, and the majority always read labels on packaged food before buying it.

However, consumers “lack the meaningful ability to test or independently ascertain or verify whether a product contains unsafe substances, such as Listeria monocytogenes,” and therefore rely on manufacturers such as Sunrise Growers to honestly report ingredients on packaging or labels, the complaint says.

Because Sunrise Growers omitted Listeria monocytogenes from product descriptions, the complaint further states, buyers “lost the entire benefit of their bargain when what they received was a frozen fruit product contaminated with a known bacterium that is harmful to consumers’ health.”

Sunrise Growers’ parent company has previously issued food recalls over listeria concerns. Multiple products were recalled at various times by SunOpta Inc. in May and June of 2016 for the very same bacteria.

Who Can Join the Frozen Fruit Class Action Lawsuit?

The lead plaintiff, a resident of New York, filed a class action lawsuit that claims she would not have purchased the defendant’s products had the contents been truthfully represented. She seeks certification of the lawsuit on behalf of a national class and a New York subclass of consumers.

All U.S. consumers who purchased recalled Sunrise Growers frozen fruit may be able to join the lawsuit as class members and recover damages. New York consumers may be entitled to additional damages pursuant to New York General Business Law.

Eligible class members do not have to hire an attorney. Milberg is representing the class on a contingency-fee basis.

Nick Suciu, whose practice is focused on the dietary and sports supplement space, has achieved several multi-million-dollar settlements against national brands. Since 1965, Milberg has filed thousands of class action lawsuits, recovered billions of dollars for our clients, set groundbreaking legal precedents, and prompted meaningful changes in how big companies do business.