Yogi Tea Pesticide Recall Was Insufficient, Lawsuit Alleges

  • Home
  • news
  • Yogi Tea Pesticide Recall Was Insufficient, Lawsuit Alleges
June 3, 2024

by Brian Eckert

The maker of Yogi Echinacea Immune Support Tea has recalled the product over the potential presence of pesticides, and deliberately made it difficult for consumers to obtain a refund, a proposed Milberg class action lawsuit alleges.

Any consumer who purchased the affected tea may be eligible to join the lawsuit as a class member. Our attorneys are representing the class on a contingency-fee basis.

Voluntary Recall Addresses Pesticide Residue

East West Tea Company of Eugene, Oregon manufactures Yogi Tea, which is sold in over 40 blends made from 140 ingredients. The teas are marketed to health and environmentally conscious individuals using terms like “quality,” “wellness,” and “healing.”

Yogi is a certified B-Corp, a designation awarded to companies that meet certain social and environmental standards. Its teas are also organic, a specification that does not allow conventional pesticide use.

This recall was deliberately designed to preclude the vast majority of consumers from receiving a refund.

It may have come as some surprise to Yogi Tea drinkers, then, when in March the company issued a voluntary recall of its Echinacea Immune Support Tea after pesticide residues were detected in some lots.

According to Yogi, the traces of pesticides found “posed no risk of harm or illness” and the recall was issued out of an “abundance of caution” because “the product did not meet the high-quality standards our consumers have come to expect from us.”

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notice lists the recall as a Class III recall, indicating a product violation that is not likely to cause adverse health consequences. The notice specifies that 54,846 packs are impacted. They were sold in boxes of four or six packs, both with 16 bags per pack. In total, more than 877,000 tea bags are being recalled.

Offered Refunds “Deliberately” Difficult to Obtain

Yogi Tea does not disclose in its recall notice what pesticides were found in its Echinacea Immune Support Tea or how the pesticides ended up there. The only explanation they give is that neighboring farms may apply pesticides that drifted onto their farmers’ organic land.

And while Yogi is offering consumers a full refund by returning the tea to the original purchase location, most will not be able to take advantage of the recall due to it being “deliberately designed” to benefit very few people who purchased the product, contends lead plaintiff Marie Kaatz.

“Defendant is well aware that any consumer who was made aware of the recall would be predisposed to throwing the product away,” Kaatz states in the complaint. “Defendant is also aware that consumers shop in multiple locations and may or may not purchase the Product at the same location each time. Also, most consumers do not maintain receipts and therefore cannot obtain a refund at the purchase location for the recalled product.”

The lawsuit additionally states that Yogi Echinacea Immune Support Tea is improperly, deceptively, and misleadingly labeled and marketed to reasonable consumers such as Kaatz, who were led to believe, by omission, that the tea does not contain pesticides.

A reasonable consumer reviewing Defendant’s labels reasonably believes that they are purchasing a product that is safe for oral ingestion and does not contain any harmful substances.

Pesticides are chemicals used to control pests such as insects, rodents, fungi, and weeds. FDA runs a pesticide residue monitoring program meant to ensure chemical residues in foods don’t exceed limits and tolerances set by the EPA. These limits vary by pesticide.

Yogi initiated the recall when its routine auditing revealed pesticide residues above “action levels.”  An action level, says FDA, is “a recommended level of a contaminant not to exceed.”

Action levels are not legally binding, and FDA may take enforcement action on a case-by-case basis for products with pesticide contamination exceeding action levels. FDA declined to issue a press release related to the recall.

Proposed Classes and Damages

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, asserts claims for violations of New York General Business Law and state warranty laws in multiple states. It seeks monetary and statutory damages on behalf of the following classes:

  • A nationwide class composed of all consumers who purchased the recalled Yogi Echinacea Immune Support Tea anywhere in the United States
  • A New York subclass of consumers who purchased the product in New York State.

Lead plaintiff Kaatz and the proposed classes are represented by Milberg class action attorney Nick Suciu III. Mr. Suciu’s practice is focused on FDA regulations, advertising, and marketing law in the dietary and sports supplement industries.

Milberg is one of the country’s top class action law firms, with nearly 1,000 lawsuit filings over the last three years and billions of dollars recovered for our clients since 1965.