June 18, 2018

FSMA Whistleblower Lawsuit Filed Against Brothers International Food Corp.

Last week, Colin Chase, a former employee of Brothers International Food Corporation, sued the company in federal court, alleging the company violated the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) whistleblower protection. The Director of eCommerce was fired in July 2012 after telling management that expired potato chips were being re-dated and placed on the market for sale. He was also concerned that dehydrated apple crisps were being improperly rehydrated, possibly making them vulnerable to bacterial contamination. Fuji Apple Fruit Crisps were referred to internally as the “soggy”, “soft” or “bad” apple situation.

GavelsThe Company responded by saying that new expiration dates would be put on the potato chips. Chase was told to  tell customers the reason for re-dating was that the product had been for sale in Europe, even though no Brothers Food products were being sold in Europe at that time. Company executives said that the Fuji Apple Crisps would continue to be sold and that any customers who complained would get a 50% off coupon towards a future purchase. The products in question are part of the Disney line of snacks marketed to toddlers.

According to the lawsuit, Brothers International then required their employees to sign non-disclosure agreements. The plaintiff said he would not sign without consulting with an attorney, so the company fired him. Chase said that mployees who did not complain about food safety were given time to review the agreements with their attorneys. According to the lawsuit, “conditioning continued employment on signing a ‘gag’ against disclosure is in itself an illicit retaliatory act.”

Amanda Hitt, the Government Accountability Project Food Integrity Campaign Director said in a statement, “the whistleblower protections included in FSMA, which GAP helped to enact, are aimed at ensuring that food safety concerns such as the ones raised by Chase, are heard.” FSMA whistleblower laws began in 2011.

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