Washington, D.C. – In a troubling complaint filed in federal court, a former employee of Brothers International Food Corporation alleges the New York-based food and beverage company violated FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) whistle blower provision.
Colin Chase — is a former Director of eCommerce at Brothers’ with headquarters in Rochester, New York — who was terminated in July 2012 after raising safety and health concerns regarding the re-dating and sale of expired food products, such as Potato Crisps and Fruit Crisps (including the “Disney” line of fruit crisps marketed to toddlers) as well as the sale of improperly re-hydrated Fuji Apple Crisps.
The complaint reads that “Chase alerted management” that an expired batch of potato crisps were being sold online. Their response was that the “sale would stop until new expiration dates were put on”. He was also told to blatantly lie to customers and that he should tell them that “the reason for the re-dating was that it had originally been dated for sale in Europe.” There were no Brothers’ products sold in Europe at the time.
Chase also brought to the attention of executives that “soggy” apple products being sold were vulnerable to bacterial contamination, to which a CEO responded that the “bad” batch would continue to be sold through September 2012 and any complaining customers should receive a 50 percent off coupon toward a future purchase.
At about the same time Brothers began to require employees to sign non-disclosure agreements as a term of continued employment. When Chase indicated he would not sign the agreement without first meeting with his attorney, Brothers immediately terminated and escorted him off the premises.
GAP Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) Director Amanda Hitt stated: “The whistle blower 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.”
A number of FSMA cases have been brought forward since the legislation became law in 2011, but this is the first complaint to appear in federal court. Chase’s attorney, Elizabeth Cordello, Esq., at Underberg & Kessler LLP filed the complaint with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.
This whistleblower case brings to attention, once again, the critical role that regular people from all walks of life play in uncovering practices that can endanger consumers. In this instance, the products in question were being sold to infants which makes the case even more troubling.
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