I’m not a fan of lawsuits and often read about people suing companies and shake my head at the visible signs of the decay of our society. Generally they seem to be frivolous or a result of adults being unable to take responsibility for their own actions (for example, the lawsuits that caused the company that made “lawn darts” to take their product off the market, or the more recent boat towing toy that behaves dangerously at speeds far higher than recommended. Since someone got hurt for using the toy outside of operating parameters, the company just pulled it from the shelves).
I’m pretty sure that this recent case against In Zone Beverages and Talking Rain Beverages falls into the same category (see the AP story Beverage Makers Settle Lawsuit for more details), but if you read about the case, you can’t help wonder why the companies didn’t just reformulate their popular drinks without a lawsuit to motivate them.
The two drinks in question, BellyWashers (from In Zone) and Talking Rain, apparently have been made with a combination of chemicals that combine to form benzene, which has been linked to leukemia. These drinks aren’t targeted at teens, either, but at younger kids: “BellyWashers are juice drinks that come in reusable bottles featuring Spiderman, Hello Kitty, Scooby Doo and other well-known characters.”
Now think about this. You’re in the marketing department of these companies and you get complaints from your customers that the combination of the ingredients you use form to cause a known dangerous and poisonous chemical, benzene. Heck, a quick visit to Wikipedia would reveal that:
“The major effect of benzene from chronic (long-term) exposure is to the blood. Benzene damages the bone marrow and can cause a decrease in red blood cells, leading to anemia. It can also cause excessive bleeding and depress the immune system, increasing the chance of infection.
“Some women who breathed high levels of benzene for many months had irregular menstrual periods and a decrease in the size of their ovaries. It is not known whether benzene exposure affects the developing fetus in pregnant women or fertility in men. Animal studies have shown low birth weights, delayed bone formation, and bone marrow damage when pregnant animals breathed benzene.
“The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) classifies benzene as a human carcinogen. Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause leukemia, a potentially fatal cancer of the blood-forming organs. In particular, Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) may be caused by benzene.”
But, hey, the world’s a dangerous place and even though you market your product to the pre-teen set, the precious children of tomorrow, it’d be a hassle to change your product formulation. So you don’t.
And the parents finally get their act together and sue you for selling a dangerous product.
And still you don’t worry about it, beacuse, well, it’s doubtless a nuisance lawsuit and there’s no way a bunch of parents can win. You’re a big business, a Republican is in office, and all is good in the world.
I am glad to know that these companies are going to reformulate their beverages, but I still just don’t get why it took a lawsuit for them to take action. Giving your customers leukemia cannot possibly be good for long-term sales.
Maybe someone else can explain this to me?