Supermarket giant Kroger has been sued for allegedly selling wheat bread containing high levels of a Proposition 65 carcinogen without a warning on the packaging, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on August 22.
The lawsuit, filed by citizen enforcer Jesse Garrett alleges that the wheat bread sold by Kroger markets contains high levels of urethane (CAS No. 51-79-6) also known as ethyl carbamate—a Proposition 65 carcinogen that has been listed under the statute since January 1988.
Garrett has previously filed several Proposition 65 enforcement actions on restaurants, bars and various breweries for failures to warn about the harmful reproductive effects of alcoholic beverages. The complaint against Kroger, is Garret’s first lawsuit naming a food product. Garret recently filed a pair of 60-day notices on Los Angeles-based Bimbo Bakeries that contain similar allegations about certain white bread products.
The primary commercial use of urethane is as a chemical intermediate in amino resins. These resins impart wash-and-wear properties to textiles. Urethane is also used as a solubilizer and co-solvent in the manufacture of pesticides, fumigants and cosmetics. Urethane is sometimes used as an intermediate in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and in biochemical research.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, some 200 studies have shown urethane causes cancer in animals. Urethane was listed by the National Toxicology Program as “Reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” in the 12th Report on Carcinogens in 2011.
While urethane is not specifically used in baking, it is a known breakdown product of azodicarb-onamide, sometimes referred to as the “yoga mat chemical,” which Subway removed from its breads earlier this year. A controlled baking study recently conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found urethane content in bread made with azodicarbonamide is about twice the level of bread without the chemical. However, toasting bread has been found to elevate urethane levels by approximately 2 to 3 times the level of un-toasted bread.
Garret’s complaint calls for Kroger to provide clear and reasonable Proposition 65 warnings on the product’s packaging or to enjoin Kroger from selling the wheat bread products in California.
Jesse Garret is represented by the Pasadena based Custodio & Dubey LLP, which represents several other Proposition 65 citizen enforcers.
The case cited by this article is: Garret v. The Kroger Company (Los Angeles Sup. Ct.. Case No. BC555670).