Spiral Foods and the two Japanese companies that manufactured and exported Bonsoy soy milk ignored test results of the product and multiple consumer concerns, according to class action lawyers acting for over 600 people made ill by drinking the milk.
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers has widened the claims in its class action and filed an amended statement of claim in the Victorian Supreme Court.
Maurice Blackburn, which began the case in 2010 against the Australian brand owner Spiral Foods, has now extended the claim to include the two Japanese companies that manufactured and exported the product to Australia - Marusan-ai Co Ltd (manufacturer) and Muso Co Ltd (exporter).
The statement of claim alleges that Bonsoy had excessive iodine levels since mid-2003, when Spiral Foods requested that Marusan-ai and Muso reformulate Bonsoy, using iodine-rich kombu as an alternative means of adding salt.
It is alleged that Spiral Foods, Marusan-ai and Muso did not consider the safety consequences of the reformulation, despite widely available information about potential dangers of excessive kombu consumption.
The amended statement of claim also alleges that a test in mid-2006 revealed that Bonsoy contained extremely high levels of iodine, but the three companies did not act on the test results and then dismissed repeated consumer concerns about possible iodine content of the product.
Irina Lubomirska, Maurice Blackburn Senior Associate said:
"We say that these three companies had test results in mid-2006 which showed that Bonsoy contained extremely high levels of iodine, but they did nothing. On at least three occasions they were contacted by customers expressing concerns about iodine content of Bonsoy and they did not act to ensure the product was safe. They have breached consumer protection laws in both Australia and Japan.
"There was a wealth of information available about appropriate iodine consumption. Even a five minute internet search would have revealed that the levels of iodine found by the test in 2006 were dangerously high and could cause a range of health problems. None of the three companies did anything to ensure that Bonsoy, which was marketed and sold as a premium health-food soy brand, was in fact safe to consume.
"It was not until Christmas 2009 that Bonsoy was recalled, after health authorities discovered that one glass of the product contained seven times the upper safe dose of iodine for adults. By that time the defective product had been on the market for six years and hundreds of Bonsoy consumers suffered thyroid illness as a result.
"Because the product was marketed as healthy, prior to the recall some consumers increased their Bonsoy intake when they became ill, believing that it would help them with the health problems they were experiencing," said Ms Lubomirska.
Maurice Blackburn will be seeking date for trial when the matter returns for directions hearing on 8 March, 2013.
"We will be vigorously pursuing the legal action against the three companies and are confident of proving all allegations at trial. We have been contacted by approximately 600 victims and believe there is a very good case for compensation for medical expenses and loss of income, as well as pain and suffering and other losses for many of our clients," said Ms Lubomirska.
Maurice Blackburn is conducting the Bonsoy class action case on a no-win no-fee basis. The class action is still open for people across Australia.
Bonsoy class action