Bonsoy soy milk class action reaches $25 million payout settlement
Class action against soy milk brand Bonsoy has reached a proposed settlement of $25 million, with hundreds of Australians allegedly poisoned by soy milk set to share in what is believed to be Australia’s biggest food safety payout.
Around 500 people alleged they had suffered health problems caused by dangerously high iodine levels in Bonsoy milk between 2004 and 2009. It was alleged that Spiral Foods, which produces Bonsoy, had reformulated the milk in August 2003, with pure kombu (seaweed) being substituted for the kombu powder that was previously used in the product. The Plaintiff alleged that this had the effect of increasing the level of iodine in Bonsoy.
On 24 December 2009 Spiral Foods voluntarily recalled Bonsoy nationally.
The Plaintiff claimed that the First Defendant’s conduct was negligent and in breach of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth), the Food Act 1984 (Vic) and the Australia and New Zealand Food Standards Code. The Plaintiff also claimed that the Second and Third Defendants were negligent and in breach of Japanese law.
The Bonsoy class action was conducted by law firm Maurice Blackburn in the Supreme Court of Victoria on behalf of all people around Australia who were affected by Bonsoy soy milk.
Maurice Blackburn principal Jacob Varghese said the changes to the soy milk had caused problems with the thyroid gland, which regulates hormones that control metabolism.
One of the Plaintiffs, Erin Downie from the Dandenong Ranges said she was lactose-intolerant, and told ABC news that she had increased her intake of Bonsoy while breastfeeding her daughter Mirakye because she was told it would be good for her. Ms Downie said the effects of drinking the milk included hair loss, bleeding gums, and weak muscles.
The Australian distributor and brand owner, Spiral Foods, and Japanese companies Muso and Marusan Ai-Co agreed to the settlement without admitting liability.
It was lodged in the Supreme Court for approval, with victims expected to begin receiving payouts within six months.
Mr Varghese said it was a warning to all food producers.