Consumer Group Sues Ben & Jerry’s Over Misleading Environmental Practice Claims

Consumer Group Sues Ben & Jerry's Over Misleading Environmental Practice Claims
image via Ben & Jerry’s/Instagram

A lawsuit was filed against Ben & Jerry’s Tuesday, alleging the Vermont-based ice cream company has been misleading consumers about its environmental practices. The suit, which was filed in the District of Columbia Superior Court by the Organic Consumers Association, claims that Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s parent company, used advertising to falsely claim that the company is “committed to a clean environment and high animal welfare standards,” reports Vermont Public Radio.

The nonprofit alleges that, on the contrary, farms supplying Ben & Jerry’s are polluting Lakes Champlain and Carmi. The suit also claims that the company’s ice cream is made with milk that could contain glyphosate, an herbicide sold by Monsanto under the brand name Roundup.

“Unilever is building on Ben & Jerry’s reputation as an environmentally responsible company to deceive consumers into believing that the products are made with humane and environmentally responsible practices,” reads the complaint.

“Their advertising is clearly intended to create the perception that this is a company that cares deeply about animal welfare, the environment and climate change,” Katherine Paul, associate director of the OCA, told Spokesman. “We felt it was important to expose them for what they’re actually doing to the environment.”

The Ben & Jerry’s website notes that its milk is sourced from “Caring Dairy” farms, which, the company explains, practice animal welfare monitoring and high standards for farms and farm workers. The suit, however, alleges that less than 25 percent of the suppliers of the cooperative in St. Albans City, Vermont where the company sources its milk comes from farms with Caring Dairy standards and, further, that the co-op does not separate milk according to source farm.

Ben & Jerry’s has not responded to the allegations; a spokeswoman told the Seattle Times that the company has a policy of not commenting on lawsuits. The company has, however, made recent announcements with regards to cleaning up its milk supply. Last October, after traces of glyphosate were found in some of the company’s products, Ben & Jerry’s pledged to cut all glyphosate-tainted ingredients from its supply chain.

“As we have been evaluating our current dairy supply chain, and while we have worked diligently over the past 7 years to improve farm practices, we fully acknowledge that it is not where we would want it to be,” the company said in a statement.

The company totaled $801 million in sales last year, making it the second largest ice cream brand in the United States, Euromonitor reports.

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Emily Monaco
Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.