A Leavenworth company is facing a lawsuit from Nestlé after a sifter manufactured by the company allegedly contaminated flour and led to a national recall of more than 2 million cases of cookie dough.
Nestlé USA Inc. filed the suit in the U.S. District Court of Kansas this week. The lawsuit alleges that Great Western Manufacturing Co. should have known the sifter was unsafe for use and should not have sold the sifter to Nestlé. Nestlé is seeking damages for the recall.
Paul Van Camp, the director of sales and marketing at Great Western Manufacturing, said the company does not comment on pending litigation. Nestlé did not respond to a request for comment.
Nestlé used the sifter in a factory in Danville, Virginia, where the company manufactures Toll House ready-to-bake refrigerated cookie dough products. A technician installed the sifter in the Nestlé factory on behalf of Great Western in 2012, and in September 2019, consumers began reporting rubber pieces in certain cookie dough products produced in July and August 2019. Nestlé found the cause of the contamination was the industrial hose within the sifter.
Sifters such as the one supplied by Great Western are a quality assurance step that Nestlé used to remove impurities from products, but the lawsuit said that because the contamination happened within the sifter, there was no way for Nestlé to know or remove the rubber.
In late October 2019, Nestlé issued a voluntary nationwide recall of 2.25 million cases of the product. The suit notes that the recall was covered extensively by local and national news outlets. Damages sought by Nestlé include costs for the inventory it had to restore, refunds it had to issue customers and additional expenses the company incurred in restoring its cookie dough inventory.
Nestlé called the sifter “defective and unreasonably dangerous” in the suit and said that the rubber ended up in the product because the hose delaminated, a defect that would have existed at the time Great Western sold the sifter.
“Delamination is not a normal or common failure mode for hoses within a sifter such as the Great Western Sifter,” the suit said. “X-rays and magnets in manufacturing production lines likely cannot detect rubber pieces, and those pieces can be a hazard to consumers, particularly when, as occurred here, the rubber pieces are similar in color to the food products.”
Nestlé said that the installation did not adhere to the contacts and warranties between the two companies and there was no way for Nestlé to have known about the defect. Nestlé sent a letter notifying Great Western of the issue and the recall and informing the company it responsible for those losses. Great Western has not paid Nestlé any portion of its damages, nor has Great Western agreed to indemnify Nestlé.
Nestlé is seeking monetary damages as well as attorney’s fees, and an agreement that Great Western must indemnify Nestlé on all claims resulting from the sifter and the recall. Nestlé is also seeking a jury trial for the case.
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