Dole “misrepresents reality” in its marketing materials and fails to disclose that its production methods “expropriate and contaminate water supplies, destroy wetlands, cause flooding, destroy the crops of local communities, and cause illnesses in children,” a new lasuit against the banana manufacturer alleges.

California resident Clayton Laderer filed a putative class action complaint against the company claiming violations of California’s false advertising and consumer protection laws. Laderer believed that Dole farmed in an “ecologically friendly and otherwise sustainable manner,” and therefore purchased Dole bananas on a “regular basis.”

Laderer contends that Dole repeatedly “promised” consumers that it had an “unwavering commitment” to environmental responsibility and “strives to be a responsible corporate citizen in all of the countries” in which it operates, the complaint contends.

But despite these assurances, the company purchased almost 300 million pounds of bananas from a Guatemalan plantation that constructed dams to protect its products. The dams caused severe flooding to nearby communities, ruining their harvests and causing significant economic loss, Laderer says.

In addition, the suit alleges that when the plantation fumigates and spreads various fungicides on its banana fields on a weekly basis, these toxic chemicals have caused the children of the nearby communities to suffer nausea, dizziness, and other health problems. “The drinking water of the communities today has levels of nitrites, nitrates, and sulfates that are ten times the maximum level recommended by the World Health Organization.”

“Dole assures potential customers that its ‘independent growers’ meet its standards. Dole promises that ‘if an independent grower fails to comply [with Dole’s requirements], then it is the responsibility of [Dole’s] management to intervene immediately so that product quality and environmental protection are maintained.” According to the complaint, “Dole nowhere discloses that methods used to product its bananas expropriate and contaminate water supplies, destroy wetlands, cause flooding, destroy the crops of local communities, and cause illnesses in children.”

The suit – which notes that various governmental and environmental groups have confirmed the actions of the plantation – seeks to certify a nationwide class of consumers who seek actual, compensatory, and exemplary damages, as well as restitution of all monies paid to Dole.

To read the complaint in Laderer v. Dole Food Co., click here.

Why it matters: Dole has previously faced suits regarding its actions in Central America, including dozens of suits brought by residents of Nicaragua claiming that they were injured by pesticides used on a company plantation. But this false advertising suit follows the trend of “greenwashing” suits being filed by plaintiffs who claim they have relied upon companies’ environmental marketing.