Chiquita Brands International may sue a clean water advocacy group that has brought a lawsuit against the company.
Seattle-based non-profit Water and Sanitation Health Inc. (WASH) filed suit against Charlotte-based Chiquita in January in Washington State’s King County Superior Court.
The group sued Chiquita for “unfair and deceptive marketing practices” concerning Chiquita’s production of bananas in Guatemala.
The lawsuit claims that Chiquita-brand bananas purchased from the company Cobigua and sold in King County were advertised as “farmed in an ecologically friendly and sustainable manner.”
Instead, according to the suit, some of those bananas were “produced in a way that destroys natural ecosystems and contaminates the drinking water of affected communities.”
A trial date has been set for July 20.
Not only does Chiquita deny all charges, now the company says it may file a counter-suit against Water and Sanitation Health and its director, Eric Harrison.
“At this point, we are contemplating filing a claim against WASH and Eric Harrison for defamation and other torts associated with his incorrect statements,” said company spokesman Ed Loyd.
Loyd said the company has tried to communicate with Harrison but has been rebuffed.
“We have already reached out to Mr. Harrison to mediate the situation, and have underscored multiple times that his understanding is wrong.
Our invitations have gone unanswered.”
Loyd said Chiquita collaborates with the Rainforest Alliance and many other organizations to ensure that its environmental footprint is as small, its safety practices as advanced and its social and labor standards as fair-minded as possible.
In its answer to Water and Sanitation Health’s complaint, Chiquita not only denied all charges but argued that such a case should be heard in Nicaragua, not King County.
To many of the non-profit’s claims, Chiquita says the company “is without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the allegation and therefore denies the same.”
In responses to some claims, Chiquita also says that “in addition the allegation is immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous.”