A pair of lawsuits filed against Starbucks accuse the coffee giant of exposing customers to a dangerous pesticide at several New York City locations.
The suits, filed in state court in Manhattan and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Tuesday, allege that Starbucks knowingly used 2,2-dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate, or DDVP, in its stores.
According to the suit, the toxin is "highly poisonous and completely unfit for use in proximity to food, beverages and people," and is released into the air from "No-Pest strips." Starbucks allegedly used these strips in several stores throughout Manhattan over the last several years.
The suit alleges that "Starbucks purports to have a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for the use of DDVP during its supply chain process, including for use by the farmers and producers from which it sources its beans. Incredibly, however, Starbucks does not follow such strict standards when it comes to the use of this toxic chemical in its stores, where it directly comes into contact with the Company’s customers and contaminates the food and/or drinks that they consume."
According to the state suit, exposure to DVVP can result in several symptoms, including the loss of bladder control, muscle tremors, labored breathing, nausea, anxiety and diarrhea.
A Starbucks spokeswoman said as soon as the coffee chain heard about the strips being used, they instructed all local management to remove them and they have since been taken out. She added that a third party health expert determined the strips posed no health risk, but declined to name that expert.
"This lawsuit really lacks merit for a number of reasons, and it’s very much an attempt by the plaintiffs and their attorneys to incite fear for financial gain, because we’re confident that no customers or [employees] have been put at risk," the spokeswoman fsaid.
In one of the lawsuits filed in federal court on Tuesday, a former employee alleged he was fired after he complained about the "misuse of a toxic airborne insecticide" in a store.
"Starbucks absolutely does not take action or retaliate against a partner who voices a concern, especially a health concern," the spokeswoman said about the charge, adding it was "totally baseless."