Two Japanese firms snared in Aussie soy milk suit

AFP-JIJI

Hundreds of Australians who became sick after drinking soy milk containing dangerously high levels of iodine have widened their class-action suit to include two Japanese companies.

About 600 people became ill in Australia, many of them from thyroid problems, after consuming Bonsoy milk until the product’s withdrawal from sale in late 2009, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said late Thursday.

The case against the Australian brand owner, Spiral Foods, was originally launched in the Victorian Supreme Court in 2010 but has been widened to include manufacturer Marusan-ai Co. and exporter Muso Co., the law firm said.

“We say that these three companies had test results in mid-2006 which showed that Bonsoy contained extremely high levels of iodine, but they did nothing,” senior associate Irina Lubomirska said in a statement.

Lubomirska argued the firms had breached consumer protection laws in Australia and Japan, saying, “None of the three companies did anything to ensure that Bonsoy, which was marketed and sold as a premium health-food soy brand, was in fact safe to consume.”

The suit alleges Spiral Foods requested a reformulation of Bonsoy to include iodine-rich “kombu” (kelp) instead of adding salt, and thus the product had contained excessive iodine since mid-2003. The suit also alleges consumer iodine concerns were repeatedly dismissed.