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Fired LaCroix employee sues beverage brand owner over BPA chemical claim

  • A former employee of LaCroix is suing the beverage brand's parent company for allegedly firing him in retaliation for refusing to cover up that some of the company's sparkling water containers had liners with a chemical known as BPA.
  • In a lawsuit, Albert Dejweski said he objected to a plan by the president of LaCroix-owner National Beverage Corp. to make a false claim that its popular sparkling water is free of BPA, or Bisphenol A.

A former LaCroix employee has filed a lawsuit against the sparkling beverage brand's parent company, National Beverage Corp., alleging its president intended to falsely claim that its sparkling water cans contained no traces of a chemical known as Bisphenol A, or BPA. 

Albert Dejewski, a former vice president at the company, alleges that he objected in April to a plan by National Beverage President Joseph Caporella to make the alleged false claim and that he was fired in retaliation the next day, according to the suit, filed Thursday in Passaic Superior Court in New Jersey. The suit also claims that Caporella threatened Dejewski over email before firing him over the phone on April 11.

In response to the suit, National Beverage Corp. said that it began converting to BPA-free can liners two years ago and that since April, all LaCroix beverages have been produced using BPA-free cans. It also said the FDA found the liners to be safe. 

"The FDA has stated BPA liners are safe and pose no risk at the trace levels found from its use in can linings of food and beverage product," National Beverage Corp. said in a statement emailed to CBS MoneyWatch.

The company also denied Dejewski's claims. "False statements were made in litigation brought by a former employee seeking to extract a monetary recovery from the company. We intend to vigorously defend our company and our brands against false claims brought by this disgruntled former employee," it said in the statement. 

Dejewski noted in his lawsuit there are differing views of BPA's safety: "Some states, like California, have classified BPA as a toxic chemical that could cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, although the Food and Drug Administration has stated that BPA is safe at the current levels occurring in foods. Regardless ... LaCroix decided to start using new cans that were BPA-free to avoid any controversy." 

Dejewski began working for the Florida-based company in April 2018, the suit says. About a month later, he objected to Caporella's plans to "prematurely announce that the LaCroix cans would be BPA-free going forward, months before the true production date, in order to drive positive buzz and awareness for the suffering brand," according to the complaint. 

The suit claims LaCroix was between four to six months away from fully converting to BPA-free cans when Caporella planned to make the announcement. Dejewski claims he was fired despite only having received "positive performance feedback" and being praised for his "exemplary" work.

The lawsuit seeks damages due to lost salary and benefits in addition to pain, suffering, emotional distress and humiliation. 

National Beverage drew attention last year for allegedly using artificial ingredients while claiming LaCroix is "all natural."

Editor's note: This story was updated to make clearer that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has deemed BPA safe at its current levels in food packaging.