Hershey Company sued over black licorice products; legal experts weigh in

Hershey’s is pushing back on allegations that eating too much of its black licorice candy causes serious heart and health issues as the company is now being sued over a lack of warning labels on some products.

Sweets are generally best consumed in moderation, but a new lawsuit against The Hershey Company may have Americans thinking twice before they reach for black licorice products like Twizzlers or Good & Plenty.

“The four plaintiffs in the case contend that consuming the candies in question left them with severe and lasting health problems, heart ailments in particular. One plaintiff claims she actually died in the hospital but was revived,” according to a PennLive report.

“Fox News at Night” anchor Shannon Bream covered the bizarre story and had two legal experts weigh in on the Friday show.

“The only way to have a negative health impact, even according to the lawsuit itself is to be eating as much as two ounces a day for two weeks. That is in no way, shape, or form the intended amount of licorice that anyone should be eating,” civil rights attorney Robert Patillo told Bream, “Not to mention, these people, the plaintiffs, had pre-existing health conditions, so it’s going to be almost impossible to isolate exactly what is causing these negative health maladies.”

The problem with Hershey’s licorice, according to the complaint filed by attorney Walter T. Grabowski, is a sweetening compound naturally found in black licorice called glycyrrhizic acid. Hershey’s uses this acid, derived directly from the licorice root, in their manufacturing process, while other candy manufacturers prefer to use synthetic sweeteners as a safer alternative.

“Under Pennsylvania law, this is a strict product liability case and what that means is negligence is not going to be considered,” attorney Sarah Goudner countered during Bream’s show. “So it is enough that there was no warning label here, that the injuries were caused by that lack of warning label and that the actual hurt behind it was great than a reasonable person would have imagined.”

The Hershey Company can’t comment on pending litigation, but their spokesman Jeff Beckman did offer the following statement: “All of our products are safe to eat and formulated in full compliance with FDA regulations, including the agency’s regulation affirming the safety of licorice extract for use in food.”

While Hershey may be in compliance with FDA regulations, the FDA also warns:

 “If you’re 40 or older, eating 2 ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks could land you in the hospital with an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia. When that happens, some people experience abnormal heart rhythms, as well as high blood pressure, edema (swelling), lethargy, and congestive heart failure. No matter what your age, don’t eat large amounts of black licorice at one time.”

 

The plaintiffs argue in their suit that without warning labels, Hershey’s black licorice products are “defective”. “Had there been an adequate warning on the black licorice products, plaintiffs would have heeded the warning,” the suit states.

Advocates for common sense disagree with the plaintiffs’ argument.

“These people were using licorice to treat medical conditions like heart irregularities and diabetes. Licorice is not medicine so I think if they were using it for its proper purposes they would not have had these problems and I think because of this the court will probably throw this case out, ” Patillo said on the outlook of the case.

“How many warning labels do people expect on food? So you have to instruct people to chew the licorice before you eat it, do not stick it up your nose, do not use it as a jump rope. You can’t expect corporations to guard against any misuse of their product,” Patillo maintains.

“It doesn’t take a legal expert here for me to tell you that black licorice is awful, it’s the worst,” attorney Sarah Goudner joked.

Many took to Twitter after the segment to defend their love for the controversial candy:

Kay Apfel

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