The Swiss food giant, Nestlé, has described as "frivolous" a United States lawsuit claiming its chocolate products are dangerous.
The American Environmental Safety Institute filed its lawsuit against Nestlé and other chocolate makers on Wednesday. It claimed these companies - which control 80 per cent of the US market - are exposing their customers, especially children, to potentially dangerous levels of lead and cadmium.
A spokesman for the Swiss multinational, François-Xavier Perroud, said the company intended to defend itself against what it called "frivolous allegations".
Perroud added that Nestlé's chocolate products are perfectly safe according to the US Food and Drug Administration and other US food safety experts. "In fact, the California state attorney said the claims of the plaintiff lack merit."
Nestlé's spokesman did note, however, that small levels of lead and cadmium were found naturally in chocolate. The differences in the levels found vary according to the quality of soil in which cocoa plants grow, he said.
Perroud also attacked the plaintiff's credibility. "The American Environmental Safety Institute has no scientific competence of any sort," he said.
The institute claimed it carried out its research under the supervision of an outside counsel. It said the results show that the levels of lead and cadmium in chocolate posed "a clear and present danger" to children's health.
Because of the alleged risk involved, the institute has demanded in its suit filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court that health warnings be posted on products.
swissinfo with agencies