According to the Government Accountability Project, Jamestown native Colin Chase, a former employee of Brothers International Food Corporation of Rochester, is accusing the food and beverage company of violating the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (aka FSMA) whistleblower provision. As a result, he’s filed a suit in federal court against the company.
Chase is the former Director of eCommerce at Brothers International’s headquarters in Rochester. In his complaint against the company, he is claiming that he was terminated in July 2012 after raising safety and health concerns regarding the re-dating and sale of expired food products. Some of them included a “Disney” line of fruit snakes marketed for toddlers.
Chase states that when alerted management of the issue, he was told that their sale would stop until “new expiration dates” were put on and to tell customers that the reason for the re-dating was that it had originally been dated for sale in Europe, even though it was known that Brothers’ products were not being sold in Europe at that time. Chase says he also inquired whether “soggy” apple products being sold were vulnerable to bacterial contamination, to which a CEO responded that the “bad” batch would continue to be sold through September 2012 and any complaining customers should receive a 50 percent off coupon toward a future purchase.
A short time after Chase initially raised concerns, Brothers began to require employees to sign non-disclosure agreements as a term of continued employment. When Chase indicated he would not sign the agreement without first meeting with his attorney, he was immediately fired and removed from the premises.
Chase’s suit claims the actions taken against him by Brothers International is a direct violation of the whistleblower protections outlined in FSMA and which was created to ensure food safety concerns are heard without fear of reprimand.
A number of similar cases have been brought forward since the legislation became law in 2011, but this is the first complaint to appear in federal court. The complaint has been filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.