Thu, Apr 28, 2022 4:04 PM
By By Merrilee Gasser The Center Square contributor, The Center Square
(The Center Square) - A lawsuit filed by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge accuses Family Dollar and its parent company, Dollar Tree Inc., of selling products they knew were potentially contaminated by a rodent infestation at a distribution facility in West Memphis, Arkansas.
The lawsuit seeks punitive damages, restitution and civil penalties under the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA). According to the attorney general’s office, each violation is subject to a fine of up to $10,000.
Rutledge says evidence shows the company knew about the rodent infestation as early as January 2020, and internal records revealed the company collected more than 2,300 rodents at the facility between March and September 2021.
Health inspectors didn’t learn of the infestation until the Department of Health inspected the distribution center in March 2021, Rutledge said. A month later, inspectors reported effective measures were not being taken to stop the rodent infestation.
More than 1,100 dead rodents were recovered from the warehouse after fumigation in January this year, the attorney general said.
The Food and Drug Administration began its investigation of the West Memphis distribution center at the beginning of 2022 and issued a safety alert in February. Live rodents, dead rodents in various states of decay, rodent feces and urine, dead birds and bird droppings and products stored in conditions that did not protect them against contamination were found at the facility, according to the FDA alert.
The attorney general called the conditions “repulsive” and said some of the products that were subject to direct exposure included mixed nuts, boxed potatoes, flour, boxed rice and pasta, popcorn, pet foods and over-the-counter medications.
“Unfortunately, even after Family Dollar and this warehouse knew they had this rat infestation, they continued to distribute products out of this West Memphis location,” Rutledge said. “They made profits off of their sales. Their actions put hundreds of their own employees at risk as well as families across Arkansas being put at risk for their own health and safety.”
Rutledge said more than 85 Family Dollar locations in Arkansas shut down because of the infestation, as well as 400 locations in six southern states, including Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.
“In many rural communities in Arkansas, families rely on discount stores like Family Dollar for essential products such as food, medicine or pet food,” Rutledge said. “Family Dollar has had knowledge of this dangerous and massive rodent infestation for over two years, yet they continued to sell and profit from potentially contaminated goods. Consumers lost money and could have lost their lives.”