Recently a non-profit by the name of As You Sow (AYS) has accused Hershey, Mars and See’s Candies of failing to label lead and cadmium content in chocolate contrary to Californian law.

AYS has sent legal notices to all three companies after testing revealed trace amounts of lead and cadmium in some of the companies’ brands. The non-profit organization claims the toxic heavy metal should have been labeled under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65). Hershey argues the source of the cadmium and lead is naturally occurring and is precluded by California regulations.

AYS is just one of a couple of dozen of organizations that have been filing lawsuits about Prop. 65 warnings since as early as 1996. And while it might not been one of the bigger players, it definitely is leaving its mark. Just a glance at their take over the past few years:

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 9.56.57 AMNot a bad haul. If you’ll pardon the pun, it’s rather a sweet deal. What is also notable about these settlements is there is also a category titled “other” or “payment in lieu of penalty” – it changes depending on the year in question. This category describes monies the defendant pays directly to the plaintiff in these cases. Between 2000 and 2008, this category totaled $2,955,101.97, and in 2012 alone it was $231,300. These funds go directly to AYS to fund its activities, or to monitor compliance.

This is yet another example of how Prop. 65 is incentivizing the abuse of our civil justice system. This is not about protecting Californians from chemicals. This is about money, plain and simple.

CALA has long documented the abuse and it is only going to continue if something is not done. What will it take to stop the abuse of Prop. 65? Governor Brown needs to step up and ensure current negotiations about how to fix Prop. 65 include measures that stop this blatant abuse of our lawsuit system.

Note that all data is from the annual Prop. 65 litigation reports published by the Office of the Attorney General