Wm. Bolthouse Farms Inc. and two of its insurance carriers have filed suit claiming carrots washed with an Ecolab Inc. product decreased shelf life, resulting in $20 million in losses, with another $30 million expected.

Bolthouse files multi-million dollar suit against Ecolab

The suit, filed Dec. 9 in federal district court in Fresno, Calif., charges that St. Paul, Minn.-based Ecolab knew, or should have known, that its Tsunami 100 food sanitizer would decrease the shelf life of carrots treated with the product.

The insurers, Houston Casualty Co., Houston, and Liberty Surplus Insurance Corp., Boston, have paid Bolthouse $9 million for its losses, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to order Ecolab to pay for losses of more than $50 million, punitive damages and other fees.

A representative and attorney for Bakersfield, Calif.-based Bolthouse did not return requests for comment.

“It’s our policy not to comment on pending litigation,” said Mike Monahan, senior vice president of external relations at Ecolab. “I can add that we stand behind the performance claims of all Ecolab products, including Tsunami, when used correctly.”

According to the suit, Bolthouse switched from using chlorine dioxide to Tsunami 100 to kill microorganisms at one processing location after Ecolab representatives said that though Tsunami 100 was more expensive, its superior performance would extend the carrots’ shelf life nearly fivefold. However, research by scientists including Ecolab employees had found years earlier that a key ingredient in Tsunami 100 was not as effective as other chemicals in killing yeasts and molds, according to the complaint.

Bolthouse began using Tsunami 100 in 2007, but it was in 2009 that problems with carrots shipped to retailers began to develop.

Due to rapid decomposition of the carrots, the suit said Bolthouse was forced to remove the vegetables from shelves and to issue credits to retailers. The spoilage was “so widespread and severe that Bolthouse’s hard-earned reputation as a supplier of quality carrots was severely damaged,” the suit said.