Starbucks Corp. is facing two lawsuits alleging that the company exposed its customers and staff in New York City to a poisonous — and potentially lethal — pesticide toxin.
In a case filed May 21 at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, a former store manager claims he was abruptly fired in 2018 after he complained about the misuse of an airborne pesticide in a Starbucks store. The court on May 22 asked Starbucks to respond to the lawsuit within 21 days.
The other case, a class-action suit also filed on the same day in Manhattan, states that 10 Starbucks customers were exposed to the pesticide in multiple New York City stores over a three-year period, USA Today reported.
Dichlorvos, or DDVP, is a clear, odorless airborne toxin released by Hot Shot No-Pest Strip, a pesticide brand made by Spectrum Brands Holdings Inc. According to the lawsuits, Starbucks uses the strips to keep its stores free from cockroaches and other pests, but the chemical is harmful to humans. The strips must not be used in places where there are people, as well as in kitchens, restaurants and food preparation areas.
Exposure to DDVP may cause muscle cramps, nausea and breathing difficulties, among other symptoms, according to Hot Shot No-Pest Strip and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Extreme exposure to the chemical may even lead to death.
Both lawsuits submitted photos showing DDVP strips placed near bagels, food preparation equipment and air vents.
The lawsuits also claimed that Starbucks terminated the contract of a pest control technician and his supervisor in June 2018 in an attempt to silence the technician's multiple reports and complaints regarding the misuse of the strips from 2016 to 2018.
A Starbucks spokesperson told S&P Global Market Intelligence in an email that the lawsuits "lack merit and are an attempt to incite public fear for their own financial gain."
He confirmed that all the products in question have been removed, saying Starbucks immediately instructed local leadership to remove them upon hearing reports that employees had used a product that violated company guidelines.
The spokesperson added that they consulted with experts who concluded that based on how the strips were used in stores, employees and customers were not exposed to health risks.
Spectrum Brands did not immediately respond to requests for comment from S&P Global Market Intelligence.