Bakery supplier denies allegations of falsified safety tests

by Eric Schroeder
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Orange Bakery croissants
Orange Bakery supplies raw frozen dough, pre-proofed frozen dough and baked products to major retailers and food service distributors.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Orange Bakery, Inc., an Irvine, Calif.-based supplier of raw frozen dough, pre-proofed frozen dough and baked products to major retailers and food service distributors such as Whole Foods Market, Sam’s Club, Kroger and US Foods, has denied allegations that the company “knowingly and intentionally put at risk the lives, health and well-being of thousands of consumers.”

In an Aug. 15 filing with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Charlotte Division, Orange Bakery filed for a motion to dismiss an earlier lawsuit filed by plaintiffs Chris Herr and Lisa Soler.

In the lawsuit filed on May 19, Mr. Herr, a salesperson for Orange Bakery, and Ms. Soler, a former SQF practitioner and quality control employee at Orange Bakery, alleged that Orange Bakery has been manufacturing and selling food products without conducting the required safety testing for bacteria such as E. coli and Listeria.

“To cover up their outrageous conduct, defendants created forged testing documentation and have knowingly and repeatedly lied to auditors/investigators from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Safe Quality Food Institute,” Mr. Herr and Ms. Soler stated in their May 19 filing. “Despite being given every opportunity to comply with the law, defendants continued their scheme of selling potentially tainted food products knowing that those products were intended to be consumed by the public.”

The plaintiffs said in the lawsuit that they are in possession of forged testing documents that they claim Orange Bakery created to make it appear as though Silliker Laboratories, an independent testing laboratory, was conducting safety testing on the defendant’s products.

The plaintiffs also claim in their suit that following their protest of the alleged violations, Mr. Herr’s compensation was reduced and Ms. Soler was physically assaulted, resulting in her resigning her employment from the company.

In its Aug. 15 filing, Orange Bakery not only denied the allegations put forth by Mr. Herr and Ms. Soler, the company filed a counterclaim, saying Mr. Herr possesses Orange Bakery property, including confidential customer information and documents, which they demand he return. The company also requested that the judge pursue gag orders on Mr. Herr, his attorney and anyone acting on his behalf.

“Herr had and continues to have the opportunity to access the confidential customer information in his role as a salesperson with Orange Bakery,” the company noted in its filing. “Herr has accessed the confidential customer information, including information that he has no need to access in the course and scope of his employment, during his employment with Orange Bakery. Herr maliciously and willfully acquired the confidential customer information in quantity and scope that he is not authorized to possess for fulfillment of his job duties. Orange Bakery did not grant Herr permission to access or utilize the confidential customer information for any purpose related to this litigation. Herr used improper means to convert to tangible form and acquire the confidential customer information.”

Orange Bakery also claims that Mr. Herr’s “malicious and willful threats were made for an improper, immoral and illegal purpose, specifically to blackmail the company into settling his lawsuit and to defame Orange Bakery.”

The company is demanding that Mr. Herr not only be ordered to return all of the company’s confidential information, but that he be ordered to pay actual or compensatory damages.

Founded in 1978, Orange Bakery operates three manufacturing locations in California and one in North Carolina.  
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