Black licorice contains a compound in licorice root that can lead to serious health issues for consumers, including abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, and congestive heart failure. Many manufacturers of black licorice products have started using a safer synthetic version of this compound. Hersey and other companies, however, refused to switch to the safer synthetic version.
Our National product liability lawyers are currently investigating product liability lawsuits against Hershey and other companies for failing to warn that their black licorice candy products may cause health problems. If you have experienced an adverse reaction to black licorice resulting in serious health consequences, contact our office today for a free consultation.
Health Risks of Black Licorice
Black licorice has been a popular candy for a very long time and is sold on its own and as a component of other confectionery products. Black licorice contains the plant compound glycyrrhizin (more commonly known as glycyrrhizic acid), which is the sweetening agent derived from licorice root.
Glycyrrhizic acid can have harmful effects on the body when consumed. This can lead to a sudden and drastic drop in potassium levels in the body and trigger dangerous imbalances in other important minerals such as sodium.
As a result of this reaction, consumption of black licorice products can lead to adverse physical reactions, including abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, edema (swelling), lethargy, and even congestive heart failure. In September 2020, the New England Medical Journal same reported that a man died of cardiac arrest after consuming black licorice.
Many black licorice candy products in the United States today avoid these dangers by using various synthetic ingredients that mimic the flavor and smell of black licorice root but do not contain glycyrrhizin and are therefore safer. Hershey, one of the largest confectionery companies in the United States, has refused to use synthetic substitutes, and all of the black licorice products (which include brands like Twizzlers and Good & Plenty) that it sells contain the dangerous compound of glycyrrhizic acid.
Health agency warnings about the risks of black licorice
In response to a growing number of documented cases and reports of serious adverse reactions to black licorice products, many public health agencies have issued warnings about the potential dangers of black licorice.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a general public warning that consuming more than 2 ounces of black licorice daily for two weeks or more could lead to serious heart problems. The FDA warning notes that this risk is especially high for people over 40 and those with certain conditions.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has taken a similar position. The WHO advises a maximum daily intake of 2 mg of black licorice due to the potentially dangerous adverse effects of glycyrrhizin.
Hershey’s failure to warn of the risks of black licorice
The Hershey Company is a leading manufacturer of black licorice candy and has refused to use safer synthetic substitutes in place of black licorice root. Despite warnings from public health agencies, Hershey has also refused to put any type of warning label on its products about the potential risks of black licorice.
Hershey has refused to warn consumers of the risks of black licorice, even though the medical community has known for years about the harmful physical effects and dangers of glycyrrhizin.
In 2013, a research group from Mercy Hospital in Chicago published a study in Endocrinology and Metabolism warning of the significant cardiovascular threat of excessive consumption of black licorice. The review cites various medical studies on the subject dating back to the 1970s.
In 2015, a case study was published in Pediatric neurology detailing the story of a 10-year-old boy who suffered seizures after eating black licorice products. The case study urged Hershey and other manufacturers to provide warnings or maximum dose recommendations on their packages.
A product liability lawsuit was filed against Hershey in 2018 by a New York man alleging that Twizzler’s consumption of black licorice caused him permanent atrial fibrillation.
Most recently, in September 2020, the New England Medical Journal reported a case where a 54-year-old Boston-area construction worker died when his heart stopped working due to an adverse reaction to black licorice.
Despite all this information about the potential risks of black licorice, Hershey continues to refuse to include any sort of warning or daily dose recommendation on its product labels. As a result, people who consume Hershey’s black licorice products may be unaware that they can trigger dangerous cardiovascular issues.
Hershey’s Black Licorice Lawsuits
In July 2021, a group of 4 people who suffered serious injuries from adverse reactions to black licorice filed a product liability lawsuit against Hershey. The lawsuit alleges Hershey was negligent for failing to provide a warning label on its products. All of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege that they suffered serious adverse cardiovascular reactions to Hershey’s black licorice that resulted in permanent injuries.
The black licorice lawsuit against Hershey could be the start of a growing trend. Hershey attempted to have the case dismissed for failure to report, but that motion was recently denied by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. This means that the case will now proceed to the civil discovery phase and the plaintiffs will present their expert testimony to establish causation.
Hershey will no doubt seek to challenge the adequacy of plaintiffs’ causation evidence in the current Black Licorice lawsuit under the Daubert Standard. If plaintiffs can present credible evidence of causation and survive a Daubert challenge, however, it will immediately open the door to further black licorice pursuits.
Contact us about a black licorice lawsuit
National product liability attorneys at Miller & Zois are currently reviewing black licorice injury cases against Hershey (and other manufacturers). If you have experienced an adverse physical reaction from consuming large amounts of black licorice, contact us and get a free online consultation.