For five years, until late 2016, EFCO Products Inc. was satisfied with the Lemon Peel #7 from Vita-Pakt Citrus Products Co.
The businesses were a good match. EFCO, based in Poughkeepsie, makes bakery products for the global market. Vita-Pakt, based in Covina, California, supplies citrus ingredients.
But a 2016 shipment of Lemon Peel #7, according to a lawsuit filed in White Plains federal court, was “thoroughly contaminated by the presence of an excessive amount of marketing labels and fragments thereof.”
EFCO is claiming breach of contract, breach of implied warranty and unjust enrichment. Vita-Pakt has denied the allegation in a court filing.
EFCO – the Effron family – has been selling bakery products in the Hudson Valley for more than a hundred years, according to its website, beginning with flour delivered by horse-drawn cart. Steven L. Effron is president and CEO, Jack and Ira Effron are co-chairmen and Mike Effron is the sales manager.
The business has expanded well beyond bags of flour. Today, the company sells 10- to 50-pound pails of bakery fillings and mixes, specialty toppings and beverage syrups. Products include lemon-concentrated icing fruit and crème-style fillings branded as Golden Lemon, Lemon Crème, Paradise Lemon and Ultimate Lemon.
Customers include wholesale and retail bakeries, chain restaurants and frozen food manufacturers.
EFCO screens suppliers, according to its website, tests ingredients and samples every batch it makes to ensure the safety of its products.
Vita-Pakt was founded in 1947, according to its website, and was one of California’s first fresh orange juice companies. Now it supplies industrial citrus ingredients, including frozen, shredded Lemon Peel #7.
The company cites certifications of its facilities by the Global Food Safety Initiative.
“Our unique set of standards assures that not only are our products safe,” the website states, “but that they exceed the expectations of the global marketplace.”
EFCO initially filed the lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Dutchess County in April. The case was transferred to federal court on June 8, at the behest of Vita-Pakt.
EFCO claims that the November 2016 shipment of Lemon Peel #7 was so contaminated that it was unusable and that the company had to spend a lot of money on salvaging a portion of the shipment and on compensating customers who bought lemon products.
It is demanding $109,913 in damages.
Any alterations to Lemon Peel #7 happened after the shipment left its possession and control, Vita-Pakt says in its answer to the complaint, and “damages, if any, were the result of the sole negligence or conduct” of EFCO.