Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is the latest example of the online retailer’s ability to exert pressure on companies it considers too large to survive.
The retail giant, which is also a member of Whole Amazon, agreed to pay more than $200.3 million to resolve a class action lawsuit that alleges the online grocery giant failed to protect its customers and consumers from a widespread outbreak of botulism linked to the food chain.
The lawsuit filed in California and U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleged Amazon failed to prevent the botulisms from spreading by providing adequate supplies, including adequate labeling.
The botulistic disease caused millions of people in California, including many children, to lose weight and to become severely dehydrated.
Whole Foods, which sells more than 70 percent of all U.K. groceries, is part of Amazon’s online grocery business.
A spokesman for Whole Foods declined to comment on the settlement.
The company said it has already reached a settlement with Whole Foods over the botulinum toxin, which was linked to more than 100,000 deaths and more than 60,000 hospitalizations.
Whole Food, which also owns Target, Best Buy and other grocery stores, paid $3.4 billion to settle similar allegations in January 2018.
Amazon has long been a target of antitrust scrutiny, with the Federal Trade Commission accusing the online retail giant of buying rival Amazon Prime and other online businesses to gain a competitive edge in the market.
The suit said Whole Foods violated antitrust laws by paying Amazon to acquire Whole Foods and other retailers.
“This settlement sends a clear message to Amazon and its competitors that we will not be intimidated by their threats to silence competition or stifle competition in the marketplace,” said Jessica Richman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
“Our goal is to ensure that Amazon does not have the power to block or stymie innovation.”
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The deal was announced Monday, but it was not immediately clear if the company will continue to pay Whole Foods for services it provided.
A federal appeals court in California sided with Whole Food in 2018 and said the company’s failure to provide adequate food safety and nutrition information was a violation of the federal Fair Food and Competition Act.
The ruling came in a case that was filed by the California Public Utilities Commission, which had sought to block Amazon’s takeover.
The California court ruling found that the company failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent botulions from spreading and that Whole Foods had a duty to ensure the safety of its customers.