Peet’s Coffee & Tea, a beloved San Francisco Bay Area coffee institution whose roots extend back to 1966 when it was founded by Alfred Peet—considered the grandfather of specialty coffee—in Berkeley, has announced that Joh. A Benckiser (JAB) will acquire it for approximately $1 billion. Peet’s, which has hundreds of loyal fans not only in the Bay Area but also throughout California, will continue to be privately owned and operated by the company’s current management team and employees.
But some conservationists smell a rat. That’s because Joh A. Benckiser is a stakeholder in Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC, a global leader in health, hygiene and home products, one of which is D-Con, an extremely toxic rat and mouse poison. D-Con contains brodifacoum, an anticoagulant, which kills rodents by depleting their bloodstreams of vitamin K and dehydrating them, causing them to hemorrhage to death.
Because the rodents take several days to die and search for water during the process, they are easy picking for birds of prey and other predators that are subsequently poisoned as well. According to an article in the Huffington Post, secondary poisoning by D-Con and other rat poisons has killed many hawks, eagles, foxes, bobcats and other wildlife that feeds on rodents.
The U.S, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already taken a step under its Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Art (FIFRA) toward cancelling 20 mouse and rat poison products including D-Con. The agency says that 11 of the products contain second-generation coagulants that pose serious hazards to non-target wildlife, and that all 20 poisons cause adverse effects on the environment. But until the EPA completes its administrative cancellation procedures, the products may continue to be legally sold and used. Reckitt Benckiser LLC manufactures more than ten of the products on the cancellation list.
The EPA already issued its 2008 Risk Mitigation Decision for Ten Rotenticides, concerned over the risks posed to children, pets, and non-target wildlife. This order requires sale and distribution limits to prevent general consumers from purchasing bait products containing four of ten rat poison products that pose the greatest risk to wildlife, including brodifacoum. Many other manufacturers have voluntarily complied with the EPA’s order.
According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Peet’s has stated that it has a long history of supporting the communities in which it operated and that it has faith in the EPA’s position. The company also states that it is not being acquired by Reckitt Benckiser but by JAB.
The conservation group, Rapters Are The Solution (RATS) has written an open letter to Peet’s board of directors asking them the to reconsider the pending sale to JAB. According to RATS, the EPA noted that between 199 and 2003, more than 25,000 children under the age of six suffered poisoning symptoms after being exposed to rat poison, and of them, 72 percent were exposed to brofidfacoum.
Many environmentalists including Allen Fish, director of the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, have stopped drinking Peet’s coffee in protest.