Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


Three food bank programs awarded money from antitrust settlement with vitamins companies

SEATTLE – Attorney General Rob McKenna handed out an early holiday gift of nearly $570,000 in assistance for Washington food bank programs today.

“A wholesome holiday meal is something people often take for granted but 1.6 million Washington residents, including many children and elderly adults, rely on food banks,” McKenna said. “Today, I’m thankful to be able to provide money from our settlement with vitamins companies to help community food programs in their mission to fight hunger.”

McKenna is sending checks for almost $190,000 each to three area hunger relief programs: Northwest HarvestFood Lifeline and Second Harvest.

“The need for food is at an all-time high throughout the state,” said Northwest Harvest Executive Director Shelley Rotondo. “Client need is up 35 percent since the recession. This check for nearly $190,000 will provide more than 860,000 meals for our neighbors in need. We are tremendously grateful."

The money comes from a $25 million multistate settlement with companies that banded together to fix prices on vitamins between 1988 and 2000. McKenna and 21 other attorneys general reached the settlement in December 2009 but funds were only recently allocated to the states. Court approval of a specific plan was required.


The Attorney General’s Office selected the following organizations to receive grants.

  • Northwest Harvest, Seattle: Northwest Harvest secured more than 24 million pounds of food last year for distribution to more than 300 food banks, hot meal programs and high-need elementary schools across Washington. The organization, founded in 1967, supplies free food to partner programs throughout the state that provide 640,000 food services each month in their communities. More than half of those served are children and the elderly. Its Cherry Street Food Bank in downtown Seattle is one of the busiest in the state, at times serving more than 2,000 people per day.
  • Food Lifeline, Shoreline: For more than 30 years, Food Lifeline has worked to feed hungry people throughout Western Washington. The organization provides food to more than 686,000 people through a network of nearly 300 local food banks, meal programs and shelters. Last year, Food Lifeline distributed more than 31 million pounds of food – the equivalent of 24 million meals – to hungry people. A $1 donation to Food Lifeline is enough to provide a full day of nutritious meals to a hungry person.
  • Second Harvest, Spokane: Second Harvest distributes more than 1.5 million pounds of donated food each month to help people in 21 counties in Eastern Washington and five counties in North Idaho. The organization was founded in 1971 and has grown into a streamlined warehouse operation, partnering with 250 neighborhood food banks and meal centers. Forty percent of clients are children and 10 percent are seniors.


The money comes from an antitrust settlement with the following companies: Akzo Nobel Inc.; Bioproducts Incorporated, Mitsui & Co., Ltd. and Mitsui & Co. (U.S.A.), Inc.; Chinook Global Limited and Chinook Group, Inc.; Evonik Degussa GmbH, successor to Degussa AG, and Evonik Degussa Corporation; Lonza AG; Merck KGaA, E. Merck and EM Industries, Inc.; Nepera, Inc.; Sumitomo Chemical America, Inc. and Sumitomo Chemical Co., Ltd.; Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corporation and Tanabe U.S.A., Inc.; UCB Pharma, Inc.; and, Vertellus Specialties Inc. and Vertellus Chemicals SA.

The companies are accused of artificially raising prices on vitamin products sold worldwide. Many of the defendants also pled guilty to federal criminal charges.

The case was filed in filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, DC. Attorneys general secured this settlement in conjunction with a class-action lawsuit, Richardson et al. v. Akzo Nobel Inc. et al.

Attorneys general for Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and the following states participated in the settlement: Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The settlement states that the funds must be used to improve the health and/or nutrition of the citizens of the state and/or the advancement of nutritional, dietary or agricultural science.
The attorneys general reached a related $255 million settlement in 2000 with other vitamin manufacturers. The Washington Attorney General’s Office distributed funds from the earlier settlement to 29 charities.

McKenna thanked Deputy Attorney General Tina Kondo, assistant attorney general David Kerwin and staffers Diane Campbell, Radha Kerzan, Kimberly Hitchcock and Dale Eastman for their work on the latest vitamins case.


Consent Decree


According to the Washington State Department of Agriculture:

  • In 2010, 1.6 million individuals in more than 500,000 families received emergency food assistance offered by food banks and meal programs in Washington. Of those, 39 percent were children 18 and younger and 12 percent were 55 and older. 
  • The most recent USDA Household Food Security report shows that 14 percent of Washington households were “food insecure” compared to 10.3 percent three years ago. These families were at times unable to acquire enough food or unsure they would be able to acquire enough food.
  • Overall usage at emergency food providers has increased more than 30 percent in the last three years and in some areas, it has increased that much in just the last year. 

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Editor’s Note:  Attorney General’s McKenna had scheduled a visit to Northwest Harvest’s Cherry Street Food Bank today to present a check and volunteer. The visit will be rescheduled, most likely in December.

Media Contacts:

Kristin Alexander, Attorney General’s Office Media Relations Manager
206-464-6432, cell: 206-437-2654, kalexander@atg.wa.gov

Claire Acey, Northwest Harvest Communications Manager
206-923-7437, clairea@northwestharvest.org

Ashley Gammell, Food Lifeline Corporate Relations Manager
(206) 545-6600 x 3613, ashleyg@fll.org

Rod Wieber, Second Harvest Chief Resource Officer
(509) 252-6259, rwieber@2-harvest.org