Is black licorice actually dangerous? Lawsuit alleges candy causes heart disease

Many people have a weakness for a certain type candy, but one man is claiming his affinity for black licorice may have contributed to his heart disease — and now he's suing one of the world's largest candy companies.

David Goldberg, a 73-year-old man from New York City has filed a lawsuit against the Hershey Company (the parent company of Twizzlers), alleging that although he is an otherwise healthy individual he was not properly warned of the potential dangers of frequently consuming his favorite candy.

In the lawsuit, Goldberg states that while he has been "consuming at least one standard size bag [of black licorice candy] per week" for years, the bags contained no warnings of health risks and "that consumption of the black licorice product can lead to heart conditions."

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Goldberg claims in the suit that while suffering from heart issues today, he is otherwise a "healthy individual who is not obese" and "has never had any heart conditions," according to papers filed in Manhattan's Supreme Court in October.

Though Hershey's products may not contain any warnings, in October 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did issue a warning that glycyrrhizin, a naturally occurring ingredient in black licorice, did put older adults at risk for heart issues. At the time, the FDA stated, "If you're 40 or older, eating 2 ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks could land you in the hospital with an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia."

The lawsuit blames the Hershey Company for failing to disclose to this information to consumers stating, "Defendant knew for years that its black licorice candy posed a health threat," but did not warn consumers they were putting themselves at risk buying and eating it.

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In 2017, Goldberg was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and put on medication. The suit claims that since his diagnosis, the plaintiff "has stopped eating black licorice, however his condition has not improved."

But is the licorice really to blame here?

"The ingredients are listed on the package so that consumers are aware of what they are putting into their bodies," Emily Clarke, a registered nurse who works at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, (and has not treated Goldberg) told TODAY Food. "It's our responsibility to research those ingredients, educate ourselves and understand healthy food choices."

In Clarke's opinion, the licorice alone was likely not enough to cause the condition. She added, that "one food choice doesn't cause heart disease. It would take a string of poor consumption choices and possibly genetics, along with a handful of other factors about this man's lifestyle."

Regardless of health concerns, licorice still remains a divisive candy across social media, with many either loving or hating the pungent anise flavor.

Litigation connecting food to health risks continues to make headlines. LaCroix has recently been sued over claims that its "natural" sparkling water contains insecticides and Canada Dry has been sued over its Ginger Ale not actually containing pure ginger root.