Three nonprofit organizations this week sued General Mills for allegedly misleading the public by labeling Nature Valley brand granola bars as “Made with 100% NATURAL whole grain OATS.” The lawsuit says the herbicide chemical glyphosate, an ingredient in Roundup and hundreds of other glyphosate-based herbicides, is present in the granola bars.
The plaintiffs include Moms Across America, Beyond Pesticides and Organic Consumers Association and they are represented by The Richman Law Group, which filed the complaint under the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act.
“As a mother, when I read ‘100% Natural,’ I would expect that to mean no synthetic or toxic chemicals at all,” said Zen Honeycutt, founder and executive director of Moms Across America. “Glyphosate is a toxic chemical that the EPA recognizes as a ‘reproductive effector’ which ‘can cause liver and kidney damage’ and ‘digestive effects.’ It is unacceptable that Nature Valley granola bars contain any amount of this chemical.”
A national survey conducted by Consumer Reports in 2015 finds that 66 percent of consumers seek out products with a “natural” food label under the false belief they are produced without pesticides, genetically modified organisms, hormones, and artificial ingredients.
“Glyphosate cannot be considered ‘natural’ because it is a toxic, synthetic herbicide,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “Identified by the World Health Organization as a carcinogen, it should not be allowed for use in food production and certainly not in food with a label that suggests to consumers that the major ingredient – oats – is 100 percent natural, when it is produced with and contains the highly hazardous glyphosate.”
“Food grown with dangerous pesticides like glyphosate isn’t natural. Consumers understand this. That’s why sales of natural products are booming. Unfortunately, companies’ misleading claims trick consumers into buying just what they’re trying to avoid. This has to be stopped,” added Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director of the Organic Consumers Association
The case specifically cites the use and presence of the weedkiller glyphosate in General Mills’ Nature Valley Granola products.
The chemical is used during the production of oats, the major ingredient in these products, which are marketed as “natural” and labeled “Made with 100% Natural Whole Grain Oats.” As a result, glyphosate is present in the natural-labeled products.
Proponents of glyphosate herbicide use say the residue levels found in many foods and beverages in the United States are below the EPA allowable levels established in 2014 and therefore consumers have no reason to be concerned.
However, a 2015 study published in the journal Environmental Health found chronic, low-dose exposure to glyphosate as low as 0.1 parts per billion leads to adverse effects on liver and kidney health.
A study released in early 2016 found glyphosate can cause changes to DNA function resulting in the onset of chronic disease, including diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.
The lawsuit alleges that, when marketing Nature Valley products, General Mills misleads and fails to disclose to consumers of the use and presence of glyphosate and its harmful effects.
The plaintiffs are asking a jury to find that General Mills’ “natural” labeling is deceptive and misleading and therefore a violation of law, and require its removal from the market.
Editor’s note: This report will be updated.