General Mills Forced to Change Label Due to Herbicide Chemical in Food

General Mills Forced to Change Label Due to Herbicide Chemical in Food
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Just a little over a week after an Environmental Working Group (EWG) report showed that potentially unsafe levels of glyphosate had been discovered in oat products, including Cheerios, General Mills (the maker of Cheerios) has been slapped with a lawsuit. The company has decided to remove the phrase “Made with 100% Natural Whole Grain Oats” from the labels of its Nature Valley granola bars.

The lawsuit was filed on August 23 by a Florida woman in Miami federal court. Earlier in August, a California jury awarded $289 million to a man who claimed that Monsanto’s (now officially known as Bayer due to a merger) blockbuster herbicide Roundup caused him non-Hodgkin lymphoma while he was working as a school groundskeeper. [1]

In her complaint against General Mills, Mounira Doss states the EWG’s report showed that Cheerios contained 470-530 parts per billion (ppb) of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) caps the amount of glyphosate allowed in grains and cereals at 30,000 ppb, but EWG sets their health benchmark at 160 ppb.

Doss says she would never have purchased General Mills’ Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios had she known they contained glyphosate.

Doss said:

“Scientific evidence shows that even ultra-low levels of glyphosate may be harmful to human health.

She also points out that the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) categorized glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” in 2015, and that glyphosate recently joined California’s Prop 65 list of chemicals “known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm.” [2]

Doss alleges in the lawsuit that General Mills “knew or should have known that Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios contained glyphosate but withheld this information from consumers and the general public.” [1]

The plaintiff further accuses the company of violating several state consumer protection laws, stating: [2]

“The Florida class was deceived by Defendant’s omission into believing that Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios are safe or free of glyphosate… Defendant made material statements about the safety of Cheerios that were wither false or misleading.”

In a statement, General Mills said its products are safe and meet regulatory safety levels. [1]

“The EPA has researched this issue and has set rules that we follow as do farmers who grow crops, including wheat and oats. We continue to work closely with farmers, our suppliers, and conservation organizations to minimize the use of pesticides on the crops and ingredients we use in our foods.”

(We should point out that glyphosate is an herbicide.)

Monsanto – now Bayer – is facing 8,000 lawsuits filed by people who allege glyphosate caused them or their loved one cancer.

Sometimes the Best Offense is a Good Defense

Natural Society

General Mills’ agreement to remove the phrase “Made with 100% Natural Whole Grain Oats” from its Nature Valley products was not done out of the goodness of the company’s heart. Rather, it is to settle a lawsuit by 3 consumer groups – Beyond Pesticides, Moms Across America, and the Organic Consumers Association – that said the granola bars contain small amounts of glyphosate. [3]

Independent tests showed that Natural Valley bars contained 0.45 parts per million (ppm) of glyphosate and pointed to the oats as the likely source of the chemical.

That number falls well below the EPA’s threshold of 30 ppm, but the groups argued that General Mills’ label was deceptive and that “no reasonable consumer” would expect the bars to contain anything unnatural.

General Mills spokesman Mike Siemienas said the company settled to avoid the cost and distraction of litigation, and will instead focus on making Nature Valley products “with 100% whole grain oats.”

Many food companies have been hit with lawsuits in recent years over claims their product labels included deceptive terms such as “natural” that don’t have clearly understood meanings.

General Mills faced a very similar lawsuit in 2016, but a Minneapolis judge dismissed the proposed class action last July over the company’s “100% Natural” label, saying that even if the oats contained a trace amount of glyphosate, “there is no allegation that the oats, themselves, are not natural.”

A subsequent appeal was dismissed.


[1] EcoWatch

[2] FoodNavigator-USA

[3] Reuters