Three consumer groups filed a lawsuit against General Mills Inc. to get the company to stop calling its Nature Valley granola bars 100 percent natural. General Mills agreed to settle the lawsuit on Aug. 23.
The settlement requires General Mills to remove the phrase “Made with 100% Natural Whole Grain Oats” from Natural Valley labels. In fact, the settlement came just 13 days after a San Francisco jury ordered Monsanto to pay Dewayne Johnson, a school groundskeeper, $289 million after his exposure led to his non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Together, Beyond Pesticides, Moms Across America and the Organic Consumers Association filed the lawsuit against General Mills. The lawsuit alleged that independent tests showed that the granola bars contained .45 part per million of glyphosate. Further, it stated that the oats were “most likely” the source of the pesticide.
The groups also allege that despite the glyphosate being below the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended maximum 30 parts per million, the label was deceptive. The organizations further asserted that given the wording on the box, “no reasonable consumer” would expect anything unnatural in the bars.
“Nature Valley is confident in the accuracy of its label,” General Mills spokesman Mike Siemienas in an email. He went on to say that the company settled the lawsuit to avoid the costs and distraction of litigation. The company is hoping to focus on making Nature Valley products with 100 percent whole grain oats.
The “Natural” Interpretation
Consumer groups have long disputed the language promoting food items. However, many of those cases are just now making in front of a judge. The General Mills lawsuit is one of many accusing food companies of using deceptive labels—including using terms such as natural—that do not have clearly understood meanings. These deceptive actions induce consumers to buy or a pay more for their products.
In July 2017, a Minneapolis federal judge dismissed a proposed class-action lawsuit over General Mills’ “100% Natural” label. The judge said that even if the oats contained traces of glyphosate, “there is no allegation that the oats, themselves are not natural.” A subsequent appeal was dismissed.
The consumer groups sued General Mills two years ago in the Superior Court in Washington D.C.
Further, the Organic Consumers Association sued Unilever PLC in the same court July 9 over its labeling for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. This includes a claim over the use of glyphosate.
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