Many companies nowadays are pushing the health benefits of their products, knowing that consumers care about such things. But the complaint for this class action takes particular issue with General Mills, because some of its products were found to contain glyphosate, a popular weed killer used on grains and other food crops, in a study by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG).
The Multi-State Class for this action is all consumers who, from the applicable statute of limitations period to the date the class notice is disseminated, bought the products for personal use and not for resale in California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, and Washington. A California-Only Class has also been proposed, comprised of consumers in California.
The General Mills products at issue in this case are Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal; Nature Valley Granola Protein Oats ’n Honey; Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars, Oats ’n Honey; and Lucky Charms.
The complaint quotes some of the healthy-food claims, or “Product Health Representations” on these items. For example, the Cheerios box says the cereal “can help lower your cholesterol,” is “simply made,” and contains “NO artificial flavors [or] colors.” The Crunchy Granola Bars box claims the bars are “made with 100% NATURAL whole grain OATS.” As the complaint says, “The Product Health Representations lead reasonable consumers to believe the products will foster their ‘good health’ and not pose a safety risk to or potentially harm their health.”
However, in August 2018, EWG published an article entitled, “Breakfast with a Dose of Roundup?” It provided the results of tests on a number of common grain-based products and found levels of glyphosate in all four of the products named in this case.
The complaint says, “Each year, more than 250 million pounds of glyphosate is sprayed on American crops, including wheat, barely, and oats just before they are harvested. … Glyphosate adheres to the crops and Defendant’s cleansing process fails to remove the glophosate residue.”
The complaint also quotes the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, as saying that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
According to the complaint, General Mills announced that it would drop the “100% Natural” claim on its Nature Valley Crunch Granola Bars because of the finding. However, it has not said that it will disclose the presence of glyphosate in the product.
The complaint alleges violations of state consumer-fraud statutes and California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act.