NEW YORK (Reuters) – General Mills Inc has been hit with a proposed class action lawsuit claiming the company failed to warn consumers about traces of the weedkiller glyphosate in its Cheerios cereals.
A Florida woman in her Thursday lawsuit in Miami federal court said she never would have purchased the company’s Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios had she known they contained the chemical, which has been classified as a “probable human carcinogen” by the World Health Organization’s cancer unit.
Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide sprayed on fruit, vegetables and other food crops to control weeds. It is the key ingredient of Monsanto’s Roundup, one of the most popular glyphosate-containing weedkillers.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in September 2017 concluded a decades-long assessment of glyphosate risks and found the chemical not likely carcinogenic to humans.
General Mills in a statement said it did not comment on pending litigation. The company in said its products are safe and “without question” meet regulatory safety levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that farmers growing its crops follow.
“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,” the company said.
Mounira Doss seeks to represent a nationwide and a Florida class of consumers who purchased the two products, according to her lawsuit. She claims violations of Florida’s consumer protection laws, alleging that General Mills failed to disclose or actively concealed the glyphosate content from consumers and the public.
Doss said the company instead made false or misleading comments about the cereal by marketing it with terms including “wholesome goodness for toddlers and adults.”
Her lawsuit also alleges breach of warranty and unjust enrichment claims.
Doss in her complaint refers to an Aug. 15 report by the Environmental Working Group, which said it found traces of glyphosate in 43 out of 45 cereal samples it tested. The activist group said glyphosate has been detected in 31 of those samples at levels higher than 160 parts per billion, a benchmark the group says endangers children’s health.
In the three Cheerios samples the group tested, glyphosate was detected at 490 to 530 parts per billion, according to the report.
The EPA has set so-called maximum residue limits to regulate the amount of pesticides left on food. Those tolerance levels for glyphosate on crops, including soy beans, corn, grains and cereal range from 100 to 100,000 parts per billion.
The debate over the safety of glyphosate has gathered steam after a San Francisco jury earlier this month awarded $289 million to a California school groundskeeper who blamed Monsanto’s glyphosate-containing weedkillers, including Roundup, for his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer.
The case is: Mounira Doss et al v. General Mills Inc at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, case no. 18-cv-61924.