Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Some Bigelow Tea Not 'Natural' Because It Contains Glyphosate, Lawsuit Says

Health + Wellness

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has filed a lawsuit against R.C. Bigelow, Inc. alleging that glyphosate—the world's most widely used weedkiller—can be detected in some of the company's popular tea products.

But the consumer interest group is not suing Bigelow due to the presence of the controversial chemical in its tea products (an estimated 0.38 ppm in Bigelow Green Tea, according to the lawsuit). Rather, the complaint alleges that Bigelow deceptively labeled, marketed and sold tea products with the representation of "All Natural" and "Natural," making the products appear environmentally friendly.


The lawsuit was filed Dec. 15 in Superior Court in Washington.

"Like other companies that market their products as 'natural' and 'environmentally friendly,' Bigelow is using these terms to profit from growing consumer demand for healthier, more sustainably produced products, even though the company knows those claims are false," said Ronnie Cummins, international director of the OCA.

While the lab results cited by OCA's lawsuit showed glyphosate levels far lower than the government's threshold of 1 ppm for dried leaves, the group believes there is no safe level of glyphosate exposure for a person.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in many herbicides, most notably in Monsanto's star product, Roundup. The chemical is applied to more than 150 food and non-food crops and used on lawns, gardens and parks. In fact, researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that human exposure to glyphosate has increased approximately 500 percent since 1994, the year Monsanto introduced its genetically modified Roundup Ready crops in the U.S. Today, the chemical can be detected in everyday household foods such as cookies, crackers, ice cream and even our urine.

In March 2015, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which labeled glyphosate a "probable carcinogen." The France-based panel's ruling has since sparked debate around the world, prompted hundreds of lawsuits over allegations that glyphosate causes cancer, and resulted in the state of California adding glyphosate to its list of cancer-causing chemicals.

However, other scientific bodies and institutions—including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's draft assessment this week—have contradicted the IARC's classification. Monsanto strongly disagrees with IARC's classification and vehemently defends the safety of its products.

Bigelow is the No. 2 U.S. tea brand by retail value, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. Company execs have dismissed the lawsuit's claims as "frivolous" and "illogical."

While the company's own tests also found glyphosate levels for dried tea, they are "far below" both the federal limit and the OCA's finding, R.C. Bigelow, Inc. CEO Cynthia Bigelow, told Bloomberg.

She said there's a difference between dry tea, which is what the OCA's claim is based on, versus a cup of brewed tea with water.

When the tea is brewed the level is "absolutely zero," Bigelow said.

But Cummins countered that the company "knows that health-conscious consumers will pay a premium for 'all natural' products believing those products are free of pesticides and other contaminants."

"Likewise, Bigelow knows that consumers who care about the environment will pay more for products they believe were produced using methods that don't harm the environment," he continued. "As a consumer education and advocacy group, it's our job to expose these false claims and force corporations to either clean up their products, or clean up their labels and advertising."

OCA is asking for an "injunction to halt Bigelow's false marketing and sale of the products," the lawsuit states.

Cynthia Bigelow told Bloomberg she does not expect the OCA's claims against her company's tea to hold up in court.

But a similar suit against General Mills Nature Valley granola bars survived a motion to dismiss, and is currently progressing through the courts.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A protest against the name of the Washington Redskins in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Nov. 2, 2014. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

The Washington Redskins will retire their controversial name and logo, the National Football League (NFL) team announced Monday.

Read More Show Less
The survival tools northern fish have used for millennia could be a disadvantage as environmental conditions warm and more fast-paced species move in. Istvan Banyai / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma

Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.

Read More Show Less
A mother walks her children through a fountain on a warm summer day on July 12, 2020 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Gary Hershorn / Getty Images

A heat wave that set in over the South and Southwest left much of the U.S. blanketed in record-breaking triple digit temperatures over the weekend. The widespread and intense heat wave will last for weeks, making the magnitude and duration of its heat impressive, according to The Washington Post.

Read More Show Less
If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus. blackCAT / Getty Images

By Joni Sweet

If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of burnt areas of the Amazon rainforest, near Porto Velho, Rondonia state, Brazil, on Aug. 24, 2019. CARLOS FABAL / AFP via Getty Images

NASA scientists say that warmer than average surface sea temperatures in the North Atlantic raise the concern for a more active hurricane season, as well as for wildfires in the Amazon thousands of miles away, according to Newsweek.

Read More Show Less
A baby receives limited treatment at a hospital in Yemen on June 27, 2020. Mohammed Hamoud / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Oxfam International warned Thursday that up to 12,000 people could die each day by the end of the year as a result of hunger linked to the coronavirus pandemic—a daily death toll surpassing the daily mortality rate from Covid-19 itself.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The 2006 oil spill was the largest incident in Philippine history and damaged 1,600 acres of mangrove forests. Shubert Ciencia / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Jun N. Aguirre

An oil spill on July 3 threatens a mangrove forest on the Philippine island of Guimaras, an area only just recovering from the country's largest spill in 2006.

Read More Show Less