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

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.

Show Comments ()
Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens are developing hybrid electric commercial airplane plane. Airbus

Norway Aims for Electric Planes to Help Slow Climate Change

Norway—home to the world's highest per capita number of all-electric cars—is also planning to go emission-free in the friendly skies.

The Scandinavian country aims to be the first in the world to switch to electric air transport.

Keep reading... Show less
A massive sinkhole in Winkler County, Texas. Google Earth

Large Swath of Texas Oil Patch Rapidly Sinking and Uplifting, Study Finds

West Texas is already home to two giant sinkholes near the town of Wink caused by intensive oil and gas operations. Now, according to an unprecedented study, the "Wink Sinks" might not remain the last in the region.

Geophysicists at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas have found rapid rates of ground movement at various locations across a 4,000-square-mile swath around the two sinkholes. This area is known for processing extractions from the oil-rich Permian Basin.

Keep reading... Show less

Study Shows Some Pesticides More Bee-Safe Than Others, But Are Any Pesticides Eco-Friendly?

A study published Thursday in Current Biology is being hailed in a University of Exeter press release as a major "breakthrough" in developing bee-friendly insecticides. But some environmentalists think the research is asking the wrong questions to begin with.

Keep reading... Show less
Parks & Wildlife Service, Western Australia / Twitter

More Than 140 Whales Dead After Mass Stranding in Western Australia

More than 150 short-finned pilot whales stranded en masse at Hamelin Bay on the west coast of Australia early Friday morning.

Most of the whales did not survive after beaching themselves, according to Jeremy Chick, incident controller at Western Australia's Parks & Wildlife Service.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy

Tech Giant Microsoft Signs Largest Corporate Solar Agreement in the U.S.

By Katrine Tilgaard Petersen

Microsoft has announced the single largest corporate purchase of solar power ever seen in the U.S., signing an agreement with sPower to add 315 MW of electricity via two solar projects in Virginia.

Microsoft has been powered by 100 percent renewable electricity since 2014. In 2015, the tech giant joined RE100, a global corporate leadership initiative by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP, now bringing together 130 ambitious companies committed to sourcing entirely renewable power.

Keep reading... Show less

The New Government Omnibus Spending Bill Shows That Science Advocacy Matters

By Yogin Kothari

After a long wait, late Wednesday night, Congress posted a spending agreement for the rest of the 2018 fiscal year. For the most part, we achieved significant victories, especially given the challenging political environment, in repelling proposals that would have directly undermined the role of science in public health and environmental policymaking.

Keep reading... Show less

Pipeline Leaks 42,000 Gallons Into Indiana Stream

Forty-two thousand gallons of diesel spilled from a Marathon Petroleum Corporation pipeline into Big Creek in Posey Creek, Indiana before the leak was detected Tuesday evening, U.S. News & World Report reported Wednesday.

The pipeline was immediately shut off, and workers contained the spill with two booms before it reached the Wabash River.

Keep reading... Show less

Skylines to Switch Off as Millions Connect to the Planet to Celebrate Earth Hour 2018

On Saturday, March 24 at 8:30 p.m. local time, skylines around the world will go dark as millions celebrate WWF's Earth Hour to spark global awareness and action on nature and the environment.

From the Eiffel Tower to the Empire State Building, and the Bird's Nest stadium to Burj Khalifa, thousands of landmarks will switch off their lights in solidarity for the planet, urging individuals, businesses and governments worldwide to move forward the conversations and solutions we need to build a healthy, sustainable future for all.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!