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General Mills Faces Lawsuit Over Glyphosate in Cereals

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Y'amal / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Monsanto's—and now Bayer's—glyphosate problem is also a headache for General Mills. The Cheerios-maker could face a class action lawsuit alleging the company failed to warn consumers about traces of the controversial herbicide in its products.

A Florida woman filed the lawsuit Thursday in Miami federal court, according to Reuters. The move comes about a week after a California jury awarded $289 million to a school groundskeeper who claimed Monsanto's blockbuster weedkiller Roundup gave him cancer.


[Read how the Monsanto cancer ruling sparked backlash around the world.]

Plaintiff Mounira Doss cited the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) widely circulated report last week that found Cheerios contained 470 to 530 parts per billion (ppb) of glyphosate, Food Navigator reported. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets its tolerance for glyphosate at 30,000 ppb in grains and cereals but the EWG sets their health benchmark at 160 ppb.

The plaintiff said she never would have purchased the company's Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios had she known they contained the chemical, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC) classified as a "probable human carcinogen" and is listed on California's Prop 65 list of cancer-causing chemicals, which was based on IARC's findings.

"Scientific evidence shows that even ultra-low levels of glyphosate may be harmful to human health," Doss said, as quoted by Food Navigator.

General Mills "failed to disclose or actively concealed information reasonable consumers need to know before purchasing" the cereals, she argued.

She claimed the company "knew or should have known that Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios contained glyphosate but withheld this information from consumers and the general public."

This is not the first time General Mills has faced a lawsuit over glyphosate in its products. In August 2016, consumer groups sued the company for allegedly mislabeling Nature Valley granola bars as "natural" when they contained residues of the chemical.

In response to the latest lawsuit, General Mills said its products are safe and meet regulatory safety levels.

"The EPA has researched this issue and has set rules that we follow as do farmers who grow crops including wheat and oats," Mike Siemienas, a spokesman for General Mills, told Food Navigator. "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."

Roundup has been at the center of a wave of legal challenges over the years. The $289 million ruling against Monsanto this month could open the floodgates for thousands of other plaintiffs that believe glyphosate caused them or their loved ones to develop cancer.

Reuters reported Thursday that the German pharmaceutical giant is facing 8,000 U.S. lawsuits alone, up from the 5,200 it previously disclosed.

"The number of plaintiffs in both state and federal litigation is approximately 8,000 as of end-July. These numbers may rise or fall over time but our view is that the number is not indicative of the merits of the plaintiffs' cases," Bayer CEO Werner Baumann told analysts in a conference call on Thursday, as quoted by Reuters.

Bayer, which purchased Monsanto for $66 billion, vows to appeal the verdict and says glyphosate is safe and does not cause cancer.

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