Lawsuits Claim “100% Natural” Label On Nature Valley Granola Bars Is Deceptive

What exactly constitutes a “100% natural” food is a matter of much debate, but four new lawsuits argue that granola shouldn’t claim to be 100% natural because if contain small amounts of a common pesticide.

The quartet of lawsuits include three federal class actions filed in District Courts in New York [PDF], California [PDF], and Minnesota [PDF], along with a civil case brought in a D.C. Superior Court [PDF] on behalf of a trio of non-profits.

The actions, all filed by attorneys with The Richman Group out of Brooklyn, claim that General Mills is deceiving customers with a label on Nature Valley granola bars that says the snacks are “made with 100% natural grain oats,” because the products contain small amounts of a widely used pesticide called glyphosate.

A recent report by the World Health Organization and the United Nations found that while glyphosate isn’t good for you, it’s not likely going to be toxic at “anticipated dietary exposures.” So perhaps if you ate a truckload of granola bars every day, maybe that would hurt you… but no one is doing that. And although the level of pesticide in the bars is well below the Environmental Protection Agency’s limits, the suit says it’s still too much for the product to merit a “100% natural” label.

The lawsuits don’t challenge whether the alleged residual levels of glyphosate are safe. Instead, these cases all claim that General Mills is using the “natural” label to lure shoppers into paying more for a product that may not be what it advertises.

“By deceiving consumers about the nature, quality, and/or ingredients of its Nature Valley products, General Mills is able to sell a greater volume of the Products, to charge higher prices for the Products, and to take away market share from competing products, thereby increasing its own sales and profits,” the D.C. complaint states.

The lawsuits seek damages for Nature Valley customers who purchased the products based on the “100% natural” claims, and for General Mills to recall the allegedly mislabeled items and produce a “corrective advertising campaign to inform the public concerning the true nature of the Products.”

In a statement to Consumerist, General Mills maintained it’s done nothing wrong.

“We stand behind our products and the accuracy of our labels,” says the company.

This newest dispute only highlights the apparent level of consumer confusion regarding the use of the term “natural.” A recent survey a recent survey from our colleagues at Consumer Reports shows that a large majority of Americans don’t know what the term means when it comes to food labels.

(h/t Bloomberg)