On the same day late last month, three separate lawsuits were filed against Post Foods and their subsidiaries based on claims that the company’s Shredded Wheat cereal, which is advertised as “100% natural” contains glyphosate and was thus falsely advertised.
On June 22, consumers filed Post Shredded Wheat lawsuits in California and in New York, and a consumer advocacy group called the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) filed a similar lawsuit in the District of Columbia. Each of these plaintiffs claims that independent testing revealed that Post Shredded Wheat contains glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup and other weed killers. According to these complaints, not only does this mean that the reportedly “100% natural” cereal is not entirely natural, but it may also put them and other consumers at risk for serious illnesses.
In a press release announcing their lawsuit, the international director of the OCA, Ronnie Cummins, states, “On the back of its cereal box, Post says Shredded Wheat is made of ‘100% Whole Grain Wheat’ and that the product is ‘made with nothing but goodness.’ But tests prove Shredded Wheat contains glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. Glyphosate is not only very unnatural, it is a known toxin, linked to a long list of potential and serious health problems.”
Since before it was approved in the 1970s, the glyphosate in Roundup and other herbicides has been questioned by a number of scientists and advocates who believe that it may be harmful to human health as well as to the environment. Since the International Agency for Research on Cancer deemed glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen” linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and lung cancer in March 2015, global concern has arisen. Studies have also identified glyphosate as a possible endocrine disruptor and threat to global biodiversity.
Monsanto, the company behind Roundup and glyphosate, has consistently stated that they believe their product to be safe, effective, and essential to modern agriculture. They have also stated that the many studies linking glyphosate to cancer and other health threats are based on “junk science”, so they see no need to warn consumers against a threat that they believe does not exist. Not only has Monsanto made billions in annual profits from sales of Roundup to professional landscapers, farmers, and private gardeners, but they have multiplied their profits through the introduction of “Roundup Ready” crops. These are genetically modified plants which are resistant to glyphosate, which means that farmers can spray their fields with Roundup to kill weeds while causing no damage to their food crops. Last year, the U.S. Geological Survey released a study which found that roughly 2.6 billion pounds of glyphosate have been sprayed on U.S. farmland since “Roundup Ready” crops were introduced in the mid-1990s.
With so much glyphosate sprayed on American food crops, many have argued that wind, rain, and other factors may cause glyphosate to contaminate areas where it was not originally sprayed, including areas dedicated to organic and chemical-free farming. The FDA does not test food for glyphosate and other herbicidal chemicals, so this has been difficult to verify thus far. And while it is not illegal to sell food which has been contaminated with glyphosate, the plaintiffs in these lawsuits claim that it is false advertising for Post to claim their Shredded Wheat is “natural” when glyphosate has been identified in the cereal.
One plaintiff, Andy Wu of California, claims that he and other consumers paid more for Post Shredded Wheat than they would for similar cereals because they believed it to be free of chemicals they chose not to ingest. Essentially, he says he and others paid a premium for a product based on claims it was natural when it clearly was not. Furthermore, he claims, it is not the case that Post Shredded Wheat was inadvertently contaminated with glyphosate and that this contamination was unknown to the food company. Not only should Post have tested their “natural” food product for the presence of glyphosate as part of their duty to consumers, but he claims that Post actually uses glyphosate intentionally during the production process. In his lawsuit, Wu states, “Glyphosate makes its way into Shredded Wheat not simply because it is used as an agricultural weed killer, but because it is sprayed on the wheat as a drying agent (to increase crop yield and thereby to increase profit) shortly before harvest.”
In a sense, the debate whether glyphosate may or may not cause cancer is irrelevant to these three lawsuits. Though these plaintiffs certainly express concern about the potential health consequences of ingesting the herbicide, their main argument is that Post falsely marketed their cereal as “natural” when it is actually tainted with chemicals. In other Roundup lawsuits, however, the possible link between glyphosate and cancer is the main concern. A growing number of individuals, mostly exposed to large amounts of glyphosate through their work in agriculture or landscaping, now claim that their cancer diagnoses are a direct result of Roundup exposure and Monsanto’s failure to warn of the possible link between glyphosate and cancer. Though Monsanto has sought to have many of these lawsuits dismissed, the company has not been successful and new lawsuits continue to be filed. For more information on possible health risks associated with glyphosate and Roundup and potential compensation for weed killer cancer, please contact us for a free legal consultation.