Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy

DC Superior Court Rules Against General Mills Motion to Dismiss in ‘100% Natural’ Lawsuit

For Immediate Release
July 24, 2017

Contacts:
Beyond Pesticides, Jay Feldman, 202-543-5450
Organic Consumers Association, Katherine Paul, 207-653-3090
Moms Across America, Blair FitzGibbon, 202-503-6141

Washington, DC – Moms Across America, Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and Beyond Pesticides today announced that the District of Columbia Superior Court has rejected General Mills’ motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the three nonprofits against the maker of Nature Valley granola bars. The ruling upholds the right of nonprofits to bring these types of complaints against corporations. It also reinforces the notion that consumers can reasonably expect a product labeled “100% Natural” to be free of herbicides.

Three nonprofit groups sued General Mills in August 2016, for misleading the public by labeling Nature Valley brand granola bars as “Made with 100% NATURAL whole grain OATS” after tests revealed the presence of the chemical herbicide glyphosate, an ingredient in Roundup and hundreds of other glyphosate-based herbicides. The suit was brought on behalf of the nonprofits’ members in Washington DC under the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

“This is a huge win for consumers,” said OCA international director Ronnie Cummins. “In making this ruling, the judge reinforced the right of consumers to have reasonable expectations about what a company means by ‘natural.’ The ‘natural’ food industry is estimated at $90 billion a year. By slapping the word ‘natural’ on products that contain pesticides and other unnatural substances, corporations deceive consumers, and cut into the market share for authentically labeled healthy and certified organic products.’

Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides said, “In this case, consumer law is critical to rein in companies that deceive consumers with ‘natural’ labeling when their products contain ingredients that are grown with pesticides.

Zen Honeycutt, founder of Moms Across America, said: When a customer chooses a food product that says 100% Natural on the packaging, they do so because the food manufacturer has communicated to them, with that claim, that their products are without harmful, man-made chemicals. We are very pleased that this case will be heard and misleading labeling will be addressed.”

Key findings from the DC Superior Court ruling include:

• The Court recognized that the 2012 Amendments to the DC Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) may have expanded the means by which nonprofits may bring representative actions.

• The Court rejected General Mills' argument that courts should defer to the FDA on possible future ruling re: "natural" food labeling, holding that it was up to the courts to decide what is or isn't misleading to consumers.

• The Court also noted that it does not appear likely that the FDA will issue a ruling on "natural" anytime soon—rejecting a common argument made by so many food producers seeking to avoid liability for their misrepresentations.

• The Court held that a reasonable jury could find that General Mills' "Made With 100% Natural Whole Grain Oats" claims were misleading to consumers.

The nonprofits are represented by Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Richman Law Group.

Read the July 6 DC Superior Court ruling here.

Read the original  complaint here

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The Organic Consumers Fund is a 501(c)4 allied organization of the Organic Consumers Association, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action. Visit: https://www.organicconsumers.org/

Moms Across America is 501(c)3 non profit and a national coalition of unstoppable moms raising awareness about GMOs and toxins in our food and environment. Their motto is "Empowered Moms, Healthy Kids.” Visit www.momsacrossamerica.org

Beyond Pesticides is a national grassroots non-profit organization headquartered in the District of Columbia that works with allies in protecting public health and the environment to lead the transition to a world free of toxic pesticides. For more information, see www.beyondpesticides.org

Richman Law Group is a collective of lawyers specializing in impact litigation to repair the world. Richman Law Group was founded on the idea that what cannot be achieved by way of legislation can sometimes be achieved by way of litigation. This tight-knit cadre of tenacious and diverse professionals is dedicated to fighting for the rights of its clients, and through them, the needs of the community at large. For more information, please visit www.richmanlawgroup.com.

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