SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Packaged foods behemoth Post lies about its Shredded Wheat products being “100% natural” while they actually contain a cancer-causing chemical, a California class action alleges in federal court.
Lead plaintiff Andy Wu claims Post markets Shredded Wheat as “100% natural whole-grain wheat” to capitalize on consumers’ desire for healthier food even though it knows its wheat contains glyphosate, a “potent biocide” that the World Health Organization flagged last year as a potential human carcinogen that may cause kidney and liver damage.
When Wu filed his complaint on Wednesday, Post faced similar allegations in a product liability class action in New York federal court and a consumer protection suit in Washington, D.C.’s superior court. Back in 2009, the food company was sued along with Procter & Gamble, Frito-Lay, Kellogg’s and others in Los Angeles Superior Court for failing to tell consumers that its products contain acrylamide, another suspected carcinogen.
“Post knows that consumers seek out and wish to purchase whole, natural foods that do not contain chemicals, and that consumers will pay more for foods that they believe to be natural,” Wu said in the complaint. “Post has profited enormously from its fraudulently marketed products and its carefully orchestrated label and image.”
Agricultural giant Monsanto developed glyphosate, which the complaint cites as the world’s most popular herbicide, and has marketed it under the notorious “Roundup” moniker since the 1970s.
In April, France’s health and safety agency announced it would ban weed killers containing glyphosate and tallowmine, a compound added to glyphosate-based herbicides to enhance their strength. Last year, the European Food Safety Agency found that combining glyphosate with other chemicals was more dangerous to human health than glyphosate alone.
Monsanto called the recent assessments of glyphosate’s safety political.
“This result was reached by selective ‘cherry picking’ of data and is a clear example of agenda-driven bias,” said Monsanto’s Chief Technology Officer Dr. Robb Fraley in a statement last year after WHO classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen.
Wu’s complaint claims Post sprays glyphosate on its wheat just before harvesting to dry it out, a practice encouraged by Monsanto that isn’t necessary to a successful harvest. Drying wheat with glyphosate only serves to increase crop yields and, in turn, profits, Wu said.
Wu seeks to represent a class of everyone who bought Shredded Wheat in the U.S. and a subclass of those who bought Shredded Wheat in California. He is suing for unjust enrichment and breach of express warranty, along with violation of California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law, and Unfair Competition Law.
Wu wants Post to disclose the presence of glyphosate in Shredded Wheat and to launch an advertising campaign informing consumers that it isn’t completely natural.
“Glyphosate is a dangerous substance, the presence and health effects of which should be disclosed,” Wu said.
The class is represented by Michael Ram of Ram, Olson, Cereghino & Kopczynski in San Francisco and Beth Terrell and Erika Nusser of Terrell Marshall Law Group in Seattle.
Neither Wu’s attorneys nor Post returned phone and email requests for comment on Friday morning.
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