MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota has dismissed a lawsuit against General Mills, Inc. involving the Minneapolis-based company’s use of the term “natural” to describe the oats in its granola bars.
The class-action lawsuit stemmed from a complaint filed by a group of citizens in August 2016 in which the group alleged they were misled by General Mills’ claim that its Nature Valley granola bars were “Made with 100% Natural Whole Grain Oats.” According to the complaint, the claim was deceptive because “Nature Valley products contain trace amounts of the chemical glyphosate, an herbicide and desiccant, which is commonly sprayed on oat crops to dry them.”
The plaintiffs said they relied upon General Mills’ claim and would not have purchased the products if they had known they contained glyphosate.
In his July 12 ruling, Judge Michael J. Davis said the plaintiffs “failed to plausibly allege that the statement ‘Made with 100% Natural Whole Grain Oats’ means, or could be interpreted by a reasonable consumer to mean, that there is no trace glyphosate in Nature Valley products.”
|Judge Michael J. Davis|
“It is implausible that a reasonable consumer would believe that a product labeled as having one ingredient — oats — that is ‘100% Natural’ could not contain a trace amount of glyphosate that is far below the amount permitted for organic products,” Judge Davis said.
Judge Davis further concluded that the packaging on the granola bars states “Made with 100% Natural Whole Grain Oats.”“There is no dispute that the products were made with whole grain oats that, themselves, are ‘100% Natural,’” Judge Davis said. “Even if the glyphosate traces are present on the oats, there is no allegation that the oats, themselves, are not natural. The packaging does not state that the product, as a whole, is ‘100% Natural.’ It is not plausible that a representation that one ingredient in a product — in this case, oats — is ‘100% Natural’ means that the product as a whole does not contain traces of synthetic ingredients. Plaintiffs cannot claim a breach or misrepresentation based on a warranty that defendant never gave.”