The makers of one of America’s most popular breakfast meals is facing a major lawsuit over trace amounts of glyphosate.
The chemical, which has been labeled a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research, was found in several Quaker Oats Company products.
But the complaint, which was filed in Federal District Courts in California and New York, doesn’t claim that the products are dangerous. After being tested in a California lab using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, the levels of glyphosate detected were well below safe exposure limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Instead, the lawsuit alleges that Quaker has been deceptive by labeling its products “100% Natural.”
“The issue is that Quaker advertises these products as 100 percent natural, and glyphosate in any amount is not natural,” a lead lawyer representing the plaintiffs said.
PepsiCo, which has owned Quaker Oats since 2001, stood by the company’s products, saying they have been providing “wholesome” food for nearly 140 years. The company also noted that it does not add glyphosate at any point during the product’s processing, but said it could be used by farmers before harvest.
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup and is the most widely used weed killer in history. It is often used on crops that are genetically modified to withstand the chemical. And according to the New York Times, glyphosate is also increasingly being applied as a “dessicant” to dry out crops and speed harvesting.
Fortune reports that the plaintiffs are asking PepsiCo to change advertising language, recall Quaker products, and seeking restitution and other damages.
A study released last week found glyphosate on a range of breakfast products, including oatmeal, bagels and organic eggs. Most of the food tested showed the chemical present at levels below the EPA’s daily allowable tolerance level.
Monsanto, meanwhile, has continued to contest IARC’s conclusion, saying they flies in the face of other scientific evaluations of the chemical. It’s worth noting that the agency’s findings also only indicated an increased cancer risk for industrial farm workers who are exposed to glyphosate at a higher level. And despite the controversy surrounding the chemical, regulators in the EU have been reluctant to impose tighter controls of glyphosate’s use.