Glyphosate, the widely-used pesticide linked to cancer has been found in lots of food items we consume on a regular basis. Now, in a class action lawsuit initially reported by the New York Times, a group of consumers is seeking to hold Quaker accountable for false advertising after tests revealed glyphosate in the company’s oats, which are labeled as “100 percent natural.” In the absence of federal guidelines for using the term “natural” on food labeling, can the company be held accountable for traces of agricultural chemicals?
The lawsuit, filed in New York and California, claims PepsiCo (Quaker’s parent company) should refund consumers for their purchase and either reformulate its products or disclose the presence of glyphosate. NYT reported that tests showed glyphosate levels in the company’s oats were well below potentially harmful levels. But, since the chemical is detectable, attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that Quaker cannot truthfully call its product 100 percent natural.
It’s no surprise that glyphosate is showing up in food products like this one. Indeed, it’s highly likely that there are traces of the pesticide in nearly every food we consume. Because glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup, Monsanto’s top-selling pesticide) has been so widely used for so long, its impact on food systems is permeating. Recent tests have revealed the presence of glyphosate in all sorts of food products, including eggs and California wines that were grown organically without the direct application of glyphosate-containing products.
Glyphosate or no, there are a lot of questionable things manufacturers can put into foods and still be legally allowed to label them as “natural.” That’s largely because there are no requirements to meet in order to include that language. As recent as November 2015, the FDA issued an invitation for public comments related to the use of the term “natural” on food product labels. That comment period has been extended through May 10, 2016, and the FDA expects to release its recommendations following a review. The FDA quietly announced earlier this year that it will begin routine testing of food products for glyphosate as well. Until now, the FDA has left the definition of “natural” up to individual manufacturers, but that’s proving problematic as awareness of pesticide traces increases.