Cheerios Class Action Lawsuit Claims Cereal Contains Pesticides

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General Mills Faces Allegations Over Concealing Pesticide Chlormequat in Popular Breakfast Cereal

Your bowl of Cheerios may hold more than just grains and promises of a good start to your day; it might also contain chlormequat, a pesticide that's not listed on the package. Plaintiff Steven Epstein is taking on General Mills, leading a proposed class action lawsuit that alleges the cereal might contain more than just oats and honey—specifically, chlormequat, a pesticide not mentioned on the label.

"Reasonable consumers believe products they purchase are safe for oral ingestion and expect the ingredients listed accurately reflect what is within the product," the Cheerios lawsuit states, meaning that it is not just about potential health risks; it's about trust on the breakfast table.

The ingredient in question: Chlormequat in Cheerios

The proposed class action lawsuit against General Mills centers on chlormequat, a pesticide used to keep crops from getting too tall, which is also linked to numerous health concerns, like lowering fertility and posing risks to unborn children.

According to the complaint, independent lab tests have shown that various Cheerios cereals contain chlormequat at levels that raise eyebrows. We're talking numbers like 40 to over 100 parts per billion across the Cheerios lineup — which includes the original flavor, Honey Nut, Frosted, and Oat Crunch Oats N’ Honey. These figures soar past what the Environmental Working Group (EWG),a scientist-run nonprofit, considers acceptable. They set the bar at 30 parts per billion per day, and Cheerios has, according to these findings, tripled that cap.

“The levels of chlormequat found in Cheerios far exceeds this recommended threshold amount,” the lawsuit claims. 

The core of the issue? None of this is on the label. That's right, consumers browsing the cereal aisle are none the wiser about chlormequat, as it's nowhere to be found on Cheerios boxes. The lawsuit points out that this lack of disclosure is not just an oversight but a serious lapse in informing consumers about what's in their food.

So, if these lab analyses hold up, Cheerios might not be the simple, wholesome breakfast option many consumers believe it to be. The case questions the transparency of General Mills and whether they've provided consumers with all the information they need to make informed choices about their diets.

Beyond the cereal box: What the plaintiffs want

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against General Mills are looking for more than just a monetary fix to their problem. They're asking the cereal giant to step up its game when it comes to being honest about what goes into Cheerios. 

Steven Epstein has stated that he might go back to buying General Mills products, but only "if defendant removed chlormequat from them." 

For other plaintiffs, like a San Marcos, California couple with four children under the age of 13, their years of loyalty to the Cheerios brand have been shaken. They've said it plainly: buying a product "especially one heavily marketed to children and families" comes with the expectation that it won't contain "dangerous pesticides."

“Plaintiffs and Class Members have suffered economic injuries as a result of purchasing the Products,” the Cheerios class action asserts.

Essentially, the plaintiffs accuse General Mills of not keeping up their end of the bargain – that Cheerios should be just what they're touted to be: safe and wholesome. They are seeking an assurance that General Mills will clear the air about what's in their cereals. The aim? To prevent future surprises on the ingredient list.

The implications of this lawsuit extend past the cereal aisle. It's telling the food industry loud and clear: consumers have a right to know exactly what we're eating – and feeding our families.

The lawsuit seeks to include all California consumers who have purchased any of the specified Cheerios products within the last four years. 

Epstein and the proposed class are represented by Joshua D. Arisohn and Caroline C. Donovan of Bursor & Fisher PA.

The Cheerios class action lawsuit is Steven Epstein v. General Mills Inc., Case No. 7:24-cv-01551, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

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