Consumers in New York and California sued PepsiCo Inc.’s Quaker Oats for false advertising over claims that the brand’s signature product contains a possible carcinogen that is not listed as an ingredient. In court documents, the consumers claim that the company’s oatmeal contains glyphosate, an herbicide the World Health Organization declared a probable carcinogen last year, although an Environmental Protection Agency committee disagreed. They say that oat farmers use the chemical as a weed killer and a drying agent that is sprayed before harvest. While the suit says there is nothing illegal about the company’s use of glyphosate, the consumers say the product’s “100 Percent Natural” promise and its label, which lists natural whole-grain rolled oats as the main ingredient, are misleading.
“Quaker 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,” lawyers for the New York consumers wrote in a complaint. “By deceiving consumers about the nature, quality, and/or ingredients of its Quaker Oats, Quaker is able to sell a greater volume of Quaker Oats, to charge higher prices for Quaker Oats, and to take away market share from competing products.” The consumers, whose suits in federal courts in New York and California see class-action status, are seeking damages and refunds. The company did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.