Case Claiming Cheerios Contain Herbicide Dismissed in Eleventh Circuit

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a decision from the Southern District of Florida, throwing out a lawsuit alleging General Mills’ Cheerios contain small amounts of a herbicide called glyphosate, a possible carcinogen.

General Mills, Inc. was represented by Carlton Fields. Mounira Doss, represented by Schlesinger Law Offices, filed the original class action lawsuit and appealed the case after the decision in the Florida court.

The Eleventh Circuit’s three-judge panel, including Judges Charles Wilson, Beverly Martin, and R. Lanier Anderson, found that Doss failed to prove that her health had been impacted by purchasing and consuming Cheerios and that the harm was instead hypothetical or speculative.

Glyphosate is a herbicide that is frequently spread on oats before harvesting. The two cereals mentioned in the complaint, Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios contain oats. Doss alleged that testing has revealed trace amounts of glyphosate in the cheerios, and claimed even “ultra-low levels of glyphosate may be harmful to human health.” The Cheerios that did test positive ranged from 470 to 1,125 parts per billion according to the Eleventh Circuit opinion.

Doss claimed that if the class, those who purchased Cheerios or Honey Nut Cheerios in Florida and the United States, had known about the glyphosate they would not purchase the cereal. General Mills argued, and the district court agreed, that Doss lacked standing as there was no allegation that the Cheerios she purchased had any level of glyphosate.

“Doss says she has suffered an economic loss solely by purchasing Cheerios that she would not have purchased if she knew they contained glyphosate.  Economic injuries are the “epitome” of concrete injuries,” the opinion said. The judges said that an economic injury happens when a person is denied the benefit of a bargain as a result of a deceptive act.

The opinion said Doss “appears to be advancing a theory that the presence of glyphosate renders Cheerios unsafe to eat,” but said this does not match her allegations as she did not claim they are  “wholly unsafe” to eat or that the Cheerios she purchased were valueless. Doss claimed the product she purchased misled her with health statements.