Lawsuit Alleges Bigelow Tea Engages in False Marketing

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) filed a lawsuit against R.C. Bigelow asking the court to issue an order that stops Bigelow from “false marketing” following the discovery of glyphosate in store-bought samples of the company’s classic green tea.

The Richman Law Group, on behalf of the OCA, alleges Bigelow misrepresented its “all natural” tea because of trace levels of glyphosate, a residue of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.

R.C. Bigelow CEO Cindi Bigelow said the company would vigorously defend itself against what she called a “frivolous” filing.

The suit filed Dec. 15, first reported by Bloomberg News, claims that Bigelow Classic Green Tea, purchased at a Walmart store in Washington, D.C., contained 0.38 parts per million (ppm) residue of the chemical. OCA alleges Bigelow made “deceptive” claims to tap consumers willing to pay more for products seen as healthier and more environmentally friendly.

“Internal tests at Bigelow, the No. 2 U.S. tea brand by retail value, showed when the tea is brewed the level is absolutely zero,” said Cindi Bigelow, whose grandmother founded the company.

R.C. Bigelow CEO Cindi Bigelow

Government regulations establish a threshold for trace residue well above that found in the dried leaves, said Cindi Bigelow, citing permissible limits for common foods including carrots (5 ppm) and barley (30 ppm) and unroasted coffee beans (1 ppm). She explained there is a distinction between dry tea, which is what the OCA’s claim is based on, and a cup of tea brewed in water.

The federal tolerance level for glyphosate in dried tea is 1 ppm. The findings of the Organic Consumers Association regarding the amount of glyphosate in Bigelow’s Classic Green Tea are below the federal tolerance level.

Glyphosate is a component of the world’s most widely used herbicide. The chemical reveals medium solubility at 11.6 g/L in water (at 25 °C) and is insoluble in common organic solvents such as acetone. To increase the solubility of technical-grade glyphosate acid in water, it is formulated as its isopropylamine, monoammonium, potassium, sodium or trimesium salts.

OCA is an advocacy group with a mission to advance fair trade and end genetically modified goods and crops. The group hired an independent laboratory to conduct the tests and acknowledges that the residue is within published limits.

Scott Partridge, the vice president of strategy for Monsanto, issued a statement related to glyphosate: “Hundreds of scientific studies over 40 years have determined that glyphosate is safe for use, and no regulatory agency in the world has concluded that glyphosate is a carcinogenic.”

The USA Herald reported that Partridge “went on to refer to the WHO’s classification of glyphosate as ‘flawed.’ However, despite Partridge’s belief that glyphosate is safe, several countries in the EU have looked to ban it.”

Sources: Bloomberg News, USA Herald