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Walmart Is Under Fire After a Report Alleged High Levels of Arsenic and Lead in Its Spices

The retailer is now battling a lawsuit based on these serious claims.

Walmart offers low prices on a number of products—and that includes grocery staples. The mega-retailer's Great Value store-brand has over 150 herbs, spices, and seasoning mixes in its inventory, and many commonly used spices (like garlic powder and paprika) are being sold for $1, making it a great value, as promised. But cost aside, are these spices that you want to have on-hand? After a report alleged that there were high levels of arsenic, lead, and cadmium in some Walmart spices, the retailer is facing a new lawsuit. Read on to learn more about this legal battle.

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A lawsuit was recently filed against Walmart over its spices.

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On June 24, plaintiffs Susan Gagetta and Tracie Gomez filed a class action lawsuit against Walmart in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, claiming that certain Great Value herbs and spices contain heavy metal such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium.

The plaintiffs included Great Value's basil leaves, chili powder, ground cumin, organic ground ginger, and organic paprika in their complaint.

"Heavy Metals in foods pose a serious safety risk to consumers because they can cause cancer and serious and often irreversible damage to brain development as well as other serious health problems," the suit says.

The lawsuit was based on a 2021 report.

Cheerful old lady adding salt to soup and smiling while standing by the stove with cooking pots

For their lawsuit, Gagetta and Gomez cited a report that implicated Walmart's herbs and spices. In Nov. 2021, Consumer Reports released findings from tests it conducted on 15 different types of dried herbs and spices used in a variety of cuisines. For the tests, the consumer organization analyzed 126 products from several different brands, including Walmart's Great Value.

According to the report, one-third of the tested products were found to contain combined levels of arsenic, lead, and cadmium that were high enough to raise health concerns when regularly consumed in typical serving sizes. With Walmart's Great Value herbs and spices, Consumer Reports found at least some concerns for the five products that have since been mentioned in the lawsuit.

"When people think about heavy metals in their diet, if they do at all, it's probably the lead in their drinking water or arsenic in their children's fruit juices or cereals," James Rogers, PhD, the director of food safety and testing at Consumer Reports, said in a statement. "But our tests show that dried herbs and spices can be a surprising, and worrisome, source for children and adults."

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Walmart filed a motion to dismiss the suit.

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On Dec. 7, Walmart filed a motion to dismiss the case. The company maintains that the plaintiffs' complaint relies on "false information debunked by judicially noticeable, science-based facts published by federal agencies in charge of overseeing this nation's food supply," according to the dismissal.

The big-box retailer said that both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) "acknowledge that naturally occurring arsenic, cadmium and lead are ubiquitous in the food supply … and that such naturally occurring metals cannot be avoided."

Walmart also said the plaintiffs have failed to claim that they garnered any physical or economic injury from purchasing Great Value herbs and spices.

But the complaint is now set to advance.

walmart vision center

Walmart failed to get the entire lawsuit dropped, however. On Dec. 21, U.S. District Judge William Orrick ruled that the implied warranty claims can be tossed based on the failure to state a claim, Courthouse News Service reported. But the judge decided that the crux of the case—whether or not Walmart's Great Value spices contain dangerous levels of heavy metals—cannot be decided at this stage and must advance, according to the news outlet.

Orrick has given the plaintiffs until Jan. 9 to file an amended complaint. He found that they "have put forth an adequate theory of injury for most of their causes of action due to risk, because they would have not have purchased the products if they had known about any contamination and because Walmart does not contest that its products probably contain heavy metals," Courthouse News Service explained.

In a statement to Best Life, a spokesperson for Walmart said, "We are committed to providing high-quality products and have always required that our private brand suppliers' products meet or exceed FDA's guidelines for naturally occurring elements that are not added during the manufacturing process. We will continue to defend the company against this litigation."

Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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