Dozens More Breakfast Foods Test Positive For Weed Killer Ingredient

by Valerie Williams
Originally Published: 
Image via Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The list of breakfast foods that tested positive for glyphosate includes several varieties of Cheerios

Over the summer, nonprofit advocacy organization Environmental Working Group (EWG) published test results that showed unsafe levels of a weed killer ingredient in a number of popular breakfast cereals, oats, and snack bars. They performed another round of tests for the ingredient in a new list of breakfast items — and all but two tested positive for levels of glyphosate that were “higher than what EWG scientists consider protective of children’s health.”

Out of 28 items tested by EWG in results published last week, 26 of them contained levels of glyphosate above the group’s health benchmark of 160 PPB. The list of items includes Apple Cinnamon, Very Berry, Chocolate, Frosted, Fruity, and Honey Nut Cheerios. It was also detected at higher levels than the group considers safe in Quaker Chewy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip and S’mores flavor granola bars along with several varieties of instant and overnight oats. EWG scientists say that levels as high as discovered in these items could pose a cancer risk for people who consume them long-term.

Glyphosate is found in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, which is the most widely used herbicide in the world and according to EWG, is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as “probably carcinogenic” to people. IARC has defended that claim despite attacks from Monsanto saying otherwise.

After the first round of results were released this summer, General Mills and the Quaker Oats Company defended the chemical’s presence in their products by saying that the amounts found were consistent with limits set by the EPA. “The EPA has researched this issue and has set rules that we follow as do farmers who grow crops including wheat and oats. We continue to work closely with farmers, our suppliers and conservation organizations to minimize the use of pesticides on the crops and ingredients we use in our foods,” General Mills said in a statement.

But EWG notes that “just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe,” and steadfastly insists that possible carcinogens have no place in foods eaten by humans — especially foods eaten by children.

As far as a course of action? EWG President Ken Cook wants General Mills and other food companies that market their products to kids held accountable. “How many bowls of cereal and oatmeal have American kids eaten that came with a dose of weed killer? That’s a question only General Mills, PepsiCo and other food companies can answer,” says Cook. “But if those companies would just switch to oats that aren’t sprayed with glyphosate, parents wouldn’t have to wonder if their kids’ breakfasts contained a chemical linked to cancer. Glyphosate and other cancer-causing chemicals simply don’t belong in children’s food, period.”

When it comes to human consumption, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution — and science. Just recently, according to CNN, a jury ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages to a school groundskeeper who argued that exposure to Roundup caused his cancer. His payout was ultimately reduced to $78 million, but a judge upheld the verdict just last week.

“Once again, our message to General Mills, Quaker and other food companies is that you can take the simple step of telling your oat farmers to stop using glyphosate,” said Cook. “You can hide behind an outdated federal standard, or you can listen to your customers and take responsibility for cleaning up your supply chain. It’s your choice.”

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