Report: Cereals positive for trace amounts of weed killer
Popular breakfast cereals contain a controversial herbicide found in weed killers, according to a report released Wednesday.
The new report, by Environmental Working Group, or EWG, an environmental advocacy group in Washington D.C., found trace levels of glyphosate in 21 oat-based cereals and snack products. Glyphosate is the main ingredient in weed killers such as Roundup.
The findings buoy other tests conducted last year that showed glysophate in dozens of other cereal products.
While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said glyphosate is not likely a carcinogen, the World Health Organization determined otherwise in 2015. Bayer-Monsanto, the company that produces Roundup, disputed that it is unsafe for daily use.
“Even at the highest level reported by the EWG (833 parts per billon), an adult would have to eat 158 pounds of the oat-based food every day for the rest of their life to reach the strict limits set by the EPA,” said Charla Marie Lord, a Bayer-Monsanto spokeswoman. “The reality is that regulatory authorities have strict rules when it comes to pesticide residues, and the levels in this report are far below the established safety standards.”
Tests conducted on dozens of name-brand cereals chiefly found the popular weed killer in cereals and snack bars containing oats.
The highest levels found were still significantly below standards EPA has set for a range of crops, including corn, soybean, grains and some fruits and vegetables. Federal standards are measured in parts per million. EWG’s test results were measured in parts per billion range.
The findings, the group contends, are significant because the weed killer ingredient is so ubiquitous. It has been found in other products such as beer and wine.
“What we’re concerned about is chronic exposure to a chemical that’s been linked to cancer,” said Alexis Temkin, an EWG toxicologist who conducted the tests. “Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe.”
Among the findings:
- The highest levels of glyphosate were found in Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch at 833 parts per billion (ppb). The lowest in Nature Valley Fruit & Nut Chewy Trail Mix Granola Bars, Dark Chocolate & Nut with 76 ppb.
- There were variances across brand flavors. For example, Nature Valley Crunch Granola bars Maple Brown Sugar had 566 ppb, while Oats and Honey had 320 ppb.
- Only four products — three different Nature Valley snacks and Honey Nut Cheerios — tested below the group’s recommended threshold of 160 ppb, deemed protective for children.
The report was released early Wednesday.
Rob Litt, a General Mills spokesman, declined to comment.
A spokesperson for Quaker Foods said all of their products were safe and complied with Food & Drug Administration standards.
Three California juries since August have awarded more than $2 billion in suits against Bayer-Monsanto over claims the company knew the risks the weed killer posed and covered it up.
Nationally, the herbicide has gained widespread use, with farmers having used more than 250 million pounds on U.S. crops in 2016, according to U.S. Geological Service data.
Its use in Pennsylvania has been particularly dramatic with farmers in 1992 spraying a little more than 100,000 pounds of glyphosate on crops. That figure had climbed to 2.2 million pounds by 2016, conservative USGS estimates show.
Bruno Holnaider, a dairy farmer in Latrobe, used to spray his crops with Roundup, but doesn’t anymore. The chemical, he said, would make his throat sore and his stomach churn.
“It kills bugs and it’ll kill you, too, if you get enough of it,” Holnaider said. “We’re killing ourselves just for cheap food.”
Nicole C. Brambila is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Nicole at 724-226-7704, [email protected] or via Twitter .