Weed killer linked to cancer found in kids' cereal, oatmeal

Ebony Scott
August 18, 2018

- Consumers might not think their breakfast cereal could bring bits of pesticides to the kitchen table, but a new study links oats and oat-based snacks popular with children to a weed-killing poison found in Roundup, according to independent laboratory tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit environmental health and advocacy organization.

The tests were commissioned by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group after internal FDA emails surfaced past year showing chemists at the agency were testing wheat, corn, and oat foods for glyphosate and had found "a fair amount in all of them", but had not yet released those results to the public. More than two thirds of them had glyphosate levels higher than those considered acceptable by EWG scientists.

But just last week, a jury in California ordered Monsanto to pay one man $289 million in damages after he claimed the company's weed killers caused his cancer. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the widely used pesticide Roundup, which has been linked to cancer. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) labeled glyphosate a carcinogen in 1985, but reversed its position in 1991.

The Environmental Protection Agency's September 1993 analysis of glyphosate says, "in a worst-case risk scenario. the chronic dietary risk posed by glyphosate food uses is minimal". "Any levels of glyphosate that may remain are significantly below any limits and well within compliance of the safety standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the European Commission as safe for human consumption".

The EWG said the federal limits are outdated and that most of the products it tested exceed a more stringent definition of safe glyphosate levels. "Simply stated, there is far too much glyphosate in their products for parents to feel comfortable feeding them to their kids".

EWG is working to get companies like General Mills, Quaker and Kelloggs to take glyphosate out of their products.

"We proudly stand by the safety and quality of our Quaker products", the company replied in a statement.

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But Cook said that General Mills and Quaker Oats are "relying on outdated safety standards".

Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration released documents that say the agency has found "a fair amount" of glyphosate in several processed foods.

In California, the chemical found in the popular breakfast foods, bars and oats is listed as a chemical known to cause cancer. "The EPA has researched this issue and has set rules that we follow".

"The draft human health risk assessment concludes that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans", the EPA said in a 2017 draft risk assessment for glyphosate.

Even so, a 2015 decision by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer declared glyphosate, which prevents plants from photosynthesizing, a probable carcinogen.

EWG extrapolated the glyphosate standard it applied for testing by applying a couple of adjustments to California's standard. Farmers spray these crops with glyphosate right before harvest time, as they kill the crop and dry it out, making it ready for harvest quicker.

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