Some types of oat cereals, oatmeal, granola and snack bars contain higher levels of a chemical found in the weed killer Roundup than what the Environmental Working Group considers safe, according to a report released Wednesday by the advocacy group.
Scientists tested 29 products and found that nearly three-quarters of the samples they tested contained higher levels of glyphosate than deemed safe, according to the report. Some of the products and brands found to contain traces of the herbicide include Cheerios, Quaker Oats, Nature Valley, Simple Truth, Kashi, Lucky Charms, 365 Organic, Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oats, Whole Foods Bulk bin, among many others.
The EPA and the Food and Drug Administration say they are studying the current guidance for safe levels of glyphosate in food. Thousands of lawsuits against Monsanto brought by farm workers and others also allege that they developed cancer from long-term exposure to Roundup. It says some studies have associated glyphosate use with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. "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 added.
"We're very concerned that consumers are eating more glyphosate than they know", said Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs with the Environmental Working Group.
Almost three in four of the products exceeded what the EWG classes safe for children to consume. The agency's assessment found no other meaningful risks to human health when the product is used according to the pesticide label.
"There's been a lot of controversy over whether this chemical actually has the ability to cause cancer". Still, about 30 percent of the samples tested of foods made with organically grown oats also had glyphosate - though all at levels below EWG's health benchmark.
A government website listing federal regulations shows the minimum glyphosate residue allowed on cereal grains is 30,000 parts per billion, far higher than the EWG recommendations. But there haven't yet been human studies of the health effects of glyphosate exposure in food, and though there have been studies of farmworkers and more studies in animals, there are relatively few studies overall. Simple Truth Organic Instant Oatmeal, for instance, didn't have the chemical in its oats. "No one wants to eat a weed killer for breakfast, and no one should have to do so".
The Environmental Protection Agency has said for years that there's not much evidence that the pesticide can cause cancer in people. "Any levels of glyphosate that may remain are significantly below any limits of the safety standards set by the EPA and the European Commission as safe for human consumption".
The benchmark is created to provide a framework for how much glyphosate humans can ingest daily without having potentially negative health effects. Farmers will spray the weed-killing chemical on crops, such as wheat, oats and lentils, before harvest. But he added, "If it could be established what a unsafe level amounts to I think that's important".