Trace Glyphosate Found in Popular Children’s Breakfast Foods

Posted on Behalf of  Sarah Brown

Posted on behalf of Madeleine Monro, Sarah Brown, and Derek Drechsel

In August, the weed-killing chemical glyphosate was found in several popular breakfast foods marketed to children, including oats, granola, and snack bars. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), which conducted the sampling, identified traces of glyphosate in 31 of the 45 oat-based food samples tested.

Glyphosate is one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States (Benbrook, 2016). Glyphosate was first registered for use in the U.S. by Monsanto (as Roundup) in 1974, and has since been used in agriculture and forestry, as well as on lawns and gardens (Valavanidis, 2018). This non-selective herbicide prevents plants from generating certain proteins needed for plant growth, making it highly effective at killing plants. Glyphosate has thus been a breakthrough for farming, and has been registered in 130 countries and approved for weed control in more than 100 crops in the last decade (Valavanidis, 2018).

In March, 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reported that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans” based on ‘limited’ evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and on ‘sufficient’ evidence in experimental animals (IARC, 2015). Additionally, glyphosate was listed under California’s Proposition 65 as a chemical “known to the state to cause cancer” as of July, 2017 (OEHHA, 2017). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) subsequently reported that glyphosate is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans” (EPA, 2017). A 2016 report from a joint meeting between the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and WHO reported that “glyphosate is unlikely to be genotoxic at anticipated dietary exposures” (WHO, 2016).

EWG established its own standards to evaluate glyphosate exposure in food, however, and concluded that levels found in almost three-fourths of breakfast foods analyzed were “higher than what EWG scientists consider protective of children’s health with an adequate margin of safety” (EWG, 2018). Ultimately, the EWG is concerned that the EPA’s limits for glyphosate are not strict enough to ensure the safety of children. In response, Monsanto reported that, even at the highest level of glyphosate reported by the EWG (1,300 ppb), an adult “would have to eat 118 pounds of the food item every day for the rest of their life to reach the EPA’s limit” (Monsanto, 2018). Cereal manufacturers have also responded that the EPA “has researched this issue and has set rules that [they] follow,” and that “any levels of glyphosate that may remain are significantly below any regulatory limits and well within compliance of the safety standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as safe for human consumption” (Business Insider, 2018).

Cardno ChemRisk scientists have extensive professional experience evaluating the possible hazards posed by chemicals in consumer products and foods. Our team has a number of specialists who have the ability to accurately assess the risks involved with glyphosate in various products and/or settings.  For more information on Cardno ChemRisk's capabilities, please contact Dr. Derek Drechsel or Dr. Rachel Novick