Weed Killer Found in Cereals and Nut Bars: What You Need to Know


Photo by Peter Lewicki

Eating a bowl of Cheerios should make you and your little ones feel as serene as the families in the adorable Cheerio commercials do. However, new studies are showing that Cheerios might not be as healthy as they seem. 

Studies have shown oat cereals and nut bars containing traces of a well-known weed killer called Roundup. California state scientists and the World Health Organization has linked this herbicide called glyphosate to cancer. 

The on-going tug-of-war between if breakfast cereals and snack bars cause cancer or not can be both intimidating and confusing. If you are wondering what you should believe, keep reading this article where we lay out all of the facts and break down everything you need to know to keep you and your family safe from glyphosate.


What is Glyphosate?

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, glyphosate is a herbicide that is applied to plants to kill broadleaf plants and grasses. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the United States, and it is a nonselective herbicide, which means that it kills most plants. 

Every year, over 250 millions pounds of glyphosate is sprayed on American crops. On top of that, glyphosate is also sprayed on wheat, beans, barley and oats right before they harvest to dry them out and kill them. This is where the glyphosate in your breakfast cereal controversy comes into play.


Is Glyphosate Carcinogenic?

In 1985, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) did a test on glyphosate. The tests resulted in glyphosate leading to tumours in mice, and they labelled glyphosate as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” In 2001, a re-evaluation of the mouse test was conducted, and the US EPA concluded that glyphosate had “evidence of non-carcinogenicity in humans.”

However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is the specialised cancer agency of the World Health Organization, assessed five organophosphate pesticides for carcinogenicity. Glyphosate was one of the five pesticides, and they classified it as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

This evidence on humans comes from exposure studies in the United States, Canada and Sweden. There was also evidence that proved glyphosate to cause cancer in laboratory animals.

The Environmental Work Group (EWG) calculated that there is a one-in-a-million risk of cancer with the ingestion of  0.01 milligrams of glyphosate per day. This maximum dose of glyphosate is 160 parts per billion (ppb) in a single 60-gram serving of food. Unfortunately, the majority of conventional oat products that the EWG tested exceeded 160 ppb. This means that a single serving of these products exceeds the EWG safety margin.

What Research Shows The Connection Between Food and Glyphosate?

The EWG tested 45 products that are made with conventionally grown oats, and all but two products had traces of glyphosate. Of those products, almost three-fourths of them contained glyphosate levels that are higher than what EWG scientists consider safe for children’s health. For the 16 products that include organically grown oats, about one-third of the products also had glyphosate. However, these levels are lower than the EWG health benchmark. 

The Guardian obtained emails from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about glyphosate being found in a variety of commonly consumed foods through a freedom of information request.

Even an internal FDA email that was obtained through The Guardian stated they're having trouble finding any foods that do not carry traces of glyphosate. The only thing they could see on hand without glyphosate was broccoli.


What Foods Have The Highest Levels of Glyphosate?

The Center of Environmental Health conducted a study on a variety of cereals, and they found glyphosate in the following products:
Quaker Oatmeal Squares
Gerber Oatmeal
Market Pantry Toasted Oats
Beechnut Oatmeal
Kroger Toasted Oats
Marshmallow Mateys
Joe’s Os
Quaker Life Original
Signature Kitchen Os
Honey Nut Cheerios
Great Value Os 


What Foods Have The Lowest Levels of Glyphosate?

Fortunately, glyphosate is avoidable. Organic cereals are the best ways to avoid high glyphosate levels. The EWG, CEH and FDA all found that organic cereals had, if any, extremely low levels of glyphosate. 


Should You Be Worried About Glyphosate Levels In Your Breakfasts?

The fact of the matter is that you are putting cereals, not only in your bodies, but also in your children's bodies, and you want them to be as safe and as healthy as possible. It can be intimidating and flat-out terrifying to hear that something as common as a breakfast cereal can cause cancer. The CEH suggests to avoid non-organic cereals altogether.
Until further research is completed and more findings have been published, continue to do research on glyphosate in cereals and read food levels to keep you and your little ones as happy and healthy as possible.