Weed-Killing Chemical Was Found in Cheerios, Quaker Oats Products

Scientists haven’t been able to conclude whether or not the chemical causes cancer.
ByStephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
Mar 2019
weed killing chemical found in cheerios
Photo: Shutterstock

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) conducted multiple tests to determine the presence of a weed-killer in certain breakfast foods, including Cheerios and Quaker Oats, according to Business Insider. Last year, the group published a report about traces of glyphosate, one of the most popular pesticides in the world, found in Quaker, Kellogg’s and General Mills products.

The EWG tested levels of glyphosate in 45 samples of conventionally grown oats and found 31 fell below its safety criteria. About two months later, it tested an additional 28 samples, focusing exclusively on Cheerios and Quaker Oats products, and found that all but two showed harmful levels of glyphosate, based on its measurements.

The report was also released right around the time of a lawsuit against Monsanto, which uses glyphosate as the active ingredient in its herbicide Roundup. In the lawsuit, a 70-year-old man claimed Roundup caused him to get cancer. While the judge ruled Monsanto withheld information about the herbicide’s potential harm, it didn’t make any claims over whether it actually contributed to the cause of the man’s cancer.

But, according to Business Insider, this month, a federal jury ruled that Roundup was a “substantial” contributor to another man’s cancer diagnosis back in 2015. In this case, the consequences were from spraying Roundup, not ingesting traces of it.

So the debate stands. Does glyphosate cause cancer? Certain scientific groups are convinced there is a link between the two, but others aren’t sold. Most published research has concluded that the chemical isn’t a health threat at low levels, which is how consumers are typically exposed to it. Environmental Protection Agency, the European Commission, Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency and the World Health Organization’s International Program on Chemical Safety have determined that glyphosate does not present a public health concern, according to a Business Insider report.

General Mills and Quaker Oats claim their products are safe, and previously released statements to Fast Company citing their compliance with Environmental Protection Agency standards.

While there isn’t enough information to reach a satisfactory conclusion, some scientists say people can limit their exposure to glyphosate as an added precaution. The EWG report found Quaker Oatmeal Squares cereal showed the highest levels of glyphosate, and Quaker Overnight Oats and Cheerios’ Oat Crunch Cinnamon flavor also appeared to be potentially harmful.

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