Laboratory tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found oat cereals, oatmeal, granola, and snack bars contain traces of the herbicide glyphosate, an ingredient in the product RoundUp.
The EWG report said glyphosate showed up in all but two of 45 samples of products made with conventionally grown oats. Nearly 75 percent of the samples in the study had glyphosate levels higher than what EWG scientists consider protective of children’s health. The chemical even showed up in several samples of organic oats.
Glyphosate was recently in the news when a San Francisco jury awarded a groundskeeper a $289 million settlement, ruling that his cancer was the result of years of using RoundUp. Monsanto, the company that makes RoundUp, said it would appeal the verdict, insisting that its product is safe.
Claims of government secrecy
EWG said it tested multiple brands of oats and foods containing oats to give consumers information about dietary exposures that it claims government regulators are keeping secret. The group cites internal emails obtained by US Right to Know that showed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been testing food for glyphosate for two years and has found “a fair amount.” However, EWG says the FDA has not released its findings.
Quaker Foods, a major manufacturer of oat food products, stresses that any glyphosate found in oats is the result of farmers applying it pre-harvest.
"Once the oats are transported to us, we put them through our rigorous process that thoroughly cleanses them," the company said in a statement to the media. "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."
What level is safe?
But the EWG report takes issue with what are considered safe levels for human consumption. To reach the level of maximum level exposure, the group says one would only need to consume a 60 gram serving of food with a glyphosate level of 160 parts per billion (ppb). The group said the majority of oat products in the study exceeded that level.
The National Pesticide Information Center points to some studies which suggest that glyphosate has carcinogenic potential, but they subjected laboratory animals to very high doses.
The group says studies of cancer rates in people have provided conflicting results. It says some studies have associated glyphosate use with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.