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Cheerios, Quaker Oats and Snack Bars Test Positive for Glyphosate

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Several types of General Mills Cheerios have tested positive for probable-carcinogen glyphosate. Daniel Oines / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

An environmental advocacy group has discovered yet more traces of a potentially cancer-causing chemical in popular oat breakfast and snack food marketed to children.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) announced Wednesday that tests it commissioned found glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup weed killer, in nearly 30 General Mills and Quaker brand products made with conventionally-grown oats. The tests found glyphosate in 28 of 28 products including several types of Cheerios, instant oatmeal and snack bars. In 26 of them, the levels surpassed EWG's own safe limit of 160 parts per billion (ppb).


"How many bowls of cereal and oatmeal have American kids eaten that came with a dose of weed killer? That's a question only General Mills, PepsiCo [owner of Quaker] and other food companies can answer," EWG President Ken Cook said. "But if those companies would just switch to oats that aren't sprayed with glyphosate, parents wouldn't have to wonder if their kids' breakfasts contained a chemical linked to cancer. Glyphosate and other cancer-causing chemicals simply don't belong in children's food, period."

This round of tests comes two months after initial tests commissioned by EWG also turned up glyphosate in 43 of 45 products tested that used conventionally grown oats. More than two thirds had levels above EWG's safety limit. The EWG also found glyphosate in one third of 16 products made with organic oats.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said in a statement to ABC News that consumers should not worry about the results, which showed amounts far below its safety limit of 30,000 ppb.

"EPA's review of available data does not support recent claims that glyphosate, the active ingredient of RoundUp, found in cereal (and other foods containing commodities like wheat and oat) is cause for concern," an EPA spokesman said in a statement.

General Mills and Quaker likewise dismissed the results.

"The extremely low levels of pesticide residue cited in recent news reports is a tiny fraction of the amount that the government allows. Consumers are regularly bombarded with alarming headlines, but rarely have the time to weigh the information for themselves," General Mills wrote in an email to CBS MoneyWatch. Quaker also said the products tested by EWG were safe.

But EWG noted that the EPA limits were set in 2008, before the International Agency for Research on Cancer listed glyphosate as a "probably carcinogenic" to people in 2015. It also noted that federal safety limits can be influenced by industry lobbying.

Monsanto has a history of funding studies that say glyphosate is safe, and a judge this week upheld a jury's verdict that repeated use of Roundup gave former-groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson cancer.

EWG scientists purchased one or two samples of each product at stores in San Francisco and Washington, DC. The samples were tested at Anresco Laboratories in San Francisco.

Below is the list of products that tested positively, ranked from greatest amount of glyphosate to least, in parts per billion (ppb), so see if any of your favorites are on the list:

  1. Quaker Oatmeal Squares Honey Nut Cereal: 2,837 ppb in one sample.
  2. Quaker Oatmeal Squares Brown Sugar Cereal: 2,746 ppb in one sample.
  3. Quaker Overnight Oats Unsweetened With Chia Seeds: 1,799 ppb in one sample.
  4. Cheerios Oat Crunch Cinnamon: 1,171 ppb in sample 1 and 541 ppb in sample 2.
  5. Quaker Overnight Oats Raisin Walnut & Honey Heaven: 1,029 ppb in one sample.
  6. Quaker Breakfast Squares Soft Baked Bars Peanut Butter Bars: 1,014 ppb in sample 1 and 713 in sample 2.
  7. Honey Nut Cheerios: 833 in sample 1 and 894 in sample 2.
  8. Quaker Breakfast Flats Crispy Snack Bars Cranberry Almond: 894 ppb in one sample.
  9. Frosted Cheerios: 756 ppb in sample 1 and 893 ppb in sample 2.
  10. Apple Cinnamon Cheerios: 868 ppb in one sample.
  11. Quaker Simply Granola Oats, Honey & Almonds: 625 ppb in sample 1 and 862 ppb in sample 2.
  12. Chocolate Cheerios: 826 ppb in one sample.
  13. Very Berry Cheerios: 810 ppb in one sample.
  14. Quaker Chewy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars: 625 ppb in sample 1 and 275 ppb in sample 2.
  15. Fruity Cheerios: 618 ppb in one sample.
  16. Quaker Real Medleys Super Grains Banana Walnut Instant Oats: 608 ppb in one sample.
  17. Quaker Chewy S'mores Bars: 260 ppb in sample 1 and 572 ppb in sample 2.
  18. Quaker Instant Oatmeal Apples & Cinnamon: 543 ppb in sample 1 and 248 ppb in sample 2.
  19. Quaker Instant Oatmeal Cinnamon & Spice: 128 ppb in sample 1 and 45 ppb in sample 2.

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By Sherry H-Y. Chou, Aarti Sarwal and Neha S. Dangayach

The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.

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We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19.

Some patients may not seek timely medical care for neurological symptoms like prolonged headache, vision loss and new muscle weakness due to fear of getting exposed to virus in the emergency setting. People need to know that medical facilities have taken full precautions to protect patients. Seeking timely medical evaluation for neurological symptoms can help treat many of these diseases.

What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.

Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.

To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.

Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.

The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.

Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.

The first reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in COVID-19 pandemic originated from Italy, Spain and China, where the pandemic surged before the U.S. crisis.

Though there is clear clinical suspicion that COVID-19 can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, many important questions remain. What are the chances that someone gets Guillain-Barre Syndrome during or following a COVID-19 infection? Does Guillain-Barre Syndrome happen more often in those who have been infected with COVID-19 compared to other types of infections, such as the flu?

The only way to get answers is through a prospective study where doctors perform systematic surveillance and collect data on a large group of patients. There are ongoing large research consortia hard at work to figure out answers to these questions.

Understanding the Association Between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome

While large research studies are underway, overall it appears that Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare but serious phenomenon possibly linked to COVID-19. Given that more than 10.7 million cases have been reported for COVID-19, there have been 10 reported cases of COVID-19 patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far – only two reported cases in the U.S., five in Italy, two cases in Iran and one from Wuhan, China.

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Due to the pandemic and infection-containment considerations, diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study that used to be routine for patients with suspected Guillain-Barre Syndrome, are more difficult to do. In both U.S. cases, the initial diagnosis and treatment were all based on clinical examination by a neurological experts rather than any tests. Both patients survived but with significant residual weakness at the time these case reports came out, but that is not uncommon for Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients. The road to recovery may sometimes be long, but many patients can make a full recovery with time.

Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.

Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.

Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.

Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Reposted with permission from The Conversation.


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Unity Task Forces formed by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled sweeping party platform recommendations Wednesday that—while falling short of progressive ambitions in a number of areas, from climate to healthcare—were applauded as important steps toward a bold and just policy agenda that matches the severity of the moment.

"We've moved the needle a lot, especially on environmental justice and upping Biden's ambition," said Sunrise Movement co-founder and executive director Varshini Prakash, a member of the Biden-Sanders Climate Task Force. "But there's still more work to do to push Democrats to act at the scale of the climate crisis."

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In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Ocasio-Cortez—the lead sponsor of the House Green New Deal resolution—noted that the Climate Task Force "shaved 15 years off Biden's previous target for 100% clean energy."

"Of course, like in any collaborative effort, there are areas of negotiation and compromise," said the New York Democrat. "But I do believe that the Climate Task Force effort meaningfully and substantively improved Biden's positions."

 

The 110 pages of policy recommendations from the six eight-person Unity Task Forces on education, the economy, criminal justice, immigration, climate change, and healthcare are aimed at shaping negotiations over the 2020 Democratic platform at the party's convention next month.

Sanders said that while the "end result isn't what I or my supporters would've written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country."

"I look forward to working with Vice President Biden to help him win this campaign," the Vermont senator added, "and to move this country forward toward economic, racial, social, and environmental justice."

Biden, for his part, applauded the task forces "for helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country."

"I am deeply grateful to Bernie Sanders for working with us to unite our party and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come," said the former vice president.

On the life-or-death matter of reforming America's dysfunctional private health insurance system—a subject on which Sanders and Biden clashed repeatedly throughout the Democratic primary process—the Unity Task Force affirmed healthcare as "a right" but did not embrace Medicare for All, the signature policy plank of the Vermont senator's presidential bid.

Instead, the panel recommended building on the Affordable Care Act by establishing a public option, investing in community health centers, and lowering prescription drug costs by allowing the federal government to negotiate prices. The task force also endorsed making all Covid-19 testing, treatments, and potential vaccines free and expanding Medicaid for the duration of the pandemic.

"It has always been a crisis that tens of millions of Americans have no or inadequate health insurance—but in a pandemic, it's potentially catastrophic for public health," the task force wrote.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and Sanders-appointed member of the Healthcare Task Force, said that despite major disagreements, the panel "came to recommendations that will yield one of the most progressive Democratic campaign platforms in history—though we have further yet to go."

 

Observers and advocacy groups also applauded the Unity Task Forces for recommending the creation of a postal banking system, endorsing a ban on for-profit charter schools, ending the use of private prisons, and imposing a 100-day moratorium on deportations "while conducting a full-scale study on current practices to develop recommendations for transforming enforcement policies and practices at ICE and CBP."

Marisa Franco, director of immigrant rights group Mijente, said in a statement that "going into these task force negotiations, we knew we were going to have to push Biden past his comfort zone, both to reconcile with past offenses and to carve a new path forward."

"That is exactly what we did, unapologetically," said Franco, a member of the Immigration Task Force. "For years, Mijente, along with the broader immigrant rights movement, has fought to reshape the narrative around immigration towards racial justice and to focus these very demands. We expect Biden and the Democratic Party to implement them in their entirety."

"There is no going back," Franco added. "Not an inch, not a step. We must only move forward from here."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.