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

Cheerios, Quaker Oats and Snack Bars Test Positive for Glyphosate

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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