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Taiwan Recalls Quaker Oats Products Imported From U.S. After Detecting Glyphosate

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More bad news for Quaker Oats. A random inspection from Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) detected glyphosate in 10 out of 36 oatmeal products it tested, exceeding the country's legal limit.

Quaker Oats products sold in Taiwan were found to contain glyphosate levels exceeding the legal limit following a random inspection from the country's FDA. Photo credit: Standard Foods Corporation

The 10 products, including those from the Quaker Oats brand, were found to have glyphosate residue levels between 0.1 parts per million (ppm) and 1.8ppm, the agency said, prompting a recall of nearly 62,000 kilograms of oatmeal.

Taiwan does not permit residues levels of glyphosate to exceed 0.1 ppm, and the companies that violated the regulated standard may face fines between NT$60,000-$200 million (USD$1,800-$6 million).

Taiwan's FDA said that glyphosate is an herbicide often used in other countries, but because Taiwan does not produce their oats it has a zero tolerance policy on glyphosate residue in oatmeal products in the absence of a set maximum residue limits, the Taipei Times reported.

Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Monsanto’s flagship herbicide Roundup, which is sprayed on "Roundup Ready" crops that are genetically modified to resist the weedkiller. As it happens, Taiwan has strict regulations on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Commercial cultivation of genetically modified crops is banned in Taiwan, and the country has mandated labels on all food products containing GMO ingredients. Additionally, as EcoWatch reported, in December 2015, Taiwan banned schools across the nation from serving GMOs to students, citing health and safety concerns.

According to the China Post, most of the tainted oatmeal was imported from the U.S. Quaker's Old Fashioned Quaker Oats and Quaker Quick 1-minute Oats that are sold at the country's supermarkets, Carrefour Taiwan, Costco Wholesale Corp and RT-Mart, were named in the inspection. Other brands that were flagged include Coach’s Oats, Bob’s Red Mill Instant Rolled Oats, Fifty50 Hearty Cut Oatmeal and McCann’s Imported Irish Oatmeal, Australia Fine Oat Flakes and oatmeal by Fengyuan Food.

Standard Foods Corporation—which has a licensing agreement with Quaker Oats allowing it to produce, distribute and market Quaker products in Taiwan—said in a statement that the oatmeal they produce in Taiwan have all passed FDA tests, and have no connection to the U.S.-imported Quaker Oats sold by other trade companies. The company insisted all their products are "made in Taiwan," with main ingredients imported from Australia.

Wang Te-yuan, an FDA Northern Center for Regional Administration official, said this was the agency's first random inspection of oatmeal products flowing into the market, media reports noted.

Wang explained that the maximum level of glyhosate residues currently allowed in foods is 30 ppm in the U.S., 20 ppm in Japan and the European Union, 15 ppm in Canada and 0.1 ppm in Australia.

Taiwan's FDA also cited studies suggesting that animals can tolerate considerable exposure to glyphosate, and that it does not harm their nervous systems, but high exposure in rats has caused slight weight loss, enlargement of the liver and kidney inflammation, the Taipei Times wrote.

According to the China post, "previously, only genetically modified soybeans were tested for glyphosate at customs, but the decision was made to also test oatmeal after reports indicated issues with those products overseas."

Earlier this month, a group of consumers in New York, California and Illinois filed a class action lawsuit challenging Quaker Oats's claim of being “100 Percent Natural” despite having traces of the weedkiller glyphosate found in its famous oatmeal.

Quaker issued a defense to the New York Times, stating, “Any levels of glyphosate that may remain are trace amounts and significantly below any limits which have been set by the EPA as safe for human consumption.”

The New York Times reported that in a test paid for by lawyers for the plaintiffs, the Richman Law Group, glyphosate was detected at a level of 1.18 parts per million in a sample of Quaker Oats Quick 1-Minute, or 4 percent of the 30 parts per million that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows in cereal grains.

Glyphosate, the most widely used agricultural herbicide in the world, is at the center of major global controversy. Last year, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer declared glyphosate as a possible carcinogen.

The chemical has been detected in several everyday products, from alcoholic beverageswomen’s hygiene products and food. The Alliance for Natural Health-USA revealed that glyphosate was found in 10 of the 24 food samples tested, including oatmeal, bagels, eggs (including the organic variety), potatoes and even non-GMO soy coffee creamer.

However, to make matters more confusing, a recent joint report from experts at the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the WHO's Meeting on Pesticide Residues concluded that glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.”

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Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

The city of Flint, Michigan, where dangerous levels of pollutants contaminated the municipal water supply, is a case in point — as is, more recently, the city of Newark, New Jersey.

The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future

We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.

"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.

One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.

Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.

Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.

These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.

We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).

We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.

We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.

Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.

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