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Cereal bowl. Stock photo from Pixabay

Cancer-linked weedkiller found in almost all US children’s cereal

American breakfast foods aimed at children contain a cancer-linked herbicide. Called Roundup by Monsanto, the weedkiller has been found in 43 products including granola, snack bars and Cheerios.

Published: August 18, 2018, 10:25 am

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    A new study has found high levels of the chemical glyphosate in popular breakfast cereals, oats and snack bars marketed to US children, the Guardian reported.

    The attested quantities could be a health risk, the US-based Organic Consumers Association warned.

    Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the Roundup, has been found to be present in all but two of the 45 oat-derived products that were tested by the Environmental Working Group, a public health organisation.

    Almost three in four of the products exceeded safety limits for child consumption set by the EWG, with some of the highest levels of glyphosate discovered in granola, oats and snack bars made by leading industry names Quaker, Kellogg’s and General Mills, which makes Cheerios.

    The Environmental Protection Agency is currently working on an updated assessment after the EWG warned that federal limits were outdated. It said that most of the products the EWG had tested exceeded their limits of safe glyphosate levels.

    “I grew up eating Cheerios and Quaker Oats long before they were tainted with glyphosate,” EWG’s president, Ken Cook said. “No one wants to eat a weedkiller for breakfast, and no one should have to do so.” Cook said the EWG will continue to lobby the EPA to limit the use of glyphosate on food crops.

    But Cook said companies should also “step up” to end the “lawless” nature of the regulator. In April, internal emails obtained from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showed the high prevalence of glyphosate in commonly consumed foods, but the FDA has yet to release their official findings.

    “Our view is that the government standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency pose real health risks to Americans ­– particularly children, who are more sensitive to the effects of toxic chemicals than adults,” Cook explained.

    General Mills and Quaker Oats denied that their products were unsafe. But Cook said that General Mills and Quaker Oats were still “relying on outdated safety standards”.

    Alexis Temkin, an EWG toxicologist and author of the report, also warned against children being exposed to such ceraels. “It is very troubling that cereals children like to eat contain glyphosate.”

    “Parents shouldn’t worry about whether feeding their children healthy oat foods will also expose them to a chemical linked to cancer. The government must take steps to protect our most vulnerable populations.”

    Some 4 000 plaintiffs suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma are now lining up to sue Monsanto. “This could very well be the next tobacco or asbestos,” attorney Brent Wisner noted at the start of the court proceedings against Monsanto.

    The World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), has meanwhile called glyphosate a “probable carcinogen”. In California it is listed as a chemical “known to the state to cause cancer”.

    Last week, a San Francisco court last week ordered that Monsanto pay $289 million in damages to Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former groundskeeper. A jury found that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller was responsible for Johnson’s cancer and that it had failed to warn him about the health risks of exposure.

    Monsanto said it would appeal against the Johnson verdict. It claims that glyphosate is safe, but in 2015, the EPA said some pets face danger if they consume the chemical even though glyphosate has a low toxicity for people.

    US farmers spray about Roundup on crops, including corn, soybeans, wheat and oats. Investigative journalist Carey Gillam said: “It’s the pesticide on our dinner plates, a chemical so pervasive it’s in the air we breathe, our water, our soil and even increasingly found in our own bodies.”

    Gillam’s book Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science, details how genetically modified “Roundup Ready” seeds are engineered to be used in conjunction with Monsanto’s weed killer, acting as “the catalyst for this surge in glyphosate use”.

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