The People's Perspective on Medicine

Is There Roundup in Your Breakfast Cereal?

The Environmental Working Group reports that there are residues of Roundup in popular oat cereals. The companies that make Cheerios and Quaker Oats disagree.

A recent report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) suggests that oats and oat cereals may be contaminated with the herbicide glyphosate, often sold under the brand name Roundup. Some industry-affiliated groups contest the findings, leaving doctors and patients wondering what to think.

What’s Wrong with Roundup?

Part of the reason this report has gotten so much attention is that glyphosate was declared a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research back in 2015. Needless to say, the company that makes Roundup does not agree. A Monsanto spokesman told the Wall Street Journal that the popular weedkiller had been extensively studied and that it does not cause cancer. However, a California jury recently awarded $289 million in damages to the heirs of a man who claimed that his exposure to Roundup as a groundskeeper for a school system resulted in his terminal cancer diagnosis.

Which Breakfast Cereals Contain Roundup?

While the EPA and its European counterpart are deliberating on whether glyphosate actually poses an elevated risk of cancer, the EWG warns that breakfast foods like oats, granola, oatmeal and granola bars may contain elevated levels of the herbicide. Quaker Oats (whose Quaker Oats Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats were named as high in Roundup residue) and General Mills (maker of the ready-to-eat oat cereal Cheerios) both object that their products meet safety standards. Until the controversy over glyphosate as a cancer-causing agent is resolved, parents may want to find substitutes for these popular breakfast foods.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Over 20 yrs ago, when I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. My Doctor told me to eat cereal low in sugar along with my other instructions. Since Cheerios had a very low sugar content I chose that one and have been eating them for breakfast, most days, since then. I am now 87 years old with no sign of any cancer at this time. So all this information coming out about Cheerios is very confusing, and I would hope that the product will be taken off the market if proves to be hazardous to our health.

RoundUp, from all the lawsuits, is a carcinogen and people have won millions for their cancers caused by it. There is no doubt that it MUST BE TAKEN OFF THE MARKET. Companies that know it’s in their foods are liable to be sued.

Our food and bodies are becoming increasingly contaminated by glyphosate. It’s in almost all food products containing corn, soy, and beet sugar, and from my research, it seems that choosing organic or non-GMO products won’t completely protect anyone from this potential poison. Is there a blood test for detecting glyphosate in the body? If not, we need to ask why not.

I just called Quaker Customer Service and asked why they would spray their oats with roundup just before harvest. I wouldn’t spray roundup on my child’s oatmeal before setting it in front of them.

They said they believe the ewg study is flawed and that their levels are safe. IMO NO levels are safe! I repeat I would NOT SPRAY ROUNDUP ON MY CHILD’S FOOD BEFORE SERVING IT!

Glyphosate cannot be a washed off. It acts systemically! What they are doing is irresponsible, greedy and flat out wrong!

They said they are taking these comments into account and will be formulating some new products shortly. I told them I thought that was wise.

I hope more readers will contact these companies and let them know exactly how we feel about this!

Organic is the only way that I choose to go for myself and for my family. But is this enough? Are we safe from all these problems when we consume organic only? The other issue is the packaging of products. Why are organic juices, for example, sold in plastic which is known to be problematic? I know that for the manufacturers, plastic is cheaper, but why package an organic product in plastic when the chemicals associated with the plastic leach out into the product itself? So much for the integrity of that organic product.

If you look up crops that are GMO crops, these are the ones that have been modified to resist roundup (glyphosate), and Roundup goes in via the leaves and affects the plant systemically. It cannot be washed off.

Corn byproducts are in everything. I agree. The only way to not eat Roundup (made by the same company that made agent orange) is to eat organic foods. Awful because organic foods are so darn expensive, but I have been thinking about this long and hard and have not come up with a different solution.

You can also eat products that are not GMO products and are not processed. That would avoid the Roundup issue I think. Soy, corn, canola, alfalfa, cotton, and sorghum, and wheat are all GMOs. Strange, I don’t see oats here. Could tell us why and how oats made the list? That would be helpful. I’m glad people are becoming aware of this hazard. If more people get angry about this, maybe it will prompt the FDA and other regulatory agencies to do something about protecting us from this poison.

I believe that ALL oats and wheat in this country are dessicated with RoundUp.

That means that when these crops are ready to harvest they spray the entire field with RoundUp to dry it out and make it easier/quicker to harvest. You used to have to wait several days to several weeks for mother nature to do this job.

(Have you ever seen how weeds dry up after they are sprayed?) So, essentially, these crops are drenched in glyphosate. Yum!
And I would seriously doubt that even “organic” crops are completely free of glyphosate. Our planet is a closed system and even newborn babies are being found to have glyphosate in their systems.

Seems everything is contaminated: our water, our land and our air! Meanwhile, most RXs have devastating side effects, including death. I try to eat as natural as possible (no processed foods) and try to avoid sugar and white flour. I control my pre-diabetic condition and heartburn strictly by diet. Ask God to bless your food.

If you are going to put out a statement of this nature, at least give us alternatives to the potentially offending product that could be cancer causing. I thought that’s what the People’s Pharmacy web-site is all about. Helping us make better choices. However, you are not giving us other options. I am distressed since I am gluten sensitive, and oatmeal is a staple in my daily diet.

HI Bonnie, the EWG researchers did find some brands with low or no levels of glyphosate. Here’s a link to the full report:

My grandmother lived to 92, my great grandmother to 105. They ate all the things articles will say will kill you. You read about every diet under the sun from every country. I think it’s blown out of proportion so the studies keep getting funding. On the other hand, I am concern with steroids in our meat, and food grown with GMO. I am more concerned with other countries making our medications. Our life expectancy went from 46-76 so I am going keep doing what I do with moderation. Why would a company sell food with round up to kill you? They would loose a customer. Just my thoughts and would welcome any response that contradicts me.

As I understand it, Round Up is sprayed on oats and wheat before harvesting, to help dry it up and make the harvest and storage easier. This leaves a residue, and you have to assume any non-organic oats and wheat may have this. Of course Monsanto and the big food makers swear the product is safe. They have been asserting that for years in spite of more and more evidence to the contrary. Especially concerning is evidence of how glyphosate interacts with our gut bacteria, which are important for keeping us healthy. Not just a concern of cancer but of many health impacts from impaired gut microbiome. Spend a few extra pennies, and buy your oat products in organic versions. Also corn and soy, since those are genetically modified to resist roundup, are sprayed during growth and take up the glyphosate directly into their cells.

365 Brand organic old fashioned oats had no trace of glyphosate. John Stossel provides a link to the study showing which brands showed traces of glyphosate. Tons of the stuff are sprayed over crops to kill the plant and dry it out before harvesting.

I have consumed an above-average amount of oatmeal every day for several decades. At age 70, I am in generally good health. My manageable medical problems are more directly related to sun exposure (a couple hundred dysplastic nevii) , and Lyme disease that was not promptly diagnosed (joint problems that mostly resolved after treatment).

How many years has Roundup been used heavily in the growing of oats?

What about oats from other countries such as Ireland? Irish oatmeal seems easy to find in many grocery stores. It is my understanding that Roundup is banned in other countries.

More info on criteria used to establish “elevated levels” of glyphosate and how much consumption to be aware of as possibly hazardous to ones health would be appreciated. Oat products are consumed daily by a huge number of people and have been for many years.

Now they come up with this? ? ? Nothing is safe anymore. I don’t trust the manufacturers OR the government. Everyone is in for the money, the more for themselves the better, in everything!

Yes, please do provide information about which cereals could be safely substituted!

And, thank you for all your invaluable information through the years.

The five largest herbicide/fungicide/pesticide companies in the world are also the largest sellers of genetically modified seeds (GMOs):
Dow DuPont
Monsanto – Now Owned by Bayer
Top Five Pesticides Companies in the World (SYT, DOW)
By: Jeff Kronfeldt
August 16, 2016

I have been eating Cheerios, thinking that they were the best cold cereal. I would also like some safe alternative suggestions.

Isn’t it odd that so many middle aged Americans stand around in total confusion, scratching their heads and butts, wondering why it is that for the first time in recorded history the younger generation, their own children, will not live as long as they are expected to live ? A casual stroll through any large urban cemetery will soon convince you of what’s happening. I discovered this five years ago. The shock of seeing so many grave markers bearing the deaths of individuals under sixty and younger will awaken you to the toxicity of the world we find ourselves attempting to survive. In a less profit-motivated society, every grocery store in these United States would be stripped of Quaker Oats Oatmeal and General Mills Cheerios until the manufacturers can produce a less toxic food! As I am now dealing with prostate cancer, surely I have the right to make this statement.

I completely agree with you Larry!
And best of luck in your fight against cancer.

There are several problems (from a scientific stand point) with the EWG’s report that should be considered before people start throwing out their oat cereals. So don’t panic yet, but here is a little context to the EWG’s tactics (but this tactic is nothing new). Unfortunately, the alarmist headlines grab the public’s attention and it is difficult to un-do once they are out there.

Problem 1: No peer review: “The report—which was simply published to the internet, rather than in a scientific journal or after peer review—makes some rather outlandish claims about toxicity, glyphosate, cancer, and breakfast. Read without context, it would understandably worry any human who likes carbs in the morning, but when you drill down into the evidence, there is really no reason for alarm. ”

Problem 2: The EWG set their own extremely low “safe” levels of glysophate without scientific backup or evidence. The acceptable levels of glysophate were just made up by EWG without any kind of reference or backup.

“EWG, on the other hand, argues that the acceptable threshold is actually 0.01 milligram per day, total. That’s an extreme difference [from the . So why did EWG lower the threshold so dramatically? The explanation is published, once again, on the EWG website. The organization arrived at its number by taking the state of California’s recommendation for a glyphosate threshold, already less than one-hundredth of the EPA threshold, and dividing it by 100 again. EWG justifies this second cut by relying on the Food Quality Protection Act, which suggests that an additional tenfold margin should be applied to pesticides to account for the increased risk to children and infants. (The Food Quality Protection Act doesn’t mention glyphosate once, and it’s not clear its recommendation is meant to apply to the EPA standard for the chemical, which is set to factor in body weight.) Even if you apply that extra tenfold factor to the EPA threshold, all the foods tested would still be safe.
None of the foods tested by EWG passes that threshold—they don’t even come close.
Basically, the EWG threshold has to be set at one ten-thousandth of what the EPA has deemed to be safe for the trace amounts of glyphosate to register. Your mileage may vary, but I trust the math of the government agency over the advocacy group that made these hilariously incorrect charts. ”

Why are we lending credibility to this type of fear-mongering without requiring some basic scientific protocol and standards?

I think the EWG has created havoc and panic as they often do by changing the parameters of what is safe to what THEY decide is safe. EWG changed California’s very strict standards to fit their own standard and got the result they wanted. I find them to be less than credible on many issues, choosing pseudo-science in many cases. They put in just enough “facts” to sound credible.

I do agree that publishing more about the study itself would be helpful for your readers.

It seems like the only way to avoid all these chemicals is to eat organic as much as possible. Expensive, but if that’s what we have to do to lessen our risk of cancer, worth it. Meanwhile, the government should be subsidizing organic farmers rather than large commercial growers.

This is especially disheartening for those of us who are gluten intolerant. Oat cereals are our go-to when we can’t eat wheat. Soon we will be left with nothing to eat.

Being gluten intolerant myself, I agree! I eat either oats or Cheerios every morning.

Do organic forms of these product, if they exist, have this in them also?

What about cereals labeled organic? Aren’t they exempt from glyphosates?

People are reacting and are just now waking up and realize they no longer trust and are showing their frustration. They were in bondage because they never questioned what they were told or read.

As much as I hate assuming, I assume that organic oats are safe?

That seems to be the case. Here are the EWG results:

So can we be certain our generic brand cereals are not contaminated?

I am extremely angry and confused about the risks involved. With all the information I’ve gathered, I do NOT trust what I read from the product manufacturers, growers, or the government agencies. I eat Quaker Oats, Cheerios, and granola bars several times a week…for my whole life. I have tried other lesser-known brands over the years but I always go back to my favorite (and less costly) oatmeal and Cheerios. My husband recently passed away with no specific cause of death other than heart failure (he also had dementia and Parkinson’s). He had been eating Quaker Oats oatmeal on a daily basis for about 30 years after being raised among the corn fields in Nebraska. Chemicals probably caused his Parkinson’s at the age of 52. We have to eat to stay alive…but our food is questionably unsafe and trust in the industry and government is long gone.

Yes, the government has allowed our food sources to be contaminated. We must take responsibility for our own health & research, research & research for our own well being.

It might be useful to give an overview of the studies concerning the possible carcinogenic effects of glyphosate rather than just state the position on one of the manufacturers. Also, it would be helpful to explain the criteria EWG uses to for what they define as elevated levels.

It would be more helpful if you would say which cereals could safely be substituted: the studies found Roundup residue in nearly all oat cereals.

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