A clean bowl and spoon? Check.
Cold milk from the fridge? Check.
A box of crunchy cereal from the cupboard? Check.
Weed killer in the cereal? Check.
Breakfast in the morning? Yum ... wait, what?
Pesticides in Cereal
We're sorry to make your scrumptious morning bowl of sweetness a little (lot) less appetizing, but your biggest concern about breakfast cereal may have nothing to do with sugar — although that's a problem too.
A bigger and growing concern is the presence of weed killer chemicals in cereal. Yes, we said weed killer. And by far the most prolific of these chemicals is glyphosate. This plant-killing ingredient is lurking in many a bowl of cereal and most people are none the wiser.
While it’s true that the glyphosate levels in cereal aren't quite so high that you'd actually taste it, you have to admit that having any amount of weed killer in your food should raise a red flag. Read on to learn more about glyphosate in cereal and what you can do to avoid it.
Why Is Glyphosate in Cereal?
There are some 750 glyphosate products for sale in the United States. Glyphosate is an herbicide and it’s also the active ingredient in Bayer-Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup, which is widely used across American crops including wheat, barley, rye, oats, and canola. (You know, what many breakfast cereals are made from.)
While popular breakfast cereal companies Quaker and General Mills have issued statements declaring that the trace amounts of "pesticide residue ... is a tiny fraction of the amount the government allows,” the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) says otherwise.
In their 2019 round of tests, the EWG found glyphosate in all 21 oat-based cereal and snack products sampled, and "all but four products contained levels of glyphosate higher than what EWG scientists consider protective for children’s health with a sufficient margin of safety.”
Why Is Glyphosate in Cereal a Bad Thing?
You probably believe that any form of pesticides in food is not the best for human health — and we agree — but let's talk about why you should be concerned about glyphosate in particular.
The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies glyphosate as a carcinogen. This means based on research evidence, the IARC has found that glyphosate poses a cancer risk for humans. The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment also lists glyphosate as a known carcinogen.
The courts concur. In August 2018, a jury in San Francisco ordered Bayer-Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages (later reduced to $78 million) to Dewayne Johnson, a school groundskeeper who linked his Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis with glyphosate exposure via Monsanto's Roundup.
Then, in May 2019, a California jury awarded a couple $2 billion in punitive damages after concluding that it was glyphosate use and sustained exposure to the Roundup weed killer that led to their cancer diagnoses. The couple will receive an additional $55 million for pain and suffering and to cover medical expenses.
However, before you make up your mind on glyphosate, we should also point out that the scientific world hasn’t conclusively determined that glyphosate causes cancer or that glyphosate use results in any serious negative health effects.
The official stance of some organizations — such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency, and the World Health Organisation’s International Program on Chemical Safety — is that glyphosate is not a public health concern, nor are they concerned about its supposed carcinogenicity. In other words, they have not determined that glyphosate poses health risks to humans.
In fact, the U.S. EPA has even gone so far as to release a fact sheet about the glyphosate herbicide, stating that results from a risk assessment found "no risks of concern from ingesting food with glyphosate residues,” and that it was not an endocrine disruptor.
So what or who do you believe? That’s for you to decide. What we do know, however, is that when it comes to your health, it’s usually better to be safe than sorry.
15 Cereals With the Most Glyphosate
We understand that eating a bowl of chemical-laden cereal first thing in the morning isn’t exactly appetizing.
To limit your exposure to weed killer in your breakfast bowl, consider avoiding the cereals on this list. According to the EWG, these 15 cereals contain the highest levels of glyphosate. The numbers in brackets represent the levels of glyphosate found — parts per billion (ppb). The EWG children's health benchmark is 160 ppb.
- Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch (833 ppb)
- Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal (729 ppb)
- Nature Valley Crunchy granola bars, Maple Brown Sugar (566 ppb)
- Nature Valley Granola Cups, Almond Butter (529 ppb)
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios (400 ppb)
- Nature Valley Baked Oat Bites (389 ppb)
- Nature Valley Crunchy granola bars, Oats and Honey (320 ppb)
- Nature Valley Crunchy granola bars, Peanut Butter (312 ppb)
- Nature Valley Granola Cups, Peanut Butter Chocolate (297 ppb)
- Cheerios Oat Crunch Cinnamon (283 ppb)
- Nature Valley Fruit & Nut Chewy Trail Mix Granola Bars, Dark Chocolate Cherry (275 ppb)
- Nature Valley Granola Protein Oats n Dark Chocolate (261 ppb)
- Multi Grain Cheerios (216 ppb)
- Nature Valley Soft-Baked Oatmeal Squares, Blueberry (206 ppb)
- Fiber One Oatmeal Raisin soft-baked cookies (204 ppb)
In case you're wondering which product scored the lowest in EWG's 2019 report, it was Nature Valley Fruit & Nut Chewy Trail Mix Granola Bars and Dark Chocolate & Nut, with glyphosate levels of 76 ppb.
You can also find the results from EWG's first two rounds of testing on other popular breakfast cereals.
How to Avoid Glyphosate in Cereal
With practically every mainstream cereal brand testing positive for glyphosate residue, you’re probably wondering what to do about breakfast.
After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day — it kickstarts your metabolism and gives you enough energy to get through the day. But when you consider that weed killer could be lurking in your cereal bowl, skipping breakfast suddenly seems like a much better option.
In an attempt to avoid ingesting chemicals, you may opt to buy organic foods instead, and that can be a good strategy. Since organic farming doesn’t use pesticides, it's natural to assume that your organic oats or organic cornflakes would be glyphosate-free.
However, while the EWG did find that organic products contained significantly less glyphosate than non-organic ones, they did still contain some traces of weed killer. (Albeit at levels well below EWG’s health benchmark of 10 to 30 ppb.)
This is because no farm is an island, and tiny particles of glyphosate can drift into organic foods from nearby conventional farms. Plus, there’s potential cross-contamination at facilities that also handle conventional crops.
Chemicals in Cereal? We Say No Way
Here at The Cereal School, we're firm believers that having a sweet and crunchy start to your day doesn’t mean you have to compromise your health.
Nothing beats the convenience of enjoying a bowl of cereal in the morning and getting your day off to a healthy, easy start.
Glyphosate in cereal may be a concern for most brands you’ll find in the supermarket, but you won't be getting any weed killer in The Cereal School.
Our cereal is completely gluten-free and grain-free, which means it doesn't contain any of the common ingredients that are often sprayed with Roundup. Not only that, we use all-natural ingredients that are non-GMO, with no artificial sweeteners, and no artificial colors. Plus, our cereals are low-carb and sugar-free, perfect if you're watching your weight or are diabetic.
Our cereal is as natural as it gets, and as crunchy and sweet as any of the cereals you grew up with — without the glyphosate.