The Environmental Working Group, which has links to the organic industry, found that all 21 of the products tested had glyphosate levels that were "higher than what EWG scientists consider protective for children's health."
Manufacturers maintain that their food is safe, and the findings are not unprecedented: The group also found in October that most of the breakfast cereals it tested contained glyphosate, the main ingredient in the Weed Killer Roundup
The new report follows two prominent legal verdicts
A federal jury unanimously determined in March that Roundup was a "significant factor" in causing California's cancer. And last month, California jurors ordered the manufacturer, Monsanto, to pay over $ 2 billion to a couple who said the long-term exposure to the product caused their cancer
The last verdict is being appealed, but about 1
1,000 similar cases are pending in the state and federal courts.
Pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG, which now owns Monsanto, maintains that its product is safe
A spokeswoman for the company's crop science subsidiary, Charla Lord, said that "an extensive body of science" around the world "show that" glyphosate-based products are safe when used as directed. "
General Mills, which manufactures all of the products tested in the EWG report, said in a statement that its "top priority is food safety."
The company noted that "most crops grown in fields use some form of pesticides and trace amounts are found in most of the food we eat" but said it was working to "minimize the use of pesticides on the ingredients we use in our foods. "
General Mills did not respond directly when asked why it is reducing pesticide use when it already considers its products to be safe
How much glyphosate is too much? in February found that glyphosate can increase cancer risk by up to 41%, although researchers have focused on those with the "highest exposure" to chemical, like groundskeepers, who are exposed to more glyphosate than people can consume through snacks
The herbicide can make its way into processed foods after being used on farms that grow oats, but none of the levels found in any food products in the new report exceeded the legal limits of the Environmental Protection Agency's
"It's not surprising th at very low levels of pesticides, including glyphosate, are found in foodstuff, "said Dr. Paolo Boffetta, Associate Director of Population Sciences at Mount Sinai's Tisch Cancer Institute. "In general, these levels are unlikely to cause health effects in consumers."
Still, "It's important that people know whether glyphosate or other chemicals are in their food, even at very low levels," said Boffetta, who
General Mills emphasized in his statement that he followed "strict rules" set by "experts at [Food and Drug Administration] and EPA." Bayer's Lord said "the reality is that the regulatory authorities have strict rules when it comes to pesticide residues, and the levels in this report are far below established safety standards."
The Environmental Working Group, however, uses a far more conservative health-based benchmark that includes an added buffer for children, as "exposure during early life can have more significant effects on development later in life," said Dr. Alexis Temkin, an EWG scientist who co-authored both reports and spoke to CNN last year.
Manufacturers dispute that threshold. In an October statement, General Mills said that "the extremely low levels of pesticide residue cited in recent news reports is a tiny fraction of what government allows."
The EPA said in April that proper use of glyphosate poses " no risk to public health "and that the chemical is not a carcinogen, and a cancer-causing chemical. But the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, determined in 2015 that glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic to humans."
A separate WHO Panel evaluating pesticide residues said in 2016 that "glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet," adding to a dizzying array of contradictory findings, but the International Agency for Research on Cancer
The agency wrote in 2018 that it "has been subject to unprecedented, coordinated efforts to undermine the evaluation, program and organization." Those attacks, it said, "have largely originated from the agro-chemical industry and associated media outlets."
A war of words
A 2017 CNN investigation of internal emails from Monsanto appeared to show company executives attempting to discredit the International Agency for Research on Cancer Report before it was even released.
One executive's email, titled "RE: IARC planning," suggested that company ghostwrite parts of a 2015 study in which experts dismissed the agency's finding that glyphosate could cause cancer. And the Monsanto spokeswoman told CNN at the time that the study was not ghostwritten and was "the work of the glyphosate expert panel."
Although EPA has maintained that glyphosate is safe, CNN's investigation also raised questions about industry influence at federal agency.
A Monsanto executive wrote in a 2015 internal company email, for example, that a EPA official offered to help quash another agency review of glyphosate, saying, "If I can kill this I would get a medal." company has denied any undue influence over regulators. And its parent company, Bayer Crop Science, criticized the Environmental Working Group in its recent statement to CNN "The group behind the new report has a long history of spreading misinformation about pesticide residues," spokeswoman Lord said.
The EWG, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, denied those allegations. Bayer's criticism "must be taken with a grain of salt," EWG President Ken Cook said in a statement. In light of the lawsuits, he said, Bayer was "desperate to continue hiding the truth."
Although it maintains that it is an independent organization, EWG acknowledges support from the organic industry, stating that its "corporate partners for general support and events "includes Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farms. Organic Voices Action Fund, a nonprofit organization funded by companies such as Nature's Path and Annie's – both of which make cereal
CNN's Holly Yan has contributed to this report