As if 2018 could possibly get worse
Organic Rolled Oats
Credit: Getty: Lew Robertson

A new study has found potentially dangerous levels of glyphosate, an ingredient in weed-killer, in many popular brands of oats, oat-based breakfast cereals, and oat-containing granolas. As if 2018 could possibly get worse. The study, conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an public health organization with a particular emphasis on children’s safety, claims to have found glyphosate the majority of samples of common breakfast products made with conventionally and organically grown oats. Glyphosate has been classified by the World Health Organization as "probably carcinogenic to humans." Though as of December 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency stated that glyphosate is not carcinogenic (do note the date, and consider the current administration's stance on the environment), there is technically a safety level in place for the herbicide. Whether it’s cancer-causing or not, I can’t say I’m happy to hear about the presence of any weed killer at all in my oatmeal.

The EWG found that all but two of the 45 samples of products made with conventionally grown oats contained glyphosate, and of those 43 positive samples, 31 contained above the level of what the organization's scientists have determined is safe for children’s health. They also tested organic oats, and while 5 of the 16 samples tested positive for containing glyphosate, all were deemed safely under the level of danger for children.

According to the study’s findings, Quaker Oats products, including their Old Fashioned Rolled Oats, Steel Cut Oats, Simply Granola Oats Honey, Raisin and Almonds, and Dinosaur Eggs Instant Oatmeal tested positive for potentially dangerous levels of glyphosate, as did Lucky Charms, Cheerios, and Barbara's Multigrain Spoonfuls. Even Bob’s Red Mill oats tested positive for high levels of glyphosate (their steel cut oats tested with higher levels than the rolled oats, the latter of which deemed registering a “safe” level). Whole Foods bulk bin conventional rolled oats tested positive for “safe” levels of the weed-killer, and it doesn’t appear that organic bulk bin oats were tested.

It’s not all bad. Some of the oats tested showed up with no levels of glyphosate, among them 365 Organic Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats, Cascadian Farm Organic Harvest Berry Granola Bars, Kashi Heart to Heart Organic Honey Toasted Cereal, Simple Truth Organic Instant Oatmeal, Original, and Nature's Path Organic Honey Almond Granola.

Should you go home and throw away all your oat products that tested positive for glyphosate? The choice is ultimately yours. Some particularly damning evidence to the negative effects of glyphosate surfaced last week, when Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 million to Dewayne Johnson, who worked as a school groundskeeper for years and developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma—a form of cancer—after regularly spraying glyphosate-containing Roundup.

As a major oatmeal fan, I’m fairly certain I’ve eaten “unsafe” oats at least once a day for the past 5 years, so suffice it to say I may consider switching brands. In the meantime, you can read the published EWG report here.