Remember those ice cream commercials where kids would try to pronounce the many artificial flavors, preservatives, and other multi-syllabic ingredients on the label? Here's another one to add to the list: glyphosate. Here's what parents need to know about this herbicide showing up in their kids' food — but don't go looking for it on the ingredients label, because you won't find it there. Glyphosate isn't an ingredient used to make foods like ice cream, but trace amounts of the herbicide were found in Ben & Jerry's ice cream, according to tests conducted by the Organic Consumers Association.
Rob Michalak, global director of social mission at the Vermont-based company, told The New York Times they were committed to rectifying the issue: "We need to better understand where the glyphosate they’re finding is coming from. Maybe it’s from something that’s not even in our supply chain, and so we’re missing it."
So, what is glyphosate? It's a chemical compound commonly found in weed killers such as Roundup. In 2015, the World Health Organization announced that glyphosate can likely cause cancer in humans. Since then, its use has been a hotly contested topic within the agricultural industry, given its effectiveness as a herbicide, despite its label as a probable carcinogen. Earlier this month, California added glyphosate to its list of cancer-causing chemicals.
But how does a herbicide end up in your ice cream and other food products — and more importantly, what are the health risks to children who may consume these trace amounts of glyphosate? Glyphosate has been found in foods besides ice cream. In November, an independent test was conducted by consumer watchdog groups Food Democracy Now and the Detox Project. Their testing found high levels of glyphosate in Cheerios and other breakfast foods, including Special K cereal and Kashi cookies. Kashi, General Mills, and Kellogg did not immediately return Romper's request for comment.
In April, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency found that 30 percent of food it tested contained glyphosate residue. Unfortunately, there are no comparable numbers in the United States, as the Food and Drug Administration only recently began testing for levels of glyphosate in foods in February 2016, before abruptly suspending the testing program in November. The FDA only recently resumed glyphosate testing in April after public outcry and criticism from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
According to National Geographic, glyphosate has been linked to a number of health concerns, from kidney disease, hormone disruption, and even antibiotic resistance. The big issue at stake is how human health could be affected by exposure to glyphosate at low levels over time — and the scary truth is, scientists just don't know yet.
So what does that mean for your child whose favorite foods are Cheerios and Ben & Jerry's ice cream? Ultimately the decision to consume these products with what health impacts are currently known is up to each individual parent.