What's in your lunch? That's a question we will all be thinking about after reading this report. Every day, Canadians are exposed to many chemicals that are linked to health conditions such as cancer, asthma, diabetes, and behavioural problems like ADHD. Food products that we eat regularly have become a significant contributor to harmful chemical exposure due to the extensive use of pesticides in agriculture. Glyphosate, Canada’s top-selling weed killer, is of particular concern because of its presence in common foods that children eat. New testing conducted by an independent lab found glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, in common children’s lunch foods and snacks sold in Canada.
The testing, commissioned by the Coalition for Action on Toxics, revealed that some products from Canada’s favourite foods such as Cheerios, Tim Hortons Timbits and bagels, Catelli multigrain spaghetti, and Fontaine Santé hummus all contain glyphosate. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Cancer Research Agency declared glyphosate a “probable carcinogen.”
“It is disconcerting that this harmful pesticide is consistently showing up in food products that most children eat daily. Exposure adds up,” says Muhannad Malas with Environmental Defence. “Growing scientific evidence and international regulatory action show that Canadians should be concerned.”
Chickpea and wheat-based products were among the highest contaminated because these crops are often sprayed with glyphosate just weeks before they are harvested. Canadian growers are concerned about current levels of contamination because of impacts on exports due to higher standards in other countries.
In a much larger study conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, glyphosate was found in more than 30 per cent of food products tested, and in some cases was above Health Canada’s “safe” limits of contamination.
An American court recently ruled that glyphosate contributed to an American citizen’s cancer, and that Monsanto knowingly downplayed the risks using fraudulent science and backdoor negotiations with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Health Canada worked in close collaboration with the U.S. EPA in its evaluation of glyphosate, concluding in 2017 to continue to allow the use of glyphosate for another 15 years. In August 2017, Équiterre, Environmental Defence and its partners filed a Notice of Objection to the re-evaluation of glyphosate, raising concerns that the evaluation either failed to consider or even dismissed important scientific evidence on risks to public health and ecosystems.
“Canadian families need to be assured that government regulations are adequately protecting them,” says Karen Ross with Équiterre. “But how can we be confident when we know that Canada’s closest ally in its evaluation of glyphosate used fraudulent science and negotiated with Monsanto to downplay risks?”
The coalition is demanding the government to reform and strengthen Canada’s cornerstone laws governing the regulation of toxics: the Pest Control Products Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).
So what exactly is glyphosate? Glyphosate is an organophosphate chemical that inhibits photosynthesis (the process of making new tissue) in plants, making it a very effective weed killer. Monsanto (now owned by Bayer) first introduced glyphosate to the market as Roundup in 1974.
The introduction of Roundup Ready crops, which are genetically modified (GM) to withstand the effects of glyphosate, in 1996, resulted in a nearly 15-fold increase in the use of this pesticide. (Ref: Benbrook, C. M. (2016). Trends in glyphosate herbicide use in the United States and globally. Environmental Sciences Europe.)
Glyphosate and our health - The report also states that in particular, glyphosate has been shown to contribute to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, an aggressive form of blood cancer. Scientific studies on animals have also demonstrated that exposure to glyphosate is linked to endocrine or hormone disruption, can adversely impact the digestive system by harming healthy gut bacteria and may be linked to birth defects and reproductive health issues.
In 2015-2016, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) tested food products for glyphosate and the results were disconcerting. There were 3188 food products tested.
– 36.6 per cent of grain products contained glyphosate;
– 47.4 per cent of bean, pea, and lentil products contained glyphosate;
– 11 per cent of soy products contained glyphosate;
– 31.7 per cent of infant cereal products contained glyphosate.
Some samples, predominantly associated with grain products, were found to contain levels above Health Canada’s “safe” limits. To raise awareness about our potential daily exposure to glyphosate, environmental defence and Équiterre commissioned the testing of common food products that children eat regularly. The results were STAGGERING! Here are just a few results from their testing (You can read more in the full report):
– Product – Cheerios cereal – Main ingredient is oat. Glyphosate level detected (ppb*) 577! AMPA** level detected (ppb) was 29. (*ppb = parts per billion **AMPA is a toxic breakdown product of glyphosate.)
- Product – Kraft Dinner Original Mac & Cheese - Main ingredient is wheat. Glyphosate level detected (ppb*) 521! AMPA** level detected (ppb) was 40.
– Product – PC Blue Menu Tortillas 100% Whole Grain – Main ingredient is wheat. Glyphosate level detected (ppb*) 744! AMPA** level detected (ppb) was 16.
– Product – Ritz Original crackers – Main ingredient is wheat. Glyphosate level detected (ppb*) 569. AMPA** level detected (ppb) was 16.
– Product – Tim Hortons Chocolate Glazed Timbit – Main ingredient is wheat. Glyphosate level detected (ppb*) 209. AMPA** level detected (ppb) was 11.
– Product – Tim Hortons Sesame Seed Bagel – Main ingredient is wheat. Glyphosate level detected (ppb*) 233. AMPA** level detected (ppb) was 14.
– Product – Fontaine Santé Roasted Garlic Hummus – Main ingredient is chickpeas. Glyphosate level detected (ppb*) 760! AMPA** level detected (ppb) was 11.
The report also listed chickpeas and chickpea products as chickpeas are often highly contaminated because crops are sprayed with glyphosate just weeks before they are harvested. In their testing, both hummus samples and canned chickpeas contained glyphosate. In 2015-2016, the CFIA food testing found that 26 out of 71 chickpea samples exceeded Health Canada’s “safe” limits.
France, Germany, and Austria are all making moves to severely restrict or ban glyphosate within the next three to five years. The report recommends that the Canadian government put stronger laws in place to protect us from the risks posed by harmful pesticides. That consumers need to demand stronger restrictions. Glyphosate contamination is so pervasive in our food, water, air, rain, and soil that we really can’t completely avoid it with our own consumer choices. We need government action!
Thanks so much to the Coalition for Action on Toxics, Environmental Defense and Équiterre for the information provided for this column. You can read the full report on the Environmental Defense's website. They also have a petiton calling for stronger government action on law protecting us from harmful pesticides like glysophate. This is a joint petition with Équiterre. You can log on here and follow the links: https://environmentaldefence.ca/report/whats-in-your-lunch/Environmental.
Food for thought - Children don’t just eat one of these foods daily. So, what can we really consider safe?
Recalled! La Cie McCormick Canada is recalling Compliments brand Chili Powder, 155 g size. Code on recalled product is 2020 MA 26, and the U.P.C.# 0 55742 35921 3. The reason for the it being recalled from the marketplace is due to possible Salmonella contamination. Consumers should not consume the recalled product. Return it to the store where purchased.
Just a heads up – This recall was triggered by Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) test results. The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.