The scariest ingredient in the cereal aisle

Cereal’s been a staple in my diet since I was a kid. I know it’s not the healthiest food around, but it’s so versatile.

Need a quick breakfast? Have a bowl of cereal.

Worked through dinner to meet a deadline? A bowl of cereal will keep your stomach from rumbling while you sleep.

Searching for a snack to get you through that annoying afternoon fatigue? Cereal will keep your brain going a bit longer.

Now, maybe you’re not big on cereal at the moment because you’re avoiding grains, cutting carbs or staying away from sugar. But I guarantee there have been points in your life when cereal was a total savior…

It makes continental breakfasts bearable. It feeds hungry kids any time of day. And it’s just an all-around good snack in a pinch (ask Jerry Seinfeld).

But there is a serious problem with our cereal that goes beyond its sugar, carb or grain content…

Too many popular cereals are chock-full of a health-compromising chemical — one you won’t see anywhere on the ingredient list — glyphosate.

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Why is there weed killer in our cereal?

A recent round of testing from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an environmental and public health advocacy nonprofit, found glyphosate in 21 popular cereals and snacks.

All the products tested were produced by General Mills. And all of them except four contained glyphosate levels higher than what the EWG considers safe for children or adults.

Glyphosate, in case you don’t remember, is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer categorized it as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” It was also categorized as a carcinogen by California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment in 2017.

Glyphosate’s been in the news a lot lately because people keep filing lawsuits against Monsanto claiming Roundup caused their cancer… and many of them are winning. What is it doing in our cereal?

The sad fact is glyphosate’s in a lot of our food. Foods made from genetically modified corn and soybeans are the worst culprits. But oats are bad too… and all the products included in the EWG’s test contained oats. In fact, many farmers spray glyphosate on oat crops to kill them, so they can harvest them quicker.

The cereals and snacks you should avoid

So, what cereals and snacks should you watch out for? Well, these are the 21 glyphosate-laced cereals the EWG tested in their latest study:

  • Honey Nut Cheerios
  • Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios
  • Cheerios Oat Crunch Cinnamon
  • Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch
  • Multi-Grain Cheerios
  • Nature Valley Baked Oat Bites
  • Nature Valley Granola Peanut Butter Creamy & Crunchy
  • Nature Valley Granola Protein Oats n Dark Chocolate
  • Nature Valley Fruit & Nut Chewy Trail Mix Granola Bars, Dark Chocolate & Nut
  • Nature Valley Fruit & Nut Chewy Trail Mix Granola Bars, Dark Chocolate Cherry
  • Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Nut granola bars, Cashew
  • Nature Valley Crunchy granola bars, Oats and Honey
  • Nature Valley Crunchy granola bars, Peanut Butter
  • Nature Valley Crunchy granola bars, Maple Brown Sugar
  • Nature Valley Soft-Baked Oatmeal Squares, Blueberry
  • Nature Valley Soft-Baked Oatmeal Squares, Cinnamon Brown Sugar
  • Nature Valley Granola Cups, Almond Butter
  • Nature Valley Granola Cups, Peanut Butter Chocolate
  • Nature Valley Biscuits with Almond Butter
  • Fiber One Oatmeal Raisin Soft-Baked cookies

Four of them had glyphosate levels that fell within the EWG’s safety threshold (160 parts per billion):

  • Honey Nut Cheerios;
  • Nature Valley Fruit & Nut Chewy Trail Mix Granola Bars (Dark Chocolate & Nut);
  • Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Nut granola bars (Cashew); and
  • Nature Valley Soft-Baked Oatmeal Squares (Cinnamon Brown Sugar).

But still, why not get cereals and snacks you know are glyphosate-free (or close to it)?

Organic growers aren’t allowed to use glyphosate on their crops. Now, sometimes glyphosate from conventional crops drifts over and contaminates organic fields. But you better believe your exposure to glyphosate’s going to be a lot lower if you look for that USDA Organic logo on your cereal and snack boxes. So, why not start?

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  1. Cheerios, Nature Valley cereals contain Roundup ingredient, study finds — CBS News
  2. In New Round of Tests, Monsanto’s Weedkiller Still Contaminates Foods Marketed to Children — Environmental Working Group
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and