Pesticide Chlormequat found in some breakfast foods like Cheerios and Quaker Oats, study finds

ABCNews logo
Friday, February 16, 2024
Study links pesticides to some common breakfast foods
A first-of-its-kind study has discovered a little-known pesticide is present in some common breakfast foods.

A first-of-its-kind study has discovered a little-known pesticide is present in some common breakfast foods.

Cheerios and Quaker Oats are consumed by millions of Americans and now they're making headlines in connection with a new study and raising concerns - and plenty of questions.

"Chlormequat itself is a chemical that can be harmful if you're exposed to large amount of it," said Dr. Alok Patel, ABC News medical contributor.

A nonprofit called the Environmental Working Group studied chlormequat.

In the U.S., the chemical is only allowed in ornamental plants, but the EPA allows it to be used on imported oats and other food.

The study found that 90% of food items tested contained chlormequat, including Quaker Oats and Cheerios, and most Americans in a small group tested positive for it.

Previous research on animals found the chemicals can damage reproductive systems and disrupt fetal growth.

"That gives us concern about how this chemical might also impact human health," said Alexis Temkin, a toxicologist for the Environmental Working Group.

It's important to note that it's not yet known how chlormequat may affect humans and doctors say with its relatively small sample size, this study should not cause any panic.

"We do need to take this with a big asterisk that it's not necessarily generalizable to a large population, and we don't yet know what the implications are for humans," said Dr. Patel.

So, what's the takeaway? Doctors say there's no need to drastically change your eating habits or to strictly buy organic.

"Organic foods by definition don't contain pesticides, but I don't want people out there to think that organic necessarily always means healthier and they have to do that or they're doing a disservice to their family. You can still find nutritious foods that are not organic. It's just about knowing exactly what you're eating and making an individualized empowered choice," said Dr. Patel.

Meanwhile, the food companies have insisted their products meet all regulatory requirements.

The Environmental Working Group says it will do more research and is asking the government to mandate more testing.

To read the full report, visit: