Study links chemical in oat-based foods to potential health issues

A recent peer-reviewed study conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that a pesticide called chlormequat was detected in oat-based foods sold in the U.S., including popular brand names like Cheerios and Quaker Oats. The study revealed that the pesticide was found in 80% of people tested in three different geographical regions of the U.S. between 2017 and 2023. Researchers also noted that the concentrations of chlormequat detected in 2023 samples were significantly higher than in previous years.

While some studies have linked chlormequat to reproductive and developmental issues in animals, the impact on human health is still uncertain. The EWG, a nonprofit activist group known for research and advocacy on various environmental issues, raised concerns about the potential harm to humans based on the findings of their study.

The pesticide is commonly used on food crops like wheat, oats, and barley to reduce stem height and make harvesting easier. The EPA has established acceptable food tolerance levels for chlormequat chloride in imported oats, wheat, barley, and some animal products. In 2020, allowable levels were increased for oats.

In addition to testing the pesticide levels in humans, researchers also analyzed oat and wheat-based products purchased in the U.S. in 2022 and 2023. They found detectable levels of chlormequat in almost all conventional oat-based products tested. In May 2023, the EWG reported detecting the pesticide in 92% of oat-based foods, including products from Quaker Oats and Cheerios.


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