Food Safety Magazine

News | November 14, 2016

FDA Halts Testing of Glyphosate, A Possible Carcinogen

By Staff

FDA Halts Testing of Glyphosate, A Possible Carcinogen

Government testing of residues from glyphosate--an herbicide that kills weeds and has been linked to cancer by the World Health Organization--has been put on hold by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In recent years, the presence of pesticides in foods has become a top concern for American consumers.

After the FDA was called out by the U.S. Government Accountability Office for not including glyphosate in annual testing programs, the agency began analyzing certain foods for residues left behind by glyphosate--regarded as the most widely used herbicide in the world. The FDA’s “special assignment” only started in February 2016. Testing was put on hold because establishing a standard methodology to implement across the FDA’s multiple U.S. laboratories was a source of much confusion and disagreement. There were reportedly also problems with some of the labs’ equipment, specifically the lack of more sensitive instruments.

Glyphosate levels were being tested for a number of food products--corn, eggs, milk, soy and popcorn samples. Preliminary results on what levels of glyphosate--if any--were detected have not been released. Food producers can be disciplined for glyphosate levels above the recommended tolerance.

Limited testing by one senior chemist has also been performed on honey and oatmeal--the former of which showed glyphosate levels well over the limit allowed in the European Union. This extra testing was not part of the FDA’s official assignment. The U.S. has not officially set any legal tolerance for glyphosate in honey, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may enforce one after the FDA’s testing is complete.

It is not yet known when glyphosate testing will resume, according to FDA spokeswoman Megan McSeveney. However, the process is expected to continue once a standard testing method is validated for all applicable U.S. laboratories.

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