The allure of Ben & Jerry’s has always been its interesting flavor selection. In the last few years, a nationwide push for more organic options has guided Ben & Jerry’s decision to go glyphosate free. That is why the ice cream world was so shocked when the Organic Consumers Association uncovered that flavors of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream contained trace amounts of glyphosate.
Glyphosate is a hazardous compound found in the many common pesticides including Roundup. Glyphosate was found in 10 out of 11 samples that the association used to evaluate the ice cream brand.
Although that might sound like a huge problem for the company, the reality is that the amount of glyphosate discovered is extremely low when compared to the trace amounts found in ground soil and non-organic products. In fact, the EPA deemed the level of glyphosate found (1.74 parts per billion) a safe and acceptable amount to the public. For the compound in Ben & Jerry’s to cause harm to ice cream consumers, consumers would have to eat approximately 290 thousand servings per day.
According to John Fagan, the chief executive of the Health Research Institute Laboratories, the tested samples of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream showed such a small amounts of both aminomethyl phosphonic acid and glyphosate that the results were deemed insignificant and not worth mentioning. Fagan stated that since the amounts discovered were well less than governmental threshold standards they posed no risk to the public.
There were nine other flavors in addition to Chocolate Fudge Brownie, which had the highest amount of glyphosate, that also contained the compound. A few other contaminated flavors included Americone Dream, fudge warmer, chocolate chip cookie dough, vanilla, Tonight Dough and Half Baked.
So, should people who eat Ben & Jerry’s be worried?
The reason the contamination poses such a problem for the Ben & Jerry’s brand is that Ben & Jerry’s has boasted about being glyphosate free. Although only a trace amount of the chemical was discovered, consumers trusting the brand to be true to their word were disappointed.
The debate about whether or not trace amounts of glyphosate are dangerous continues in medical circles. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the chemical is probably carcinogenic, but to-date, there has been no direct health study to link cancer and glyphosate.
Scientific Reports published a study this year in which researchers gave rats a significantly low dose of glyphosate every day. The rats showed signs of fatty liver disease within months of consumption. These results, however, have been scrutinized because researchers did not disclose the age of the rats and also used a breed that is predisposed to developing tumors.
The Organic Consumers Association disagrees with the governmental assessment of healthy glyphosate levels, stating that there is no safe level of glyphosate that is healthy for the public, regardless what the government standards have concluded. The FDA has started to monitor the use of pesticides, but glyphosate is not currently being tracked.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, however, has suggested that many foods commonly eaten such as fresh vegetables, fruits, and beans all have a certain level of glyphosate in them, so many wonder why the chemical continues to be excluded from evaluation and tracking.
There is the possibility that the trace amounts are coming not from the ice cream itself, but from the other ingredients that Ben & Jerry adds like peanuts and cookie dough. These added components are often made from ingredients that are known to be sprayed with harmful herbicides which may contain chemicals like glyphosate.
So what does that mean for the consumer?
If you are someone who enjoys a pint of Ben & Jerry’s every once in a while, then this study shouldn’t concern you. Due to the wide use of glyphosate in weed killers and other herbicides, it is in the global environment and hard to eliminate altogether. If Ben & Jerry’s wants to use the all-natural ingredients and an organic label, they need to find a way to be trace-free.
Although probably not a health hazard, it is important for the consumer to know what is in the ice cream products that they eat, regardless of what the label says. Do your homework to be sure the food you bring home to your family is what you think it is.