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Editor’s note: This is the second in a four-part series covering Moms Across America’s testing results for the top U.S. fast food restaurants. Part 1 reported on antibiotics and hormones. Part 2 reports on pesticides. Future reports will address heavy metals and nutrition.
Moms Across America (MAA) found “alarming” levels of pesticides in fast foods sold by the 20 top-selling brands in the U.S., the representatives of the nonprofit told congressional aides and the public in a Tuesday briefing on the children’s health crisis in the U.S.
MAA is concerned about toxicity in fast food because some fast food chains supply school lunches. Zen Honeycutt, MAA’s founder and executive director, presented MAA’s results during Tuesday’s congressional briefing.
Honeycutt told The Defender the audience “was shocked by the test results” and was “interested in the solutions that have been proven to provide safer, nontoxic, nutrient-dense food.”
Solutions discussed in the hearing included funding organic farms and cracking down on toxins in kids’ food.
“We hope that the public will encourage their elected officials to have the political will to protect our children, citizens and future of our country,” Honeycutt said.
Dr. Michelle Perro, a pediatrician and executive director of GMO Science also spoke during the briefing. She said the pesticide levels found in U.S. fast foods signaled “a national health catastrophe, with glyphosate leading the charge of the daily poisoning of American citizens.”
Perro — who also authored “What’s Making Our Children Sick?: How Industrial Food Is Causing an Epidemic of Chronic Illness, and What Parents (and Doctors) Can Do About It” — said:
“The health impacts from the chronic ingestion of glyphosate — even in low amounts — include neurologic disorders (autism spectrum disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.), asthma/allergies, metabolic disruption, and immune dysfunction (including cancer).
“The sobering news gets worse. Not only was glyphosate found in all of the fast food samples submitted, but a host of other toxic pesticides and pharmaceuticals were discovered.
“In essence, our children and their families are consuming a toxic time bomb daily without any oversight or accountability.”
MAA board member Kelly Ryerson of Glyphosate Facts and Sen. Corey Booker’s (D-N.J.) office organized the briefing. John Fagan, Ph.D., chief scientist and CEO of the nonprofit independent lab Health Research Institute (HRI) also spoke. HRI conducted the testing.
Mark Doudlah, a sixth-generation farmer who owns Doudlah Farms Organics, said during the briefing that regenerative organic farms can and should be leveraged by U.S. policymakers to address the current dramatic increase in sickness among U.S. youth.
Doudlah told The Defender he thought the briefing went “very well.”
“People have a general concern about our kids and our future,” he said. “And certainly people understand the ‘hockey stick’ increase in sickness … the autism, the obesity rates, all of the things that are plaguing our youth.”
According to Doudlah, the U.S. government can either invest money reactively in healthcare costs after kids get sick — what he called “sickcare” — or proactively invest in organic food to prevent illness in kids. “We’re going to spend that money either way … it’s that simple,” he said.
He said that sourcing school lunches via local organic farms, such as what the Farm to School Network does, is a “big step forward.”
“But,” he added, “that doesn’t guarantee that we remove the toxicity of pesticides and heavy metals in the school lunch program.”
Doudlah said U.S. food policymakers should fund testing of the food that ends up on kids’ plates and aim to find less than 10 parts per billion (ppb) of any kind of pesticide. “We’re way higher than that right now, so we have to have a goal of getting to zero.”
Perro told The Defender it remains to be seen whether policymakers will make “true change” based on what she and the other panelists shared. “Clearly, those involved with school nutrition are more concerned with low-fat milk, lowering sugar and sodium content,” she said, adding:
“These concerns are unfortunately shadowed by the looming problem of environmental toxicants found in school lunches — 95% containing glyphosate, and 100% contaminated with heavy metals.
“By decreasing the toxic load, and increasing nutrient density via organic, regeneratively grown meals, we can bring real nutritional changes to our children’s meals.”
‘It’s got to happen now’
Some people may be skeptical that U.S. policymakers can make such sweeping changes to the U.S. school lunch program, but Doudlah said the changes are both possible and necessary.
Doudlah noted there are 1,454 other organic farmers in his home state of Wisconsin who want to help. There are 17,000 organic farmers in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Organic INTEGRITY Database available to help feed U.S. schoolchildren.
“That’s over 5 million acres of organic,” he said. “So anybody that says ‘this can’t be done’ or ‘it’s going to cost too much’ hasn’t wrapped their head around the situation and where we’re headed.”
“We won’t have a future unless we get control of this,” Doudlah said, adding:
“Why would an organic farmer in the middle of harvest go to Washington, D.C.? Who in their right mind would do that?
“It’s because we don’t have the time to kick this down the road 10 years or five years, or even next year. It’s got to happen now.”
Glyphosate found in all major U.S. fast food chains tested
HRI tested multiple samples from the country’s top 20 fast food chains, plus California’s In-N-Out Burger.
Multiple samples of two types of meals from each of the restaurants, still frozen and in their original packaging, were sent by FedEx to HRI, where staff conducted a battery of tests, including triple-quadrupole mass spectrometry, for glyphosate and 236 other pesticides.
Subway’s Footlong Veggie Delight showed nearly 300 ppb of glyphosate.
Two kinds of Panera Bread sandwiches also tested positive for high glyphosate levels — the Deli Ham Sandwich (225.53 ppb) and the Steak and Cheddar Cheese Sandwich (213.58 ppb). Items from Arby’s and Dairy Queen contained over 100 ppb.
The lowest glyphosate levels were found in Chipotle meals.
The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, considers 160 ppb to be the safe limit for human consumption, a threshold much lower than EPA’s, which can range as high as 400,000 ppb.
27 other pesticides found in fast food items
HRI found 27 other pesticides present in the samples, with some fast food brands testing positive for as many as eight different pesticides in one food item.
For instance, Pizza Hut’s Vegetable-Topped Pizza contained measurable levels of six pesticides and trace levels of two more.
Chains with the most pesticides in their foods were not the same as those with the highest glyphosate levels.
Although Chipotle’s items had very little glyphosate, for instance, its Carnitas Bowl with Everything tested positive for measurable levels of five other pesticides and traces of three more.
MAA pointed out that many of the pesticides found were linked to a host of negative health effects in animal studies.
The group further pointed out that there is a lack of studies examining the long-term impact of routinely ingesting multiple pesticides.
Doudlah said it “floored” him that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not seek out this data.
“Why does it take a group of mothers to figure this out [and] to find out what’s going on?” he asked.