A new study found detectable traces of weed killer in more than 80% of non-organic hummus and chickpea samples from brands widely available at grocery stores throughout the U.S., but does it mean you should start throwing out those healthy snacks?
The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental organization that receives funding from organic food companies like Stonyfield Farm and Organic Valley, conducted the study and found glyphosate (which is used in herbicides like Roundup) in many non-organic products it tested. It also detected the chemical in several organic versions, albeit at much lower levels for most of those samples.
According to the EWG’s press release, glyphosate is a “notorious weedkiller linked to cancer” and one-third of the 27 conventional hummus samples in the study exceeded the organization’s health-based benchmark for detectable levels of the chemical.
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Of the 12 organic hummus and six organic chickpeas samples, all but two contained detectable levels of the chemical, however most had less than those of their non-organic counterparts. Although, one dry chickpea sample had the highest glyphosate concentration of all the samples tested in the study.
Hummus brands that exceeded the EWG’s recommended levels included Whole Foods, Cava and Sabra. The chickpea-based products were purchased online or at major food retailers like Aldi, Costco, Target, Trader Joes, Walmart and Whole Foods grocery stores in the Washington, D.C., New York City and San Francisco metropolitan areas.
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While all of this may sound scary, one nutritionist told TODAY Food that consumers shouldn’t actually be frightened by these test results — or avoid these foods altogether.
Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of “Read It Before You Eat It – Taking You from Label to Table,” said the EWG is often trying to keep consumers safe, but said that she thinks the organization does have a tendency to be alarmist.
In its study, the EWG’s benchmark for glyphosate in chickpeas was 160 parts per billion (ppb) for daily consumption, based on a 60-gram serving of hummus (about 4 tablespoons).
“That is way below what the Environmental Protection Agency’s is, which around 5,000 (ppb),” Taub-Dix said. “Perhaps (the EPA’s) number should be lower, but not as low as the Environmental Working Group’s.”
In 2017, the EPA did a review of glyphosate and its effects on human health. According to a release, the agency said “there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.”
“Maybe it (research on glyphosate) needs to be looked at further,” Taub-Dix said. “But it doesn’t mean it’s something we should stop eating.”
That’s because chickpeas provide major health benefits including fiber, good carbohydrates and calcium. They can even help control diabetes.
“If you put out some hummus, and you have carrots or sugar snap peas, it’s a great way to get vegetables, too, which we know we’re not getting enough of,” she said. “There aren’t many snacks that are better than hummus and vegetables.”
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Taub-Dix said she hopes the EWG’s study doesn’t scare people to the point of them forgoing healthy snacks and opting for unhealthy treats.
“If you are concerned, then buy the organic version,” she said. “But you would be missing out on health benefits if you didn’t include beans, chickpeas and pulses (in your diet).”