Study Reveals Pesticide Lurks in Popular Cereal Brands: Which Are Chlormequat-Free?

Researchers suggest that it's possible to avoid pesticides like chlormequat in your breakfast — choose these oats instead.

Anna Garrison - Author

Feb. 16 2024, Updated 3:50 p.m. ET

Bowl of oats on a gray table.
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Food recalls have become the norm in modern society, but there are times when even a recall just won't cut it. A shocking study published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology reveals that 80 percent of Americans have been exposed to chlormequat, a chemical banned from use on edible plants, via popular cereal brands such as Cheerios and Quaker Oats.

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Multiple studies of chlormequat in animals revealed side effects including "impair[ing] reproduction" and "disrupt[ing] the embryonic growth" and even "ha[ving] adverse effects on postnatal health."

Here's what you should know about the study, plus, most importantly, what consumers should know about buying chlormequat-free oats.

Bowl of oats in a white and blue bowl on a cutting board.
Source: iStock
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When grocery shopping, here's how to find chlormequat-free oats.

Green Matters reached out via email to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which peer-reviewed the chlormequat study, for guidance.

Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., EWG vice president of science investigations, research, and development, said: "Certified organic oats are, by law, grown without synthetic pesticides in order to maintain the organic certification. EWG recommends that consumers buy oat cereals and other food products made with organic ingredients."

However, Naidenko also warns consumers that certified organic oats aren't guaranteed to be free of pesticides. "It is important to acknowledge that, because of widespread pesticide use across the world, pesticide drift can occur from conventional agriculture fields to organic cultivation fields, as noted in a report by the Organic Farming Research Foundation."

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These varieties of organic oats are likely chlormequat-free.

Bowl of oats and spoonful of oats on a wooden table.
Source: iStock

Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Organic Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

USDA Certified Organic, vegan, made with whole grains, Non-GMO and gluten-free — it doesn't get any better than Bob's Red Mill for most pantry products, let alone oats! The Organic Old Fashioned Rolled Oats will make the perfect addition to your muffins, breakfast cereals, oatmeals, and more.

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365 by Whole Foods Market, Organic Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats

If you live near a Whole Foods, you can pick up the brand's Organic Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats to make your own delicious oatmeals or cereals. This product is USDA Certified Organic, kosher, and vegan, and make for a meal that's not only delicious but nutritious.

Nature's Path Old Fashioned Organic Oats

Non-GMO Certified and USDA Certified Organic, Nature's Path Old Fashioned Organic Oats are another great addition to your breakfast table. If plain oats aren't your thing, Nature's Path also makes fabulous (and organic) cereals, including bran, corn, and rice flakes.

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Close-up photograph of bowl of oats.
Source: iStock

One Degree Organic Foods Organic Sprouted Quick Oats

Boasting organic, non-GMO and non-artificial products, One Degree Organic Foods has a number of exciting products that will make your breakfast just right. Many of their oatmeal products are gluten-free, but if you're looking for just oats, the Organic Sprouted Quick Oats are USDA Certified Organic and certifiably vegan.

Better Oats Organic Quick Oats

Perfect for your cookies, smoothies, or pancakes, Better Oats Organic Quick Oats are USDA Certified Organic and made with 100 percent whole grains. These pantry staples are sodium and cholesterol free for those looking to create a heart-healthy diet.

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