New Study: Multiple dangerous pesticides found in food made and sold by Kroger, Walmart, Costco and Albertsons

AUSTIN, TEXAS Testing released today found store and name-brand foods produced and sold by the top four U.S. food retailers contain residues of toxic pesticides linked to a range of serious health and environmental problems. The foods were purchased in 15 cities across the country by Friends of the Earth and a number of allies, including Environment Texas.

The report found that oat cereals, apples, applesauce, spinach and pinto beans from Kroger, Walmart, Costco, and Albertsons stores contained detectable amounts of glyphosate, organophosphates and neonicotinoids. The average level of glyphosate found in cereal samples (360 parts per billion) was more than twice the level set by scientists at Environmental Working Group for lifetime cancer risk for children. The average level of glyphosate found in pinto beans (509 ppb) was more than 4.5 times the benchmark.*

“My toddler basically only eats cereal, apple sauce, and beans, so these findings are alarming," said Luke Metzger, Executive Director of Environment Texas. "It's absurd that in the year 2019 we still have to be concerned about toxic pesticides in the food we eat.”

Friends of the Earth is releasing the report, Toxic Secret: Pesticides uncovered in store brand cereal, applesauce, beans and produce [] today with allied organizations nationwide, including Texas-based groups Environment Texas, Council for Healthy Food Systems, and Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Assn.

"Too many consumers don't know the long-term health effects of what they are eating, or feeding to their children, on a daily basis,” said Judith McGeary, executive director of the Council for Healthy Food Systems, based in Cameron, Texas. “And the exposures are multiplied for children in rural communities, who are exposed both through their food and through pesticide drift. Americans deserve transparency in our food system and better access to food raised using healthier methods."

Findings of the food testing commissioned by Friends of the Earth are significant because of the ubiquity of toxic pesticides found in many different types of non-organic foods children eat on a daily basis. Findings include:

  • Glyphosate, a probable human carcinogen according to the World Health Organization’s cancer research agency, was found on 100% of oat cereal samples and 100% of pinto bean samples tested.
  • Organophosphates, which are so toxic to children’s developing brains that scientists have called for a complete ban, were found in 100% of applesauce samples, 61% of whole apples and 25% of spinach samples, at levels ranging from 0 to 3.31 nmol/g.
  • Neonicotinoids, which the European Union has banned due to robust science linking the chemicals to bee die-offs and which have been linked to endocrine disruption and autism spectrum disorder, were found in 80% of spinach and 73% of applesauce samples ranging from 0 to 0.14 nmol/g.

Brands tested by an independent laboratory included Great Value (Walmart), Kroger (Kroger), Signature Kitchens and Signature Select (Albertsons/Safeway).

Kroger, Walmart, Albertsons and Costco control over one third of all food and beverage sales in the United States. Friends of the Earth and over 100 organizations are urging these companies and all food retailers to phase-out toxic pesticides in their supply chains and increase offerings of domestic organic foods, which are produced without these and many other toxic synthetic pesticides. 

“Toxic pesticides are showing up in what should be some of the healthiest and most affordable foods supermarkets sell,” said Kendra Klein, PhD, senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth. “Children, farmworkers and rural communities are routinely exposed to multiple pesticides linked to cancer, learning disabilities and hormone disruption. This is unacceptable. We’re calling on food retailers to get toxic pesticides out of their supply chains and off store shelves and help make organic food available to all Americans.”

In addition to pressuring retailers, Friends of the Earth and allies are calling on Congress to pass Rep. Velazquez’s bill H.R. 230 to ban the organophosphate pesticide chlorpyrifos. The report details additional actions state and federal governments could take to eliminate the use of neonicotinoids, glyphosate and organophosphates, incentivize transition to organic production and direct public dollars to purchase certified organic food and beverages.

* EWG determined that a one-in-a-million cancer risk would be posed by ingestion of 0.01 milligrams of glyphosate per day. To reach this maximum dose, one would have to eat a single 60-gram serving of oat cereal with a glyphosate level of 160 parts per billion (ppb) or a 90-gram serving of pinto beans with a glyphosate level of 110 ppb. The highest residue level from a cereal product sample (931 ppb, purchased from Walmart) would result in an estimated 58 µg/day glyphosate exposure, which is nearly six times greater than EWG’s health benchmark. The highest residue level from a pinto bean product sample (1,849 ppb, purchased from Albertson’s) would result in an estimated 168 µg/day glyphosate, which is nearly 17 times greater.


Friends of the Earth fights to protect our environment and create a healthy and just world. We speak truth to power and expose those who endanger people and the planet. Our campaigns work to hold politicians and corporations accountable, transform our economic systems, protect our forests and oceans, and revolutionize our food & agriculture systems.

Defending our environment requires independent research, tough-minded advocacy and spirited grassroots action. That’s the idea behind Environment Texas. Together with thousands of supporters from all walks of life, we take the kind of action that wins tangible results for our environment.

The Council for Healthy Food Systems provides educational information based on science to help consumers make food choices that improve their health and the health of our planet. CHFS also provides workshops and other opportunities for farmers to learn about regenerative methods of growing food and about the business, legal, and marketing aspects of building a successful operation.