Can hummus cause cancer? These hummus brands contain a dangerous chemical.

Consumer GoodsHealth & Wellness

Think again before you dip that chip or fix your sandwich with hummus. 

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report showing several popular brands of hummus contain high levels of the weed-killing chemical, glyphosate. 

The takeaway from EWG’s report: If you love hummus, buy organic. That’s because even though some organic varieties of hummus were found to contain glyphosate, which has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, they tested far lower than non-organic.

Glyphosate, the notorious weed killer and world’s most pervasive and best-selling herbicide, was detected in over 80 percent of non-organic hummus and chickpea samples tested by EWG, which maintains a cosmetics and personal care product safety database, SKIN DEEP

Nine of 27 non-organic hummus varieties exceeded EWG’s “health-based benchmark” of 160 parts-per-billion (ppb) for daily consumption, which is the equivalent of four tablespoons. 

The EWG’s threshold for glyphosate in chickpeas is far lower than that of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA), which is 5,000 ppb, over 30 times the EWG’s. 

Only one agency has thus far declared glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen”: The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO). Several countries, municipalities and states have banned its use, including California, which lists it as a chemical known to cause cancer.  

Brands that tested high for glyphosate include:

  • Whole Foods Market Original Hummus (tested highest at 2,000 ppb; the organic variety of also exceeded EWG’s threshold)
  • Sabra Classic Hummus and Sabra Roasted Pine Nut Hummus 
  • Cava Traditional Hummus
  • Harris Teeter Fresh Foods Market Traditional Artisan Hummus

As a result of the findings, Olga V. Naidenko, Ph.D., EWG’s vice president for science investigations said in EWG’s news release, “These excellent foods would be much better without glyphosate. Toxic weed killer should never be allowed to contaminate these products, or any other foods, that millions of American families eat every day.”

Glyphosate exploded in popularity after the Monsanto Corporation, which developed the chemical and the infamous Roundup weed killer product, introduced to market in 1996, “Roundup Ready” crops. These genetically-modified seed crops were designed to be resistant to glyphosate, which can contaminate several other types of foods such as oats and cereal bars

Consumers may assume that when they purchase an organic product, by law, that product cannot contain genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) or pesticides. While the organic label does indeed prohibit use of toxic pesticide spraying and GMO’s, glyphosate sprayed on adjacent farms can drift onto an organic farm. 

The EWG recommends a ban on pre-harvest use of glyphosate. In addition, the non-profit calls for stricter glyphosate standards by the EPA, as well as increased testing conducted by the USDA and FDA. 

Glyphosate has made major headlines in the news as of late. Bayer AG, the pharmaceutical giant which acquired Monsanto in 2018 for $63 billion, announced that it was setting aside nearly $11 billion to settle 125,000 Roundup cancer lawsuits.

If you have a fridge full of hummus or chickpeas, should you throw it out? Per a Fox Business report, EWG’s Naidenko is quoted, “The health harms of glyphosate on food are from long-term exposure, so for future purchases, it’s best to buy hummus that has no weed-killer in it.”

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