Top Twenty Fast Food Brands Glyphosate and Pesticide Testing Report
Moms Across America, a nationwide non-profit, has initiated an extensive testing program on the top twenty fast food brands in America, plus one restaurant, California’s In-N-Out Burger. Forty-two samples of 21 brands were tested for the most widely used herbicide in the world, glyphosate, 236 agrochemicals, 4 heavy metals, PFAS, phthalates, and mineral content. The top ten brands were additionally tested for 104 commonly used veterinary drugs and hormones, B Vitamins and calories.
Fast food is consumed by eighty-five million Americans each day, and many chains are often the suppliers of school lunches. Thirty million school meals are served to our children each day, and for millions of underprivileged children, these toxic meals are their only access to nutrition. Our previous testing has shown that America’s school lunches are indeed toxic.
To further investigate the status of a major source of food and nutrition in America, Moms Across America supporters, including Children’s Health Defense, the Centner Academy, and many individual supporters, recently initiated extensive testing focused specifically on America’s most popular fast food chains to explore the potential contamination of our food supply, which is likely affecting our physical and mental health.
Despite spending the highest amount in the world on health care, America has the worst health of all industrialized nations. Healthcare costs are crippling America. The United States will spend a projected $4.7 trillion — or 18 percent of the national economy — on healthcare in 2023. On a per capita basis, the United States spends nearly double the average of similarly wealthy countries. Nonetheless, health outcomes are generally worse than in other countries, including in areas like life expectancy, infant mortality, and diabetes.
The CDC reports that 1 out of 6 of our children have learning disorders. and more than 1 out of 5 Americans have a mental health disorder. These disorders can lead to increased violence. According to an extensive 2022 report from the Commonwealth Fund, the US has, by far, the highest global incidence of death by assault.
The Importance of Diet and Behavior
Through various studies such as those by Barbara Reed Stitt, author of Food and Behavior, the Natural Connection, as well as a recent mental health study on glyphosate exposure and mental health, mental health disorders have been directly linked to exposure to toxins and the lack of nutrients in the food supply. “A new study shows that these effects on mental health may be at least partially explained by the recent discovery that glyphosate is neurotoxic, affecting the brain.
Agrochemicals such as glyphosate have been proven to negatively impact the gut microbiome, which is not only the stronghold of the immune system, but is also where Serotonin and Melatonin are localized – important hormones that influence mood, sleep, and risks of developing depression, violent and obsessive behavior, as well as suicidal and homicidal thoughts and actions.
In Stitt’s twenty-year study of inmates: parolees, criminals, and serial killers, she discovered that they all had one thing in common. It was not their socio-economic background or race. It was not whether they were black or white, rich or poor – the one thing they all had in common is that they "all bragged that they lived on junk food.” In addition, they were deficient in important Vitamins, specifically Vitamin B, which is essential for the processing function of the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that is utilized in good decision-making.
When Stitt removed processed junk food from their diet and they were given whole foods, the recidivism rate reversed. Instead of 70% of the inmates returning to prison, 70% stayed out of prison.
Glyphosate and toxic agrochemicals used in industrial farming are severely impactful to gut health, mood, and behavior. In addition to causing liver disease and nervous system damage, neurotoxic, carcinogenic glyphosate acts as a chelator, an antibiotic, and an endocrine disruptor. These three functions directly impact gut health and mental health. Chelation means that glyphosate holds and makes unavailable any vital nutrient in the thing it touches (such as a plant or soil). The withholding of such nutrients, such as Vitamin B, can directly lead to dysfunction and debilitation of body organs. Antibiotics disturb gut health. Glyphosate has been shown to target beneficial gut bacteria and allow for the proliferation of pathogenic gut bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella. Overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria in the gut can lead to lower levels of hormones that regulate a person’s ability to feel content and satiated or to sleep properly. Lower serotonin and lack of sleep lead to increased addictive behavior, obsession, depression, and mood swings. These things can eventually lead to violent behavior. In many cases, they lead to psychiatric care, which often includes the prescription of psychotropic antidepressant medications. Antidepressants have been connected to suicidal and homicidal ideation and increased suicide rates. Many articles assert that every or most mass shooters were, at one point, administered antidepressants.
Another example of food’s connection to behavior comes from a disturbing animal study. As featured in the Smithsonian magazine, a study out of the University of Strausberg, Germany revealed that a declining population of hamsters (an important food source for the ecosystem) that lived in a monocrops cornfield were cannibalistic. The mothers were eating their young on the first day of life. The soil in the field was also like sand, deficient in organic matter, as industrial, chemical farming commonly produces. Modern farming practices have changed the available food sources and soil quality. The lead scientist, Mathilde Tissier, soon learned that the corn, the hamsters’ food source, was the problem: “Corn binds vitamin B3, or niacin, so that the body cannot absorb it during digestion.” When she administered Vitamin B 3 to the hamsters, the cannibalism stopped. One change, one vitamin, completely stopped the violent behavior.
Another study from 2015, led by George Matapandeu, a health worker in rural Malawi, showed hundreds of patients with diarrhea and symmetrical rashes. “In Malawi, I would say 70 percent of the time somebody says ‘I’ve consumed food,’ they mean corn,” Matapandeu says. After consulting with doctors in the United States, he started handing out vitamin B3 supplements. Within a few weeks, the rashes and other symptoms had disappeared.
Moms Across America asserts that a diverse diet is important, as are the chemicals in the food consumed. This Malawi study was during a time when the practice of spraying glyphosate on corn crops as a drying agent (whether they were GMO corn or non-GMO corn) dominated the market. As previously mentioned, glyphosate is a chelator of vitamins and minerals essential to brain development. For GMO crops, glyphosate is sprayed on the entire corn crop (the weeds die), and the corn can continue to grow. For non-GMO corn, glyphosate is often sprayed as a drying agent. Either way, glyphosate residues are being consumed from most corn consumption. These agrochemically-grown mono-crops are patented and significantly different from heirloom corn; which are not genetically altered and toxic chemicals are not utilized. They are also grown in rotation or alongside other crops such as peas, beans, and legumes, in nutrient-dense (non-sprayed) soil. Many cultures have been on a predominantly corn diet for thousands of years. The problem is not just the lack of diversity and the corn, as the Smithsonian article claims, but what is being done to the corn.
According to the EPA, Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world, 280 million pounds are sprayed on food and animal feed crops every year. Glyphosate has been shown by Monika Kruger et al. to accumulate in animal tissues, and bone tendons and be present in thousands of grocery store food samples. A study by Paul J Mills et al showed higher levels of glyphosate in humans to be linked to higher levels of chronic disease.
Agrochemicals such as glyphosate have also been proven to negatively impact the gut microbiome, which is the stronghold of not only the immune system, but is where Serotonin and Melatonin are localized, important hormones that influence mood, sleep, and risks of developing depression, violent and obsessive behavior, suicidal and homicidal thoughts and actions.
Moms Across America and our supporters are particularly focused in this study on the presence of toxins and lack of nutrients necessary to support mental health. School shootings and the increase in violence in America devastate our communities. Mental health issues are on the rise, and many decade-old studies have shown a link between our food and violent behavior. According to a paper published in the European Journal of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences by Kleinman et al. (1998) the study reveals that malnourished and hungry children are 7 to 12 times more likely to exhibit symptoms of conduct disorders than not-hungry or nutrition-balanced children. Malnourished children also tend to exhibit higher levels of irritability, aggression, and externalizing behavioral problems than their low-income, low-SES, but not-hungry peers (Halas et al., 1975; Mora, 1979; Gray, 1986).
It is not enough to simply focus on hunger however, it is time for public health officials to learn about and take action regarding the connection between American food and the violent behavior of Americans.
The Fast Food Testing program consisted of testing 42 fast food samples from 21 restaurants, the top twenty restaurants as listed by industry *QSR 50 ( highest sales).. The board of Moms Across America, primarily based in California, also insisted that In-N-Out, actually 33rd in sales on the fast food chain list, also be included due to the frequent claims that the chain is a “healthier” version of fast food.
Two types of samples, three to four meals of each type, were sent by FedEx from 21 locations across the United States in their original packaging, untouched and frozen, to the laboratory for testing. The primary lab, Health Research Institute, coordinated the testing, which was conducted using triple-quadrupole mass spectroscopy (glyphosate, pesticides, veterinary drugs, PFAS, phthalates) and several other methods.
A summary of the test results is listed below. The full reports are linked in each section.
The following results are for the glyphosate and pesticide portion of the testing program.
- 100% of Top Twenty ( +1) Fast Food brands contained alarming glyphosate residues.
- Studies in lab animals show that 0.1 ppb of glyphosate cause liver and organ damage.
- The highest levels detected, 213.58 ppb and 225.53 ppb, totaling 439.11 in two samples, were in Panera Bread, a self-proclaimed proprietor of "good food" and "clean, wholesome foods."
- The second highest levels of glyphosate were found in Arby's sandwiches, 124.2 and 99 ppb, totaling 223.33 ppb of glyphosate. Dairy Queen and Little Caesar’s were nearly tied for third highest, at 126 ppb and 128 ppb total glyphosate detected, respectively.
- The lowest levels were found in Chipotle meals, totaling 4.65 ppb for both samples, a whopping 94.4 times lower than the highest level, 439.11 ppb detected in Panera Bread.
Chipotle was one of the first fast food restaurants to advertise non-GMO and organic ingredients.
- Next lowest were Panda Express and McDonald's at 4.75 and 5.58 ppb, respectively.
- The total amount of glyphosate detected in 42 types of fast food meals ( between 1-3 samples of each were used for testing for hundreds of contaminants) was 2089 ppb, a level over 20,000 times higher than the amount (.1 ppb) that has been found to cause severe organ damage, specifically liver disease, in animal studies.
Séralini, GE., Clair, E., Mesnage, R. et al. Republished study: long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Environ Sci Eur 26, 14 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12302-014-0014-5.
Moms Across America is concerned about the risk of consuming fast food a little less than once a week, only 42 times a year, as even this infrequency may be a significant contributing factor to the rise of liver disease and organ damage in America. Even more concerning is children eating school lunch provided by fast food companies on a daily basis.
MIT Senior Scientist and author of Toxic Legacy How the Weedkiller Glyphosate Is Destroying Our Health and the Environment, Stephanie Seneff PhD. reviewed the results and stated:
"It is highly disturbing that it takes action from an advocacy group operating on a shoestring budget to establish quantitative data that glyphosate is pervasive, often at alarmingly high levels, in foods commonly sold at fast food restaurants around the country. Many Americans rely on fast foods as a significant part of their diet. It is no wonder why so many Americans are obese, and the autism rates are so high." - Stephanie Seneff Ph.D.
Author of What’s Making our Children Sick, Pediatrician of 40 years, author of a new article titled "The State of Our Children's Health," and host of The New MDS, Dr. Michelle Perro stated regarding the results:
“The top of our list of analytes is the herbicide glyphosate, and its breakdown product AMPA. Unfortunately, the news is not good, and the amounts of glyphosate/AMPA in the most common fast foods are shocking. This is a national health catastrophe, with glyphosate leading the charge of the daily poisoning of American citizens. 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. “
- 27 different pesticides were found in fast food samples.
- 90% of fast food brands ( 61% of the total 42 samples) contained at least trace of these 27 harmful pesticides.
- Several fast foods contained as many as 7, 8 or 9 different pesticides.
- The highest levels were found in Domino’s and Pizza Hut pizza.
- Even the “healthier” fast food companies, Panera Bread, In-N-Out and Chipotle all had either trace or detectable and concerning levels of pesticides.
- The immediate side effects from these pesticides in animal studies include symptoms such as loss of balance, irritable behavior, gut dysbiosis, metabolic disorders, coma and death. Long-term effects include a wide range of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and mood/emotional disruption.
Lab report of summary
The top twenty fast food brands (plus In-N-Out), were tested for 236 pesticides in addition to glyphosate herbicide. Twenty-seven pesticides were detected in 28 samples. In other words, 61% of the 42 fast food samples were positive for trace or quantifiable amounts of harmful pesticides. As many as nine different pesticides were found in several of the samples. Some of the side effects from these pesticides include lower appetite, unsteady balance, watery eyes, irritable behavior, coma, and death (at high doses, long term, in animals), gut microbiota dysbiosis and metabolic disorders.
Gut dysbiosis and metabolic disorders can lead to autoimmune issues, weakened immune systems, disturbed sleep, mood, behavior, learning, and organ function.
A full list of toxicity ( high dose and immediate) side effects from these 27 pesticides, plus glyphosate, can be found here. While this list cannot be directly linked to human health effects, due to the lack of studies of pesticides on humans, ( according to the EPA it is “not ethical to allow pesticide testing ON human subjects”, and we agree with that, but then why are pesticides allowed in our food, to consumed by humans on a daily basis? How is that ethical?) this list does show reasons for significant concern. While the amounts of pesticides are low, no one can predict or ascertain what the levels are in any person over a long period of time, and on a daily or weekly basis. In addition, no synergistic studies have been done on the combination of up to 9 different pesticides, plus the herbicide glyphosate, in our food.
The brands with the highest levels of pesticides were pizza brands:
Domino's Pizza contained a total of 6 different pesticides. Of these, 36.57 ppb came from the wheat crust pizza and 5.05 ppb from the gluten-free pizza. This data suggests that gluten-free pizza products may contain less glyphosate. Glyphosate has been detected in other gluten-free products, however, likely due to the high amounts of nonorganic soy, corn, beans and peas often used in gluten-free products (that are sprayed with glyphosate as a drying agent). So, further testing is required.
Pizza Hut’s vegetable-topped wheat crust samples contained 21.50 ppb of 8 different pesticides. The cheese pizza with wheat crust contained only trace, undetectable amounts of pesticides. This data supports the findings from the Heartland Health Research Alliance that show that vegetables grown non-organically are responsible for the majority (98%) of pesticide consumption in America. These results are disturbing because the general public usually assumes vegetables are more healthy.
The only brands that showed no detectable levels, not even trace levels of pesticides, were Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King, Wendy’s and Arby’s. All of the other brands, or 90% of the brands, had trace to alarming detectable levels of toxic pesticides. It should be noted, however that some of these brands, specifically Dunkin’ Donuts and Arby’s did have some of the highest levels of glyphosate residues.
The brands that claim to be “healthier” versions of fast food had the following levels:
Panera had one sample with trace, but not quantifiable levels, of 1 harmful pesticide. In-N-Out had 10.16 ppb of 3 different pesticides. Chipotle had a total from both samples of 22.83 ppb of 11 different pesticides.
This data shows us that the brand with the highest level of glyphosate, Panera Bread, had one of the lowest levels of other pesticides (one sample with trace, undetectable levels, and the other sample without even trace levels), and the brand with the lowest level of glyphosate, Chipotle, had concerning levels of other pesticides. This may, perhaps, mean that some farmers that use glyphosate tend not to use other pesticides, and those that do not use glyphosate will use other pesticides.
This enforces Moms Across America’s position that ALL toxic chemicals used in agrochemical farming must be discontinued. Reverting to using other chemicals will not reduce exposure to toxins for the American public or the poisoning of our soil.
The reduction of exposure to pesticides can be accomplished by reverting to regenerative organic or biodynamic farming, which do not use agrochemicals. It should be noted that some certifications or companies, such as Monsanto, are using the words “regenerative agriculture” to promote cover cropping and allowing fields to remain fallow, but they may still promote spraying with agrochemicals to “burn” down the cover crops, therefore polluting the soil. These chemicals, while they may not be sprayed directly on the crop, can remain in the soil and be taken up into crops when planted.
Moms Across America strongly urges our regulatory agencies to have the political will to do what is best for the future of our country, not what is best for the chemical corporations. Revoking the license for glyphosate as a drying agent is an obvious first step and will be highly effective in dramatically reducing the human population’s exposure to glyphosate.
However, any use of glyphosate and any toxic agrochemicals on our food supply is simply unsafe and detrimental to our society, our health, and our future. Supporting the transition to regenerative organic agriculture and supporting local farms, farm-to-school programs, school garden programs, backyard gardens, and community gardens is the only way to ensure access to local, healthy, nontoxic, nutrient-dense safe food.
A School Lunch Congressional Briefing on Oct 17, 2023, SH 902 in Washington D.C. Zen Honeycutt, Founder of Moms Across America, will present on the invited panel with a pediatrician, toxicologist, farmer, and researcher.
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