Cancer pesticide found in popular beers

26th February, 2016 by Neal Baker

Fourteen well-known beers have been found to contain traces of a pesticide thought to be carcinogenic, a new study has revealed.

Photo: Flickr)

(Photo: Flickr)

Levels of glyphosate – a weedkiller that is believed to be carcinogenic – were found by scientists in fourteen of Germany’s most popular beers, including global brand Beck’s Pils and Erdinger.

The study, conducted by the Environmental Institute in Munich, found as much as 30 micrograms of the pesticide in a litre of Hasseröder beer.

The permitted limit of glyphosate in drinking water in Germany is 0.1 micrograms per litre, according to German newspaper Der Spiegel.

Beck’s Pils was found to have 5 microgams of the pesticide per litre. Paulaner Weissbier and Erdinger Weissbier had 0.66 and 2.92 micrograms respectively.

The World Health Organisation named glyphosate as a probable cause of cancer last year.

However, the German Brewer’s Association deemed the study “not credible” and the amounts found in the beers were not a risk to public health.

“An adult would have to drink around 1,000 litre of beer a day to ingest enough quantities to be harmful to health,” the trade body told Russia Today.

The European Food Standards Authority also disagrees with the WTO assessment of the risk posed by glyphosate.

It published research in November last year that declared the substance was “unlikely to be carcinogenic”.

 

UPDATE: 13.38: An earlier version of this story confused micrograms with milligrams. This has now been amended. 

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5 Responses to “Cancer pesticide found in popular beers”

  1. gianpaolo says:

    you should have a look at your measuring understanding. 30 microlgrams is 0.03 milligrams. 5 mg would be 5000 micrograms, 50 times the limit 0.1 mg = 100 micrograms. The 2 other mentioned beers would be way below the limit, at 0.66 micrograms and 2.92 micrograms.

  2. Jonathan Hesford says:

    Are you confusing micrograms and milligrams on the figure for Becks?
    Also the ESFA have issued their response to the cancer risk of glyphosate http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/151112

  3. You cannot compare levels approved for drinking water to levels found in beer or wine. This is the same fallacy used by the anti vaccine community: they compare the levels of mercury allowed in drinking water to the level of mercury in vaccines. Vaccines are administered in tiny doses, whereas we drink liters of water a day. If we consumed liters of vaccines a day, then, yes, there would be a problem. But that’s not reality.
    Study the IARC report on glyphosate: lists describe the level of evidence that something can cause cancer, not how likely it is that something will cause cancer in any particular person. For example, IARC considers there to be strong evidence that both tobacco smoking and eating processed meat can cause cancer, so both are listed as “carcinogenic to humans.” But smoking is much more likely to cause cancer than eating processed meat, even though both are in the same category.
    Carcinogens do not cause cancer at all times, under all circumstances. Some may only be carcinogenic if a person is exposed in a certain way (for example, swallowing it as opposed to touching it). Some may only cause cancer in people who have a certain genetic makeup. Some of these agents may lead to cancer after only a very small exposure, while others might require intense exposure over many years. Again, you should refer to the agencies’ reports for specifics.
    Even if a substance or exposure is known or suspected to cause cancer, this does not necessarily mean that it can or should be avoided at all costs. For example, estrogen is a known carcinogen that occurs naturally in the body. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight is also known to cause cancer, but it’s not practical (or advisable) to completely avoid the sun. These lists also include many commonly used medicines, particularly some hormones and drugs used to treat cancer. For example, tamoxifen increases the risk of certain kinds of uterine cancer but can be very useful in treating some breast cancers, which may be more important for some women. If you have questions about a medicine that appears on one of these lists, be sure to ask your doctor.”

  4. Jonathan Hesford says:

    Neal, you’ve made a similar mistake again. Now you’ve changed the permitted limit of glyphosate in drinking water to 0.1 micrograms when it should be 0.1 milligrams. And even then, the WHO safe limit is set at 0.9 mg. So the Brewers Association is right. A bloke would have to be drinking over 4800 litres of beer a day to even approach the safe limit, which is set at 100 times lower than the level at which adverse effects have been observed.

    The whole article is full of misinformation and the title is ridiculous. If I were you I’d just delete it and pretend I’d never written it.

    • Neal Baker says:

      Jonathan, you’re mistaken. The German limit is 0.1 micrograms, according to the body that carried out the study. There is absolutely no misinformation in this article. The substance has been linked to cancer, although this has been debated by the EFSA and the German Brewers Association. The story ensures that all sides of this argument are covered. Given that it is accurate and it was one of our most well-read stories over the weekend, I am in fact rather glad I wrote it.

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