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You have, no doubt, heard about the 28 million box Kellogg’s cereal recall. The company recalled select boxes of Kellogg’s Corn Pops, Honey Smacks, Froot Loops and Apple Jacks cereals. Consumers said there was an “off” taste and smell. Oh, and that they were giving some people nausea and diarrhea.

Kellogg’s said the packages were recalled because it identified a substance in the package liner that can “produce an uncharacteristic waxy-like off-taste and smell.” They were caused, the company said, because of elevated levels of a common substance that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in packaging. The Environmental Working Group identified the substance as methylnaphthalene, a petroleum-based product.

From an EWG press release: “This compound, methylnaphthalene (methyl-NAP-tha-lene), has been the subject of major, on-going government and oil industry testing and information-gathering initiatives to identify potential safety issues and fill basic data gaps, according to an Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis of the scientific literature. Kellogg’s has not publicly identified the chemical but provided the information to EWG in response to our inquiries.”

The EWG did a little research on methylnaphthalene and didn’t find much info, but what it did find is troublesome. For example, four years ago the FDA asked for “toxicology information” about the substance. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry said it wasn’t easy to get exposure to it unless you lived near a hazardous waste site. Wow.

So we don’t really know very much about a substance that is commonly detected, according to the EWG’s press release, in “cigarette smoke, diesel and gasoline engine exhaust, wood smoke, tar and asphalt.” We do know, however — according to the same EWG research — that “methylnaphthalene causes lung damage when exposure occurs via inhalation, ingestion and skin contact. Mice given feed containing 0.075 percent or 0.15 percent of 1- or 2-methylnaphthalene for 81 weeks had lung damage known as ‘pulmonary alveolar proteinosis,’ marked by abnormal lipids, proteins and fluid in the lung.” And to date no one — no agency or organization — has set safe limits for the chemical. And yet there it is in cereal marketing to and made for children.

I don’t know about you, but that completely and totally ticks me off. Completely and totally. The EWG is calling for the FDA to do its job and actually “investigate and regulate all chemicals that make their way from cardboard boxes, plastic bags, metal cans and coated papers into our breakfasts and our bodies.” I say that’s a good place to start.

Does this recall affect what you’ve been buying for breakfast? Do you worry that the FDA isn’t taking our best interests to heart? What can we do to make our food safer? How can we best work with companies like Kellogg’s and other food manufacturers to ensure they are thinking about our safety? I’d like some answers.

This post is my participation in Real Food Wednesdays and Fight Back Fridays — two awesome campaigns to get people eating real food again. Would love to hear any tips you might have to help keep kids focused on eating. What super-yummy, high calorie foods can you suggest? I’d like to know.

13 Responses to “Cereal Killers: Kellogg’s Methylnaphthalene Problem”

  1. Tatiana says:

    Yes, I’m completely disgusted and this really does damage my trust in all things packaged and plastic. If it doesn’t come in glass or stainless steel, can I really trust it? I’m still kind of new to the organic, all-natural lifestyle, but I’m becoming more and more outraged. Just two days ago I opened the organic apple juice my husband got from Costco. It was packaged in a number 7 plastic jug. The very same day I found the organic milk from Target was packaged in number 3 plastic. I was furious. I wish this news about cereal packaging shocked me more. But how can it? What about the packaging around our pasta noodles? What can I trust except for materials I know through and through, like glass and steel and cotton – organic cotton, I mean. Oh my, what a life.

  2. Melodie says:

    I would never buy those cereals for my kids anyway, but once in awhile I do buy other healthier boxed cereals. Makes me want to only offer oatmeal or my homemade granola from now on. Scary stuff.

  3. Ellen says:

    Thank goodness for the EWG! The FDA started researching this chemical 4 years ago?? I wish that the US invoked the “precautionary principle” with all suspicious chemicals — when in doubt, ban them.
    I’ve always wondered something: Have you ever noticed that the inner plastic bags of so-called packaged “health foods” are often really hard to open? Do these companies use different materials because they know something about the more mainstream plastics?

  4. kb says:

    Seriously! I have a feeling that many — not all, but many — of the mainstream food manufacturers are pushed to cut costs wherever they can. With coupons and sales and fierce competition the margins are slim. So if cheaper packaging does the trick, so be it.

  5. kb says:

    Me, either. I am a Kashi Mighty Bites (which, incidentally, have been out at Trader Joe’s), Barbara’s Best and Three Sisters purchaser.

  6. kb says:

    That’s why I stick with Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Mainstream “organic” comes with a price.

  7. Christy says:

    I wish I could say I was shocked. I read the sentance in which you listed the cereals with dread – I sometimes buy my kids Kellogs cereal – shhh don’t tell on my please. Thankfully I don’t buy the kinds listed. Although I think I am now done for good – just because no one complained about the other kinds doesn’t mean it doesn’t have that chemical in its packaging. Thanks for the great informative post!

  8. maggie says:

    I am not surprised, but I am ticked off. I stopped buying breakfast cereal, and most processed foods, in February. It was almost impossible to find a cereal not loaded with really bad ingredients. Now I only buy oatmeal. I miss cereal, but not the junk in it. I am an avid email activist- I email companies that tick me off, and all my representatives, about issues such as this on on a pretty regular basis. And I got on the Center for Food Safety mailing list. That is a great organization!

  9. Sally says:

    Apparently someone at Kellogg’s packaging supplier screwed up. Apparently Kellogg’s wasn’t doing taste tests either. But no one was harmed (except Kelloggs). Of course the consumers who bought the stinky cereal were annoyed. They should be. But they were not harmed.
    I don’t eat the sugar bombs in question and I would never, ever give them to my kids. Because they are sugar bombs.
    Nevertheless, the idea that “natural” is better is nonsense. Asbestos is 100% “natural”. So is strychnine.

  10. kb says:

    Very true. There are natural things like mercury and arsenic that will kill us. But as for the people buying the stinky cereal not being harmed: The problem is we don’t KNOW if they weren’t harmed because the research just isn’t there. And what’s there points to danger. So I agree and disagree: Yes, natural isn’t always safe, but in this case we have an inkling that artificial isn’t, either.

  11. [...] way to build a better breakfast might be tossing the Corn Flakes. Natural as Possible Mom covers the latest Kellog’s cereal [...]

  12. tina says:

    I would never eat or allow my children to eat cereal even the so called healthy cereal which is no better than regular grocery store cereal. It has zero nutritional value and is harmful to the body.

    The only people that benefit eating cereal is the corporations making billions off feeding our kids junk.

  13. tina says:

    Eggs from pastured chicken, bacon from pastured pigs, and some real soudough bread with loads of grass-fed butter would be the ideal breakfast!

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