Ice Cream/Frozen Desserts

There’s an Ugly Secret In Your Ben & Jerry’s

July 26, 2017

A warning for Ben & Jerry’s fans—the following news is going to bum you out. This week, a watchdog agency called the Organic Consumers Association announced that it had identified trace amounts of glyphosate—the widely used herbicide and the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, as well as other weedkillers—and AMPA, the main metabolite in glyphosate in several Ben & Jerry’s products. OCA called the findings “deceitful” by Ben & Jerry’s and damaging to the organic industry.

In independent lab testing, 10 out of 11 ice creams tested positive: Peanut Butter Cup, Peanut Butter Cookie, Vanilla (2 samples), Cherry Garcia, Phish Food, The Tonight Dough, Half Baked, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Americone Dream and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Just one flavor, Cherry Garcia, was free and clear of both glyphosate and AMPA. Thank goodness, because Cherry Garcia is the brand’s second most popular ice cream.

As of 2016, the World Health Organization says that “there is some evidence of a positive association between glyphosate exposure and risk of NHL (non-Hodgin’s Lymphoma)” but that “glyphosate is unlikely to be genotoxic at anticipated dietary exposures.” Research from another institution later in 2016, however, found contrary results—that chronic exposure to an “ultra low dose” of glyphosate was enough to induce fatty liver disease in rats by three months. By itself, the state of California classifies glyphosate as a known carcinogen. Suffice it to say, the pesticide is as controversial as ever.

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To be clear, the amount of glyphosate and/or AMPA found in each flavor is very small—well below the maximum set by the EPA. Of the 10 flavors, Chocolate Fudge Brownie tested the highest at 1.74 parts per billion for glyphosate and 0.91 parts per billion for AMPA. To reach the EPA’s limit, you would have to eat 290,000 eight-ounce servings, or 50,000 servings under the European Union’s guidelines, which are more stringent.

That said, the findings do add a wrinkle to Ben & Jerry’s long legacy, one that has prioritized environmentalism, organic agriculture, and the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)—which have been eliminated from production of its ice cream pints (but not bars) as of 2014, according to the Ben & Jerry’s website. (Though terms non-GMO and pesticide-free are not equivalent, the use of certain pesticides typically requires that plants be genetically modified in order to withstand treatment—i.e., not kill the crop itself.)

For its part, Ben & Jerry’s says it is committed to weeding out the weedkiller in its entirety: “We’re working to transition away from G.M.O., as far away as we can get,” Rob Michalak, global director of social mission at Ben & Jerry’s, told The New York Times. “But then these tests come along, and we need to better understand where the glyphosate they’re finding is coming from. Maybe it’s from something that’s not even in our supply chain, and so we’re missing it.”

To be honest, this finding is probably not going to affect my own Ben & Jerry’s buying habits, especially since my favorite flavor, Mint Chocolate Cookie, wasn’t tested. In the meantime, let’s all stock up on Cherry Garcia.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Andrew MacDonald
    Andrew MacDonald
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Karen Lo

Written by: Karen Lo

lunch lady


Andrew M. July 28, 2017
Thinking like this is why there are now measles epidemics in the US.

Everything you've ever eaten is a chemical, pretty much everything you've ever eaten is a GMO. Doses matter.
judy July 27, 2017
never been a fan of B&J. Haven't been eating much ice cream in the last few years due to so many additives in them all. As the current administration seeks to reduce regulations in all industries, it will be up to us consumers to vote with our pocketbooks, and hound our representatives, and those at agencies like the EPA and NHI to vote in favor of the individual and not big corporations.
BerryBaby July 26, 2017
If everything we consumed was analyzed, we wouldn't be eating anything. I know, here I go again, growing up we never gave it any thought about additives or pesticides. I'm sure we consumed a lot of them. It's a good thing they do that, and I appreciate the information, but I'm still going to eat my Ben and Jerry's Half Baked that's in the freezer!
kpeck July 26, 2017
From Regeneration Vermont, a group working very hard to raise awareness and put a stop to the horrific farming practices in VT. (My own words: Ben & Jerry's is not the lovey-dovey hippie company that you think they are. There are much better ice cream producers out there) To quote: Ben & Jerry's Ice Creams: 10 of 11 Samples Contained Traces Of Glyphosate! The New York Times is exposing the fact that RoundUp herbicide has been found in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. We are not surprised. We have been sounding the alarm about the dangerous trends in the Vermont dairy industry for decades. It’s time to hold Ben & Jerry’s accountable for the damage and to demand the necessary transition to organic/regenerative methods. The executives at Ben & Jerry’s know how damaging their milk supply chain is. They know that labor is being abused. They know that cows are burning out before they are five years old. They know that antibiotics are being misused. They know that the dairies that supply their milk are polluting our drinking water and most of the rivers and lakes in Vermont. They know – because we’ve been telling them for years. Join us in our campaign for a statewide regenerative transition. Link in bio. Read more about the NYT story and test results on our blog.
Dogolaca July 26, 2017
NONE of the supposed "health" concerns discussed in this article -- non-organic, GMO, glyphosate -- are supported by scientific evidence. However, the organic industry is happy to make you scared so you will buy their products.
Jan July 26, 2017
Agree! Exercise! Sleep Well! Manage Stress! Eat as Healthy as Common Sense Dictates! Proven Ways to Health!!!
Sandra July 27, 2017
Agree. The more sensitive we can make the instruments to detect traces of substances the more we will find - just as we all contain traces of galaxies far away in the atoms that make us. The entire body of scientific evidence supports the conclusion that glyphosate is not a human health concern. Full disclosure - I am a pathologist/toxicologist and have studied the topic.