BfR study: No evidence of the plant protection product glyphosate in breast milk
After the plant protection product glyphosate was classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) last year as "probably carcinogenic", public awareness of the topic has increased significantly. The subsequent media reports on the detection of glyphosate in breast milk therefore caused considerable uncertainty. However, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is now giving the all-clear. A recent study shows that no glyphosate is detectable in breast milk, according to the BfR.
In the summer of last year, media reported findings of glyphosate in 16 breast milk samples and described these measurement results as "very worrying", whereupon the BfR said that it had "scientific doubts about the reliability of the results". The institute commissioned its own study "in order to achieve comprehensible and reliable results." Despite modern analysis methods, the renowned European laboratories were unable to determine any residues above the detection limit, reports the BfR. Breast milk remains the natural and therefore best food for infants. According to the BfR, mothers should not be unsettled.
114 breast milk samples examined
The concern of breastfeeding mothers was only understandable after first reporting on the likely carcinogenic effects of glyphosate and then on its detection in breast milk. However, the BfR expressed doubts at an early stage about the reports on glyphosate in breast milk. "Due to the physicochemical properties of glyphosate, no relevant transition of the active ingredient into breast milk was to be expected and, as with cow's milk, has not been scientifically proven so far," said the BfR. For this reason, two research laboratories renowned throughout Europe were commissioned to develop independent analytical methods with high sensitivity and thus to examine 114 breast milk samples from Lower Saxony and Bavaria. The study was also the result of requests from concerned mothers to the BfR.
Special analysis methods developed
According to the BfR, the two analytical methods developed are based “on liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS / MS) or gas chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (GC-MS / MS)” and “glyphosate residues can be found in breast milk from 1 nanogram (ng = one billionth of a gram) per milliliter (mL) precisely (limit of quantification). ”The demands on accuracy were extremely high. The BfR reports that the methods are ten times more sensitive than the methods usually used to analyze pesticide residues in food and 75 times more sensitive than the ELISA method (according to the manufacturer). The latter was used in the analysis of the 16 breast milk samples in June 2015 and the resulting results were described as "worrying" in some media, the Federal Institute continued.
Different measuring principles ensure verifiability
The commissioned laboratories had many years of experience in the application of the currently most sensitive analytical detection methods for pesticide residues, emphasizes the BfR. The researchers used two analysis methods with different measuring principles for the determination of residues of glyphosate in breast milk in order to be able to clarify positive results, if necessary. Breast milk samples were available for the study and were collected by the Lower Saxony State Health Office and the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety. The participants had participated on their own initiative and were not selected according to a random sampling procedure, which is why they did not provide a representative sample of all breastfeeding mothers in Germany, explains the BfR.
No glyphosate detected in any breast milk sample
According to the original expectations, according to the BfR, no residues of the plant protection active ingredient glyphosate above the detection limit were measured in any of the breast milk samples examined. As a result of the results, the BfR “confirms the opinion obtained from the physicochemical properties of glyphosate and from data on toxicokinetics and metabolism in experimental and farm animals that there is no relevant transition of this active substance into breast milk.” President stressed that the current results would show "how important serious scientific studies are in order not to unnecessarily unsettle consumers in the emotional debate about pesticide residues."
Breast milk is the best food for infants
In the study from last year, 16 breast milk samples were tested for glyphosate, according to the BfR, whereby the test laboratory at that time used the so-called ELISA test as a detection method. Details of how the test was carried out had not been published, but glyphosate concentrations between 0.21 and 0.43 ng per mL were found. This means that the values were around a factor of 200 lower than the ELISA test manufacturer had given as a reliable limit of quantification.
In addition, the alleged findings were not confirmed by an independent analysis process. With regard to the current results of the study, the BfR and the National Breastfeeding Commission expressly point out that “they consider the measured levels to be harmless to health and that breast milk is still the natural and therefore the best food for infants.” (Fp)