Petrochemical Identified in Recalled Kellogg’s Cereals

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, July 12, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC –Kellogg’s recently recalled close to 30 million boxes of some of its most popular cereal brands after customers complained of getting sick from smelling and eating breakfast mainstays such as Froot Loops and Apple Jacks.

Initial press reports did not identify any particular food additive or packaging ingredient as a possible source of the problem. However, EWG has learned from the company that the source of the odor was methylnaphthalene.

Methylnaphthalene, which comes in two forms, is a component of crude oil and coal tar and may also be formed “as a pyrolytic byproduct from the combustion of tobacco, wood, petroleum-based fuels and coal,” according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The petroleum-based compound is produced in enormous quantities in the United States, and health agencies know very little about its safety, EWG scientists have learned. Full report here:

The latest EPA records show that companies have been producing the chemical since at least 1986, currently in amounts of 1 million to 10 million pounds per year. Numerous health agencies have sought basic safety data on the compound, but the government still has very little information about this widely used chemical.

In 1998 EPA listed the compound as a high production volume (HPV) chemical that lacked basic safety data in the public literature. In response to requests by the agency, a consortium of large petrochemical interests volunteered to provide vital safety data. They included BP, Chevron, Condea Vista, Exxon, Fina Oil, Koch, Marathon Ashland, Mobil Oil, PDV Midwest Refining, Phillips Petroleum, Shell and Sunoco. Eleven years later, however, EPA’s website shows no data whatsoever submitted by these companies.

“What little we do know about the history of this chemical is checkered at best,” said EWG senior scientist Dave Andrews. “Millions of pounds are produced every year, and this chemical is turning up in the packaging for popular cereals marketed toward children. I think it’s important for federal public health agencies like the EPA and FDA to know everything there is to know about the possible risks this fossil fuel could pose to people’s health.”


EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.

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