In August 2018, cookie maker Pure’s Food Specialties signed a legal agreement with CEH requiring the company to eliminate the hazardous contamination of its animal crackers with cancer-causing acrylamide. The agreement limited acrylamide to trace amounts. Although you’ve probably never heard of Pure’s, the company was manufacturing Disney-branded animal crackers for the drugstore giant Walgreens, so making sure healthy treats were on the shelves was important to CEH.
Why it Matters
Parents trust companies like Disney and Walgreens to make safe products for their children, but our testing showed that when it comes to animal crackers, that trust is misguided. Testing by an independent lab in 2017 found high levels of acrylamide in the Disney animal crackers CEH purchased from Walgreens. The animal crackers came in a box decorated with Disney “Jungle Book” characters and promised parents a “whole grain” treat for their children.
Acrylamide in food has been a serious concern since 2002 when scientists discovered the cancer-causing chemical in many common products. The chemical poses particular threats to young children; Given their smaller size and the types of foods they consume, they typically take in twice as much acrylamide, per pound of body weight, as adults. In pregnant women, higher levels of dietary acrylamide have been linked to reduced birth weight and head circumference, key indicators of a child’s future health.
In 2016, the FDA issued recommendations to consumers for reducing their exposure to acrylamide-tainted foods and released a document giving food companies guidance on how to reduce the chemical in their products.
The “whole grain” Disney animal crackers had the highest level of acrylamide out of twenty-two animal cracker brands CEH tested. Health conscious parents are likely to choose this “whole grain” treat over white flour animal crackers since, from the packaging alone, there is no way of knowing that the whole grain variety contains high levels of this carcinogen. Alarmingly, after eating just one and a half boxes of animal crackers, a child would exceed the yearly safety standard for acrylamide products sold without a warning label.
What We Did
In 2017 CEH launched legal action against Walgreens and other companies for failing to warn consumers about the high levels of acrylamide in their products. In that same year, we also reached a legal agreement with Cornfields Inc, a leading private label snack food maker, requiring the company to significantly reduce the levels of acrylamide in its products.
Other animal crackers found by CEH to contain levels of acrylamide requiring a warning under California law were: Barbara’s (Weetabix) Snackimals Vanilla Cookies; Stauffer’s Animal Crackers Original; Gold Emblem (a CVS store brand); Kirkland Signature organic (a Costco store brand); Mi-Del Gluten-free Arrowroot Cookies; Cookies Animalitos Galletas (La Moderna brand); and Galletas de Animalitos Con Betun brand. We have completed legal agreements with most of these companies and expect to finalize the rest soon.
CEH has also tested ginger snap cookies for acrylamide, finding eight out of seventeen brands tested with high levels of the chemical. Brands with acrylamide in violation of California law include Pepperidge Farm Ginger Family Cookies, Nabisco Ginger Snaps, Market Pantry (a Target store-brand) Gingersnaps, Signature Kitchens (an Albertsons store-brand) Ginger Snaps, and others We have compiled legal agreements with most of these companies and expect to finalize the rest soon.
CEH Blog: Disney: Another Toxic Children’s Product!
CEH Press Release: Cancer-Causing Chemical Found in Walgreens “Disney” Animal Crackers
CEH Video: Disney Animal Crackers from Walgreens contain Cancer-causing Chemical
CEH In the News: Court takes whole-grain cereals off the hook for cancer warnings
CEH In the News: Toxic Disney Animal Crackers (ABC TV Coverage)