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Germany's Famously Pure Beers May Contain Weed Killer

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Herbicide is not one of the ingredients approved by Germany's beer purity law

Alexandra Beier/Getty Images

Germany has long taken pride in its beer industry, boasting a 500-year-old purity law that regulates what can and can't go into suds produced in the country. But it appears German beer might not be as pure as it seems. Traces of glyphosate, a widely used herbicide, have been found in the country's 14 most popular brews, Reuters reports.

Glyphosate is the key ingredient in Roundup, a popular weed killer developed by American agrochemical company Monsanto. The Food and Drug Administration recently announced it would begin testing produce for the herbicide in certain types of produce because it's been found to be a possible carcinogen. Last March, experts at the World Health Organization concluded glyphosate "probably" causes cancer in humans.

The Munich Environmental Institute, an activist and investigative group, discovered traces of the herbicide in the country's beer. But, industry and governmental organizations have pushed back on the findings. Germany's Federal Institute for Risk said the amount of glyphosate found does not pose a risk: "An adult would have to drink around 1,000 liters (264 U.S. gallons) of beer a day to ingest enough quantities to be harmful for health." The environmental group claims it found traces above the 0.1 microgram limit allowed in drinking water.

Reinheitsgebot, the German purity law, was adopted in 1516, when it limited beer ingredients to water, barley, and hops. Some modern adaptations and exceptions have been recognized in the five centuries since its original passage.