When Quaker Oats Fed Radiation-Spiked Cereal To Unsuspecting School Children

In 1997, Quaker Oats and MIT were ordered to pay $1.85 million to former residents of the Fernald State School in Waltham, Massachusetts, who were fed radiation-spiked breakfast cereal in nutrition experiments during the 1940s and 1950s. The settlement was recognition that their actions were improper and a violation of the civil rights of helpless children. Some of the children that were used for medical and nutritional experiments without the informed consent of their parents were mentally handicapped. MIT researchers, working with a grant from Quaker Oats, exposed children to radioactive materials in research that was intended to give Quaker Oats a competitive advantage over its rivals. In 1994, after accounts of the radiation experiments were made public, MIT's president, Charles M. Vest, apologized for his institution's part in the research. Most of the funds for the settlement came from MIT, because researchers tricked the children into participating in hazardous experiments by telling them they were part of a science club. MIT defended itself by saying the studies used “minute amounts” of radioactive iron and calcium tracers.