1. Dan Wilson

    Dan Wilson Senior Member

    Recently, Buzzfeed posted an article claiming that ingredients used in particular foods are linked to severe health defects. Now I know Buzzfeed doesn't exactly promise quality information, but I have seen this article passed around on social media sites quite a bit. The article is filled with bunk and misunderstandings of chemistry and toxicology. A chemist named Derek Lowe wrote a blog voicing his frustration at misunderstood science being spread so easily and explains how the claims concerning each of the 8 foods listed in the article are a result of what he calls "chemophobia."

    http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2013/06/21/eight_toxic_foods_a_little_chemical_education.php
    Misunderstandings of these topics bleed into similar issues that have been discussed heavily in other threads on this site like GMOs and water fluoridation, the blog post is a great read.

    As for the Buzzfeed article's claims on the foods being banned in other countries, the legitimacy and reasons for the bans varies with which food and country we are talking about. For example, SOME food colorings are banned everywhere while others have been tested and approved, also Norway's ban on food dyes was lifted in 2001. Regardless of where it may banned for whatever reason, the science concerning each chemical is sound.
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  2. Elfenlied

    Elfenlied Member

    I love reading his "Things I won't work with" posts, but have a few comments on this story. It's ok to debunk false arguments, but he is implicitly saying that scientists in Europe and elsewhere who favored these bans are incompetent. A blogger in Nigeria or Bangladesh could argue likewise regarding US regulations on food additives, clean air, pollution etc..

    The man who lost the ability to walk drank 2 to 4 litres soda a day, I'm guessing that's not exceptional. What would be the effects if it was used in all soda drinks and at the maximum allowed level?
    And this is an additive that was allowed on an interim basis pending additional study more than 30 years ago. The latest revision dated april 1 2012 of CFR title 21 still states:

    http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfCFR/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=180.30
    We're still waiting for those studies.

    Although it's not banned in the US, the FDA has urged bakers to voluntarily stop using it since 1991.
    His 15 kg of bread dough gives the 1-to-1 human equivalent for the LOAEL observed in rats. But such a calculation is never used in toxicology. LOAEL and NOAEL in animals are used (when no better data is available) to determine the acceptable daily intake (ADI) for humans. For LOAEL data, the factor most often applied is 1/1000 (1/10 because you start with an adverse effects level, 1/10 for uncertainties due to the animal model, 1/10 for individual differences). So a more sensible calculation is the acceptable daily intake for uncooked bread dough containing potassium bromate, which would be 15 g or 0.5 oz.

    When a NOAEL-A (the -A means animal) is known (no adverse effects), the usual factor is 1/100.
    Some examples of real ADIs:
    - Acibenzolar-S-methyl: 12-month chronic oral toxicity study in dogs; based on haematological changes associated with anaemia seen at a LOEL of 5 mg/kg bw/d. ADI set at 1/1000 of LOAEL-A
    - Acrolein: 24-month study in rats, mortality and serum biochemical effects NOAEL-A of 0.05 based upon next highest dose of 0.5 mg/kg bw/d. ADI set at 1/100 of NOAEL-A
    - Abamectin: 3-week rabbit developmental study; NOAEL-A of 0.5 based on teratogenicity at the next highest dose of 1 mg/kg bw/d. ADI set at 1/1000 of NOAEL-A because foetus abnormalities may represent acute toxic effect


    In fact, the use is banned in Canada and the EU on the basis of the health and welfare of the animals, not the consumers.

    The problem is, you could argue for increasing most ADIs with a factor 10 or 100 using the same arguments, or ridicule all the health scares and import bans we've seen the last decade, like imports from China that exceed the limits for pesticides, lead, diethylene glycol, formaldehyde.

    In a recent case, the F.D.A. said "diethylene glycol in any amount was not suitable for use in toothpaste." Then why do they allow up to 0.2% DEG as impurity of polyethylene glycol when the latter is used in toothpaste, or as a food additive?

    When DEG was found in European wine, some with levels below 10 ppm that could not be detected by laboratory analysis in Europe, new equipment was installed, and the wine was destroyed. Why not set an ADI of 10 ppm instead? People have been drinking it for years, without any evidence of toxic effects at that level.

    Why was the ADI for aspartame set at 50 mg/kg when it's hydrolyzed into methanol (11% by weigth), and the ADI for methanol was already set at 0.5 mg/kg, not 5.5 mg/kg? Are we really to believe that the value of 50 mg/kg/day came purely from toxicology studies, and it's just a happy coincidence that at that ADI it can be used effectively in all foods without exceeding that limit? Or that the result would have been the same if aspartame was 10 times sweeter? I think the ADI would likely have been 5 mg/kg in that case, but maybe that's just me.

    Most people would assume that "safe" limits are decided on basis of toxicity alone, and little is done to dispel that myth. The risks, economic benefits and considerations like the health benefits of replacing sugar with a low calorie substitute all play a role (although these usually aren't mentioned). But the public is only told that "studies have shown it to be safe". Only considering the health risks would be a stupid way to decide such issues, but it's hard to explain all the considerations and the factors that influence a decision, and it would provide ammunition to the opposing side. As a result you get two camps, one thinking we're being poisoned by the government, the other using flawed comparisons and faulty reasoning to defend decisions that can't be justified with only a simple risk assessment.
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  3. Quantumbeliever

    Quantumbeliever New Member

    From an article on the American Cancer Society's webpage concerning growth hormone use in dairy cows. The fact that it has been banned in several countries plus the fact that "The available evidence shows that the use of rBGH can cause adverse health effects in cows" is enough to make me not want to drink the crap!

    http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/recombinant-bovine-growth-hormone

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2014
  4. solrey

    solrey Senior Member

    Then don't drink it.
    The only adverse health effects mentioned in cows is a tendency to be more susceptible to mastitis, a bacterial infection in the udder, which leads to an increased use of antibiotics in rBGH treated cows. The increased use of antibiotics is the primary concern of using rBGH in cows. To put it into perspective, cows that are only milked once a day have a higher tendency of developing mastitis than the usual twice a day milking routine, even in a mostly organic pasture raised herd like the small community dairy that I worked in. I say mostly organic because we treated mastitis with antibiotics because the "natural" cures didn't work and not treating cows with mastitis is just plain cruel. Antibiotics aren't allowed to be used in certified organic milk cows so think about all the suffering from mastitis next time you consume organic milk products.
  5. Dan Wilson

    Dan Wilson Senior Member

    The point of the article posted in this thread was human health. If you're saying that negative effects in cows translates to negative effects in humans then thats incorrect.

  6. Bill

    Bill Senior Member

    None of your arguments seem to actually show where the author's arguments and conclusions are wrong.

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