New York, New York, April 6, 2006 — In response to the Environmental Working Group’s call for consumers to demand removal of benzene from sodas, the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) is stepping forward with calls for other Food and Drug Administration action. ACSH demands that the FDA promulgate regulations to remove the myriad toxins and “carcinogens” that nature puts in the American food supply.
Although most consumers are not aware of it, it is a fact that foods normally contain substances that would make EWG’s figurative hair stand on end if those compounds were added to our victuals by human beings.
For example, potatoes naturally contain arsenic — a compound known to be a deadly poison in large amounts. High levels of arsenic in water are known to cause human skin and lung cancer. Since potatoes are among Americans’ favorite vegetables — especially for children (!) and teens — we think they should not be exposed to this substance at all. At the very least, all potatoes must be labeled with their arsenic content.
Lima beans (not most kids’ favorites, we know) naturally contain a poison even more deadly than arsenic — cyanide! Should Americans be exposed to this? We think not!
And here’s something most Americans don’t know — the rodent carcinogen caffeic acid is found in a number of foods such as apples, carrots, celery, lettuce, pears, and mangos. If the government is going to continue to encourage us to eat more fruits and vegetables, shouldn’t they take the “carcinogens” out of them first? What was nature thinking when putting these offensive substances into our diets?
These requests for bans on naturally-occurring chemicals would of course be ridiculous — the minuscule amounts of these toxins and rodent carcinogens in our foods will not impair our health. And neither would the minuscule amounts of benzene detected in some soft drinks. In the UK, the limit for benzene in water is ten parts per billion (ppb) — this is the equivalent of ten seconds in thirty-two years.
Benzene is indeed a human carcinogen at high levels; people who are exposed to it at high concentrations in workplace air have an increased risk of cancer. But the director of the British Food Safety Agency has noted that people would need to drink more than twenty quarts of a beverage with ten ppb of benzene to equal the amount one would breathe from city air in one day.
Let’s let the FDA get on with important work such as guarding the food supply from real threats — and not make them waste time and resources responding to silly, trumped up non-issues.