Sunday, January 30, 2011

Nanny-staters think that people read labels

The few who do are probably careful about what they eat and drink anyway. The New York experience shows that the sort of labelling advocated below will achieve nothing. Do the brainiacs below think Australians are more sophisticated than New Yorkers? Good luck with that assumption

FOOD police would enforce labels showing nutritional value on packaging and cigarette-style health warnings on alcohol under changes recommended for national laws.

A report released yesterday to improve food labelling laws in Australia and New Zealand contains 61 recommendations, including dropping mandatory "per serve" columns while explicitly stating the inclusion of trans-fats and salt content.

The report, Labelling Logic, was commissioned by the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council in October 2009 and compiled by a panel of independent experts, led by former federal health minister Dr Neal Blewett.

Information about food safety would be of primary importance followed by preventative health, new technologies such as genetic modification and lastly consumer values like "free range".

"The crux of the review was to address the tensions between competing interests that drive food labelling policy and seek to resolve them," Dr Blewett said.

Some of the recommendations call for food manufacturers to voluntarily adopt proposals such as a traffic light front-of-pack labelling system before they are legislated.

Food manufacturers attacked the traffic light recommendation, arguing there was a lack of consensus on the best way to label food. "The industry rejects traffic light labelling on the basis that it's badly understood by consumers and the system has been rejected by countries around the world," Australian Food and Grocery Council CEO Kate Carnell said.

The Federal Government has until December to respond to the recommendations.

The State Government has welcomed the review, which recommends fast food chains and vending machines declare energy (kilojoule) content - a move introduced in New South Wales last November which takes effect from February 1.

Under the recommendations, country-of-origin labelling would be tightened along with mandatory identification of any food prepared or treated with new technologies.

Alcoholic beverages would have generic health warnings including specific messages about the risks of drinking while pregnant. Alcoholic drink labels would also have to reveal their energy content.


Demonizing Bisphenol-A

Alan Caruba

In July 2010 I wrote a commentary about Bisphenol-A, more commonly called BPA. It is a chemical that has been in wide, safe use for over 50 years, but has come under a horrendous and unrelenting attack by a variety of specious environmental and consumer groups.

Out of curiosity mostly, I initiated a Google Alert earlier this month to inform me whenever BPA was mentioned in a news story on the Web. Within three weeks I received 20 alerts, almost one a day, and each contained notifications on 15 – 25 different article references. That’s just nuts!

Why are Americans being bombarded in the space of a single month with more than 400 articles in magazines, newspapers, and on the Internet that are designed to frighten them into thinking that a good, safe thing is a bad thing? It piqued my curiosity and prompted me to dig deeper. It seems that finding out who is behind these attacks on BPA, none of which has any credible science to support their claims, is proving to be a real detective game.

The result is that I have decided to follow the BPA story on a periodic basis in order to track and report how this classic scare campaign is maintained and spread. My research and writings will appear in “The BPA File”, a series that will ultimately be published on the website of The National Anxiety Center. It will appear monthly and elsewhere in places where readers have grown accustomed to seeing my writings.

I founded the National Anxiety Center in 1990 as a clearinghouse for information about just such scare campaigns and this fresh examination of BPA will be published alongside previous works including, “The Subversion of Education in America” and “The Enemies of Meat,” as well as the archive of commentaries written before I began my daily blog, “Warning Signs.”

The reason for this new series is that we have already seen any number of beneficial chemicals and products targeted in this fashion, often to be driven from the marketplace by class action lawsuits or banned by federal agencies and states.

Classic examples range from Alar and DDT to saccharine, all of which came under withering criticism from questionable sources using junk science, yet all of which have been proved over time to be perfectly safe and harmless when properly used. The same is happening today with BPA.

When the American Council on Science and Health, a consumer advocate group, listed “The Top Ten Unfounded Health Scares of 2010”, number one on its list was BPA. The ACSH wrote, “Bisphenol-A has been in use for over five decades in the manufacturing of certain life-saving medical devices as well as in baby and water bottles, dental devices, eyeglass lenses, DVDs and CDs and other electronics.”

BPA also plays an important role in maintaining a healthy food supply. “In addition,” said the ACSH, “it (BPA) has been used to coat the inside of nearly all metal food cans to protect consumers against deadly diseases like botulism.” If activists are successful in their pressure campaigns to ban BPA, my fear is that less-tested and less-safe alternatives will be forced upon unsuspecting consumers.

Here’s a simple question. If any of the charges against BPA are true, why then – in more than 50 year’s time! – has there been no direct connection drawn between BPA and the disease conditions claimed by anti-chemical activists? Answer: because none has ever been established through reliable scientific testing.

Human beings are chemical-processing machines. That’s what our bodies do all day, every day. We live longer, healthier lives precisely because of the discovery and use of chemicals, many of which exist solely to enhance our health and well-being.

Ultimately, as any chemist, pharmacist, or physician will tell you, “The poison is in the dose.” It is the amount of exposure and the route of exposure that determines whether something is harmful or not. Perhaps the best example of this ancient axiom is water. Too much and you can drown in it. Too little and you will suffer dehydration.

The same holds true for other chemicals, many of which are found in nature. Most crops produce their own pesticides to protect against natural predators and the human race has been ingesting trace elements of these chemicals since the dawn of humanity, along with the fruits and vegetables we know to be healthy elements of our diet. The amounts, however, are so miniscule – parts per billion – that they pose no threat.

This exact pattern exists with BPA as well; the so-called ‘endocrine disruptor’ we’re so breathlessly warned about in BPA is identical to a chemical found in soy products like tofu and soy sauce, soy milk and other related products. Strangely, we’re not hearing panicked cries to banish vegetarian food, Chinese carry-out and alternative dairy products for the lactose-intolerant from American society.


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