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April 11, 1971 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1971-04-11

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like cancer and

mental retardation may be caused
by chronic food additive poisoning
-but it will take years to find out.

(Continued from Page 4)
Canadian experiment wasn't good
enough and promised FDA it would
carry'out its own studies. So FDA asks
the public to hold its breath and' con-
tinue swigging brominated vegetable'
oils until the Flavor Association fin-
ishes its lab tests - hopefully by the
end of 1973.
To fend off any public ruckus over
potentially dangerous food additives,
the FDA is beginning to review some,
not all, of the chemicalson the sacred
GRAS list - only the ones' which in-
dustry surveys indicate are used most
and which current research suggests
are suspicious. That means more ob-
scure additives which haven't already
been thrashed around and questioned
in food circles will continue to be ac-
cepted and untested. FDA doesn't
have the facilities or staff to conduct
many laboratory tests itself, so it will
farm out some of them to industry.
According to the 1958 Food Amend-
ment's famous Delaney Clause, FDA
must ban outright any, additive which
induces cancer in laboratory animals.
But as Dr. Lederberg points out, FDA
tests geared toward detecting cancer
(and p e r h a p s mutations) won't
catch m o r e subtle chronic damage
ike brain retardation, allergies, or
respiratory difficulties. That's, p r e-
cisely the kind of hard to trace pois-
oning we might have to worry about
In .any case, GRAS list test results
won't, be ready for several years.
You'd better, look out for:
NITRATE, the all purpose meat color
fixatives. Americans can't s t a n d
brown hot dogs and bologna and
breakfast sausage, says the industry,
so it keeps them blood red with ni-
trite and nitrate, which k e e p the
hemoglobin in the blood from turn-
ing brown when exposed to air. So-
dium nitrite and nitrate hold a firm'
place in toxicological literature as po-
tent human poisons, and as labora-
tory carcinogens and mutagens. This
poor fellow, for example,
"A forty-eight year old factory
worker was admitted to the hos-
pital with intense cyanosis .
Twenty minutes earlier he com-
plained of increasing nausea, be-
came vertiginous, vomited three
times, collapsed to the pavement
and turned a bluish color" (re-
port from the New England Jour-
nal of Medicine).
Only one hour before, he had eaten
a pound of New York Polish sausage

- a typical market sausage made of
pork, coarse cereal filler, beef blood,
artificial flavor and color and sodium
nitrite and nitrate. His doctors figure
the sausage had poorly distributed
nitrite clusters. It had nothing to do
with the Polish brand; it could hap-
pen to any sausage.
Scientists worry particularly about
sodium nitrate fertilizer residues in
spinach and other; leafy vegetables.
Intestinal bacteria change t h e ni-
trates into nitrites, which then react
with hemoglobin and turn children
and babies blie in fits of methemo-
globinemia, an acute blood poisoning.
Medical journals are f u 11 of these
cases. (California faces possible mass
poisonings because it has an extra-
ordinary nitrate level in drinking wa-
ter, due to fertilizer runoffs'). Nitrites,
which are used to preserve smoked
fish like herring and salmon and tu-
na, also react with certain substanc-
es (secondary amines)' in the fish and
at stomach acidic levels form nitro-
samines, which are powerful cancer
agents. Or, warns Dr. Lederberg, if
nitrite gets to the DNA in human cells
like it!does in laboratory }tests with
microorganisms, it will mutate the
"Sodium nitrite is going to have to
come out of our food sooner or later,"
says genticist Ames - even Germany,
home of wurst, eats its sausages with-
out nitrite. "If nitrite were coming up
now as a new additive, FDA probably
wouldn't let it on the market. But it's
been around so long it will be hard
to get it off.
PRESERVATIVES: American kids
eat BHT and BHA - the most widely
used antioxidants - every d a y in
their Wheaties and, Frosted Flakes,
every breakfast cereal, and in every
slice of bread, snack, and countless
other packaged fatty foods on the
market. FDA doesn't seem concerned
- although Britain has heavily re-
stricted them, even completely ban-
ned them from all foods intended for
babies and children.
Rats fed BHT ofteh show increased
liver enlargement, and British scien-
tists have found BHA induces tumors.
BHT ;poses a peculiar problem, be-
cause although 75 per cent of it is ex-
creted from the body within 24 hours
after you eat it, the rest lingers and
accumulates in body fats. None of the
damaging evidence is conclusive --
numerous tests have not found harm-
ful effects - so FDA takes-the easy
way out and carte blanche leaves the
additives on the market.

Sodium benzoate and benzoic acid,
the most popular rpreservatives in
maragarine, fish, fruit juices, confec-
tions, jams and jellies and soft drinks,
have worried biochemists for years
-ever since the days of Teddy Roose-
velt. The FAO/WHO committee on
food additives reports that benzoates
killed all the rats in one experiment
-they died with convulsions, hyper-
excitability, u r i n a r y incontinence
and loss of body weight. Benzoic acid,
report Food and Cosmetic Toxicology,
the respected science journal pub-
lished by the University of Albany, is
"markedly toxic" to mice, reducing
their survival rates, body weights, and
possibly contributing to cancer. That
was enough evidence for the state of
Wisconsin which has banned sodium
benzoate and zenzoic acid from all its
foods.. From the FDA and food in-
dustry-not a murmur.
the color in 95 per cent of the food on
the market. Since Congress passed the
Color Additive Amendment in 1960,
a large number of colors have dropped.
from use because they are strongly,
suspected carcinogens.. The last color
to go, sort of; was FD&C Red No. 2,
which c a u s e s cancer in labora-
tory mice. You'll still eat it on every
rparaschino cherry (but nothing else)
because the maraschino lobbyists con-
vinced FDA that no one would pos-
sibly want to eat more than one or
two at a time.
But the handful of synthetic colors
left are making plenty of scientists
uneasy - especially the coal tar dyes.
"Artificial colors are very suspicious,"
warns Dr. Lederberg, who says their
molecular structures look like potent
carcinogens. Laboratory tests by
FDA's own researchers show colors
form skin tumors and ulcers on rats,
and the Kaiser hospitals in California
have documented numerous artificial
color-caused asthmatic and other al-
lergic attacks in children and adults.
An FDA spokesman insists that "all
artificial colors are continually under
review". Meanwhile, almost e v e r y
orange in the nation is dyed, w i t h
sunshiny Citrus Red No. 2 which the
FAO/WHO additive experts have flat-
ly denounced as a potential danger.
FDA doubts that anyone would want
to eat the peel.
BLEACHERS: Virtually every loaf of
bread or cookie or cake or doughnut
you buy in the market has been made

with flour bleached and conditioned
by poisons like hydrogen acetone and
benzoyl peroxides, chlorine dioxide,
nitrogen oxides, nitrosyl chloride -
and they all end up in your stomach.
If you s w a l lo w any one of them
straight, you will likely die. In trace
amounts in the markets, "they might
have a chronic mutagenic effect,"
warns Lederberg. "If bleach is go-
ing to change the color of flour, it's
certainly going to produce other
chemical alterations."
Chlorine, another potent poison, is
also used in flour manufacturing -
"it gets into the food abundantly,"
says Lederberg. "It's clear that chlor-
ine reacts badly with DNA in micro-
organisms - the question is how it
reacts in the body.
"These may be longshots," says
Lederberg, if only because no one has
done substantial research. "But there
may be some bad surprises. I just
don't want any surprises diacovered
late in the game."
Some surprises have already pop-
ped up, like in South Africa, where
flour with potassium bromate - a
common ingredient in many Ameri-
can flours - caused poisoning out-
breaks. The FAO additive committee
has reported that potassium and am-
monium persulfates, common flour
strengtheners, give bakers dermatitis.
And it warns that nitrogen oxides can
form - nitrites again! in the pro-
ducts. So far as anyone knows, Amer-
icans have been lucky with their bak-
ery goods - up to 14 pounds worth
each week in every American home.
But it's conceivable that our Wonder
Bread, baked in the kitchens of Con-
tinental Bakery of IT&T, is poisoning
us-if not in 12 ways, at least in more
than one.
An American dilemma! We're eat-
ing more than 3,000 additives, most of
them badly tested or unsuspected,
and we scarcely know where to begin.
Chemical and radical journals give a
tiny hint of the problem, a glimpse
of what could be going on inside our
bodies: Think about the 1610 artifi-
cial flavors, "one of the areas of great-
est toxicological uncertainty at pre-
sent," according to Harvard nutri-
tionist Jean Mayer. In FDA's own
tests several years ago, half of the
flavorings tested caused retarded
growth in rats, many of them in-
creases mortality rates, degenerated
the heart muscle, decayed the liver
tissue. It's true the victims were only
animals - as for humans, the Kaiser
hospitals have treated over 100 in-
dividuals for allergies caused by ar-
tificial flavorings. Take ethylcellu-
lose: this all purpose thickener in im-
itation jellies and jams and beverages
and desserts and toppings and low-
calorie diet foods produces arterial le-
sions in rabbits, hardens and thick-
ens their arteries and paves the way
for heart attacks.
Propylene glycol, which keeps all
ice cream, candies, toppings and ic-
ings, baked goods, shredded coconut,
even meats, moist - this propylene
glycol which we eat every day causes
a high rate of limb malformations in
chicken embryos (says Food and Cos-
metic Toxicology). Or consider modi-
fied food starch, which thickens p i e
fillings and gravies: the FAO warns it
"may harm the very young, the old,
and patients with gastrointestinal
The moral is not that all of these
additives will poison you - it's that
they will poison rats, and consequent-
ly, we can assume they don't do much
good for humans who eat them every

day in every food, without pause. One
big area which biochemists worry
about: how all of these different
chemicals react in combinations in
the normal diet. They're always tested
separately. Emulsifiers, the m o s t
widely used additives on the entire
market, probably increase the chanc-
es that many additives which would

voluntary additives," thinks nutrition-
ist Jean Mayer.
When a New Mexico farmer f e d
some juicy, home-grown pork to' his
family last year, his children suffered
irreversible brain damage. The hog
had eaten some mercury-treated
Almost every food on the table con-
tains residues of pesticides - pestici-
des sprayed on growing crops, spray-
ed on animal food, even, sprayed as a
fumigant on vegetables, fruits and
grains on their way to markets. FDA,
investigators have found that three
per "cent of tested samples from the
markets contain more pesticide than
the laws allow. It doesn't m a t t e r
whether you're in Los Angeles, pans-
as City or Boston - the pesticides you
eat are the same.
The FDA tolerance lists, which pre-
scribe just how much of each chemi-
cal can remain or market goods, reads
like a dictionary of poisons: 187 pest-
icides (they're called "economic poi-

tem and body metabolism. Tetracy-
clines, as FAO additive experts warn,
bind to teeth and calcium-and inhibit
skeletal growth in children, Or, as
numerous medical journals point out,
antibiotics will cause allergies. Some
researchers speculate that the nag-
ging allergies which so many kids
suffer come from' the same milk,
meat and fish which their school
health textbooks promise will make
them strong.
* * *
In a fitting ironic twist, a per-
verse salute to the best that technol-
ogy has to offer, food gets contam-
inated by the same polyethelyne bag-
gies, the same cans, paper bags and
cardboard boxes, the same anesthiz-
ed sterile twentieth century wrappings
which smother them in .order to keep
out 'the dirt. Meats, crackers, soups,
cereals, vegetables, fruits, crisp
-snacks - they all suck up several
thousan additives used in the pack-
aging, more bits of BHT and BHA,

""Many additives 1haven't even been test-
ed," says Richard Hughes at Little Labs.
"What do we do in the meantime? Not eat
them? Not eat anything? How are we go-
ing tolive?"

sons"), including parathion (killed a
boy last summer in North Carolina
when he breathed the stuff on a to-
bacco field), chlordane (gave a Phil-
adelphia man bone cancer, from its
use in household termite spray), hept-
achlor, aldrin and dieldrin (they've
caused innumerable wildlife dye-offs
throughout the country) and of
course, the ubiquitous DDT.
Pesticides pose a nasty h e a 1 t h
problem because they destroy body
enzymes and derange metabolism in
the organs, and affect the body in
other ways that biochemists don't yet
understand. Scientific literature does
have disturbing cases of pesticides
destroying the body's cholinesterase
enzyme, which normally detoxifies
certain toxins at nerve endings and
synapses. The result: headaches,
cramps, nausea, diarrhea, twitching,
vomiting, maybe death. Scientists
speculate that common chronic dis-
orders, usually untraceable, are really
due to chronic pesticide poisoning -
and not the 24 'hour virus. So don't
take aspirin: it won't help..
The grocery's plump chickens and
steaks didn't get fat from corn meal
-they've been primed with antibio-
tics and synthetic growth hormones.
You eat them, too.
DES (diethylstilbestrol), the super
growth hormone, fattens 75 per cent
of the beef cattle in the United States.
Poultry used to get it, but that was
outlawed. They get arsenic to make
hens lay eggs faster. FDA requires
that all cattle be taken off the hor-
mones, which are implanted below
their ears, 48 hours before slaughter;
therefore, meat should end up on your
table without any residues. But in
1969, a random study found .6 per
cent of all beef livers still contained
some DES residue - a small percent-
age, but in human terms it means
.12,000 people at any given time are.
munching beef hormones.
Antibiotics, lots of them, are mixed
with all kinds of animal feeds and
drugs like chlortetracycline, penicillin,
streptomycin, plus a little amprol-
ium and arsenilic acid. By flooding
the animals s y s t e m s with potent
drugs, meat producers can crowd
them into. filthy pens, get them fat
quick, and send them to market be-
fore they succumb to profit-hurting

more sodium nitrate, methylcellulose
and potassium hydroxide - all fin the
wrappings this time - and lime, zinc,
chloride, soap, animal glue, shellac,
peroxides - every additive that's also
put directly into the .food, and more..
Rest assured by FDA that the pack-
age-to-food migration is very small.
Also remember that you get the addi-
tives from every package, from every
wrapper, from every food. The levels
add up.
In one last hysterical effort to
shield yourself from - synthetic dirt!
- you can forget all packaged food
and spend the rest of your life munch-
ing fruits and vegetables which
haven't touched a paper'or polyethe-
lyene bag. A warning!. They've all
been rinsed with soaps and detergents
to clean off the field dirt (which you
could rinse in. your kitchen sink), and
in a last compulsive act to seal them
for market, 75 per cent have been
soaked with mixtures of carcinogenic
coal tar waxes, paraffin, and petro-
leum naptha - the prime ingredient
of napalm.
Caveat emptor. Let the buyer be-
Playing with your life
"If we didn't eat anything we'd be
a hundred per cent safe, wouldn't
we'?" laughs one FDA official, whose
stamp brings. new additives on the
market or keeps them off.
In the food business, additives
stand or fall on the risk/benefit doc-
trine, industry's philosophy that since
s c i e n c e can't ever guarantee that
anything is absolutely safe, it's not
fair to criticize an additive's poten-
tial dangers without emphasizing its
market virtues.
Food corporations see the risk of
food additives, says Trauberman at
Food Engineering, the same way
General Motors sees the safety of
its cars: "Fifty-thousand people will
be, killed this year in automobiles,"
he says soberly. "I tcarf produce a
risk/benefit ratio and assure you that
the public is willing to accept it."
The whole issue of food safety,
argues Richard Hughes of Arthur D.
Little labs - whose clients include
the nation's top chemical and food.
producers - comes to this: "How do
you define wlat is safe? Safety is
relative. Water is dangerous in large

Your local supermarket tells you
where the profits are-synthetic foods
pum:ed with artifical flavors, artificial
colors, and artificial textures.

Eden organic foods provides some
healthy alternatives-but they cost.



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