Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Use of chemicals in foods for various purposes is an area of concern for many. Every body likes to believe that the foods offered in the market are safe for consumption and some have the philosophical attitude that there is nothing like absolute safety in any endeavor man undertakes. In spite of safety assessment protocols becoming more and more stringent day by day, lack of consensus amongst scientists still allows many chemicals to be used in food processing for different reasons. The new realization that these omnipotent chemicals would have debilitating effect on humans in the coming years if continued to be used, is prompting many responsible scientists and administrators to revisit the issue of safety and drastically cut their use unless proved safe beyond any shadow of doubt.

"By now, there are more than 80,000 industrial chemicals in commerce, but there is no available health information for roughly 62,000 of them. Meanwhile, many of these chemicals are finding their way into our food, air, water and common household products. For this very reason, the Maryland General Assembly acted just last month to restrict bisphenol-A (BPA), a suspected carcinogen, from baby bottles, and toxic flame retardants from food crates and other products. Fortunately, the President's Cancer Panel presents us with comprehensive, common-sense solutions going forward. In addition to raising awareness, the panel recommends tightening regulation of chemicals that may cause cancer. One suggestion is to ensure that a chemical is safe first, rather than continuing the dangerous practice of assuming that a chemical is "innocent until proven guilty." Changing this practice could also have a profound impact on the rates of asthma, learning disabilities and reproductive disorders, which are all increasingly linked to chemical exposure".

The BPA issue is a classical case where the manufacturers of containers use a cocktail of chemicals including BPA and still adamantly stick to their stand that the chemical does not pose any hazard, though voluminous scientific data have confirmed beyond doubt the dangers posed by it. Fortunately many big time processors have voluntarily shunned use of BPA tainted packing materials, probably afraid of any likely consumer backlash. There must be a universal agreement to weed out many additives used for cosmetic changes in processed final products. Health is more important than the brief pleasure one may get consuming a product incorporating many additives for the sake of improving appearance, aroma and texture. Fear of competition is forcing the industry to resort to technological gimmicks for "improving" products and get a higher consumer acceptance. A level playing field can be provided by banning many of the existing additives with even slightest of doubt about their safety, for use in foods. .

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