Filed Under: Food Scares Snacks

Wayward Warnings

The foremost meaningless warning label: “This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and/or birth defects or other reproductive harm.”

Thanks to California’s “Proposition 65” law, that boilerplate warning has been slapped on everything from chain saws and power mowers to fishing rods. (You can even find a Prop 65 warning in parking garages.) Essentially anything containing one of several hundred “known carcinogens” is required to bear the warning — regardless of quantity, or the chance that anyone might actually get sick.

Now California is considering slapping that warning label on any food that contains acrylamide, which Swedish scientists discovered in our diets last year. Legal sharks using Prop 65’s “bounty hunter” law to cash in on cancer scares have tried to force California to label foods containing acrylamide before.

The difference this time around is that dietary acrylamide — which can be found in foods like jam, tomato sauce, spinach, and beets, as well as breads, potato chips, and French fries — has been the subject of two, major, peer-reviewed studies. Both investigated the potential link between eating foods containing trace amounts of acrylamide and cancer. Both found no such connection.

In January the journal Nature, commenting on a British Journal of Cancer study, wrote: “High levels of acrylamide in foods such as chips, crisps and bread, do not seem to raise the risk of cancer.” And this summer a major European study provided “reassuring research evidence for the lack of an important association between consumption of fried and/or baked potatoes and cancer risk,” according to the International Journal of Cancer.

So as the scientific community finds less and less to be afraid of, the fear-mongering community has become even bolder in demanding inaccurate warning labels. No, it’s not the Twilight Zone. It’s California.

And it’s the joyless dietary scolds at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), who colluded with California trial lawyers to bring Prop 65 suits against American restaurants and food providers. CSPI’s decidedly unscientific staff also cooked up a petition to the FDA demanding that food providers continuously lower the amounts of acrylamide in their products. That petition was so riddled with errors that the Center for Consumer Freedom submitted a scathing report on CSPI’s work to the FDA.

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