Organic Bread Bakes up “Absurd” Health Scare

Jul 12, 2002

One U.S. health education group took legal action against the world’s largest retailer of natural and organic foods in a bid to highlight what it calls absurd food health scares, reports Reuters. The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) filed a legal notice targeting whole-wheat and organic bread sold by the U.S. chain Whole Foods Market under Proposition 65, which requires manufacturers to withdraw or label foods and other products containing potentially toxic chemicals.

The action follows a worldwide scare concerning acrylamide. Preliminary scientific studies of the substance have shown it to cause cancer in animals. Acrylamide is found in french fries, potato chips, water, coffee and carbohydrate rich foods such as bread that are fried or baked. The World Health Organization last month said it was a cause of concern but more research was needed about the possible effect on humans.

“We are doing this to illustrate the absurdity of Proposition 65,” says Jeff Stier, associate director of the ACSH. According to Mr. Stier, Proposition 65 laws are at fault for failing to distinguish between the effect of toxins and carcinogens on animals and on humans. It also fails to state how big a dose of toxins in food or the environment is needed to pose a real threat to human health.

The nation’s top french fry sellers, McDonald’s and Burger King have already been targeted in the acrylamide scare by a small California environmental group which has been accused in the past of “bounty hunting” for flooding California authorities with Proposition 65 notices. Burger King said last week that the legal action was “frivolous and totally ludicrous.”

Moderator Comment: Should the food industry and trade associations be more active in investigating and, if necessary, debunking the health scare du jour?

The ACSH legal notice to Whole Foods is obviously intended to make a point that health and food safety concerns raised by some groups have occasionally run amok.

We give the ACSH a seven out of 10 on the RetailWire Yuck-It-Up Scale. It was funny, but didn’t make us LOL. [George Anderson – Moderator]

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