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Jewish World Review Nov. 16, 1999 /7 Kislev, 5760

Michelle Malkin

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Ben & Jerry serve
up junk science -- ACCORDING TO RECENT product testing conducted by a former government scientist and a risk assessment expert, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream contains dioxin.

Yes, dioxin - the chemical billed as "the most dangerous carcinogen known to man." Yes, dioxin - the noxious scourge that Greenpeace calls a "global health risk." Yes, dioxin - the very poison Ben & Jerry describe as "one of the most toxic substances in our environment today."

That's right. By Ben & Jerry's own environmental standards, the famous frozen goodies with a flaming, left-wing social conscience may be hazardous to your health. And we're not just talking about extra calories.

Michael Gough, a former federal researcher, and Steve Milloy, risk analyst and editor of, evaluated a sample of Ben & Jerry's "World's Best Vanilla" ice cream for the presence of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlordibenzo-p-dioxin. The tested scoop had 0.79 parts per trillion of dioxin (give or take a few tiny toxic specks). That's roughly 200 times greater than the "virtually safe" daily dose set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Rational scientists, starting with Gough and Milloy, will tell you that this negligible amount of dioxin is perfectly safe to consume. But Ben Cohen (a member of the Greenpeace board of directors) and Jerry Greenfield deserve to have their products judged by their own irrational health standards. They are purveyors of a mindless, zero-tolerance mentality when it comes to man-made chemicals.

Harmless, trace levels of dioxins can be found not only in dairy foods and in the by-products of paper milling and insecticides, but also in preservatives used to treat and protect railroad ties and telephone poles, coolants for transformers, copy paper and plastics, insulation and flame retardants.

Yet, in an online position paper titled "Ben & Jerry's Thoughts on: Dioxin," the ice cream moguls chant the well-worn Greenpeace mantra: "The only safe level of dioxin exposure is no exposure at all."

Never mind that absolute zero exposure would mean ending sales of their own dioxin-sprinkled delights. It would also require the eradication of volcanoes and forest fires, which emit natural dioxins. Yes, Mother Earth herself is to blame for manufacturing dread dioxin. But blaming her won't sell ice cream or win environmental kudos.

So Ben & Jerry fixate on the small amount of dioxin that's a byproduct of chlorine-using pulp and paper mills. Earlier this year, the Vermont-based company switched from regular paper cartons to unbleached packaging. With the help of environmental alarm specialists at D.C.-based Fenton Communications, which hatched the Alar scare of 1989, Ben & Jerry publicized new containers dubbed "ECO-pints."

The company's "Director of Social Mission" trumpeted the new innovation as "one small step for the environment that can really make a difference." The only real difference such gimmicks make is an increase in junk-science pollution.

Hysteria over dioxin is based largely on discredited assumptions about extremely high-dosage, cancer-causing dioxin tests in guinea pigs. Substances that cause cancer in rodents at high doses often do not cause cancer in humans at much lower doses. But you'll never hear Ben & Jerry serve up that scientific caveat.

Nor in Ben & Jerry's educational propaganda do they mention that international research on one of the worst dioxin-related industrial accidents in Seveso, Italy - where residents were exposed to levels as high as 230 parts per billion - showed no adverse health effects except slightly higher rates of chloracne (a mild skin condition). Instead, the duo reflexively echo the undocumented claim that dioxin "is known to cause cancer, genetic and reproductive defects and learning disabilities."

Ben & Jerry's spokeswoman Chrystie Heimert admitted to me that Ben & Jerry's environmental agenda "is kind of out there, but that's the culture." She acknowledged that the company had not tested its own products for dioxin. "But we can't control the dioxin in our product. There's dioxin in every food group. It's in the atmosphere."

So what about Ben & Jerry's position that "the only safe level of dioxin exposure is no exposure at all?"

"We don't purport to be experts on dioxin," Heimert said. Oh. As for the charge of hypocrisy, Heimert told me Ben & Jerry believe they've been unfairly singled out.

Call it a case of just desserts.

JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.


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06/15/99: Making a biblical argument against federal death taxes

©1999, Creators Syndicate