Jewish World Review Nov. 16, 1999 /7 Kislev, 5760
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 junkscience.com, 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
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
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
JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.
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©1999, Creators Syndicate