Don't Miss Out

Subscribe to OCA's News & Alerts.

Double Standard on Contaminated Chinese and U.S. Consumer Products -- by Samuel S. Epstein and Ronnie Cummins

CHICAGO, July 30 (AScribe Newswire) -- Following is commentary by Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., and Ronnie Cummins. Epstein is Professor Emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health and Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition. Cummins is National Director of the Organic Consumers Association (Finland, Minnesota).

- - - -

The dangers of cheap Chinese exports of contaminated consumer products have received extensive media coverage, besides the formation of a Cabinet-level Product Safety Panel. These exports include personal care products, such as toothpaste contaminated with the anti-freeze diethylene glycol, honey contaminated with dangerous antibiotics, and food contaminated with banned drugs, pesticides and carcinogens. In contrast, Congress and the media remain silent on the export of dangerous U.S. consumer products, as well as their decades-old domestic sale.

U.S. personal care and cosmetic products contain a wide range of avoidable toxic ingredients, notably multiple carcinogens, hormones and allergens, which remain unregulated by the FDA. These products include leading brands of toothpaste with carcinogenic ingredients. In sharp contrast, the 30-member state European Union has developed a Cosmetic Directive, which bans the manufacture and import of products suspected of causing harm to human health. Highlighting the FDA's indifference is the State of California's 2005 Safe Cosmetic Act requiring cosmetic companies to disclose information on toxic ingredients.

Of major concern is U.S. milk from cows injected with Monsanto's genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to increase milk production. According to Monsanto, about one third of dairy cows in the nation are in herds where the hormone is used. This milk contains abnormally high levels of a natural growth factor known as IGF-1. As documented in over 30 scientific publications, detailed in our May 2007 Citizen Petition to the FDA, increased levels of IGF-1 in milk increase risks of breast cancer by up to seven-fold and increases the risk of colon and prostate cancers. Not surprisingly, the import of U.S. rBGH dairy products has been banned by Canada, 29 European nations, Norway, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. Also, in June 1999, the United Nations Food Safety Agency, representing 101 nations worldwide, voted unanimously to reject a safety standard for rBGH milk. Nevertheless, there are no FDA restrictions on its continued sale in the U.S., nor any requirement for warning labels.

U.S. beef is heavily contaminated with natural or synthetic sex hormones. When U.S. beef cattle enter feedlots, pellets of these hormones are implanted under the ear skin, a process repeated at the midpoint of their 100-day pre-slaughter fattening period.  These hormones increase carcass weight, adding about $80 profit per animal. Not surprisingly, but contrary to the claims of the FDA and USDA, residues of these hormones in meat are up to 20-fold higher than normal. Increased levels of sex hormones are linked to the escalating incidence of reproductive cancers in the U.S. since 1975, 36 percent for post-menopausal breast cancer, 50 percent for testicular cancer, and 88 percent for prostate cancer. Based on these concerns, Europe banned imports of U.S. beef in 1989, and Japan followed up with its own ban in 2003. Before the ban, Japan was the most lucrative overseas market for American beef, importing more than $1.5 billion worth in 2003.

These concerns are not new. As evidenced in a series of General Accounting Office investigations and Congressional hearings, FDA registration and residue-tolerance programs and USDA inspections are in near total disarray, aggravated by brazen denials and cover-ups. A January 1986 report, "Human Food Safety and the Regulation of Animal Drugs," unanimously approved by the House Committee on Government Operations, concluded that "the FDA has consistently disregarded its responsibility -- has repeatedly put what it perceives are interests of veterinarians and the livestock industry ahead of its legal obligation to protect consumers -- jeopardizing the health and safety of consumers of meat, milk and poultry."

- - - -

CONTACTS: Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.; 312-996-2297; epstein@uic.edu

Ronnie Cummins, 218-226-4164, ronnie@organicconsumers.org

NOTE TO EDITORS: This commentary is available for free and immediate use and quotation, in whole or in part. If used, please contact Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., as a courtesy to the contributor.