Make America Plate Again. (Sunday Talk Show Edition)

[Voiceover]
Welcome to FFN’s (Food Fetish Network) Sunday talk show, Plate the Nation; where we discuss current food issues on the nation’s plate with movers and salad shakers in the news. And here is the host of Plate the Nation, Bob Sheep-Sheerer.


A Photo of Food By Unknown

[Camera focuses on  Sheep-Sheerer: a man in his late 60s with white hair and white teeth wearing a sharkskin blue western-cut suit and a bolo tie.]

Sheep-Sheerer: This week on Plate the Nation, we talk with a homeless guy who hangs around Trump Towers, who will speculate on what Presidential Candidate’s (I can’t believe I’m about to say this) Donald Trumps “grab ’em by the pussy” remarks will do to the price of taco bowls there.

But first we will talk with spokesplate, Platey McPlateface for the Plate of the Union, who says the current capitalist market system has made a hash of the country’s food affairs and only they can tell the incoming president how to fix it.

[Camera settles on “Plate of the Union” (PU) spokesplate, a modified MyFoodPlate logo.]

organic-my-plate

Plate of the Union’s spokesplate, Platey McPlateface (remember this is satire–it’s from the author’s fertile imagination)

Sheep-Sheerer: We have to dive right in to discourse, because I understand you are making the rounds today.

Platey McPlateface: Indeed, I have a full plate today. *chuckles* After this, I’ll be on Eat the Press with Chuck Steak, and then ‘Tis Greek With George Stephanopoulos.

Sheep-Sheerer:What about the fourth Sunday show?

Platey McPlateface: They bumped me to talk with Roger Ailes about proper etiquette. So I’ll be on Lox and Frenemies tomorrow.

Sheep-Sheerer: For the folks at home, could you quickly spill the beans on what Plate of the Union is and how it came about?

Platey McPlateface: Sure, Bob. May I call you Bob?

Sheep-Sheerer: No.

Platey McPlateface: Plate of the Union is a grassroots organization founded by guys in the food movement, who have never grown any food in their lives: Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman, guys who write about food; and Tom Colicchio, a chef who cooks $300 meals out of food.

Sheep-Sheerer: And–

Platey McPlateface: I’m sorry to interrupt but I just remembered, one of the grassroots founders is an urban farmer.

Sheep-Sheerer: *rolls his eyes and sighs* I’m glad you cleared that up…Can’t get much more authentic than an urban farmer.

Platey McPlateface: You bet your grass-fed wagyu beef, you can’t. Urban farmers can deliver fresh eye-wateringly expensive sustainable organic onions grown in contaminated soils to rich people within bicycling distance of where they are grown!

Sheep-Sheerer: And what is Plate of the Union’s raison d’etre?

Platey McPlateface: No raisins. We’re a grassroo–

Sheep-Sheerer: No its purpose. What is Plate of the Union’s reason for being?

Platey McPlateface: We want to start a national conversation….We believe it is vital that everyone hears what we have to say.

Sheep-Sheerer: You say in your petition to change, and I quote, “Our food system is out of balance, and it’s time to take action.”

Platey McPlateface: Absolutely. Our food is too affordable.

Sheep-Sheerer: Too affordable?

Platey McPlateface: Oh my yes! The federal government subsidizes junk food. That makes it cheap and drives up rates of obesity, diabetes, and even cancer.(1) If it were more expensive, people would make sensible decisions. Why if everyone in the U.S. were to switch to just organic produce, it would cost an additional $200 billion more annually. They wouldn’t have money for frivolous things like books and clothing or healthcare. But since eating organic food magically prevents any ailments healthcare insurance will be a thing of the past.

Sheep-Sheerer: Or people could go Chef Coliccio’s Craftsteak restaurant, where they’re sure to get trimmer because then they could afford only one meal a month.

Platey McPlateface: *smiles widely* Hey…that’s a great idea!

Sheep-Sheerer: You mentioned cancer–

Platey McPlateface: Right! Everyone knows there’s a cancer epidemic in this country due to GMOs and RoundUp! That’s because our nation’s food policies are prioritized by corporate interests like Monsanto *makes the sign of the fork over the organic protein* at the expense of our health.

Sheep-Sheerer: You’re aware, of course that cancer rates are falling?

Platey McPlateface: Lies! Lies! Agro-corporate, Monsanto lies! *again makes the sign of the fork over the organic protein* It’s all a conspiracy between the government and Monsanto to lull you into a false sense of security! Everyone knows there’s a cancer epidemic happening all over the world.

Sheep-Sheerer: You’re aware, of course that, according to research, obesity has little to do with diet, and is more about exercise and staying active?

Platey McPlateface: Lies! Lies! Agro-corporate, Monsanto lies! *again makes the sign of the fork over the organic protein*

Sheep-Sheerer: A critic of your policy proposals says they, and I quote, “tend to represent a hodge-podge of ideas that have already been tried, are already being undertaken by the USDA, or fail to hold up under close scrutiny.”

Platey McPlateface: Obviously a shill in the pocket of Big Something-or-other.

Sheep-Sheerer:That’s all the time we have. Stay tuned as we talk about why Donald Trump eats KFC chicken with a fork, how vulgarity affects the price of taco bowls, and does a Hilary Clinton presidency signal a taco truck on every corner?

As we go to commercial break, here’s Trump’s statement on Trump Tower’s taco bowls.

 

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EWG’s Golden Shower

Pop quiz: Which is least toxic, arsenic, cyanide or vitamin D?
(answer at the end of this post)

 

EWG’s Golden Shower Gambit

Once again, the non-governmental organization, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which has yet to find a chemical to not be concerned about to raise cash environmental awareness, wants to be showered in gold to protect you from Erin Brockovich’s favorite chemical, chromium-6 (hexavalent chromium).

The September 20, 2016 story, “Erin Brockovich’ Carcinogen in Tap Water of More than 200 Million Americans,” lays out their case for shaking you down for cash raising your concern. It was written by David Andrews, EWG’s Senior Scientist, and Bill Walker, its Managing Editor.

EWG says:

“A new EWG analysis of federal data from nationwide drinking water tests shows that the compound [chromium-6] contaminates water supplies for more than 200 million Americans in all 50 states. Yet federal regulations are stalled by a chemical industry challenge that could mean no national regulation of a chemical state scientists in California and elsewhere say causes cancer when ingested at even extraordinarily low levels.

“The standoff is the latest round in a tug-of-war between scientists and advocates who want regulations based strictly on the chemical’s health hazards and industry, political and economic interests who want more relaxed rules based on the cost and feasibility of cleanup.”

Let’s compare a common insecticide of similar toxicity and carcinogenicity to chromium-6: caffeine.

Caffeine’s LOAEL (lowest observed adverse effect level) of 2.5 mg/kg-day is quite close to that of chromium-6. Toxicologists then calculate a Reference Dose from the LOAEL. Dr. Tamara L. Sorell writes in “Approaches to the Development of Human Health Toxicity Values for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients in the Environment, “The final RfD [reference dose for caffeine] would be 0.0025 mg/kg-day, a very small dose in the same range as RfDs for known toxicants such as hexavalent chromium [chromium-6] and potassium cyanide.”

An RfD (reference dose) is the amount of something you can ingest daily for your lifetime and expect no harm. It can verge on the ridiculous. In fact, Dr. Sorell writes, “the RfD process is still very conservative and results in doses that may be many times below actual levels of concern. Conservatism is useful in screening and for ensuring protectiveness, but can present a challenge in risk management. In some cases, conservatively derived concentrations may be overprotective, resulting concentrations that are difficult or expensive to detect analytically, cannot be environmentally achieved, are based on intakes well below typical or voluntary exposures, or are otherwise unreasonably low.” (emphasis is mine)

The RfD for caffeine is 0.0025 mg/kg-day. For a 70-kiligram (154 pound) adult, this dose is the quantity of caffeine in 0.14 milliliters (mL) of cola (based on 35 mg of caffeine per 12 fl oz cola). So based on RfD, one drop of Coca-Cola would be thirty-six times your safe level for ingestion of caffeine.

One drop of coffee is 270 times above the safe level for caffeine consumption. One 16-ounce cup of coffee contains approximately 2700 times the safe consumption level of caffeine based on the RfD.

This sort of campaign has little to do with your physical heath, and much to do with EWG’s financial health. As Tom Knudson wrote in the Sacramento Bee in 2001, “Crisis, real or not, is a commodity. And slogans and sound bites masquerade as scientific fact.”

If you are worried about the carcinogenicity of chromium-6, you should also worry about your intake of caffeine for much the same reasons.

By the way, chromium-6 will turn water yellow (or golden) at levels of concern.

So to be sure you don’t drink an unsafe level of 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine (caffeine), put one drop of coffee into 1/3 gallon of water–or 1 gallon of water, just to be on the safe side.

EWG classifies any drinking water above the California standard to be “contaminated”

California’s standard for chromium-6 is 10 parts per billion.

To dilute a drop of coffee to yield a ten ppb level of caffeine, you would have to put a drop into the equivalent amount of water to fill two Olympic swimming pools.

So to be sure you don’t drink an unsafe level of 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine (caffeine), put one drop of coffee into 13.2 million gallons of water, just to be on the safe side.

EWG Story After Fact Checking

EWG’s managing editor apparently missed some key points involving toxicology during the fact checking of those statements. So let’s help him out.

That should read:

A new Another EWG analysis con job using of federal data from nationwide drinking water tests shows that the compound chromium-6–a naturally occurring chemical found in well water–is found, unsurprisingly, in the contaminates water supplies for more than 200 million Americans in all 50 states. Yet, despite numerous research studies to the contrary, federal regulations are stalled by a chemical industry challenge that could mean no national regulation EWG wants you to waste money on a of a chemical that activists state scientists in California and elsewhere say causes cancer when ingested at even extraordinarily low levels.”

The standoff This shakedown for money by EWG, is the latest round in a tug-of-war between scientists and advocates who want regulations based strictly on chemaphobia and activist science the chemical’s health hazards and scientists and researchers who understand the science of toxicology industry, political and economic interests want more relaxed rules based on the cost and feasibility of cleanup.”

EWG’s chromium-6 campaign is masquerading as scientific fact.

EWG leans on heavily on a 2011 California report on chromium-6. It is quite detailed with lots of references. It is the type of reprot that Frank Schnell told me, is “designed to make your head hurt, so that you won’t hear that soft little voice of common sense in the back of your head whispering ‘this is all bullshit, isn’t it?.’..Stupid nonsense dressed up to look like complicated science is still just stupid nonsense.”

While they may be sincere, their plan is to scare you to act and shower them with gold. Their rhetoric is a virtual golden shower on you, tainted with half-truths, innuendo, and fabrication.

One drop of coffee is 270 times above the safe level for caffeine consumption. One 16-ounce cup of coffee contains approximately 2700 times the safe consumption level of caffeine based on the RfD.

Answer to the pop quiz: Which is least toxic, arsenic, cyanide or vitamin D?
With an LD50 of 15 mg/kg, arsenic is the least toxic.
Both cyanide and vitamin D have LD50s of 10 mg/kg.

References

National Science Teachers Association. 2016. “ASSESSING TOXIC RISK: STUDENT EDITION.” In . Accessed September 30. http://ei.cornell.edu/teacher/pdf/ATR/ATR_Chapter1_X.pdf.

Sorell, Tamara L. 2016. “Approaches to the Development of Human Health Toxicity Values for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients in the Environment.” The AAPS Journal 18 (1). Springer: 92–101. doi:10.1208/s12248-015-9818-5.

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Ramazzini Institute at center of EPA FOIA request

Today the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), to force the Agency to begin turning over documents it promised to release under a May 2016 FOIA request. E&E Legal is a 501(c)(3) organization engaged in strategic litigation that “seeks to correct onerous federal and state policies that hinder the economy, increase the cost of energy, eliminate jobs, and do little or nothing to improve the environment.”

The request seeks public records discussing and analyzing the work of the Ramazzini Institute, an organization in Italy that U.S. federal agencies have used to provide them numerous assessments and whose output has become the subject of controversy in recent years.  The requested records specifically relate to the Institute’s analytical and toxicological methods and whether Ramazzini’s studies were being considered for use by the EPA.

Although E&E Legal twice narrowed its request to facilitate the promised release of records, EPA has provided nothing, well over three months after promising that the emails and other materials would be forthcoming.

Ramazzini Institute has a growing record of controversy. Examples include:

  • Ramazzini claims regarding aspartame caused a health panic before the group was slapped down by the Food and Drug AdministrationEuropean Food Safety Authority and other reviewers.
  • In 2013, EPA suspended its own assessments that used Ramazzini data.
  • Additionally, Ramazzini has been the subject of a congressional oversight letter to National Toxicology Program’s director and the EPA expressing concerns about the agencies’ continued use, sometimes undisclosed, of questionable research from Ramazzini.

Ramazzini has strong, and in fact by far the most dominant, connections to a document called International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monograph 112, which declared an active ingredient in the popular herbicide glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic” (the same category it uses for red meat).

That 2015 document was produced by IARC, a group singularly dedicated to claiming that everything it casts its gaze to is “probably carcinogenic to humans” — so far, it has only claimed otherwise once in its review of nearly 1,000 substances — even though it has been  forced to walk such claims back.

In late April, EPA posted a report, stamped “FINAL”, concluding that glyphosate was not likely carcinogenic, then quickly pulled it offline the next business day. This strange move drew great public scrutiny and, months later, EPA affirmed the conclusion.  What transpired behind this odd series of events is the subject of E&E Legal’s request at issue in the suit filed today.

Eight Vol. 112 authors are Ramazzini fellows.  The Institute has been lavishly underwritten by the U.S. taxpayer (it has received more than $310 million directly from U.S. government agencies, including including $250 million in funding from one of these federal agencies which is headed by a Ramazzini fellow).

Ramazzini staff, fellow and other relationships raise questions about its role in the movement seeking to reverse accepted research conclusions on glyphosate, long a target of the international environmental movement for its popularity given it kills weeds without killing crops.

E&E Legal notes with interest that earlier in the week the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a request for information to the HHS about its funding of IARC.  The extensive overlap between EPA, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies, and Ramazzini is relevant to today’s lawsuit — E&E Legal has been forced to sue HHS recently as well, for improperly withholding IARC- and glyphosate-related documents under FOIA. HHS agencies have even claimed that federal employees working at HHS on these matters are really working for international bodies when they don’t want to release such records.

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