- LOS ANGELES (AFP)
- Ben and Jerry's gourmet ice cream has levels of dioxin 2,200 times higher
than those authorised for waste water discharged into San Francisco Bay
from a nearby refinery, according to a study released Thursday.
- The study, presented Thursday at a 'Dioxin 2000' conference
in Monterey, California, estimated that the concentration of dioxin found
in Ben and Jerry's could account for 200 "extra" cases of cancer
among lifetime consumers of the ice cream.
- The study, completed by one former government scientist
and confirmed by an independent laboratory, singled out the contradiction
between the firm's promotional material for the ice cream, and the product's
potentially harmful contents.
- Ben and Jerry's Homemade, the company which makes the
ice cream, has been well-known for its much-vaunted attitude of social
responsibility -- reflecting the views of its original owners. In April,
Dutch conglomerate Unilever acquired the company for 326 million dollars.
- The Ben and Jerry's website cites a Greenpeace warning
on the dangers of dioxin in the atmosphere.
- The study said that a serving of Ben and Jerry's ice
cream was found to contain 80 picograms of dioxin. "In contrast, the
Tosco Refinery wastewater is permitted to contain 0.14 picograms of dioxin
per liter," said Michael Gough, the leader author of the study.
- Gough is a former chair of a US Health and Human Services
advisory panel which looked at the effects of dioxin-contaminated Agent
Orange on US Air Force personnel in Vietnam.
- He and co-author Steven Milloy of Junkscience.com said
they believe existing scientific evidence does not credibly link low levels
of dioxin exposure with human health effects.
- But they criticised the company for a product which was
in conflict with its own promotional literature.
- "Ben and Jerry's and Greenpeace ... have concluded
that dioxin is not safe at any level.
- "If dioxin is so dangerous, perhaps Ben and Jerry's
should removed its ice cream from the market until it is 'safe,' consistent
with the company's promotional literature," Milloy suggested.
- Christine Heimert, a spokeswoman for Ben and Jerry's
at its headquarters in South Burlington, Vermont, said: "This is not
a food safety issue ... The fact is dioxins are global environmental pollutants.
- "They exist worldwide primarily as a result of certain
industrial practices, and they do in fact make their way into the food
chain ... especially (in) dairy products."
- Federal authorities have not laid down a limit for dioxin
levels in food, she noted, adding that the only reason the study's authors
"have singled us out (is) because we have taken a very public stance
- The Ben and Jerry's website warns that "dioxin is
known to cause cancer, genetic and reproductive defects, and learning disabilities
... The only safe level of dioxin exposure is no exposure at all."
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