retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal reports that “farmers and the food industry are asking the Obama administration to ease coming federal guidance that will advise consumers to minimize their intake of dioxins, chemicals that may be harmful at certain levels ... Food producers, grocery suppliers and restaurants are concerned the EPA will set a safety threshold for dioxin that is below the amount a typical American gets from food. They warn that would unnecessarily alarm consumers.”

The WSJ explains that “dioxins are a byproduct of paper, metal and cement production, but the primary source of exposure for people is food. Meat and dairy products in particular absorb the chemicals, which are ubiquitous in the environment and get into what livestock eat, especially if the animals graze. When ingested at high levels, dioxins are linked to human reproductive problems, acute skin conditions and cancer.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is scheduled to release guidelines later this month, but the Journal notes that while scientists generally agree that dioxins are poisonous, there is disagreement in the scientific community about acceptable levels.
KC's View:
Experts say that one of the best ways to avoid dioxins is to eat more fish, fruit and vegetables ... and to avoid meat and chicken. Hence the opposition to federal guidelines from places like the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Chicken Council. Not that they are necessarily wrong, but the question is how their opposition to guidelines are viewed by the consuming public. (To be fair, the Journal notes that US guidelines are expected to be far more stringent than those outside the US. But again, I’m not sure that this is a bad thing.)

I’m old enough that when I hear the word “dioxins,” and I immediately think “Love Canal,” a story that came to symbolize the notion of wanton disregard for public health. I think that in looking for some relief from the government, the food industry has to be careful not to be seen as more interested in its own business models than in the welfare of its customers.