Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Split cancer ruling befuddles the public

Top California court says three companies don't need to put warning labels on cereals 


The California Supreme Court has let three breakfast-cereal giants off the hook.

Last week's ruling that denied a review of an appellate decision means the corporations needn't put warning labels on boxes of their whole-grain cereals to the effect that an ingredient — acrylamide — might cause cancer.

The ruling came despite the chemical having been identified by federal and state agencies as a potential cause of the disease.

It left the public unsure what's real — or dangerous.
Bob Egelko

According to a story by Bob Egelko in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle, General Mills' Cheerios, Post's Grape-Nut Flakes and Kellogg's All Bran will not have to carry the red flags under the state's Proposition 65, a 1986 ballot measure requiring "businesses to notify the public when their products contain ingredients that have been shown to cause cancer or birth defects." 

At the same time as it left that ruling intact, the court's decision removed it as a legal precedent — which was a relief to attorney Joseph Mann, who'd argued on behalf of the Center for Environmental Health, the Center for Food Safety and other groups that the courts should limit the scope of the ruling.

The Chronicle story goes on to report that Mann, who earlier had said "the opinion is just dead wrong," maintains that making a cookie product with whole grains "doesn't mean [manufacturers] can jack it up with sugar and call it a health food, and say states can't regulate that."

The ruling, not incidentally, didn't mandate that warning labels should be required "for other food products that contain both healthy ingredients and possible carcinogens," Egelko writes.

Researchers way back in 2002 had detected the presence of acrylamide "as a byproduct of baking, roasting or frying carbohydrate-rich foods such as potato chips and French fries, both of which now carry Prop. 65 warning labels," the story says.

In response to the suit seeking the same labels for the cereals, "the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles [in a 3-0 ruling in July] agreed with federal health officials who said that such warnings would cause more harm than good," the Chronicle story continues.

Why? 

Because, the story quotes the court, "requiring warnings on all foods containing acrylamide at levels that pose any risk of cancer 'would cause many otherwise healthful foods [such as peanut butter, rye and whole wheat bread, sunflower seeds and prune juice] to appear to consumers to be unhealthful.'"

More information on ingredients that may cause the disease can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.