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Froot Loops Contaminated by Chemical PDF Print E-mail

Froot Loops contaminated with 2-methylnaphthalene chemical

As cereal lovers sat down to enjoy their bowls of Froot Loops, Honey Smacks, Apple Jacks and Corn Pops, they had no idea they were about to eat a petrochemical called 2-methylnaphthalene. This chemical is "a constituent of petroleum, automobile exhaust, waste water from coal gasification, coke and shale oil production..." and other similarly bizarre sources. So what was 2-methylnaphthalene doing in boxes of Kellogg cereals?

It turns out this chemical was most likely released from the wax paper cereal liners that hold the cereal. This could have been due to the heating of the wax paper when it's sealed. This causes the off-gassing of chemicals which can then be absorbed by the cereal itself.

The effect was so bad that the FDA received dozens of complaints from consumers who could taste and smell the chemical. Some said the cereal made them feel ill.

Kellogg, of course, immediately recalled 28 million boxes of its cereals, and the FDA began an investigation. The investigation essentially consisted of the FDA asking Kellogg what went wrong, and the Kellogg explained that 2-methylnaphthalene accidentally got into the cereals from the plastic liners, and the FDA said "Okay" and concluded its investigation.

What's missing from this investigation? The question of how toxic 2-methylnaphthalene really is to the human body.
Unknown toxicity
You see, nobody knows the answer to that question. Not Kellogg and not the FDA. 2-methylnaphthalene was one of the 65,000 or so chemicals grandfathered in as "assumed to be safe" under the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 -- which we now know to be a scientific whitewash. Just because a chemical is declared to be safe by a regulation doesn't alter the laws of chemistry.

You see, these chemicals have never been tested for human safety. So when consumers are exposed to them, doctors aren't even sure how to treat them. The FDA has no clue what the chemical does either. And just to avoid anyone asking the really tough questions, the FDA's own web page describing this "investigation" doesn't even mention the chemical! (http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Publi...)

The FDA website says, nonchalatantly:

"It appears that the cereals were packaged in cereal boxes with waxed paper liners that imparted bad taste and odor to the food. The wax paper liners appear to be the source of the problem."

No mention of 2-methylnaphthalene, see? Wouldn't want people asking too many questions...

The FDA, for its part, did absolutely nothing to fine Kellogg over this mass exposure of the American public to 2-methylnaphthalene. In fact, even though the FDA knows nothing about the safety of 2-methylnaphthalene, it basically declared the whole issue to be a non-issue and let Kellogg go right back to business packaging its cereals in wax paper liners once again.

But I decided to ask a few questions about 2-methylnaphthalene. For starters, the chemical doesn't sound safe. The last half of the word is, "napthalene" which sounds a whole lot like a petroleum chemical, wouldn't you say?

And of course, it is a petroleum chemical. The Scorecard.org website categorizes it as a "respiratory toxicant," a term it further defines with this general description: (http://www.scorecard.org/health-eff...)

"Exposure to chemical substances can cause adverse effects on the respiratory system, which consists of the nasal passages, pharynx, trachea, bronchi, and lungs. Respiratory toxicity can include a variety of acute and chronic pulmonary conditions, including local irritation, bronchitis, pulmonary edema, emphysema, and cancer."

The Speclab.com website says the "reported effects of methylated naphthalene" (a sister chemical related to 2-methylnaphthalene) include "skin irritation and skin photosensitization."

Related chemicals are commonly used to manufacture moth balls (moth repellants). Some of the potential health reactions caused by exposure to this class of chemicals are described here: http://www.eoearth.org/article/Publ...
Is it safe to eat cereal?
Interestingly, 2-methylnaphthalene isn't the only petrochemical-derived substance found in Froot Loops. The cereal is also made with artificial colors which are derived from petrochemicals. Sometimes I wonder if eating a box of Froot Loops has more in common with swallowing Gulf Coast oil sludge than eating real food, but that's just my opinion.

The question on the minds of many today is as follows: Is it safe to eat breakfast cereals?

The most accurate answer is both yes and no. In the short term, eating Froot Loops laced with 2-methylnaphthalene probably isn't going to kill you. Nobody died from consuming this contaminated cereal. But the bigger question is what happens over a lifetime of exposure to chemicals.

Is it really safe to eat cereals packaged in wax liners? What about cereals in plastic bags? What about BPA and other chemicals?

After writing about foods and health for seven years, I've come to the conclusion that virtually all food packaging materials have some sort of health risk, from the aluminum used in soda cans to the plastic used in deli meats. The best material of all is, of course, glass. Glass is perfectly safe for food contact and it leaches nothing into your food. Then again, it's breakable and is therefore more expensive while even posing a safety hazard to children.

My educated guess is that nearly all foods purchased in grocery stores are contaminated with multiple chemicals. Hence the reason for buying food from farmers markets and food coops. The basic rule of thumb for food safety is that anything in a box or a plastic package might pose some risk of chemical contamination, even though that risk may be miniscule in most products. This risk extends, by the way, to superfoods and nutritional supplements packaged in plastic. They aren't immune to the laws of chemistry, although it could be argued that people consuming superfoods have better health defenses against chemical contaminants.

Most chemical contamination of foods, by the way, goes entirely unnoticed by consumers. People are eating chemical contaminants right now, every single day, that are far more dangerous than the levels of 2-methylnaphthalene found in Froot Loops. Just the sodium nitrite found in hot dogs is undoubtedly orders of magnitude more dangerous to human health. And let's not even talk about aspartame, MSG or partially hydrogenated oils...

So to answer the question: Are Kellogg's cereals safe to eat now? Well, they're no more dangerous than all the other dead processed foods made with petrochemicals and refined sugar. But I personally wouldn't call those products "safe" in the first place.

Friday, August 06, 2010
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger