Food Lobby Says EPA’s Dioxin Limits Will “Scare the Crap Out of People”

It doesn’t take much for the food industry to freak-out over potential government action, but this latest corporate outcry is especially galling and self-serving. After more than 20 years of “assessment” the Environmental Protection Agency is finally expected this month to release limits for safe exposure to dioxins, nasty industrial pollutants that cause cancer, among other health harms. You may have heard of dioxin as the military herbicide Agent Orange used in Vietnam, where it earned its distinction as “the most toxic compound synthesized by man.”

Unfortunately for the food industry, dioxins accumulate in the fatty tissues of animals that Americans consume. According to the Food and Drug Administration:

Although dioxins are environmental contaminants, most dioxin exposure occurs through the diet, with over 95% coming through dietary intake of animal fats.

The feds have further identified the highest levels in fish, followed by eggs, and then cheese, as Dr. Michael Greger* explains in his scary “Dioxins in the Food Supply” video. Although some dioxins have been banned for decades, they persist in the environment, sort of like nature’s way of punishing humanity in perpetuity for its arrogance and stupidity. (Thankfully, levels have been declining.)

Here is how a meat industry-friendly media outlet describes the problem:

Pretty scary stuff, and even scarier when you realize everyone eats a certain amount of dioxin every day. That’s because dioxins are found in meat and dairy products, and most other foods. Animals absorb dioxin, which occurs naturally in the environment and moves through the food chain via the food animals consume, especially forages. Consumed at high levels, dioxins are linked to various human ailments including reproductive problems and cancer.

So, might industry want to help the feds warn Americans about this persistent, extremely toxic chemical in the food supply? Of course not. Instead, they’ve formed (what else?) a lobbying group, complete with the Orwellian name: The Food Industry Dioxin Working Group.** The group worked very hard on this letter to the White House complaining, that as a result of EPA’s impending action:

… consumers may try to avoid any foods “identified” as containing or likely to contain any dioxin. The implications of this action are chilling. EPA is proposing to create a situation in which most
U.S. agricultural products could arbitrarily be classified as unfit for consumption.

Further, Steve Kopperud, coordinator for the Food Industry Dioxin Working Group is afraid the media will have a field day with the EPA limits. And then what might happen? “You will have a whole lot of folks running in circles saying there’s nothing safe to eat, it will scare the crap out of people.”

Maybe, but if all those scared people running in circles don’t get cancer, isn’t that more important?

*Thanks to Michael Greger for his blog post on this topic.
**Members of the The Food Industry Dioxin Working Group:

American Farm Bureau Federation
American Feed Industry Association
American Frozen Food Institute
American Meat Institute
Corn Refiners Association
International Dairy Foods Association
National Chicken Council
National Grain & Feed Association
National Meat Association
National Milk Producers Federation
National Oilseed Processors Association
National Pork Producers Council
National Renderers Association
National Turkey Federation
Pet Food Institute
United Egg Producers

3 Responses to “Food Lobby Says EPA’s Dioxin Limits Will “Scare the Crap Out of People””

  1. Dave says:

    Ms. Simon writes:
    “You may have heard of dioxin as the military herbicide Agent Orange used in Vietnam, . . . .”.

    If this is indeed the case, a bit of clarification is needed. In this otherwise informative article, the term “dioxin” refers to one of about 75 different dioxins that differ from each other by the number and position of chlorine atoms on the basic dioxin molecule. These differences also influence the inherent toxicity of the dioxin molecule. As noted in the article, the dioxin molecule with the highest public profile is the one with the highest toxicity: 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin or 2,3,7,8-TCDD.

    All of the herbicides used by the U.S. Military in S.E. Asia during the Vietnam War that contained the herbicide 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid or “2,4,5-T” were contaminated by several dioxin molecules including 2,3,7,8-TCDD. However, the dioxins were not the actual herbicide but an industrial contaminant formed during the manufacturing process for 2,4,5-T. This dioxin-contaminated herbicide made up different proportions of the different defoliating agents used in that war. Millions of gallons of defoliants were sprayed over millions of acres of virgin forest throughout Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos to expose the network of trails and pathways known as the Ho Chi Min Trail among other targets.

    Dioxins in the environment have been declining over the past ten years yet industrial and other sources still exist and the end result of those continued discharges to the environment is a contaminated food supply. New regulations should help to reduce those levels even further.

  2. [...] Group is afraid the media will have a field day with the EPA limits. And then what might happen? “You will have a whole lot of folks running in circles saying there’s nothing safe to eat, it will …”  Boy,  it doesn’t take much for the food industry to freak out over potential government [...]

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