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Eight Toxic Foods: A Little Chemical Education

Redress

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Stumbled across this, found it fascinating on multiple levels. First, the chemical education is fascinating. Second, it is a good example of why not to believe everything on the internets. Third, it shows how people lie with links.

Eight Toxic Foods: A Little Chemical Education. In the Pipeline:

That doesn't mean that we just have to sit back and let it wash over us, though. I've been sent this link in the last few days, a popular item on BuzzFeed with the BuzzFeedy headline of "Eight Foods That We Eat in The US That Are Banned in Other Countries". When I saw that title, I found it unpromising. In a world that eats everything that can't get away fast enough, what possible foods could we have all to ourselves here in the States? A quick glance was enough: we're not talking about foods here - we're talking about (brace yourselves) chemicals.
This piece really is an education. Not about food, or about chemistry - on the contrary, reading it for those purposes will make you noticeably less intelligent than you were before, and consider that a fair warning. The educational part is in the "What a fool believes" category. Make no mistake: on the evidence of this article, its author is indeed a fool, and has apparently never yet met a claim about chemicals or nutrition that was too idiotic to swallow. If BuzzFeed's statistics are to be believed (good question, there), a million views have already accumulated to this crap. Someone who knows some chemistry needs to make a start at pointing out the serial stupidities in it, and this time, I'm going to answer the call. So here goes, in order.

An example of what the Buzzfeed piece said, and reality:

Bromine is a chemical used to stop CARPETS FROM CATCHING ON FIRE, so you can see why drinking it may not be the best idea. BVO is linked to major organ system damage, birth defects, growth problems, schizophrenia, and hearing loss.

Again with the caps. Now, if the author had known any chemistry, this would have looked a lot more impressive. Bromine isn't just used to keep carpets from catching on fire - bromine is a hideously toxic substance that will scar you with permanent chemical burns and whose vapors will destroy your lungs. Drinking bromine is not just a bad idea; drinking bromine is guaranteed agonizing death. There, see what a little knowledge will do for you?

But you know something? You can say the same thing for chlorine. After all, it's right next to bromine in the same column of the periodic table. And its use in World War I as a battlefield gas should be testimony enough. (They tried bromine, too, never fear). But chlorine is also the major part, by weight, of table salt. So which is it? Toxic death gas or universal table seasoning?

Knowledge again. It's both. Elemental chlorine (and elemental bromine) are very different things than their ions (chloride and bromide), and both of those are very different things again when either one is bonded to a carbon atom. That's chemistry for you in a nutshell, knowing these differences and understanding why they happen and how to use them.

Great article, great information, I really recommend reading it.
 

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This was an interesting article, although my knowledge of chemistry is abysmal. Thanks for posting it!
 

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This was an interesting article, although my knowledge of chemistry is abysmal. Thanks for posting it!

Knowledge is what you are supposed to have after reading the article, not going in. I did not know most of it, and what I did know would not have connected with the Buzzfeed piece.

To me the important thing is that the buzzfeed piece sounds researched and if I had seen it first, I would have believed it without question. I think it is a cautionary story of how easy it is to mislead every one, and how important it is to question everything.
 

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studies have been done on pretty much everything on the GRAS list. real, peer-reviewed studies can be found at : Home - PubMed - NCBI .

i've also found that arguing with inflammatory blog woo is an exercise in futility, because the belief is more emotional than logical. that's not to dismiss outright every single claim that a component of a processed (or non-processed) food might be harmful. it's just that the vast, vast majority of inflammatory claims / "this food component is poison" are bull****.
 

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Stumbled across this, found it fascinating on multiple levels. First, the chemical education is fascinating. Second, it is a good example of why not to believe everything on the internets. Third, it shows how people lie with links.

Eight Toxic Foods: A Little Chemical Education. In the Pipeline:



An example of what the Buzzfeed piece said, and reality:



Great article, great information, I really recommend reading it.

I found it to be a shallow rebuttal to a shallow critique of the risks associated with food additives. It's child play to make it look like you've debunked one side of a debate by debunking the most foolish of your opponents. Take the BGH controversy:

The author showed that complaints about the supposed bad effects BGH has on the milk produced are not supported by science. However, the argument about its' effect on milk is *not* the meat of the issue (pardon the mixing of metaphors).

The problem with BGH is that it makes the cows more prone to disease and infection, which requires that the cows receive a higher level of antibiotics, a situation which is problematic. In addition, it's cruel to the animals.
 

Redress

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I found it to be a shallow rebuttal to a shallow critique of the risks associated with food additives. It's child play to make it look like you've debunked one side of a debate by debunking the most foolish of your opponents. Take the BGH controversy:

The author showed that complaints about the supposed bad effects BGH has on the milk produced are not supported by science. However, the argument about its' effect on milk is *not* the meat of the issue (pardon the mixing of metaphors).

The problem with BGH is that it makes the cows more prone to disease and infection, which requires that the cows receive a higher level of antibiotics, a situation which is problematic. In addition, it's cruel to the animals.

So he did not talk about something irrelevant to the topic of the post. Good catch! He didn't talk about hockey either, that shallow bastard...
 

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So he did not talk about something irrelevant to the topic of the post. Good catch! He didn't talk about hockey either, that shallow bastard...

I'm not sure what you're getting at there

Sure, what he said was relevant. He addressed some of the criticisms concerning food additives and "chemo-phobia".

But the fact that he didn't talk about hockey does not mean that he addressed the criticisms in a comprehensive manner.
 

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I'm not sure what you're getting at there

Sure, what he said was relevant. He addressed some of the criticisms concerning food additives and "chemo-phobia".

But the fact that he didn't talk about hockey does not mean that he addressed the criticisms in a comprehensive manner.

Since this is complex and going over your head, let me help you out by going slower: the articles where about foods and the danger in eating them. Does that help?
 

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Since this is complex and going over your head, let me help you out by going slower: the articles where about foods and the danger in eating them. Does that help?

OK. Now I understand why you're so very wrong

For one thing, his article is not about the dangers of eating those foods. At least, he doesn't explicitly say that anywhere in the linked article, though admittedly, it's the only "dangers" he discusses.

For another, the fact that one doesn't get sick from eating foods with those additives in them does not mean that there is no danger that results from the consumption of those products. As I implied with the BGH example, consumption of milk from cows treated with BGH does worsen the dangers associated with the increased use of antibiotics.

Finally, focusing only on the dangers directly associated with consumption of those additives is, as my original comment stated, very shallow.

It's like rebutting the critics of nuclear power by pointing out that it hasn't resulted in giant ants

them2.jpg
 
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Redress

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OK. Now I understand why you're so very wrong

For one thing, his article is not about the dangers of eating those foods. At least, he doesn't explicitly say that anywhere in the linked article, though admittedly, it's the only "dangers" he discusses.

For another, the fact that one doesn't get sick from eating foods with those additives in them does not mean that there is no danger that results from the consumption of those products. As I implied with the BGH example, consumption of milk from cows treated with BGH does worsen the dangers associated with the increased use of antibiotics.

Finally, focusing only on the dangers directly associated with consumption of those additives is, as my original comment stated, very shallow.

Is the word "toxic" confusing to you?
 
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