Ben And Jerry's Ice Cream
Contains HIGH Dioxin
Levels - Study
LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Ben and Jerry's gourmet ice cream has levels of dioxin 2,200 times higher than those authorised for waste water discharged into San Francisco Bay from a nearby refinery, according to a study released Thursday.
The study, presented Thursday at a 'Dioxin 2000' conference in Monterey, California, estimated that the concentration of dioxin found in Ben and Jerry's could account for 200 "extra" cases of cancer among lifetime consumers of the ice cream.
The study, completed by one former government scientist and confirmed by an independent laboratory, singled out the contradiction between the firm's promotional material for the ice cream, and the product's potentially harmful contents.
Ben and Jerry's Homemade, the company which makes the ice cream, has been well-known for its much-vaunted attitude of social responsibility -- reflecting the views of its original owners. In April, Dutch conglomerate Unilever acquired the company for 326 million dollars.
The Ben and Jerry's website cites a Greenpeace warning on the dangers of dioxin in the atmosphere.
The study said that a serving of Ben and Jerry's ice cream was found to contain 80 picograms of dioxin. "In contrast, the Tosco Refinery wastewater is permitted to contain 0.14 picograms of dioxin per liter," said Michael Gough, the leader author of the study.
Gough is a former chair of a US Health and Human Services advisory panel which looked at the effects of dioxin-contaminated Agent Orange on US Air Force personnel in Vietnam.
He and co-author Steven Milloy of said they believe existing scientific evidence does not credibly link low levels of dioxin exposure with human health effects.
But they criticised the company for a product which was in conflict with its own promotional literature.
"Ben and Jerry's and Greenpeace ... have concluded that dioxin is not safe at any level.
"If dioxin is so dangerous, perhaps Ben and Jerry's should removed its ice cream from the market until it is 'safe,' consistent with the company's promotional literature," Milloy suggested.
Christine Heimert, a spokeswoman for Ben and Jerry's at its headquarters in South Burlington, Vermont, said: "This is not a food safety issue ... The fact is dioxins are global environmental pollutants.
"They exist worldwide primarily as a result of certain industrial practices, and they do in fact make their way into the food chain ... especially (in) dairy products."
Federal authorities have not laid down a limit for dioxin levels in food, she noted, adding that the only reason the study's authors "have singled us out (is) because we have taken a very public stance on dioxin."
The Ben and Jerry's website warns that "dioxin is known to cause cancer, genetic and reproductive defects, and learning disabilities ... The only safe level of dioxin exposure is no exposure at all."
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