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    Is there a Nutritional Approach to Treating HyperActivity?

    By Jacky Pearson

    Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is on the increase. It is estimated that 35% of all 5 to 17 year olds in New Zealand have mild to severe symtoms. This Alarming figure, although only an estimate, is similar to that of many other western countries.

    The Ministry of Health has recently produced a set of guidelines for doctors treating ADD/ADHD. Despite a huge body of peer reviewed research, nutrition is not covered in the guidelines due to "conflicting and poor quality research around the relationship

    Essential fatty acids (EFA), a nutrient lacking in our modern diets, is a successful treatment of ADHD.

    of ADD/ADHD and food". When so many children are suffering and the nutritional approach has claimed so many successes why then is the Ministry ignoring this important aspect and instead relying on psycho-stimulant drugs?

    Internationally, diagnostic criteria are fiercely debated and in November 1998 the US National Institutes of Health concluded that there was no reliable tool of diagnosis for true ADHD. To avoid over diagnosing, we need a better understanding of the causes of this condition, which involves a range of symptoms. However, since the 1950's methylphenidate hydrochloride (MPH) a psychostimulant, amphetamine-like addictive drug (similar to cocaine) has been given to children with ADD/ADHD. It is estimated that 1 in 7 US children are given this substance daily. As well as a host of documented side effects there is a real worry that this drug may lead to substance abuse in later life (Best.S., 2000 A Nutritional Approach to Treating ADHD, Nexus 17-22,Oct-Nov 2001). The drug itself has a street value and children taking it are often bullied into handing it over to substance abusers. Various versions of this drug exist, the most well known being Ritalin and dexamthetamine.

    ADHD is extremely traumatic for the child, the family and often the child's teacher and friends. Moira Buchanan of the Learning Behaviour Charitable trust of New Zealand (www. believes a holistic approach is vital and says the boom in the fast food industry has been instrumental in the rise in ADD/ADHD. She has had to deal with severe ADHD and, not having great success with dietary changes, advocates the use of Dexam-thetamine over Ritalin because the dose is easier to control and effects a better neurotransmitter connection. Brenda Sampson of the Wellington ADD/ADHD Hyperactivity Association (04-384 2514) believes there are five main causes for the rise in this condition in young people. She says toxins that poison children's brains are from food additives, pesticides, heavy metals and medical drugs. We need more minerals and vitamins to support our stressed systems. She also stresses that organically produced food has huge benefits in terms of nutrition.

    MPH treatment has been severely criticised by psychiatrist Dr Peter Breggin of John Hopkiins University, USA. He says

    Many health practitioners in New Zealand do consider a nutritional approach and treat ADHD successfully.

    studies for the use of MPH's are experimentally unsound and that side effects in up to 50% of patients are far reaching. They include stomach and liver disorders, hallucinations, convulsions, low white blood cell count and many others. Paradoxically the supposed desirable behaviour effects such as passivity and reduced spontaneity "are primary toxic effects of psychostimulants" (Best 2000).

    With several US lawsuits pending on drugs such as Ritalin there is growing interest in the large number of peer reviewed studies which show significant links between ADHD symptoms and nutrition. Many health practitioners in New Zealand do consider a nutritional approach and treat ADHD successfully. Diagnosis ranges from heavy metal poisoning, lack of iron, thyroid problem, lack of essential fatty acids, severe food or food additive allergy, severe lack of vitamins/minerals, and psychological trauma.

    Many doctors and ADHD support groups advocate the Feingold diet that takes out common allergens, chemical additives and natural salicylates. Salicylates inhibit the conversion of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids to prostaglandins.

    Dr Neil Ward, Surrey University, UK, has for years been studying the link between low zinc levels and ADHD.

    There is a link here with the successful treatment of ADHD with essential fatty acid (EFA) supplements. EFA is a nutrient lacking in our modern diets. Factors inhibiting its metabolisation are many and include: saturated and hydrogenated fats, vitamin and mineral deficiency, excessive alcohol, stress, food additives (eg red colouring 124). Best (2000) has reviewed several studies from UK and USA and concludes that where the constituents of EFA (such as AEPA, AA, DHA and DGLA) are administered for longer than three months substantial results in treating ADHD are experienced. Studies such as Hibbel's (Hibbel JR Lancet 1998 351:1213) and Feet et al (Biological Psychiatry 1998 43,315) studied depression, anxiety and low self-esteem which are typical of ADHD symptoms finding a link with n-3 fatty acid.

    Dr Charles Gant (Hyper Express ADHD news No111 2001) reports that together with a multi-nutritional support "precursor therapy using amino acids, especially tryrosine and glutamine can rapidly replenish the deficiencies in brain chemistry"(he refers to dophamine deficiencies). He says ADHD symptoms will quickly be eliminated and that serum amino acid levels are easy to determine using simple laboratory tests.

    Dr Neil Ward, Surrey University, UK, has for years been studying the link between low zinc levels and ADHD. It is well known that New Zealand has inherently low levels of zinc in its soil. Also, many factors in our modern diet are enemies of zinc. Doctors are now advocating the testing for toxic amounts of heavy metals in the body. Cadmium found in cola drinks, shell fish, lead from old house paint, sweet wrappers, industrial waste leaching into our environment, arsenic found in soft plastics and mercury leaching from amalgam fillings and in some NZ fish, all have research links to behavioural disorders and can form a toxic cocktail for a child's brain. (See our book Eating Safely in a Toxic World.)

    Food allergies such as to dairy can also create severe behavioural disorders but they are rarely in isolation to a number of other allergies, mineral, vitamin and EFA deficiencies. Elimination of allergen suspects should not undertaken without professional and holistic support. Too often parents try "diet" but without success because they have not had adequate advice or support. (See The relationship between diet, eczema and behaviour, Pearson 1994). Work done by Meriel Watts (The Poisoning of New Zealand 1994) shows the link between certain pesticides commonly found in non organic crops and psychological disturbances such as ADHD.

    Even fluorescent lighting has been found to produce significantly higher stress hormones, cortisol and ACTH in those

    Schools in New Zealand who have opted to ban soft drinks, lollies and colourants have reported major improvements in children's learning ability and concentration.

    exposed to fluorescent lights. Professor Hollwich in Munich in the 1980's produced such compelling evidence that the German government banned such appliances in all hospitals. Such research should be regarded as important in ADHD research.

    Many schools in New Zealand who have opted to ban soft drinks, lollies and colourants have reported major improvements in children's learning ability and concentration (eg Mas-terton Primary School). Sugar can lower white blood cell count after consumption, and many colourants are well documented as triggering ADHD symptoms. As well, soft drinks often contain caffeine and the latest craze, guarana. Contamination with heavy metals can also cause problems. Substances such as caffeine are cardiac stimulants, cause hardening of the arteries and over-stimulate a child's brain. Chromosome damage to gene number 6 has been identified as the "cause" of some ADHD. More-over, genetic damage can happen in a person's lifetime due to, amongst other reasons, poor nutrition or toxins.

    There are of course sociological questions to be addressed. Is society becoming less able to deal with normal exuberance in growing children, are classes too large and teachers overworked? Should schools promote more learning styles within a class? Parents are becoming increasingly overworked and stressed. What role do violent TV and video games have on a child's developing brain? Children who are ADHD are often very gifted in certain areas. Do some children simply not fit into the expected mould of today, one that is becoming increasingly sedentary?

    Many parents of ADHD children are at their wits end, blaming themselves and not helped by an all too prevalent attitude amongst some medical professionals who blame "bad parenting". When is the government going to listen to parents and health practitioners who have success with a nutritional approach to ADHD and put children's health and happiness first? This is a problem that is not going to go away simply by masking the symptoms with potent medicines such as Ritalin. SF


    GE still an unknown science

    by Charles Drace

    Craig Ventner (of CELERA GENOMICS) in charge of one of the two Companies mapping the human genome, says that humans have only 30,000 genes, not the 142,000 expected. That means that there are not enough DNA sequences to account for changes or origination of cells on their own.... scientists must now accept that there are other cellular structures or messengers (complex interactions between cells, combinations of proteins, perhaps), as yet unknown, that affect cell selection and production.

    This calls the whole principle on which current genetic engineering is based, into question, and helps explain why more than 99% of GE experiments don't work out as scientists expect. This information was not known during presentations to the Royal Commission. Large numbers of genetic scientists and doctors have been warning us about the lack of knowledge about GE; now we understand why it doesn't work. We also can see that it will be many years before it is understood enough to be put into safe practice. Another recent fact that emerges is the indeterminacy of the nature and structure of genes, which leads to major perplexities about the function of genes in heredity and development.

    Genetic engineering science is based on the assumption that a gene put in a different organism had a particular identity, a unique function, and that it would maintain that identity in whatever organism it was transferred to. That most basic assumption is now found to be false. According to Professor Stephen J. Gould, "Organisms must (now) be explained as organisms and not as a summation of genes. The commercial effects would be obvious, as so much biotechnology, including the rush to patent genes, has assumed the old view that 'fixing' an aberrant gene would cure a specific human ailment." It would be unethical and immoral of the New Zealand government to allow any genetic engineering testing or field trials before the science is understood.SF

    Source: What you should know about genetically modified foods, Consumers' Association of Penang, Malaysia

    Mediacom media release 26 October 2001


    Canola a modern 'health' scam

    by Chris Wheeler

    The health-giving qualities of canola oil have become one of our most popular urban myths thanks to a persuasive advertising campaign on behalf of the food and vegetable oil industries supported widely by badly informed heart disease groups, industry propagandists and professional nutritionists. Let us clobber the myth that canola, and in fact nearly all supermarket oils, are good for the heart. It is, in fact, a pure industrial, corporate-designed oil of no nutritional benefit and is more likely to clog your arteries and kill you. Dr Mary G. Enig, an expert of international renown in the field of lipid biochemistry, has successfully challenged government, the Heart Foundation and establishment medicine claims that dietary animal fats cause cancer and heart disease.

    She says:

    "Canola oil, processed from hybrid form of rape-seed, is particularly rich in fatty acids containing three double bonds and can contain

    Eat natural, traditional fats; avoid newfangled foods made from vegetable oils; use butter, not margarine

    as much as 50 percent trans fats. Trans fats of a particularly problematic type are also formed during the process of deodorising canola oil, although they are not indicated on labels for canola oil." (1)

    "Trans fatty acids are sufficiently similar to natural fats that the body readily incorporates them into the cell membrane; once there, their altered chemical structure creates havoc with thousands of necessary chemical reactions - everything from energy provision to prosta-glandin production." (2)

    Not a very good recommendation for canola oil in its ordinary form!

    Canola oil is one of the chief ingredients in much of the margarine sitting in heart-conscious Kiwis' fridges. To make marg you hydrogenate it via a well-known catalytic reaction. Dr Enig again:

    "Most of the trans-isomers in modern hydrogenated fats are new to the human physiology. By the early 1970s, a number of researchers had expressed concern about their presence in the American diet, noting that the increasing use of hydrogenated fats had paralleled the increase in both heart disease and cancer. The unstated solution was one that could be easily presented to the public: eat natural, traditional fats; avoid newfangled foods made from vegetable oils; use butter, not margarine." (3)

    Dr Enig is supported by a growing band of fellow iconoclasts and much of what she has to say is backed up by acknowledged vegetable oil authority Udo Erasmus (4) who doesn't even rate canola in his discussion of "Best Oils" (see box).

    Deodorising of canola oil is, incidentally, a highly necessary step. As with all rape-seed oils, canola has the

    Modern vegetable oils are almost entirely nutrition-free, unless organic, cold-pressed and, above all, fresh and non-oxidised in opaque bottles.

    unappetising smell of an industrial machine oil, which is, indeed, one of its main conventional uses. Outside your local supermarket, "health" shop and fast food outlet it is the stuff still used to oil fine machinery (sewing machines, watches, guns), as the basic ingredient in the manufacture of soap and synthetic rubber, and as the finishing gloss on those shiny colour ads in the "glossies"

    Despite the fact that few vegetable oils, according to Erasmus, stand up to the heat of frying, least of all the deep frying that we subject fish and chips to, canola oil is heavily pushed by the fast food industry as "safe" and "healthy" in the heated vat. It is, of course, neither of these things either in its heated or normal unheated form. You might as well fry with diesel as canola. In fact canola runs perfectly in diesel motors. Darleen Bradley, writing in Australasian Health & Healing (August/October 1998), notes:

    "A friend who worked for only nine months as a quality control taster at an apple-chip factory where canola oil was used exclusively for frying, developed numerous health problems: loose teeth, gum disease, numb hands and feet with cramps, swollen arms and legs, extreme joint pains, cloudy vision, constipation, hearing loss, skin tears, hair loss and heart pains."

    These symptoms compare closely with those noted in the scientific literature as reactions to the toxins in rape seed oil, notably erucic acid and glucosinolates (sulphur compounds), involved in the extraction process applied to the closely allied mustard seed in the production of the deadly poison mustard gas used to kill by both sides during the First World War.

    Erucic acid and glucosinolates are an inevitable brassica genus inclusion in both mustard, rape and canola seed, the only difference with canola being that it has been deliberately hybridised since early in the last century and more recently genetically engineered in an effort to lower the levels of these not entirely unwanted inclusions. Not entirely unwanted because they provide the spicy "hit" desired in the regional cooking of China, India and Pakistan, where rape seed oil in particular has been used since early times both in the kitchen and as a lighting oil.

    The difference is that this oil was extracted until fairly recent times using relatively primitive methods that tended to preserve natural plant nutrients and leave beneficial vitamins and minerals intact. It was also produced locally and sold

    Best oils

    • hemp, flax, pumpkin, walnut, soybean, wheat germ

    Good Oils:
    • safflower, sunflower, sesame, rice bran, evening primrose, borage and black currant

    Mediocre oils:
    • corn, grape

    while still fresh. Modern vegetable oils meet none of these criteria and are almost entirely nutrition-free, unless organic, cold-pressed and, above all, fresh and non-oxidised in opaque bottles, preferably refrigerated.

    Canola itself results from a billion dollar research and propaganda programme dating back to the 70s financed largely by unwitting Canadian taxpayers with encouraging input from Canadian farmers and the corporate food industry.

    When researchers finally got canola's erucic acid content down to 5 percent and less, a $US50 million PR campaign supported also by the USA saw canola pushed through the US Food & Drug Administration registration process as a safe food, something previously denied rape seed products. No attention was paid to the nutritional value of the new product. The word "canola" is simply an acronymius version of the original favoured name, "Canada Oil", which expressed the official Government input to research on the new rape seed variant of the old Brassica napus.

    It is no accident that Monsanto saw the marketing opportunity in buying up seed companies like Pioneer, which sold both rape and canola seed and then flooded the market with hyped-up GE canola seed offering Roundup herbicide resistance.

    Oil seeds are a strong growth market and low toxin canola can be utilised in every area of international corporate endeavour from machinery, paint and chemical manufacture to the production of the ever-lasting junk non-foods that fill our supermarket shelves. In this respect it is much more flexible than the original rape seed varieties, hence the current enthusiasm in industry about its use; an enthusiasm that industrial pressure has very successfully imposed on the medical and nutritionist professions whom we trust to advise us on health matters.

    GE canola (and at least 60 percent of ALL canola is now GE including many of the "health" shop varieties) could be seen as the quintessential corporate oil, user-designed to be a pure money-maker. On top of everything, GE canola is likely to be heavily loaded with Roundup/glyphosate residues because the Australia New Zealand Food Authority insisted (on the advice of Monsanto) in more than trebling permitted residue levels.

    The story of a humble seed literally raped for its potential profitability with never ever the remotest reference to the true values we should expect from a food designed for human consumption its health-giving attributes.

    At no point in the total rape seed to canola seed saga anywhere in any of the literature, apart from the critics mentioned, is there any reference to anyone actually wanting to design a variety of canola with enhanced nutritional values. The final nail in the canola coffin is really the whole manner in which practically every variety of the oilincluding at least some of the so-called "natural" and even "organic" varieties is produced.

    To quote from Monsanto's application to the Australia New Zealand Food Authority for the inclusion of canola containing the Roundup Ready gene in Standard A18Food Derived from Gene Technology (July 1998):

    "Crushing, rolling and flaking processes extract much of the oil from the canola seed. Then processors cook and press canola into large cake fragments to extract more oil. A solvent bath strips residual oil from the pressed cake fragments. After removing the solvent, processors combine this additional oil with the oil from the first crushing process to produce crude canola oil. A series of steps - degumming, bleaching, hydrogenation and deodorisation refines the canola oil for processing into products that consumers purchase at the store Because canola can be grown in one country, processed in another and shipped to a third for incorporation in consumer products, it is often difficult to trace canola's path from seed to finished product."

    Monsanto, of course sees this whole industrial process as highly praiseworthy and an example of a food brought to the peak of purity. We, from a more informed perspective should perhaps see canola more as a metaphor fit for our times; the story of a humble seed literally raped for its potential profitability with never ever the remotest reference to the true values we should expect from a food designed for human consumption its health-giving attributes.SF


    1. Mary G. Enig & Sally Fallon, "Secrets of the Edible Oil Industry", Nexus magazine, January 1999.
    2. Ibid.
    3. Ibid
    4. Udo Erasmus, Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, Alive Books, Canada, 1986.

    Recommended book: Brewster Kneen, The Rape of Canola, NC Press, Toronto, 1992.


    Many thanks!


    A huge thank you to all of you who returned the pink renewal/donation slips from our last newsletter. We received a record number of renewalsso many that we didn't send receipts back. Special thanks to those of you who extended yourselves financially for your very generous donations.

    For all of you who didn't manage to find the time or money back then, we are still in need of your assistance and would be only to pleased if you sent in your subs or a donation. We currently have a policy of sending newsletters to non financial members rather than wiping you off our data base. We are firm believers in getting this information to as many people as possible, therefore to everybody who resubscribes and / or gives us a donation, you are helping spread the Safe Food message that much further, your help is greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks must also go to those Wellington members who gave so generously in response to our request for funds towards the cost of the advertisement against GE in the Evening Post and Dominion. We were heartened by the amount raised, which shows the level of passion against GE! We would especially like to acknowledge the very generous donation of one loyal SFC member for a donation of $1000, you know who you are, many blessings upon you. We are thinking of using the money left over for a rural outreach about GE, or in some other way spread the anti-GE message. Any other good ideas?

    Can you help?

    We are looking to do an article about aspartame next issue. Do you have any good info and resources? Post them to us or email them to r.wernham@paradise.

    We are always seeking people to help us in big or small ways: summarising articles for the newsletter, phoning, writing submissions, folding newsletters, helping at stalls and demonstrations, distributing leaflets. If you are willing to help, please contact Alison 04-476 8607 or Jacky 04-562 8664 or email us at info@safefood.


    Soy Sauce and cancer

    Cancer-causing substances have been found in soy and oyster sauces which do not use the natural method of fermentation. Some brands have been recalled or withdrawn and new standards, in line with EU proposals, have been set for the chloropropanols 3-MCPD and 1,3-DCP.

    In June 2001 the UK Food Standards Agency reported contamination with the chloropropanols in 22% of a total of 100 soy and oyster sauces tested. The UK study identified a number of brands where the levels of 3-MCPD exceeded the proposed 0.02 milligrams per kilogram level. These included soy sauce products from Golden Mountain (Thailand), Pearl River Bridge (China), Lee Kum Kee (Hong Kong and China) and Wanjasham (Taiwan).

    Both the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) and the NZ Ministry of Health (MoH) subsequently carried out studies. After analysing 150 samples, ANZFA in October initiated a recall of twelve imported soy sauce products (branded Amoy, Gia Minh, Kimlan, Knorr, President, Silver Swan, Ta Tung, Tau Vi Yeu, Zu Miao). Earlier ANZFA recalled two soy sauce products, sold under the'Golden Mountain' brand, and one product sold under the' Wanjashan' brand. In the MoH study 12 out of 89 samples did not comply with the provisional maximum of 1mg/kg. (Note that this is above the proposed limit.) In July this year Golden Mountain voluntarily withdrew its product in New Zealand. ANZFA will amend the Food Standards Code to set a maximum level in soy and oyster sauces of 0.2 mg/kg for 3-MCPD and 0.005 mg/kg for 1,3-DCP. 3-MCPD is a chemical contaminant known to cause cancer in animals and kidney damage. 3-MCPD and the related chloropropanol 1,3-DCP (a potent genotoxic carcinogen that is, it can cause cancer by directly damaging genetic material) may be formed during a manufacturing procedure known as acid hydrolysis.

    From and

    Our comments

    While we can congratulate ANZFA and the Ministry of Health for their action about these cancer-causing chemicals in our food supply, we are bemused that at the same time there is no apparent concern for numerous cancer-causing pesticides which are deliberately sprayed onto our food, including some dioxin-contaminated pesticides.

    Note that the cancer-causing chloro-propanols are chemical cousins of MCPA (suspected of causing birth defects) and MCPB, phenoxy herbicides which are commonly used on lawns.

    Our advice

    Buy organic soy sauce (tamari and shoyu), but above all, avoid soy sauces which are not produced following the traditional methods of fermentation. Then you are also avoiding the unnecessary colourings and preservatives added. SF


    Red Bull Scare

    The safety of the popular Red Bull energy drink has been brought into question and is under investigation by the Swedish National Food Administration after fears that it is linked to three deaths in Sweden.

    In Norway, Denmark and France Red Bull is classified as a medicine and is only available from pharmacies, while in New Zealand it is freely available from bars and supermarkets. A death in Dublin last year is also thought to be linked to the drink.

    Red Bull is high in caffeine, which raises the heart rate and blood pressure, and taurine, a building block of protein considered beneficial in small doses. It is not recommended to drink Red Bull immediately after strenuous exercise or to mix it with alcohol.

    The Ministry of Health in New Zealand is monitoring overseas investigations into the drink but so far it has received no complaints about the drink in New Zealand. SF


    Reducing dioxins in food and breast milk

    by Alison White

    We get most dioxins into our bodies through our food and most of this comes from meat, fish and dairy products, according to data from the Ministry for the Environment (MFE). One source which is alarmingly high is human breast milk: the New Zealand baby, in its first month of life, is estimated to get a dose of dioxins over 100 times above the level recommended by the WHO.(1)

    What are dioxins? They refer to a group of more than 200 different chlorinated chemicals which are extremely persistent, accumulating up the foodchain. They are the unwanted byproduct of many industrial processes, including the manufacture of certain pesticides and other chemicals, smelting and the burning of fuel and waste.

    TCDD, which is often referred to as just dioxin, the most potent and toxic of the dioxins, has been labelled as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a rare step. Apart from cancer, other effects documented in thousands of studies include damage to the immune, hormonal and reproductive systems. Dioxins and other hormonal disruptors are now believed to affect children's ability to learn, to socially integrate, to fend off disease, and to reproduce. No safe level has been established for dioxins.

    In New Zealand, though current daily intake levels of dioxins are estimated to be below many other countries and have decreased over time, there is an uncomfortably small margin of safety as far as the general health of the population is concerned. Apart from the foetus in the womb and babies, there are other groups, amounting to perhaps half the population, who will be exceeding the WHO level and who may be experiencing adverse effects on their health because of the build up of toxins in their bodies.

    How can you reduce the dioxins going into your body? Decreasing the consumption of fatty foods, such as meat, fish and dairy products, where dioxins and other toxins collect, is an obvious first step. Other measures include:

    • Go organic - grow and buy organic food. Some pesticides are contaminated with dioxins, and you don't want more toxins in your body than you need to have.
    • Increase consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables.- This helps protect against the effects of toxins.
    • Avoid eating fish at the top of the foodchain (such as shark) and shellfish gathered from areas near waste and industrial outlets.
    • Detoxify your body - it is especially important to do this before a woman conceives her first baby. There are various ways of detoxifying, including vegetable juice fasting, taking herbal supplements, mega-dosing with vitamin C, drinking lots of water, having saunas and exercising. It is wise to detoxify under the guidance of an experienced health practitioner.
    • Don't use compost containing sewage sludge ('treated human waste') on your food crops or in areas where animals will forage. Sewage sludge compost ('biosolids') is likely to contain not only dioxins and PCBs, but also various heavy metals and other organochlorine residues.

    Is it still alright to breast feed babies when breast milk has such high levels of dioxins (and other toxins) in it? The benefits of breastfeeding still outweigh the toxins that are in it. Moreover, a woman can do much to lower the toxins in her breast milk, by following the steps above, and she has much more control over this than any formula. Care should be taken, however, for a pregnant or lactating mother not to detoxify for about the first year after her baby's birth, as toxins stored in the fat will be released into the bloodstream and breast milk.

    Taking action on dioxin. MFE has put out an action plan to reduce the amount of dioxins in our environment which is open for comment until 31 January 2002. The action plan does not include any proposals to stop dioxin-contaminated pesticides being used on food (such as 24D and endosulfan) or elsewhere, nor is there any mention of limiting the use of sewage sludge compost. You can view the action plan and make a submission on line: or write to

    PO Box 10362,


    (1) Allan H Smith & Peggy Lopipero, Evaluation of the toxicity of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs: A health risk appraisal for the New Zealand population, MFE 2001.

    Letters Send your letters or news to

    Foodborne illness, pesticides in food and the fallibility of science

    Which issues should the Safe Food Campaign deal with? A letter we have received from a retired scientist points out the high rates of foodborne disease in New Zealand (an estimation of up to 300 000 cases annually). New Zealand has "one of the highest rates of campylobacter infections in developed countries. The majority of these cases are due to incorrect handling of food from shop to table as well as contamination from animal sources." He asks why we don't deal with such an issue.

    Obviously we are concerned about all food-related health issues. (See, for example, our article on "Keeping food safe" in the December/Jan issue of Healthy Options.) I believe that the Ministry of Health and their agencies deal very well with the issue of foodborne illnesses. However, we concentrate more on issues which publicly-funded organizations tend to neglect often those which result in long term damage and those which are against the interests of big business. Our organization, in fact, strives to address the imbalance of food-related health information. We are not trying to repeat what the Ministry of Health, ANZFA and their agencies do. We aim to be part of the whole system.

    Our retired scientist continues:

    "Would the uncritical stop using [the 'dirty dozen'] foods (despite the fact that we are encouraged to eat more vegetables and fruit) and rush off to the nearest fast food restaurant thereby perhaps exacerbating our growing obesity problem? Again where are the comparable pesticide levels in organic food? Just because a grower does not use pesticides currently is not sufficient evidence that the foods are free in my opinion."

    If you only have non-organic food available, my advice is always that it is better to eat the fruit and vegetables that are there than to eat none at all. Wash them thoroughly and if possible peel them (this removes some pesticide residues), and eat with a positive frame of mind. It is even better, however, to eat organic food. There is a great deal of peer-reviewed scientific data to show that various pesticides we use on our food can cause immune system suppression, cancer, genetic damage, birth defects, endocrine disruption and other health effects. (Ask me for references.) Organic food is not guaranteed to be free of pesticides, but it will always have fewer residues than food which may have been deliberately sprayed 20 or more times with particular pesticides. Surely it makes better sense to support a system which doesn't put questionable chemicals into our bodies and doesn't pollute our environment?

    A common accusation of organizations such as ours is that we rely on anecdotes and do not base our concerns on solid scientific data. For example with the GE issue one view is that it is environmentalists against science. In reality there are scientists on both sides of the fence.

    Science seems to have replaced God in our society - there is this common belief that scientists, who are human after all, are infallible. Scientists have to worry increasingly about where their next lot of funding to carry out their research is coming from. A recent review of 166 studies on the effects of aspartame, the artificial sweetener, was carried out. As Ed Metcalf writing in the Ecologist (June 2000) summarised: "Of the industry-sponsored articles, 100 per cent attested to aspartame's safety. Of the non-industry-sponsored articles, 92% demonstrated some type of adverse reaction."

    The concerns of the Safe Food Campaign are based on independent, peer-reviewed scientific research. For the benefit of consumers, we urge the precautionary approach to chemicals and biotechnology in food. Ideally, publicly funded agencies would deal adequately with all these issues, but we are having to live with the reality in our society that these institutions will commonly assume a substance or technology to be safe until overwhelming evidence is produced to the contrary.

    It is an interesting philosophical question as to what factors are leading our society to pollute our bodies and the world. Dr Vyvyan Howard, toxico-pathologist at the University of Liverpool offers a view on the era we are still passing through:

    "The 20th Century, when science and technology reigned supreme, will be dubbed by history as the "Toxic Age" and our generation, the architects of this legacy, will rightly be denigrated by future generations Of course we need science and technology, but it has to be developed with nature and society rather than against it. We have to be prepared to take less for ourselves so that we can leave a reasonable place for our successors to live in."

    Alison White

    September 2004

© Safefood Campaign