Ah, the sweet taste of mothballs and toilet deodorants in the morning.
Sounds crazy, I know... but it's not far from the truth with one batch of contaminated cereals. Some 28 million boxes of Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, Corn Pops and Honey Smacks were recalled due to a strange smell and taste that was making people sick.
And no, it wasn't the usual strange taste in these cereals. It turns out they were contaminated with 2- methylnaphthalene, probably when something went wrong during the packaging process. And 2-methylnaphthalene is related to naphthalene, a known carcinogen used in those mothballs and toilet deodorants.
Not exactly what I like with my coffee!
Kellogg says don't worry--the bad cereal could cause nausea and diarrhea, but it's only temporary.
But what's even more amazing about this is not what we know... it's what we don't. You see, we don't know much about 2-methylnaphthalene, how safe it is, or what happens when you ingest it.
We don't know... because the chemical companies that make it don't have to tell us.
As a matter of fact, they only have to tell the feds when they learn that any of their chemicals are unsafe. That means there's actually a twisted incentive in the law to NOT study the chemicals.
What you don't learn, you don't have to report!
According to the Washington Post, the EPA has been asking for data on 2-methylnaphthalene for 16 years now. And they've been ignored the whole time... because the industry doesn't have to respond.
And now, people are eating this stuff for breakfast.
The newspaper says the one agency that does have some information on 2-methylnaphthalene isn't exactly helpful. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says it doesn't really know what would happen if this chemical got into food, but we shouldn't worry about it--because "you are not likely to be exposed . . . eating foods or drinking beverages."
Looks like someone at Kellogg didn't get that memo.
There's a larger problem here, and it goes far beyond 2- methylnaphthalene in the cereal. According to the Post, the poorly named Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 exempts 62,000 chemicals in use at the time of its passage, and chemicals invented since then.
You might ask what toxic substances this act does control!
Answer: None, really... because the companies are expected to do that themselves. In essence, it's an honor system.
And you know how well that works when millions and even billions of dollars are at stake.