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Before you sit down and enjoy that QuaTro Light (pomelo), read "Soft drinks found to have high levels of cancer chemical" The Times March 02, 2006 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2065539,00.html Better yet, read the History and Origin of Benzene in Soft Drinks.
According to Beverage Daily.com, "[a] chemist at the Food And Drug Administration (FDA) said testing in recent weeks had revealed some soft drinks contaminated with benzene at levels above the legal limit for water set by the US and Europe." (Chris Mercer, "FDA re-opens probe into benzene contamination of soft drinks," Beverage Daily, Feb. 15, 2006) The story explains:
"The FDA was originally alerted in 1990 to the problem of benzene in soft drinks triggered by the preservative sodium benzoate. It never made the findings public, but came to an arrangement with the US soft drinks association that the industry would 'get the word out.' But in recent months, internal documents and private tests have begun to surface ..." See also Chris Mercer, "UK, Germany checking soft drinks for benzene," Beverage Daily.com, Feb. 20, 2006
The 1990 global recall of Perrier due to benzene contamination is still the subject of commentary on the importance of candor with consumers on issues that affect their health -- such as whether the product contains an established carcinogen. A letter from the Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") to Perrier dated February 23, 1990 explained: "[A]n acute risk from consumption of the benzene contaminated [Perrier] water does not exist," [but] chronic exposure over a lifetime would pose an increase in the risk of cancer." Letter from FDA to Perrier dated February 23, 1990, at 1. (Errol Kiong, "Cancer fears over fizzy drinks," New Zealand Herald, February 24, 2006)
Internal soda company documents provided by a whistleblower that I have uploaded show that in late 1990 it was known that the benzene being discovered in some soft drinks was not due to contaminated carbon dioxide, as had been the case with Perrier. It was due to the breakdown of benzoate in the presence of ascorbic acid.
Heat and light greatly increased the effect. Levels, by far, were highest in diet drinks and drinks high in Vitamin C. Benzene can occur when a carbon dioxide vendor supplies contaminated carbon dioxide. (That is why it is critically important to only ever use beverage grade carbon dioxide in both bottled and fountain drinks). Benzene, however, also can form from the mere interaction of the common ingredients the soda company chooses to use.
On January 12, 2006, the FDA produced the two FDA memos from 1990/1991 about benzene in soft drinks pursuant to my request under the Freedom of Information Act. The representatives of the National Soft Drinks Association told the FDA at the time that they wanted to avoid any publicity on the issue.
(The NSDA is now known as American Beverage Association and is the trade association that ironically emphasizes a consumer's right to an informed choice)
There were massive recalls of both Coca-Cola and Pepsi products due to benzene contamination in June 1998. There were even more massive and controversial recalls of Coca-Cola in Europe due to benzene contamination in June 1999.
Even at that time of the 1998 and 1999 recalls, however, the big soda companies did not disclose to consumers the nature of the underlying benzene problem. "Coke's contamination story 'highly unlikely,'" BBC News, August 17, 1999; "Leading soft drinks withdrawn," BBC News, June 1, 1998; "A Big Fizzle for Coca-Cola," TIME, July 8, 1999; Pouthier, "Outbreak of Coca-Cola-related illness in Belgium: a true association," Lancet, 21 August 1999, pp. 681-682
Rather than explaining that it partly was due to the interaction of the ingredients they choose to use -- and that heat and light had a dramatic effect -- they attributed all of the benzene to third-party sources.
An analytical chemist, Dr. Alan Rowley, on behalf of Britvic (which distributes Pepsi products in the UK) testified in early 2001 in a claim for damages against the suppliers of carbon dioxide contaminated with the carcinogen benzene. He described that there is an alternative common source of benzene formation in some soft drinks. He explained that the use of benzoate and ascorbic acid can typically result in a benzene content in the finished product of up to 3 ppb. Britvic Soft Drinks Ltd. and Bass Brewers Ltd. v. Messer UK Ltd. and Terra Nitrogen (UK) Ltd.,  Under EU regulations, the standard for benzene in drinking water is now 1 ppb. Quality of Water Intended for Human Consumption. Thus there is an important issue that needs to be addressed even under the sworn testimony of Pepsi's own expert.
Actually, however, internal documents show that the industry knew that sometimes there were levels such as 25 ppb "off the shelf" and 82 ppb after exposure to heat and light. In Cadbury testing in 1990, Pepsi's Diet Slice measured at 1 ppb "off the shelf" and 41.5 after exposure to heat and light in a weatherometer. This problem of the tendency of benzene to form would be greatest in the hot climates of developing countries -- precisely where the soda companies soda sales are increasing.
A Court in India last year explained in the context of pesticides in Coca-Cola and Pepsi, The High Court of Judicature for Rajastan and others (2004.10.20) (Soft drink pesticide labeling case) that Coke and Pepsi must disclose the presence of a chemical contaminant in its drinks:
"the sale of the product should not be allowed without disclosing the composition of the product and the presence, if any, of insecticide, pesticide and chemicals. It was submitted that in case such a disclosure is made, there would be panic in the market and the business will dwindle. ... It is not difficult to imagine why the respondent companies want to keep the question of the presence of pesticides in carbonated beverages and soft drinks under wraps. ... Such secrecy cannot be legitimately allowed and the veil of secrecy must be lifted for public knowledge and information in the public interest, so that they can make an informed choice."
Coca-Cola, for example, to its credit acted promptly in 2004 in disclosing the presence of the carcinogen bromate in Dasani in the UK and recalling the product.
The FDA has agreed to my request that it conduct a preliminary survey of benzene in soft drinks in the US. The problem is largely controlled in the US by the industry's use of the chelating agent calcium disodium EDTA which was added after the benzene problem was discovered. The FDA, however, advises me that calcium disodium EDTA is not approved for use in noncarbonated soft drinks and that a formal rulemaking will be required. (The supplier, Dow, reports that it was originally approved for metail cans because of the risk of degradation of the metal can.) The Food Standards Agency in Great Britain has confirmed that calcium disodium EDTA is not approved for beverages at all. The Food Standards Agency confirms by email that "Calcium disodium ethylene diamine tetra-acetate (Calcium disodium EDTA) (E385) is controlled by Annex IV of The European Parliament and Council Directive 95/2/EC and is permitted in various foods. However, it is not permitted to be used in soft drinks."
In earlier testing published in the early 1990s in a journal for analytical chemists, the FDA researchers inexplicably adopted a protocol that not only did not simulate shelf life, but carefully kept all the samples refrigerated -- thus failing to address the central issue of the effect of heat and light at all. The problem of the effect of heat and light and its role in benzene formation was never disclosed to consumers and regulators from around the world have told me they were unaware of it. It is reminiscent of the FDA's approval of aspartame. The NSDA objected on the grounds that with heat, aspartame broke down and produced a dangerous chemical. The FDA dismissed the objections arguing that greater care could be taken in the shipping and storage to avoid heat.
The EU standard is now 1 ppb. Given that Pepsi's witness in 2001 testified under oath that 3 ppb is not uncommon, sodium benzoate should not be used with ascorbic acid (or real juice or citric acid). Relatedly, the companies should not be selling the product without disclosing to consumers this tendency of benzene to form or else consumers are not in a position to make an informed choice. Selling the product without disclosure of the carcinogen is unfair and deceptive under state consumer laws. Coca-Cola's print ad campaign (e.g., Wall Street Journal, TIME, Boston Globe) heralding its commitment to informed choice is ironic given its opposition to a Court in India to disclose the levels of pesticide found in its drinks in India. Actions, as they say, speak louder than words.
Instead of disclosing the nature of the benzene problem to consumers, the industry focused on maintaining their political influence. Lobbyist Jack Abramoff will serve up to 10 years, pleading guilty to breaking federal lobbying laws and conspiring to bribe lawmakers and congressional aides with campaign contributions, meals, trips and sports tickets. In his plea, Abramoff detailed the perks he provided Bob Ney and his staff in exchange for political favors -- a golf trip to Scotland, the Super Bowl bash in Tampa, the free meals and the sports stadium box seats. It was Bob Ney (R-Ohio) who issued a press release against threatened school soda litigation (although not even Ney objected where the law has been broken). Coca-Cola Enterprises in particular has maintained its political influence through a widespread pattern of gratuities that, among other things, has served to use a "pouring rights" scheme to circumvent the requirements of competitive bidding in our public schools and to keep soda promoted to a captive audience of kids during the school day.
"Ban soda, potato chips and other unhealthy snacks from American schools, and discourage them in the workplace. It's unforgivable that our schools help to send children on the road to diabetes." Nicholas Kristof urged in "Take a Hike," New York Times, Jan. 31, 2006. Countries that have gone soda free all-grades or pledged to do so include England, France , Scotland and Fiji. States include California, New Jersey, Maine and Nevada. There is bipartisan support for a K-12 ban in Connecticut. In Massachusetts, the House will vote (H. 4452) on whether to ban the sale of soda and junk food in Massachusetts schools (K-12) soon. In Indiana, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a tepid measure but even that is tied up in committee upon industry lobbying. 75% of those polled in Indiana favor an outright K-12 ban of junk food and soda. K-12 bans are now also pending, for example, in New York and Idaho. A bill was previously overwhelmingly passed by the NY Assembly but Coca-Cola saw to it that it never got to the Senate for a vote.
Districts that have gone soda-free K-12 include NYC, LA, Chicago, Miami-Dade, Philly, Pittsburgh, Scranton, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Boston, DC, Seattle, Austin, Baltimore, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, Buffalo, Binghamton, Fresno, Oakland, Montreal, Quebec City, Sioux Falls, Des Moines, and many others. Just recently, it appears that St. Paul and Wake County (Raleigh, NC) will also be rid of soda during the school day.
The soda industry should make lemonade out of real lemons and voluntarily pull all sodas out of public schools throughout the world -- both regular and diet. See Fall 2005 US Roper poll (79% opposed to school vending) Indeed, the tendency of benzene to form is greatest in diet drinks. Separately, companies and regulatory authorities worldwide should conduct testing and monitoring of the relevant products for benzene and undisclosed calcium disodium EDTA or other chelating agents. ("Coca-Cola To Undertake Fresh Testing," Newswire.co.nz , Feb. 22, 2006)
In "Benzene scare has soft drinks makers in a fizz," Independent (UK), Feb. 18, 2006, it was reported that "A Britvic spokesman was also confident its products would not be affected: 'As every production line comes off, we take samples and test, so we're sure that it's safe.'" Given, however, that the process is shelf-life dependent -- and greatly affected by heat and light -- what is needed is transparent, independent testing of products that have been on the shelf for a while. Even more importantly, exposure to heat and sunlight must be tested. These refreshments are commonly bought to the beach or stored unrefrigerated or in the light.
It was in September, 2005 that Dr. Glen Lawrence, who was science advisor to the FDA's New York labs in 1990 and 1991, advised me that he was shocked to see that there are drinks that still contain the ascorbic acid-benzoate combination that is known in the industry to lead to benzene formation. The Professor had published a lucid explanation of the chemical interaction involved in a peer reviewed journal. "Benzene Production from Decarboxylation of Benzoic Acid in the Presence of Ascorbic Acid and a Transition-Metal Catalyst." Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (May 1993) . Dr. Lawrence noted that benzene is associated with leukemia as a carcinogen, and it can take many years before the leukemia develops. About 30 percent of cancers in children ages 0-14 years are leukemia. He explained that school children exposed to benzene in drinks may not develop leukemia until they are in their 20s.
I had been given internal soda companies about the formation of benzene in soft drinks by an industry whistleblower who had been part of a secret research project. I knew that the situation was much more serious than even Dr. Lawrence realized. The problem is especially dire in low-sugar drinks, in warm climates or where the technical fix to avoid the formation of benzene in soft drinks is not being used. See generally "Outbreak of Coca-Cola-related illness in Belgium: a true association," Lancet Volume 354, Issue 9179 , 21 August 1999, Pages 681-682
Perrier's carbonated bottled water was recalled for benzene from contaminated carbon dioxide in 1990. Some non-carbonated fruit-flavored water (McKesson) and (Koala Springs) was recalled later in the year. The recall of the noncarbonated product was due to the breakdown of the artificial preservative benzoate (and there were a number of regional recalls that year involving bottled waters). In testing, the FDA was also finding benzene, for example, in orange soda. The soda pop contaminated with benzene in 1990 escaped the public's notice. But it most definitely was known by company officials by December 1990. The companies commenced frantic, secret research projects. Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Cadbury did not recall any products that tested above the limits accepted for water supplies. At Cadbury, the research project was known as Project Denver. While Perrier had been recalled globally at 11-18 parts per billion (ppb), Diet Orange Crush, for example, tested at 25 ppb before exposure to heat and 82 after exposure. (RSSL, a global leader in analytical testing serving food companies, did the testing)
Under European regulations the standard for benzene in drinking water is now 1 ppb. The regulators in Europe I've contacted are not even aware of the tendency of benzene to form from the mere combination of certain ingredients.
Many schoolchildren got sick after drinking soft drinks in 1998 and 1999 after the carcinogen benzene was found in many of its products. There were massive recalls in Belgium, UK and France followed by explanations deemed unconvincing by investigators. At the time, Coca-Cola official Neville Isdell said: "The extraordinary effects of the crisis are something which will take six months and may be even nine months to work through the system." Financial Times, September 2, 1999 "A Big Fizzle for Coca-Cola," TIME, July 8, 1999
Coca-Cola's CEO pointed to phenol (a derivative of benzene) as due to fungicide on some wooden pallets in France. Similarly, in Israel, the year before, a company spokesman pointed to paint thinner absorbed from products in various stores in Israel. (In Bloomberg at the time, it was reported that it was benzene that was found). There must never be a repeat of that experience or tolerance of the industry's failure to fully disclose the nature of the underlying benzene problem. Only then other competing explanations be fairly judged like contaminated carbon dioxide, fungicide on pallets, gear lubricants, cleaning solvents, paint thinner in stores etc.
Pepsi's experience in the US is illustrative of the need for testing. For example, in 1996, Pepsi recalled approximately 30,000 cases in bottles and cans, to include Welch's sparkling grape soda, due to an off odor and taste. In 1997, PepsiCo South recalled 137,000 cases (all sizes and package types) of a wide variety of drinks -- mainly diet drinks and citrus flavors -- due to an off odor and taste. In 2002, a recall of 7200 cases of Mountain Dew was suggested as possibly due to contamination from equipment cleaning fluid. Not to be outdone, in 1997, Coca-Cola recalled 300,000 bottles and cans due to a off odor and flavor. Often a recall is attributed to a gear lubricant, such as recalls by Coca-Cola bottling companies in the US in 1990, 1992 and 1994 or a recall in Australia in 2002. Benzene is a common ingredient in non-food grade lubricants. According to a 2004 Shell Oil comment at the FDA continued to be widely used in the beverage industry. So one question that arises is: was the determination that the contamination due to a gear lubricant in many of the cases just based on testing that showed benzene?
When sued in 2001 by someone who drank a soda laden with lubricant in 2001, Coca-Cola declined to list the ingredients of the lubricant or describe how it got there. Thus, even where a particular incident has nothing to do with the benzene formation at issue, candor with consumers as to the causes of contamination is not a trademark. When a consumer complains that a soft drink has an off odor and taste, someone out in the field who may not have been in a food factory for years, may then go to try to pinpoint the problem. The inspector has been trained by the FDA in diplomacy in dealing with managers who don't even want to hear the word "recall". Faced with only an off odor and taste, they are left to the good intentions of the company. Testing for benzene should be done not only upon complaint, but routinely as is done in the case of municipal drinking water and bottled water.
France has banned all vending in schools. England just announced it will go soda free all grades. Public schools in Australia, India, Scotland and Wales likely will soon go soda-free. In the US, Schwarzenegger signed a law that will make California schools soda free (and Massachusetts and Arizona are likely next). Maine and New Jersey took decisive administrative action with less fanfare. From an insider's perspective, however, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, dental decay, caffeine addiction, and behavioral problems are just some of the health problems raised by the consumption of soda by a captive audience of children at school.
Nutritionist Ruth Kava, PhD RD, who works for the industry-funded American Council on Science and Health (ACHS), explains: "If you consume something that's a big hazard, such as benzene, but have small exposure, say 1 part per billion of benzene in your food every three months, there's not a very big risk." (The ACHS Executive Director, an MD, Gilbert Ross, has actively opposed soda bans at school after ACHS took funds from the soda industry.) The ACHS head Elizabeth Whelan dismissed the vomiting and nausea of dozens of schoolchildren at the time as due to hysteria. But isn't the level set for water a reasonable standard for determining whether there should be a trade recall as the soda industry and large retailers have previously claimed?
Under EU regs the standard for benzene in drinking water is now 1 ppb. Quality of Water Intended for Human Consumption. That doesn't leave much wiggle room.
In the US, if there are 5 ppb benzene detected in a water supply, radio and newsapers have to be notified. (EPA Consumer Factsheet on: BENZENE.) That level is not merely not "fit for its intended purpose" under the product liability laws. Upon drinking over a prolonged period of time, that can be cancer in a can. The cause addressed by Project Denver, rather than contaminated carbon dioxide, was due mainly to the interaction of sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid and was greatest when the product was exposed to heat or ultraviolet light. But hundreds of pages of Project Denver documents, to include testing of competitor products -- to the extent they have not been destroyed -- can speak for themselves. ABA now reports that it didn't think to keep the documents. Surprise, surprise.
Calcium disodium EDTA (Calcium disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetate) is one technical fix that is intended to avoid the problem. Under the Code of Federal Regulations, it is permitted for canned carbonated drinks; Dow, the manufacturer, advises that its approval was related to the concern for degradation of the metal can. There are other possible fixes. Why are there so many products worldwide with no technical fix apparent from the ingredients? Is it because calcium disodium EDTA is not deemed safe and not permitted in drinks in EU and Australia? (Studies report that it traps essential minerals and causes them to be excreted out in the urine). Under European regulations the standard for benzene in drinking water is now 1 ppb under the Quality of Water Intended for Human Consumption. Worldwide, outside of the US and Europe, the WHO recommended guideline level of 10 ppb in drinking water is useful in assessing what maximum level might be acceptable for soft drinks. In a separate development, the WHO recently announced it would not be accepting the participation of Coca-Cola and Pepsi-funded scientists (through a group called Life Sciences) in determining the levels of water contaminants.
Legislators should rid schools of soda. But if it is allowed, state legislators should require testing for benzene given the number of instances of schoolchildren getting sick. Water supplies are regularly tested and bottled water in the US is subject to regulations relating to permissible benzene levels. If soda is being urged by soda companies and some school administrators and legislators as a substitute for water, then soft drinks should be tested also. If in the United States the American Beverage Association ("ABA") President Susan Neely truly wants to be "proactive," then the ABA should support regular, transparent and independent testing such as is done for tap water and bottled water. Given Coca-Cola and Pepsi have actively opposed disclosing the levels of pesticides in their drinks in India, the companies cannot be relied upon to ensure that no product above the safety guidelines is sold. (Similarly, only beverage grade carbon dioxide should be used in dispensing fountain retail drinks as for food grade carbon dioxide benzene is not screened or measured). We should hold our beverage companies who provide the beverages for profit to the same safety standard as our ground water and drinking water.
Regulators around the world: Priority in government testing by agencies such as the Food Standards Agency and the local authorities there in the UK should be given to diet drinks with benzoate and ascorbic acid but not any of the technical fixes. Chris Mercer, "UK, Germany checking soft drinks for benzene," Beverage Daily.com, Feb. 20, 2006 ; Kent Atkinson, "Soft drinks in cancer-causing scare," Stuff.co, Feb. 22, 2006; Authority's soft drinks response is limp," Scoop (NZ), Feb. 22, 2006
As explained in the internal memorandum written by the Cadbury Vice-President at the time, the effect was greatest in diet drinks. This likely would have been because of the absence of the insulating effect of the sugar. The beverage with the greatest risk would contain the combinations as follows: (1) diet or reduced sugar, (2) benzoate, (3) ascorbic acid or its sister erythorbic acid, (4) juice, and (5) citrus or cherry flavor. The strategy that should be taken in each country will vary with the products. For example, the analysis in testing in the United Kingdom might start with a list of soft drinks containing sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate. Then testing generally could be limited to those that contain ascorbic acid (especially, for example, citrus flavors) that do not have any apparent technical fix. (A list of drinks with sodium benzoate (E211) is contained in the list of products collected this past year by the Food Standards Agency in connection with its survey of the preservatives benzoate and sorbate; that list indicates the country of origin and manufacturer. and whether sorbate is used in addition to benzoate.) It is also important to test for undisclosed calcium disodium EDTA and ensure that any use of calcium disodium EDTA is approved as safe for the use. (By analogy, in the recent UK survey of benzoates and sorbates, four instances of undisclosed sorbate was detected in soft drinks and were addressed by the manufacturer).
In "Benzene scare has soft drinks makers in a fizz," the Independent (UK) reported February 18, 2006
"Sodium benzoate is widely used in the drinks sector. In the UK it is used in Britvic brands including Britvic 55 apple and orange flavours, Pennine Spring flavoured waters and Shandy Bass. The additive is also found in Robinsons Fruit Shoot, but, before the FDA probe, the company had decided to stop using it. From 3 April, the drink will be made without it."
Chris Mercer in "FDA re-opens probe into benzene contamination of soft drinks," Beverage Daily, Feb. 15, 2006, summarizes:
"The hydroxyl radical attacks the benzoic acid, removing the carbon dioxide from it and leaving benzene in its wake. Lawrence's study said this reaction could take place 'under conditions prevalent in many foods and beverages'.
Lawrence said: 'There is no good reason to add ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to soft drinks, and those that may have ascorbic acid naturally in them (juices) should not use sodium benzoate as a preservative. So it is really very easy to avoid the problem.' "
Dr. Michael E. Knowles from Coca-Cola , Director Scientific & Regulatory Affairs was head of the UK Fisheries and Food's Food Science Division from 1986 to 1989. From 1989-1991, Dr. Knowles was Chief Scientist (Fisheries and Food) and Head of the Food Science Group. After the 1990 benzene crisis involving Perrier (and the separate problem was discovered concerning soft drinks), he was hired by Coca-Cola in 1991. He likely would know both what was disclosed to the regulatory authorities and what was known by Coca-Cola. At Pepsi, Louis Imbrogno is a key senior technical executive who was with the company in 1990 and is still there. He might be able to shed light on the testing results shared with regulatory authorities. Mike Redman, who represented the NSDA at the meeting, is at Cott and serves with the International Society of Beverage Technologists (ISBT). And, of course, the FDA can provide a copy of the data that was submitted or explain why it was destroyed or not subject to production under the Freedom of Information Act.
It should not be a surprise to anyone that the ABA and Coca-Cola will tell us that there never was a real threat to public health at the same time they fail to provide the 1990 data -- leaving it to someone else to do so. It is common sense that the data (1) should not have been destroyed, and (2) should be publicly disclosed.
Relying on government to safeguard the public interest and our children's health may be problematic. Shortly after getting whistleblower documents from 1990 showing stunning test results relating to the formation of benzene in some soft drinks, I emailed the FDA Office of Commissioner mid-afternoon at 2:10 p.m. on Wednesday, September 21, 2005. Getting no response, on Thursday, I posted the same information at a website picked up on "google news." FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford sent an email on Friday to FDA staff announcing his resignation effective immediately without explanation.
That Saturday morning, I spoke to a deputy FDA counsel who was at a Boston obesity litigation conference addressing soda nutrition labeling and the role of the FDA. I asked why I hadn't got a response to my email. He didn't know. At the time, Commissioner Crawford denied that his departure had anything to do with his stock holdings. It was not reported what those holdings were. On October 26, 2005, the Wall Street Journal reported that the former FDA head held shares in regulated firms as late as 2004. Mr. Crawford at one point had up to $100,000 in Pepsi Co stock. The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post have reported that the HHS Inspector General is investigating the circumstances of his departure. Someone should ask him about benzene formation in soda.
Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Crawford is an expert on chemical contamination of drinks and water supplies, as he explained in his March 2005 confirmation statement. Dr. Crawford explained that he has played major roles in the development of mandatory nutrition labeling and the control of chemical and microbiological contaminants of food. In 1990, Dr. Crawford was Administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which handles meat safety). That was the year that the benzene issue became known.
Until 2002, while in the private sector, Dr. Crawford was Director of Center for Food and Nutrition Policy, which had entered a strategic alliance with the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) to foster understanding of issues facing food companies. Dr. Crawford served as Academic Advisor to the GMA on scientific and regulatory issues dealing with food and nutrition policy. GMA, along with the American Beverage Association ("ABA"), is the group active in opposing school soda bans. At the FDA, he had been Chair of the FDA's Obesity Working Group (OWG) since it was created in August 2003. In January 2004, groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the restaurant and industry group Center for Consumer Freedom presented opposing comments before the group. See also "FDA Obesity Report To Suggest Changes To Serving Sizes On Labels," FDA Week, March 12, 2004. In a May 2004 NPR show, Dr. Crawford explained that labelling changes on soft drinks would be voluntary, not mandatory -- making the calories reflect the size of the 21.5 oz. bottle, for example, and not merely refer to an 8 oz. standard. In mid-July 2005, he spoke very eloquently on the subject of sending healthy messages to children.
A recent study funded by the ABA by Dr. Crawford's successor as Director of Center for Food and Nutrition Policy found no association between obesity and school soda vending. The recent study was funded by an unrestricted gift by the ABA (previously known as the National Soft Drink Association).
As Director of the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy, Dr. Crawford had persuasively argued in testimony on regulatory reform that there needed to be transparency and science-based decision-making in risk assessment relating to contamination of foods. He urged that decision-makers and scientists "have a legal and moral duty to recuse themselves from issues that stand to directly and/or financially benefit them." Last month the HHS Inspector General issued subpoenas for financial records relating to share holdings in PepsiCo, food service Sysco, and Wendy's. Lisa Richwine,
Precisely what testing data was disclosed to the FDA in December 1990 and January 1991?)
Did the FDA destroy the data? If so, why?
Did the ABA destroy the data? If so, why?