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Consumer Group Intensifies Anti-Sulfites Campaign

May 09, 1985|DANIEL P. PUZO | Times Staff Writer

A consumer group has intensified its attack on sulfites in its ongoing campaign to increase public and congressional support for a nationwide ban on the preservatives.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington consumer advocacy group, labeled the chemicals as "the only food additive in the last 20 years that has actually killed people." The statement appeared in the latest issue of the center's monthly newsletter, Nutrition Action.

Sulfites are used by the food service industry to prevent discoloration of fruit and vegetables left exposed for extended time periods, such as foods on salad bars.

Asthmatics, and others sensitive to sulfiting agents, can suffer severe allergic reactions when exposed to the chemical. In some cases, the substance has been linked to deaths, most recently that of a 10-year-old Oregon girl who consumed guacamole that was later found to have high levels of the preservative.

Legislation Proposed

Earlier this year Sen. Albert Gore (D-Tenn.) and Rep. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) co-sponsored legislation that would force the U. S. Food and Drug Administration to ban the preservative. Shortly thereafter, the National Restaurant Assn. endorsed the bill.

"If the labeling solution were pursued, it could set a precedent for mandatory labeling in restaurants," a restaurant trade magazine wrote. The restaurant organization believes the proposed legislation is preferable to announcing the chemicals' presence in foods through warning labels. The group believes warning labels might lead to additional legislation requiring ingredient labeling throughout the restaurant industry.

A congressional hearing on the sulfite issue found that about 500,000 Americans may be sensitive to sulfites, which are also found in wine. The FDA has yet to act on the increasing calls for a ban, but recently published a report critical of the additives in FDA Consumer, the agency's monthly magazine.

An FDA-commissioned panel concluded that warning labels would not "protect sulfite-sensitive individuals from the potential hazards of these chemicals."

Instead, the panel recommended a ban on the preservatives, the magazine reported.

Beer Goes Flat--The entertainment created by ex-athletes, animals and young, urban professionals in beer commercials apparently have consumers talking more than drinking. The U. S. Brewers Assn. reports that consumption of domestic brew declined 1.1% last year.

The report is made even more unpleasant for Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Strohs and other domestic brewers because sales of imports posted a healthy 14.1% increase.

The mood among the U. S. brewery giants may get a bit darker later this year, according to Wine and Spirits Marketing Bulletin. The newsletter, published by U. S. News & World Report, reported that tax increases on alcoholic beverages usually precipitate a decline in consumption. The federal excise tax on alcohol is scheduled to increase by $2 a gallon in October.

A Lesson From Canada

The publication uses the Canadian experience as a fairly accurate barometer for what may occur in the United States after the alcohol, or "sin," tax is increased.

"Liquor consumption in Canada fell another 4.9% in 1984 to 18.78 million cases. That resulted in a total decline of 3.27 million cases, or 14.9%, since 1981 when a series of indexed increases in the (nation's) liquor excise tax began," the newsletter stated.

Milking the Lonely--California Farmer magazine was reporting recently on research that indicated that most broiler-fryer chickens lack the traditional flavor of their counterparts from yesteryear. The University of Nebraska study that was discussed in the magazine recommended that consumers seeking real chicken taste purchase "stewing chickens," which are actually hens who have outlived their usefulness as egg layers.

A recent issue of California Farmer has focused to cows, in particular, work being conducted by Utah State researchers. In this project, the university's agricultural experiment station found that calves raised in isolation produced as much as 4,000 pounds more milk than those grown in groups.

The reason for the dramatic increase in milk was said to be that "docility, apparently resulting from isolation, produced greater dividends."

Those involved with the project state that experiments will continue into whether America's milk will eventually originate from lonely cows.

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