Cereal Recall Highlights Need for Better Food Safety

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Kellogg’s cereal recently recalled close to 30 million boxes of popular children’s product due to complaints of illness (See list of cereals at end of story). The reason? Methylnaphthalene, a component of oil and coal tar, has been reported to be the cause of sickness. The chemical was found to be on the inside lining of the packaging, which then leached into the cereal. Most customers became ill after eating the contaminated product, however, some felt sick just after smelling it.

Alarmingly, health agencies know very little about methylnaphthalene despite the enormous quantities that are produced in the United States. EPA records show that companies have been producing 1 million to 10 million pounds of this chemical a year, but the government still has little information about its health risks. Environmental Working Group (EWG) senior scientist Dave Andrews explains that, “this chemical is turning up in the packaging for popular cereals marketed towards children,” which highlights the concern for what chemicals we are putting into our own and our children’s bodies. While packaging can help preserve food longer, it can also be a detriment to our health.

The non-profit group EWG was the first to report that methylnaphthalene was the chemical found in the recalled cereals. EWG and other public-health advocacy groups believe that the consistent lack of risk data in popular products strengthens the case for food safety reform—an issue that remains stalled in the Senate.

One year ago the House passed a food-safety bill that gives the Food and Drug Administration power to order mandatory recalls, rather than voluntary recalls initiated by companies like Kellogg. However, that legislation sits in limbo in the government while the focus turns towards Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) bid to ban bisphenol A, a chemical with an unclear safety history, from food containers. House Democrat Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut was quoted in the New York Times saying that, “when foods that are popular among kids are being recalled in large volumes, it is clear that our food safety system is not working.”

In addition to the Kellogg case, other packaging has come under scrutiny for its dangerous chemicals, including glass bottles, water bottles, milk cartons, can lining and seafood packaging. Although many companies have recognized this danger and have stopped using some hazardous chemicals, many others remain in products.

The recalled cereal included four different products, all targeted towards children. Only products with the letters “KN” following the Better If Used Before Date were included in the recall. Products with a “KM” designation were not included, and no products in Canada were affected. Here is a list of the recalled cereals:

Kellogg’s Apple Jacks
UPC 38000039136 1: 17 ounce package with Better If Used Before Dates between APR 10 2011 and JUN 22 2011
UPC 3800039132 3: 8.7 ounce packages with Better If Used Before Dates between JUN 03 2011 and JUN 22 2011.

Kellogg’s Corn Pops
UPC 38000039109 5: 12.5 ounce packages with Better If Used Before Dates between MAR 26 2011 and JUN 22 2011
UPC 3800039111 8: 17.2 ounce packages with Better If Used Before Dates between MAR 26 2011 and JUN 22 2011
UPC 3800039116 3: 9.2 ounce packages with Better If Used Before Dates between APR 5 2011 and JUN 22 2011

Kellogg’s Froot Loops
UPC 3800039118 7: 12.2 ounce packages with Better If Used Before Dates between MAR 26 2011 and JUN 22 2011
UPC 3800039120 0: 17 ounce packages with Better If Used Before Dates between MAR 26 2011 and JUN 22 2011
UPC 3800039103 3: 15.3 ounce packages with Better If Used Before Dates between MAR 26 2011 and JUN 22 2011

Kellogg’s Honey Smacks
UPC 3800039103 3: 15.3 ounce packages with Better If Used Before Dates between MAR 26 2011 and JUN 22 2011

For more information regarding dangerous chemicals visit the Environmental Working Group.

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