Toxic EDB Traces in Foods Must Be Reduced, Panel Says

The level of carcinogenic in foods must be reduced to zero, according to five exports who spoke at a consumer information forum at Gutman Library last night.

The exports made their recommendations at a time when Massachusetts is holding public hearings to decide whether to adopt permanent limits on the amount of EDB allowed to foods. EDB became an important health issue last month when checks found supermarket goods with EDB levels as high as 2000 parts per billion, and the Commonwealth responded by imposing a temporary limit of one part per billion.

Each member of the panel agreed that EDB constitutes a tremendous health hazard and that even the smallest traces present too great a rink. EDB has been linked to liver cancer in laboratory animals, but its effects on humans have yet to be fully tested.

Even in the smallest samples, the odds of EDB molecules making contact with cells "are odds we'd all like in a lottery but not odds we'd want in adjusting to a carcinogen," said Dr. David Ozonoff, president of the Massachusetts Public Health Association.

Any amount of the chemical which can be detected in thus "far too much of the substance in the food supply," Paonoff added.

Although the panel strongly praised the watchdog efforts of State Department of Public Health, the department can only do "a certain amount of monitoring to enforce the limit it's set," said Nancy Ridley, who directs the EDB testing program in Massachusetts.

Rather, the Commonwealth must also count on the "voluntary compliance" of private industry, which Ridley said has been reliable in the past.

The forum by the New England Food Cooperative Organization, attracted only about 25 people, but audience members called the speeches useful and informative.

"It's helped to see the people involved [in the debuts] and to get a feeling for where those people's values are at," said Jordan B. Lowe a manger for Ere whom Natural Foods.