PETA’s regulatory testing division recently fired off a letter to Samuel H. Wilson, acting director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), urging him to cancel planned experiments on mice involving artificial butter flavoring and its ingredients. Yes, I said artificial butter flavoring, the stuff in microwave popcorn.
One ingredient in artificial butter flavoring, diacetyl, is suspected of causing a debilitating—and sometimes deadly—lung disease in dozens of workers and now possibly in consumers as well, and the NIEHS’ knee-jerk reaction is simply to do more animal tests. Keep in mind that producers accounting for 80 percent of the market for this product have already stopped using diacetyl or announced plans to do so, and as our regulatory testing watchdogs pointed out, in experiments that have already been conducted, mice who were forced to inhale diacetyl didn’t develop the same symptoms of obliterative bronchiolitis (OB) that humans did. It sounds like the NIEHS has never heard Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote that goes something like this, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for different results.”
In response to PETA’s warnings—which were originally submitted to the NIEHS’ National Toxicology Program (NTP) in May—one scientist acknowledged that although “it’s not clear how one would extrapolate findings from the animal studies to humans. … [T]hat does not lessen my enthusiasm for this study.” In our newest letter, we point out that while the NTP conducts cruel experiments on mice, workers—and possibly consumers—will remain at risk for OB. How about we cut to the chase and instead of conducting irrelevant animal experiments and further delaying the protection of workers and consumers who are exposed to diacetyl, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration immediately rescind its “generally recognized as safe” designation for the chemical?
Jessica Sandler, PETA’s director of regulatory testing said it best,
“There’s a crisis looming for countless workers and consumers who are exposed to diacetyl, and once again, the government’s answer is to try to mimic in animals the effects already seen in people. Not only is this completely illogical approach blatantly cruel, it also directly jeopardizes the health of the citizens that the agency is charged with safeguarding.”
I’ll keep you posted as this case develops, and in the meantime, here’s a great page about PETA’s behind-the-scenes battle to stop animal testing.