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April 15 2015

Banned in Europe Does Not Equal Safe

Julie Gunlock

Buzzfeed often falls down the alarmism rabbit hole; featuring articles with terrifying titles that suggest everything one eats, drinks and uses is a toxic killer.

Buzzfeed's latest video is no different. In "8 terrifying facts about cosmetics” Buzzfeed suggest that cosmetics manufactured in the United States are dangerous because American manufacturers use chemicals that are "banned in Europe."

Okay, before you run to your bathroom and throw out all your makeup, first understand a few reassuring facts. First, European regulators operate under the precautionary principle, which a regulatory scheme that relies not on science-based assessments of risk but on unfounded fears of particular products. In other words, European regulators will ban something even if there’s zero evidence showing harm.

So, European’s tendency to ban things is hardly a good sources on what’s really dangerous.

For a more thorough explanation of the precautionary principle, check out this report which explains the regulatory scheme and how, if the United States adopts the precautionary principle, it will destroy American industry and lead to higher prices on products (like cosmetics) and job losses.  It’s also worth noting that many U.S.-based environmental and anti-chemical organizations are pushing for adoption of the precautionary principle. These groups are thrilled to see these preposterous Buzzfeed videos because it creates a demand for greater regulation and generates considerable support for the harsh regulations on the chemical and other industries.

Now, let’s consider a few things banned in the United States, but not in Europe. There are several artisan cheeses like certain kinds of Roquefort, Morbier, and Tomme de Savoie that are banned in America. Does the fact that lucky Europeans are allowed to eat these delicious cheeses mean that the EU is made up of murderous sociopaths who ignore the dangers of cheese? Or worse, is the European cheese industry simply paying off EU regulators so that the population can slowly be poisoned by delicious unregulated cheese? SHILLS!

Yeah, that's probably it.

Or perhaps the more likely scenario is that European cheese regulators have decided that adults can make their own choices about cheese consumption and trust that these adults can do their own risk analysis when it comes to eating raw milk and other artisnal cheeses.  

But, alas, the Europeans are capricious when it comes to what they allow and don't allow. Irradiation -- a process that involves zapping food with high-energy ionizing radiation is authorized in many European countries but genetic modification -- which involves inserting or removing a gene or genes from foods -- is treated with skepticism and banned in much of Europe. America hasn't quite accepted irradiation, not because of regulations banning the process but because of nonsense peddled by alarmists who claim irradiation poisons food  (this article is a good summary of the misinformation that persists on irradiation and how the process could help lower food costs). 

The bottom line: Don't trust everything you read on Buzzfeed and for heaven's sake, don’t freak out when you hear Europe bans certain things. Buzzfeed's good for a laugh, but that website is a joke when it comes to fact-based information on health and wellness issues.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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