Tag Archives: FDA

Don't Worry Be Healthy: Squeaky Clean

clean hands

-Marissa Tomko

Scrub-a-dub-dub, triclosan in the tub! But maybe not for much longer…

Triclosan is a chemical used in antibacterial products. In the US, it is estimated that about 75 percent of liquid soaps and washes contain triclosan. It is also found in toothpaste, kitchen cleaners, and detergents—it’s everywhere. That must mean we’re all pretty safe because all of the bacteria in our lives are being killed, right? Some would say otherwise.

In 1978, triclosan was deemed not especially safe or effective by the FDA, but there was no research to make a strong case for its danger. What danger, you ask? Studies done using animals lead to the conclusion that it could be a danger to human fertility, and cause early puberty. However, according to the FDA, trends in animal testing do not always show up equally in humans. Currently, the FDA is working to decide if the risks are enough to shut down the $1 billion industry.

After learning about these risks, I was curious if antibacterial soap containing triclosan was at least making my grubby little paws cleaner. As it turns out, studies have shown that antibacterial cleansers are no more effective than your run of the mill civilian soap. Soap cleans by breaking up the oil and dirt on your hands, suspending them in water droplets that get washed down the drain. Using antibacterials give you no benefit, according to various studies.

It’s up to you to decide how you feel about the triclosan controversy. But until then, and after, just keep washing your hands people—the common cold never sleeps!

Image by Arlington County.

My Miraculin Immunity

-Sam Katzman

Imagine ingesting something with the ability to confuse your taste buds so radically that they can’t distinguish a bite of a tart lemon from sweetened lemonade. A substance with such far-fetched qualities it could only be conjured by the mind of Willy Wonka. Contrary to popular belief, inducing this hallucination of the taste receptors is possible.

Synsepalum dulcificum, otherwise known as the miracle fruit, has become a popular novelty among curious “flavor-trippers,” earning its namesake from its high miraculin content.

Found in the tiny red berries of this indigenous West African plant, miraculin is a glycoprotein notorious for amplifying sweet sensations on the palate.

Miracle berries have been used to spruce up the taste of meals since before being first noted by explorers in the early 1700s. However, new trends have evolved incorporating miraculin in party atmospheres. This FDA classified “food additive” exploded in popularity in the twenty-first century due to its glorified social appeal.

Flavor tripping parties are a growing phenomenon among all age groups. Guests at these events typically pitch collectively to purchase the taste bud twisting berries, while out of the ordinary snacks are usually provided by the host.

Taste receptors under the influence of miraculin have been known to fool some into mistaking goats cheese for cake icing and passing Guinness beer as a chocolate shake. According to miracleberry.wordpress.com, drinking straight Tabasco sauce is “delicious” but the website also advises, “don’t drink too much.”

Naturally after being reassured I wouldn’t be harming my body or breaking the law by consuming these things, I was curious to try the experiment myself. So I chose to join the flavor-tripping revolution and purchased some berries of my own online.

Twenty dollars less in my wallet and a week of anticipation later, I placed one miracle fruit tablet on my tongue –meanwhile my sense of taste was preparing for its first psychedelic experience. Expecting a flurry of foreign, delicious flavors to invade my mouth, I was surprised to notice everything tasting so overwhelmingly . . . normal.

I could be a freak of nature, but nothing tasted unusual despite conducting three taste-tripping trials.

My dreams of sipping hot sauce from the bottle, with the aid of a little performance-enhancing berry, were in vain.  Tabasco still had its fiery sting even with a dissolved miracle berry tablet coating each of my taste receptors.

I have heard enough testimonials to buy in to the validity of the miracle fruit, but as I reflect on my experience I’m disappointed and confused about why I’m apparently immune to miraculin.

Flavor-tripping might have failed for me, but this glycoprotein is scientifically proven to influence people varyingly. If you’re feeling too lazy to take the lemons you’re given and make lemonade, allow me to introduce synsepalum dulcificum as a more convenient alternative.

Under Your Skin: Vegan Tattoos

-Hannah Doyle

When considering a tattoo, most people think about where they want their tattoo, how they want it to look, if they should get color and how much pain it will cause. Rarely does it cross the mind to wonder what exactly is in the ink that tattoo parlors use. It seems pretty straightforward; ink is ink. However, most don’t know what is used to make tattoo ink, and for some, knowing might alter their decision entirely.

Most tattoo parlors offer permanent, traditional tattoo ink. The colors of tattoo ink depend on the ingredients in the pigment. Carbon or iron oxides make up the pigment of traditional black tattoo ink. The Carbon is commonly made from charred animal bone or bug excrement. The pigments are suspended in a carrier like alcohol, distilled water, or glycerin. Many traditional inks are suspended in an animal-based glycerin that contains animal fat.

The FDA doesn’t regulate traditional tattoo ink and the ink supplier isn’t required to list the ingredients of the ink on their product. This can be troubling to some, especially those who are vegan or have a conscience about bits of animal permanently sitting in their skin.

Fortunately for those who don’t want to use traditional tattoo ink, there are alternatives. There are vegan tattoo parlors that use vegetable-based glycerin and have black tattoo ink pigments made out of logwood. Vegan tattoo parlors are not common but many are located in areas like Portland, Los Angeles, and New York.

However, some tattoo artists question the quality of vegan black tattoo ink versus traditional. Since vegan tattoo ink isn’t Carbon-based, which is where the animal bone comes in, artists don’t think it works as well.  Although, most vegan tattoo artists say that there is no difference.

When it comes down to it, it’s all about personal preference and doing research. Just be sure that before emblazoning “Vegan” or “PETA” on your back, you understand what is being embedded under your skin.

Photo taken by Gene Coffey at Tattoo Culture