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Why 'Food Safety' Should Apply To Toothpaste And Medicines Too

25/02/2017 6:56 PM IST | Updated 24/03/2017 3:10 PM IST

Some time ago, I had written an article about the possible link between talcum powder use by women and ovarian cancer. Today, I want to try to make a case (that's the lawyer in me talking) about why stuff like this should also be a part of the food safety discussion.

When we think of the term "food safety", we generally think about stuff like pesticides, unsafe water and hygiene practices. I thought exactly the same thing. However, of late, I'm beginning to wonder whether it should cover stuff like toothpastes, powders, deodorants, and even medicine. I say this because when we use toothpaste or deodorant, certain substances do enter our body, and these may have safety issues. The same goes for medicines.

I think that anything that enters our body and has the potential to harm it should fall under the ambit of food safety.

One of the first things we learned as kids was to brush our teeth at least twice a day. But is it possible that while making sure that our teeth are sparkling, we're potentially ingesting a carcinogen? If the research on titanium dioxide is true, then we might be doing just that.

Titanium dioxide (E171) is used in a whole host of products, from paint to food (as a colouring agent). In toothpastes, it is used to provide whiteness and opacity. However, there are a lot of concerns surrounding titanium dioxide nanoparticles. Based on animal studies, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified titanium dioxide nanoparticles as "possibly carcinogenic", and a 2011 study concluded that relevant toxicological and human exposure data are available, titanium dioxide nanoparticles should be used with great care. However, how many people would connect toothpaste with food safety?

Recently, the Hindustan Times published an article about the rise in cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. One of the reasons cited for the increase in MDR-TB was people not completing the full course of medication. I think this is also a food safety issue because, similar to adding sugar to breakfast cereals, it's the way in which the drugs are consumed that causes a safety issue. But just like toothpaste, I don't think many people would include issues relating to medicine when talking about food safety.

I think food safety is a lot more than just the actual food and water that we consume. I think that anything that enters our body and has the potential to harm it should fall under the ambit of food safety. Maybe we should expand our definition of "food."

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