Chewing It Over

In response to:

Death for Dinner from the February 21, 1974 issue

To the Editors:

Several errors now come to my attention in my food piece (“Death for Dinner,” NYR, February 21); they do not in any way alter the substance of the piece but are careless and inexcusable nevertheless. First, the second paragraph mentions “university deans and government scientists. Ten of them….” In the series of hearings in the spring of 1973 before the committee, government scientists and a university department head did testify, but I did not intend to mean that all “ten” were so describable, most were professors and researchers at medical institutes and university nutrition departments. The ten-state survey referred to as “canceled” was originally intended to be part of a nationwide survey which was called off. The ten-state survey itself was eventually released but not until after HEW had withheld final findings and yielded to pressure to publish them. Magnesium was not, as the piece says, one of the trace minerals in which the “ten-state survey found Americans deficient,” but is a mineral in which other surveys have found Americans deficient. MSG was not actually banned from baby foods by the government, but was “voluntarily” withdrawn from baby foods by the manufacturers, after yielding to public pressure. Sodium nitrite and nitrate undergo chemical changes in the human stomach to become potent carcinogens. They are not technically, in themselves, carcinogenic as a reference in the article may imply. I regret any inconvenience these points may cause you.

Daniel Zwerdling

Washington, DC