, 14 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
There was this tweet from @GreatGameIndia about tests done on samples of table and cooking salt from 2 Indian companies / brands - Tata Salt and Sambhar Salt. Apparently they contained 'high' levels of Potassium Ferrocyanide. (#OMG, ferrocyanide? why arent we all dying?!!?)
The report in GGINews, an online newspaper, quoted a certain Shiv Shankar Gupta, Chairman of Godhum Grains & Farms Products, that the test by America West Analytical Laboratories (AWAL) showed 4.71 mg/kg in Sambhar Salt and 1.85 mg/kg in Tata's product.
Apparently the story was picked up by IANS and carried by several outlets. I saw it retweeted by @PragyaTiwari I had previously received a #WhatsApp forward in family group rife with fake news.
I smelled something fake about it and decided to look into it.
1. Potassium ferrocyanide is a well known food additive - E536 -is used as an anti-caking agent in cooking salt. It is NOT cyanide - this would be lethal in milligram quantities - and it does NOT breakdown in the body into cyanide.
2. The European Union looked into its safety, and concluded, that
a) Absorption of ferrocyanides is low and there is no accumulation in humans. b) There is no concern with respect to genotoxicity and carcinogenicity.
c) Ferrocyanides (E 535–538) are of no safety concern at the current authorised use and use levels."
What are these safe levels? See pic.
Lets break that down. Total max intake under maximal exposure scenario would be 0.009 mg per Kg body weight. Assume a child of 20 kg body weight. If he consumed 10 grams of salt (that's a hugely unhealthy amount!!) and if the salt contained 4 mg KFCN per Kilogram, ....
the intake would be 0.002 mg per Kg body weight. That's well within the maximal exposure scenarion that the EU team considered. And no one should be eating that much salt anyway!!
But the final element of #FakeNews is that the claim that the tests were done by a US lab called AWAL is complete fabrication. I emailed AWAL and asked them to confirm some things:
Their reply was swift indeed. Withing a few minutes they came back...
With this gem: Obviously they had heard of the story and of their name being taken in vain. They had a prepared statement.
They denied that they even tested for Potassium Ferrocyanide.
So why did this non-story get so much traction? Possibly #Indian journalists are idiots who never fact check a story, possibly because they seldom have a science background, but more likely someone wants to spread a scare about Tata Salt. To destroy their market share.
This is similar to the Maggi Noodles scare of 4 years ago. See my blog about that June madness: dusrakhyal.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/the…
The reporting in @CNBCTV18Live was even more brazenly sensationalist
They confused cyanide with ferrocyanide (perhaps safer to refer to it, as purist inorganic chemists would, as hexacyanoferrate)
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