Is Vanilla-Flavored Pudding a Mutagen?—Epilogue: A Game of Telephone

Is Vanilla-Flavored Pudding a Mutagen?—Epilogue: A Game of Telephone

Author: Klaus Roth

In the course of our researches, stepwise changes in the text led to jovial reminders of the children’s game of “Telephone”.

Telephone Call No. 1

Dr. W. Meiners cited correctly the BUA assertions of 1986: vanillin is classified in category +3 (ranging from –2 to 3) as “carcinogenic or mutagenic in vitro or in vivo or causing DNA damage or chromosome changes”. Based on this, the “Zentrum der Gesundheit” rendered in 2010 this particular statement as: “Artificially prepared vanillin is considered by the BUA of the German Chemical Society as subject to classification at the highest hazard level, +3, since it is

  • carcinogenic,
  • mutagenic,
  • a source of DNA damage,
  • chromosome altering.”

Leaving out all the conjunctions “or” had the effect of disguising whether vanillin displayed only one or all of the cited characteristics. The textbook authors themselves fell into this trap in 2015. Thus, restoring the list to running text, they simply introduced once the conjunction “and”: “Therefore it (i.e., vanillin; author’s note) is … consigned to the highest hazard level “+3,” as “carcinogenic, mutagenic, a source of DNA damage, and chromosome altering.”

Telephone Call No. 2

Dr. W. Meiners in 1984 evidently heard something from someplace. He expressed his own uncertainty regarding the truth content of the rumor quite clearly with the expression “are supposed to have been”: “In the USA, effects (of vanillin; author’s note) on school children are supposed to have been tested. Powers of concentration are said to decrease and nervousness to increase.”

At the ” Zentrum der Gesundheit”, the rumor was transformed into certainty: “Through consumption of synthetic vanillin, the ability to concentrate declines and nervousness increases.”

The textbook authors of “Technische Biochemie” added in 2015 a crowning touch to the ongoing series of “telephone calls”: “It (vanillin; author’s note) is suspected of being a neurotoxin, i.e. a nerve poison.”

One can only await anxiously to see how this remarkable set of “telephone calls” will proceed …


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