Aidha Cader looks into the controversies surrounding consumer goods
Photos: Internet

Trusting consumer goods are becoming increasingly hard today, be it in the case of processed foods, organic foods, cosmetics or hygienic essentials. Once considered, trusted brands are making headlines for all the wrong reasons and thereby causing a pool of unsatisfied and confused consumer base.

In recent times, both news and social media sites have shared reports on the Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder scandal. The St Louis Jury found the multinational giant guilty of concealing information about the ingredients in the products that caused ovarian cancer. The court ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay US$ 72 million to the plaintiff’s family, whose death by ovarian cancer was linked to her daily use of ‘Johnson’s Baby Powder’ and ‘Shower to Shower’ products. Johnson & Johnson baby products have always have been a trusted brand in households. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the WHO, has classified that talc applied to the genital area is ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans.’ The main ingredient in talc is made of magnesium, silicon, hydrogen and oxygen and in addition to baby powder, talc is found in most cosmetic products. This creates a barge of potential problems for all women.

The reality is that several personal care products on store shelves do contain chemicals with known links to health problems however they come with no warnings on the labels. Be it the products we lather in our hair, rub on our skin,and apply on our faces many of us assume that the companies are using the best and safest ingredients, yet unfortunately the truth is far from it. Government regulatory practises vary across the world. In Europe for instance, the talcum in baby powders; the skin-lightening ingredient hydroquinone in skin creams, lead acetate in hair dye and other such toxics are banned from personal care products.

Such problems are not isolated to one state or country, in fact it spreads across borders. In 2015, the Maggie Noodles controversy came as a horror to Bangladeshi, households as well. Nestlé’s most profitable product in South Asia, was cleared from shelves and banned as test results conducted by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, found hazardous levels of lead. Prior to 2015, Maggie Instant Noodles was voted as India’s most trusted brand, yet following the FSSAI’s report the subsequent ban, stocks of Maggie Noodles were removed from store shelves. This ordeal also led to public outrage which resulted in bonfires of noodles being burnt. Ever since, the brand has been struggling to regain consumer confidence, even after the FSSAI’s subsequent clearance.

In the 80s we were constantly told to switch from our household staple coconut oil to corn or soya based oil. Research and scientific data from the West claimed that coconut oil caused arteries to clog, cholesterol, and many other health risks. Now coconut oil is a health food. It is the new ‘darling’ in the superfood and clean eating phenomena. Strangely many scientists are backtracking from their previous accusations towards coconut oil. Coconut oil is now credited for its ability to lose weight, stave off illness and even prevent Alzheimer’s.

Most of the foods we love are now turning out to be a health risk. Last year the WHO stated that processed meat causes cancer. Smoking, curing, adding salts and preservatives increases the chances of developing stomach cancers when consumed regularly. So there goes our favourite junk food of hot dogs and processed beef patties.

From gluten free to lactose free, it seems our bodies are evolving with the types of new food we are consuming. A glass of milk was considered an essential part of daily nutrition for children and an excellent source of calcium for adults. Yet, like the fall of grace, carbohydrates saw with diet plans like Atkins and Keto diets the new evil is cow’s milk . Soy milk, Almond milk and other lactose free alternative are gracing our supermarket shelves. And as before these trends are backed up with studies that show that consuming regular milk creates high alkaline syndrome which as a result causes calcium deficiency. Undoubtedly, the supermarket is becoming a great place of confusion.

On the other hand, a heath research on coffee conducted in in 2016, praised the merits of black coffee. It has been credited to reducing the risk of melanoma, heart diseases, multiple sclerosis, type 2 diabetes, parkinson’s disease, prostate cancer, alzheimer’s and more. However, back in the 90s it was linked to stunt growth, heart palpitations indigestion, hypertension, insomnia and heart attacks. The 2000s saw coffee being slammed for urinary tract cancer and lung diseases. In recent years, coffee is now a favourite expanding the global coffee culture leaving us to often ponder on whom we can trust.

Staying within the fringes of mainstream cultures, Aidha Cader, ICE Today’s culture connoisseur has inculcated an appreciation for food, history, travel and art beyond her comfort zone.