Fish Bone Ethics: A Poll

My tuna sandwich had an unwelcome bonus: a 3/4 inch, two-pronged bone. It stuck me in the gums. No blood drawn, but I expect better from my usual brand of white albacore in water.

Now what? I have encountered negligently included matter in foodstuffs before, nothing large or horrible, like the famous human toe in the plug  of chewing tobacco often cited as a perfect illustration of “res ipsa loquitur”. (The Mississippi Supreme Court: we can “imagine no reason why, with ordinary care human toes could not be left out of chewing tobacco, and if toes are found in chewing tobacco, it seems to us that somebody has been very careless.”) In such cases I have just let it go, taking a Golden Rule approach. After all, some stuff is bound to slip through now and then. Yes, I made a big deal when I found a bug in my salad, but the occasional small hair, or bit of bone, I let pass.

This one was different, though. It was  bigger, and the damn thing stuck me.

So should I send the tuna fish company the bone and complain? If I do, what’s the objective? Is it to extort a lucky haul by getting the company to send a life supply of tuna fish? I know people that send in such complaints several times a year, often with spectacular results. They specialize in writing indignant, angry letters full of implied threats. These people like finding bones in their tuna fish. The problem is, I don’t like them.

Is it a matter of good citizenship to tell the company that some of their cans have bones along with the fish? Can I save another consumer from a stuck gum and a spoiled sandwich experience by alerting the company to a problem in their processing? It probably is good citizenship, except that I’m pretty sure that renegade fish bones are a well-known inevitability in the tuna fish business.

The question, then: what’s the ethical course?

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/27/2018: ‘If You Want It, Here’s How To Get It’ Edition”

Extradimensional Cephalopod was moved to write his wry Comment of the Day based on this partial post by Harold I. Ziegler ,which I quoted to illustrate the kind of reasoning that drives libertarians crazy…

Recently, videos have circulated on social media showing teens deliberately eating Tide Pods laundry detergent packs. All of this is part of what some call the “Tide Pod Challenge.” These pods contain highly concentrated laundry detergent under pressure and explode when bitten into, releasing their toxic contents and causing rapid ingestion and inhalation of dangerous chemicals. In my capacity as a toxic chemical researcher and consultant, I have investigated and seen several instances of the horrendous consequences that result from laundry pack ingestion: permanent burning of the mouth, throat, digestive tract, and lung tissue, and in some cases even death.Procter & Gamble (P&G), the manufacturer of Tide Pods, as well as other companies selling laundry detergent packs, have acted in the past to stem the misuse of their products. But these safety measures have failed.

It’s clear that laundry pods as they currently exist are too dangerous to be sold to the public. If P&G and other manufacturers can’t figure out a way to reduce the more than 10,000 injuries they cause each year, laundry packs need to be taken off the market.

I used to work for the trial lawyers association; I think product liability law is important, and that manufacturers need to consider consumer safety.  The argument  that anyone but parents are responsible when their toddlers eat Tide Pods, and worse, that anyone but the teens themselves are responsible for what happens when they put the detergent in their mouths knowing that it is detergent, however, is societally corrosive, as toxic as the pods themselves. Parents have the responsibility to keep poisons away from children. Teens have the responsibility to not take stupid dares they see on social media. If you can make Tide shelve its pods because teens are eating them, then you can ban knives with points because there’s a social media fad promoting knife-juggling. EC humorously expresses my feelings about the “if one stupid teen is saved” mindset.

Here is Extradimensional Cephalopod’s Comment of the Day on the Item #1 in the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/27/2018: “If You Want It, Here’s How To Get It” Edition:

At first I was relating the argument for discontinuing detergent pods to the character of Wonko the Sane from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. After seeing instructions printed on a toothpick container, he concluded that the world had gone mad, and put it in an asylum with himself as the warden (he turned his house inside out). After all, if you can discontinue laundry detergent because people old enough to know better are using it for a dangerous unintended purpose and parents can’t keep their cleaning agents in a safe place, then you can use that argument against literally any physical product, because someone can deliberately hurt themselves with it. Making it taste bad just adds to the challenge of self-harm.

However, after reading the article, I got an idea from the part where the author says that the companies have been dragging their feet as far as making their products less tasty-looking is concerned. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit”

There is an Ethics Alarms post “going viral” right now, at least as viral as any post on an ethics blog is likely to go. For two weeks now, my post at the end of July about how the “urban legends” site Snopes had descended into  dishonest, spinning, fact-distorting partisan/ left “factchecking” hackery has lapped all others here, and been shared to record levels on Facebook (nearing 11,000 shares) and Reddit.

This is nice, of course. It has brought a few (though not many) new commenters to the blog, and presumably more readers who stayed to peruse other topics. It has made August 2016, usually a fairly dead month, the most heavily trafficked month in Ethics Alarms annals. The post alerted some people to why Snopes is untrustworthy, though not, apparently, the Washington Post, which cited it as authority just a few days ago. It also prompted, on Reddit and Facebook, several thousand smug “this is not news, I’ve known this for years” comments. Where were your blog post, jerks?

The post’s wide circulation through the web also made me aware that a conspiracy theory holding that Democrats and the Hillary Corrupted maintain a team of attack commenters who go to blogs and attempt to muddy the waters when the truth about Clinton threatens to break through the denial dam might be accurate. I have received four or five almost identical comments on that post attempting to deny my dissection of Snopes’ pathetic attempt to prove that Hillary didn’t defend a child rapist, didn’t discredit his young victim in the process, didn’t know he was guilty when she did it, and didn’t laugh about the case in a recorded interview. None of the four commenters  read all of my post, which echoed a previous one in pointing out, as I always do, that a lawyer defending a criminal is not unethical, that the attacks on Hillary for doing so were ignorant and unfair, and that Hillary Clinton has nothing to apologize for in this case. Never mind: all four of these commenters ( and some others which never made it onto the blog) shifted into similar boilerplate language claiming I was attacking her too,  and preceded to repeat Snopes’ dishonest “factchecking” as if the documentation of its falsity I presented in the post didn’t exist.

Nonetheless, the Snopes revelation was not the Ethics Alarms post I would have chosen to “go viral.” There have been many essay in the last six year that I was, and am, especially proud of and believe were original, perceptive and important, and that have been barely read by anyone, never linked to or shared, and that have had all the impact of a shell thrown into the surf. How I wish my warning to the Republican Party , for example, urging it not to permit Donald Trump to participate in the primaries, had received similar attention. Not a single editorial board or pundit saw the peril looming, or at least  they didn’t write or talk about it if they did, because having The Donald spouting his inanities would be good copy and “fun.”

One such post dates back to the first full year of Ethics Alarms: The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit, from August 2010. In six years, it has amassed about the same number of views that the Snopes piece amassed in half a month. Yet the topic, how mouthwash manufacturers profit significantly by hiding the widespread use of their product by alcoholics who use mouthwash to conceal their destructive disease from family members and co-workers, is barely mentioned  on the web—a few places, and almost all of them since the post. Still, Congress hasn’t held hearings, regulatory agencies haven’t noticed, and the products still carry warnings that fool non-alcoholics into believing that the stuff is poison, so nobody drinks it. Lives could be saved, marriages rescued, and endangered businesses might survive, if what I wrote was generally known

I’ve done the original research and put the problem out there. At least I’ve tried, and I will continue to write about the problem, which I have learned about first hand.

My efforts  haven’t been completely futile. I have received some gratifying comments and off-site e-mails from family members who read the article, discovered that a loved one was secret drinker, and got them help. I have also received a few responses that confirmed my work, though none quite like this one from new reader Dave, an alcoholic himself.

Here is his remarkable and  cryptic  Comment of the Day on the post, The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit. Is it intentional irony? Is it sarcasm? Is it support, in the form of criticism? You decide:

Halfway through your article I decided it would be a good idea to go to shoppers and grab myself a bottle. I’d been so triggered today, only being a week sober prior. It’s great, you know, the mouthwash deception as you call it. I spend roughly $3.50 on a bottle of Life brand yellow mouthwash and it gets me radically twisted, with zero hangover. So not only does it make it easier for me to be a functioning alcoholic based on its inexpensiveness and zero hangover qualities, it is also amazingly convenient in that within 10 minutes I have three different 24 hour grocery stores I can go to in order to get a bottle.

Alcoholism is a shitty disease, believe me, I have lost much at the expense of it.

Continue reading

Spreading the Word: “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit”

"Bottoms up!"

“Bottoms up!”

I am moved to re-post the early Ethics Alarms entry from 2010, titled “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit,” for a few reasons.

It raises an important and shamefully under-reported topic, one that despite my exhortations then has yet to be adequately examined in the media. If one googles various combinations of “mouthwash,””Listerine,”‘alcoholism,” and “alcoholic,” the first result is, sadly, my post. Most people who are not afflicted with the disease of alcoholism have no idea that mouthwash is a popular stand-in for liquor, or that is used to deceive family members who think an addict is no longer using or intoxicated. None of the recommended policy changes I suggest in the post have been implemented, either.

Last week I chanced to mention the use of Listerine by alcoholics to a friend who is a doctor who treats alcoholics. He was shocked, and had no knowledge of this at all. “Eww!” he said. “Isn’t that poison? You can drink it? I had no idea.” And he is a professional who keeps up  with the literature. (But obviously doesn’t read his friend’s blog.)

Despite my frustration that what I regard as a true exposé that should have sparked an equivalent article in a more widely read forum has remained relatively unknown, I am encouraged by the effect it has had. Most posts have their greatest traffic around the time they are posted, but since 2010, the page views of this article have increased steadily every month. More importantly, it has drawn comments like this one, from yesterday:

“Am looking after my twin sister who is a chronic alcoholic. She has been three days sober and then she just walked in and I couldn’t work out what the hell happened. She was in a stupor , but there was no alcohol and I am dispensing the Valium for detox period and she smelt like mint!! Found three bottles of it !!! This is my last big push to help her and she pleaded innocent and no idea it had alcohol in it! Hasn’t had a shower for two days but keeps her month fresh and sweet !! Thanks for the information. Much appreciated XXX”

Most of all, I am revolted that what I increasingly have come to believe is an intentional, profit-motivated deception by manufacturers continues, despite their knowledge that their product is killing alcoholics and destroying families. I know proof would be difficult, but there have been successful class action lawsuits with millions in punitive damage settlements for less despicable conduct. Somewhere, there must be an employee or executive who acknowledges that the makers of mouthwash with alcohol know their product is being swallowed rather than swished, and are happy to profit from it.

Few had discovered Ethics Alarms by April of 201o. I hope that by re-publishing the post now, it might find its way to more social media pages and even be sent to some investigative reporters. As I ended the original post, spread the word. Mouthwash is killing your friends and family members, or if not yours, those of someone not far away.

Thus, for the second time and hoping for more impact than the first, here is “The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit.” Even if you read it the first time, refresh your memory.

People are killing themselves right under our noses, and we are being thrown of by the minty smell of their breath.

Continue reading

TV Payola and the Shameless Alison Rhodes

" 'Conflict of interest?' What's that?"

She’s not the only one, apparently. But consumer product reviewer Alison Rhodes (“The Safety Mom”), a frequent guest on national, syndicated and local TV shows, not only reviews products whose manufacturers have paid her to mention them, she is unapologetic about it.

Today’s Washington Post reveals that Rhodes, who can be seen on such shows as “Regis and Kelly”, “Today” and “Good Morning America!” as well as local news outlets around the country, raved on the air about a home electronic monitor and a backpack with a built-in alarm known as the iSafe bag without telling either viewers or producers that she had accepted payola from their makers. Rhodes, however, shrugs off the issue. She tells the Post that she doesn’t see any problem, because “I’m not going to take on any engagement with a client unless I believe in their product.”  Amazing. Meanwhile, the news programs the Post interviewed claim that they had no inkling that Rhodes was plugging the product of a client.

This brazen deception of the public is inexcusable, but the shamelessness—or ignorance— of Rhodes and the negligence of those who give her exposure are worse. Continue reading

The Ethics of Giving Up on Ethics

Paul Daugherty, a sportswriter for the Cincinnati Enquirer,recently wrote a column expressing a theme I hear all too often regarding politics, government, education, and society generally. Motivated by the steroid allegations against yet another hero, Lance Armstrong, Daugherty penned his surrender to a culture that doesn’t seem to care about ethics. Daugherty wrote:

“Everyone wants sports to be equitable. We all desire the level field. No one wants sports to be as drugged up as Woodstock in 1969. But it is. We’ve fought the ethical fight. We’ve lost. It could be time to let it go.
Even the athletes who lose still win. Mark McGwire got his, Barry Bonds got his, Brian Cushing got his. If you wait enough, deny enough, then rationalize believably, you get yours. Disgrace fades. Only Olympic athletes wear the stink of doping longer than the average 5-year-old’s attention span. In one respect, it’s not unlike the fight against legalizing marijuana. It has lasted so long, and now seems so pointless, I can’t even remember what we’ve been arguing about. We’ve become numb to it….It’s only a little outrageous now to suggest that a professional athlete be allowed to use performance-enhancing substances to his (enlarged) heart’s content, as long as he’s doing it legally….So what’s the point?”

“What’s the point?” Continue reading

The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit

It has been with us for centuries, as long as man has been fermenting vegetable matter to produce alcohol, and it is a plague on the human race. Virtually every one of us has friends, relatives or close associates with the disease, or battle the addiction ourselves; although accurate figures don’t exist, estimates of the prevalence of alcohol addiction in the U.S. range between 5 and 12%. Whatever the real figure is, it is a lot, and the disease causes a wide range of problems. For example, close to 50% of all automobile fatalities involve alcohol. Yet the public remains shockingly ignorant about alcoholism, to the detriment and convenience of alcoholics, and the devastation of their families

The ignorance is also profitable to some corporations that are not even officially in the beverage business. The ethics question is, do those corporations knowingly and intentionally encourage and facilitate that ignorance? If so, they have a lot to answer for, and so do government consumer agencies and the media. This ignorance kills.

Continue reading