Don’t expect to see chemical safety data sheets in restaurants

I keep coming across this very naive form of chemophobic scare-mongering – the use of safety data sheets to frighten consumers about trace chemicals in their environment, food and drink.

Here is an example anti-fluoridation propagandists continually use – safety data sheets for fluoridation chemicals like fluorosilicic acid. Often these people simply reproduce the image without comment – thinking this somehow proves their argument!

data sheets

I have discussed this issue for water treatment chemicals before (see Water treatment chemicals – why pick on fluoride?).

First, we need to be clear – Safety Data Sheets (or Material Safety Data Sheets) are not relevant to the chemicals we come across in our food drink – at the concentration they exist in these foods or drink. The safety data sheets are there for the use of those workers who must handle, transport  and dispose of concentrated chemicals. As Wikipedia explains:

“A SDS [Safety Data Sheet] for a substance is not primarily intended for use by the general consumer, focusing instead on the hazards of working with the material in an occupational setting.”

In the article I link to above I give information, including that from safety data sheets, for the range of chemicals used in water treatment. Chemicals like Aluminium sulphate or alum, used as a flocculation and coagulation agent and chlorine which is used as a disinfection agent (here is the safety data sheet for chlorine).

The safety data sheets for these chemicals can be just as scary as for fluorosilicic acid. Even scarier for chlorine, which was used as a chemical weapon in the first world war. And the information is important for the people handling the concentrated chemicals, manufacturing them, transporting them and disposing of them to waste where necessary.


Safety data sheets are important for people transporting concentrated chemicals.

But these sheets are completely irrelevant to people interested in the safety and nutritional value of their food which do not contain such concentrated chemicals (except for water, of course).


Safety data sheets are irrelevant to consumers of food and drink –  don’t expect your waiting staff to provide them in a restaurant.

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6 responses to “Don’t expect to see chemical safety data sheets in restaurants

  1. So if the toddler gets hold of the MSG jar you go and look up wikipedia?

    But I agree people play a lot on a two-valued approach rather than how much. And I don’t feel comfortable being associated with such.

    Not only is the dose important, but also what it may be combined with. Sometimes substances neutralise each other’s effects, but sometimes are additive.

    The MSDSs maybe ought to be upgraded to say a bit more about individual allergic reactions.

    Sometimes packaged foods have a warning about possible extra stray subjects like peanuts which can be lethal to allergic people. I wonder about warnings that certain foods like nuts can also be breathed in and cause choking.

    Leaving things to people to sort out may work for some. But some things may taste nice to children and defeat natural reactions salt vs msg.

    Brian Sandle


  2. So, Brian, you are uncomfortable with your associations?


  3. Uncomfortable with being associated/classifed for your purposes where I do not fit.


  4. Material Safety Data Sheets can be very relevant to consumers of fluoridated water when they report chronic effects of exposure to fluoridating chemicals such as asthma, calcified ligaments, etc. Regularly drinking fluoridated water is chronic exposure.


  5. Blossom dear, the psychiatric literature rather than a MSDS would be more relevant thing to consult when somebody reports chronic asthma, calcified ligaments, and attributes them to the effects of exposure to fluoridated drinking water.


  6. David Fierstien

    This is a link to an MSDS sheet for straight potassium:

    By the logic cited above by Blossom, “Material Safety Data Sheets can be very relevant to consumers of fluoridated water when they report chronic effects of exposure to fluoridating chemicals . . ,” the MSDS for potassium can be very relevant to eaters of bananas who experience blistering of skin or blindness, since bananas have straight potassium in them.


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