30 June 2009

Scientific Vegan

Just read a post that was the converse of my site. Being more of a vegan heading towards science than the other way around. A Mr. Meaner at QuarryGirl.com undertakes some rigorous testing on food served at all-vegan restaurants in the Los Angeles area. They determined that a number of places had food contaminated with animal products, and in one case suspect foul play. Mostly though, as the trail is taken all the way to the Taiwanese goverment, they blame poor labelling at the manufacturer. And kudos to them for being so persistent. It is noted that new legislation in Taiwan on such matters goes into effect tomorrow and should help straighten things out. Expect a some changes at your local restaurants, especially the Asian veg ones.

I do see a few issues with the experiment. First, I'd like to know which tests specifically they used. As Schmod on BoingBoing points out:
For starters, are there any legitimately vegan ingredients that could register a false-positive on these tests? What is the effectiveness of the testing kits that they used? Why were they afraid to disclose the manufacturer of said kits?
Ideally the manufacturer's protocol and so forth could be published to eliminate these questions.

Also, I think they should have a better negative control than just the lab bench. That information is good, but ideally you want something in the ballpark of the other things being tested, perhaps a home-cooked vegan dish with known ingredients. Similarly, I think they should have found menu items that were the as close to similar as possible at each restaurant. I note that quesadillas were common, but I think they should have done only quesadillas (or close analogs like a taco or something). At the very least, only doing veg-chicken dishes or something with a single unifying common ingredient (or supposed common ingredient). I can't really compare a quesadilla to tiramisu.

All in all though, they did a good job, and i'd like to see more of this thing. Perhaps Mr. Meaner can repeat the experiment in a year or so after the labelling laws in Taiwan go into effect? One can hope.


17 June 2009

Human Lungs are Better for Testing than Rat Lungs

A good step in getting rid of animal testing recently, according to The New Scientist. Kelly BéruBé at the University of Cardiff has developed a way to scaffold human lung cells in 3d. This will allow for more accurate data over 2d cultures because it accounts for air flow and so forth, but also it will be more accurate over non-human animal models because it is using human cell lines. Remember, if we tested chocolate on dogs it'd be banned and if we tested strychnine on hamsters it would be counted as nontoxic.

Eventually the technique could be applied to chips, and theoretically be used as a substritute for the canary in the coal mine. Perhaps literally.