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LaCroix contains ingredient 'used in cockroach insecticide,' lawsuit alleges

The lawsuit might be right in disputing LaCroix's "all-natural" claim, but fans of the sparkling water probably don't have much to worry about.

Image: LaCroix.com
  • The lawsuit claims LaCroix's parent company is "intentionally misleading consumers" by claiming its drink is all natural.
  • The lawsuit lists three "synthetic" chemicals used to make LaCroix, all of which the FDA classifies, in some way, as synthetic.
  • However, these chemicals are all naturally occurring and there's no research that suggests they're harmful to humans in small amounts.

A new lawsuit against the maker of LaCroix alleges that the "100% natural" drink actually contains artificial ingredients, including one used in cockroach insecticide.

"Testing reveals that LaCroix contains a number of artificial ingredients, including linalool, which is used in cockroach insecticide," claims a statement from Beaumont Costales, a law firm representing plaintiff Lenora Rice.

The lawsuit states that Natural Beverage Corp., LaCroix's parent company, is "intentionally misleading consumers" and that Rice was "led to purchase LaCroix sparkling water because of the claims made on its packaging, advertising and website to be 'innocent,' 'naturally essenced,' 'all natural,' and 'always 100% natural.'"

But LaCroix actually contains synthetic ingredients, the lawsuit argues. "These chemicals include limonene, which can cause kidney toxicity and tumors; linalool propionate, which is used to treat cancer; and linalool, which is used in cockroach insecticide."

Natural Beverage "categorically denies all allegations," which it said were filed "without basis in fact or law." The company plans to "vigorously seek actual and punitive damages among other remedies from everyone involved in the publication of these defamatory falsehoods."

What's in LaCroix, anyway?

The LaCroix website says all its "natural flavors are essences or oils derived from the named fruit, i.e., lime/lime oils. There is nothing artificial in LaCroix — enjoy!" Still, few people can define what really constitutes an "essence."

That's partly because the Food and Drug Administration doesn't require companies to define the term, but allows them to use it to describe "flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof."

According to a 2017 story about LaCroix from Wall Street Journal reporter Rob Copeland, "Essence is, essentially, the mystery behind" the billion-dollar brand." A spokesperson for LaCroix told Copeland that "Essence is our picture word... Essence is — FEELINGS and Sensory Effects!"

Copeland conjured a more informative definition. "Essence is created by heating at high temperatures the skin, rinds or broken down remnants of fruits or vegetables," he wrote. "Alcohol is sometimes added to the mixture. The vapors that rise off the stew are captured, condensed and eventually sold by the 55-gallon barrel."

So, what about linalool and the other two supposedly artificial and dangerous chemicals found in America's favorite seltzer?

It's true that linalool is used in cockroach insecticide, but the chemical can also be found in dozens of spices recognized as safe by the FDA. The agency classifies both limonene and linalool as "synthetic flavoring substances" that are "generally recognized as safe for their intended use," and lists linalyl proprionate under "synthetic flavoring substances and adjuvants" that are safe, according to certain conditions.

It's also worth noting that there are varying definitions of the word "synthetic," and all three of these chemicals are naturally occurring substances that are added to LaCroix in relatively miniscule amounts, and, as such, likely aren't harmful to humans.

"It is very unlikely these naturally-occurring substances pose a health risk when consumed at levels usually found in foods," Roger Clemens, an expert in food and regulatory science at the University of Southern California, told Popular Science. "If there were a health risk, then citrus juices and spices, such as curry, would not be consumed or be part of the commodity market."

Although sparkling water is known to be less than ideal for dental health, it's unlikely that products like LaCroix pose any real danger to humans. If anything, the (questionably) "all-natural" drink has probably helped many people become healthier as they transition from sugar-heavy soda to sparkling water. But for others, it's all about the taste.

"I know what flavors I like but I have no idea what kinds of chemicals are in there and I don't care," one LaCroix fan told Copeland. "I know it tastes good."

Hulu's original movie "Palm Springs" is the comedy we needed this summer

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.

Gear
  • Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
  • As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
  • The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
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Two MIT students just solved Richard Feynman’s famed physics puzzle

Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.

Surprising Science

Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.

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Our ‘little brain’ turns out to be pretty big

The multifaceted cerebellum is large — it's just tightly folded.

Image source: Sereno, et al
Mind & Brain
  • A powerful MRI combined with modeling software results in a totally new view of the human cerebellum.
  • The so-called 'little brain' is nearly 80% the size of the cerebral cortex when it's unfolded.
  • This part of the brain is associated with a lot of things, and a new virtual map is suitably chaotic and complex.

Just under our brain's cortex and close to our brain stem sits the cerebellum, also known as the "little brain." It's an organ many animals have, and we're still learning what it does in humans. It's long been thought to be involved in sensory input and motor control, but recent studies suggests it also plays a role in a lot of other things, including emotion, thought, and pain. After all, about half of the brain's neurons reside there. But it's so small. Except it's not, according to a new study from San Diego State University (SDSU) published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

A neural crêpe

A new imaging study led by psychology professor and cognitive neuroscientist Martin Sereno of the SDSU MRI Imaging Center reveals that the cerebellum is actually an intricately folded organ that has a surface area equal in size to 78 percent of the cerebral cortex. Sereno, a pioneer in MRI brain imaging, collaborated with other experts from the U.K., Canada, and the Netherlands.

So what does it look like? Unfolded, the cerebellum is reminiscent of a crêpe, according to Sereno, about four inches wide and three feet long.

The team didn't physically unfold a cerebellum in their research. Instead, they worked with brain scans from a 9.4 Tesla MRI machine, and virtually unfolded and mapped the organ. Custom software was developed for the project, based on the open-source FreeSurfer app developed by Sereno and others. Their model allowed the scientists to unpack the virtual cerebellum down to each individual fold, or "folia."

Study's cross-sections of a folded cerebellum

Image source: Sereno, et al.

A complicated map

Sereno tells SDSU NewsCenter that "Until now we only had crude models of what it looked like. We now have a complete map or surface representation of the cerebellum, much like cities, counties, and states."

That map is a bit surprising, too, in that regions associated with different functions are scattered across the organ in peculiar ways, unlike the cortex where it's all pretty orderly. "You get a little chunk of the lip, next to a chunk of the shoulder or face, like jumbled puzzle pieces," says Sereno. This may have to do with the fact that when the cerebellum is folded, its elements line up differently than they do when the organ is unfolded.

It seems the folded structure of the cerebellum is a configuration that facilitates access to information coming from places all over the body. Sereno says, "Now that we have the first high resolution base map of the human cerebellum, there are many possibilities for researchers to start filling in what is certain to be a complex quilt of inputs, from many different parts of the cerebral cortex in more detail than ever before."

This makes sense if the cerebellum is involved in highly complex, advanced cognitive functions, such as handling language or performing abstract reasoning as scientists suspect. "When you think of the cognition required to write a scientific paper or explain a concept," says Sereno, "you have to pull in information from many different sources. And that's just how the cerebellum is set up."

Bigger and bigger

The study also suggests that the large size of their virtual human cerebellum is likely to be related to the sheer number of tasks with which the organ is involved in the complex human brain. The macaque cerebellum that the team analyzed, for example, amounts to just 30 percent the size of the animal's cortex.

"The fact that [the cerebellum] has such a large surface area speaks to the evolution of distinctively human behaviors and cognition," says Sereno. "It has expanded so much that the folding patterns are very complex."

As the study says, "Rather than coordinating sensory signals to execute expert physical movements, parts of the cerebellum may have been extended in humans to help coordinate fictive 'conceptual movements,' such as rapidly mentally rearranging a movement plan — or, in the fullness of time, perhaps even a mathematical equation."

Sereno concludes, "The 'little brain' is quite the jack of all trades. Mapping the cerebellum will be an interesting new frontier for the next decade."

Economists show how welfare programs can turn a "profit"

What happens if we consider welfare programs as investments?

A homeless man faces Wall Street

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A recently published study suggests that some welfare programs more than pay for themselves.
  • It is one of the first major reviews of welfare programs to measure so many by a single metric.
  • The findings will likely inform future welfare reform and encourage debate on how to grade success.
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