ARG-054

The following appeared in a business magazine.

"As a result of numerous complaints of dizziness and nausea on the part of consumers of Promofoods tuna, the company requested that eight million cans of its tuna be returned for testing. Promofoods concluded that the canned tuna did not, after all, pose a health risk. This conclusion is based on tests performed on samples of the recalled cans by chemists from Promofoods; the chemists found that of the eight food chemicals most commonly blamed for causing symptoms of dizziness and nausea, five were not found in any of the tested cans. The chemists did find small amounts of the three remaining suspected chemicals but pointed out that these occur naturally in all canned foods."


Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be addressed in order to decide whether the conclusion and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to the questions would help to evaluate the conclusion.


In this argument, Promofoods company claims that their canned tuna does not pose a health risk despite numerous complaints about dizziness and nausea after consuming Promofoods’ tuna. The company uses their test results of recalled cans as proofs. In the test, chemists from Promofoods evaluated the existence of 8 food chemicals which are commonly known to cause dizziness and nausea in cans. The results showed that only 3 of such chemicals were found, and yet these 3 food chemicals occur naturally in all canned foods. While it might be true that Promofoods tuna does not constitute a health risk, before such a conclusion could be reached, several questions need to be answered and the answers to them would help us assess this argument.


To begin with, the author mentions that the company’s chemists carried out experiments on samples from eight million cans of tuna recalled by Promofoods. Without knowing how many cans of tuna were actually analyzed, we cannot conclude whether these tests are effective. Therefore, we need to ask about the sample size of Promofoods’ tests. If further investigation into those tests shows that chemists simply carried tests on a handful of tuna cans, their results may be insufficient to represent all of the recalled Promofoods’ canned tuna. However, if we are informed that chemists used a sufficiently large number of recalled cans as testing samples, the author’s viewpoint will be strengthened.


Additionally, we also need to consider the chemists’ objectivity on the test results. As the author points out, the chemists who ran those analyses work for Promofoods. It is possible that Promofoods’ chemists manipulated the result so that the company will not suffer financial losses and publicity scandals. Therefore, a report by an independent, third-party organization would be helpful in proving or disproving the results presented by the chemists at Promofoods. If the two results agree with each other, Promofoods chemists’ credibility will be enhanced. Otherwise, the validity of the result will be cast into doubt.


Moreover, even if we assume the tests are statistically valid and the chemists trustworthy, a remaining open question is the actual level of 3 suspected chemicals found in canned tuna. Though the author exculpates them given their natural presence in all canned food, we cannot eliminate their pathogenicity since their concentrations are unknown. Here, we need to know about the accurate amount of suspected chemicals in each tested can. If the concentrations of 3 suspected chemicals in Promofoods’s canned tuna are much higher than the concentrations in other canned foods, they may indeed account for the dizziness and nausea. However, if the level of 3 suspected chemicals in Promofoods’s tuna cans is quite close to the common background, it would make the author’s conclusion more reliable.


Lastly, granted that the concentrations of 3 suspected chemicals in tested cans are not capable of causing dizziness and nausea, we also need to take other possibilities into consideration. For instance, we need to ask if chemicals other than the 8 suspected ones might be the reason of these uncomfortable post-consumption symptoms. If the testing results contain a variety of chemicals, some of which were known to cause dizziness and nausea, the conclusion by Promofoods needs to be reconsidered. But if evidence indicates that no more suspected chemicals has been found, the author’s idea will be strengthened.



To summarize, whether Promofoods’ canned tuna has indeed pose a health risk on consumers is indeterminate based on known evidence. We need to gather more information regarding the questions mentioned above, in order to reach a final decision about the author’s suggestion.


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