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July 12, 1985

Boundaries of Conscience

Author Affiliations

Emory University School of Medicine Atlanta

JAMA. 1985;254(2):265-266. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360020097033

We buy a product—we expect it to be safe. We are especially incensed when products we purchase harm our children. We pay local, state, and federal officials to see that consumers are protected. We have a mechanism to ensure consumer protection—recall and prohibition of interstate shipment. But who protects the children of other lands against our products— products that we know cause disease? There is no mechanism. Our protection, indeed our conscience, seems to extend only to our borders.

Pet turtles are a case in point. A decade of investigations by health authorities documented the widespread occurrence of many thousands of cases of salmonellosis among US children who became ill after exposure to pet turtles. Documentation was so persuasive that by the mid-1970s, the Food and Drug Administrations of the United States and Canada ordered a ban on the sale and shipment of these animals. Subsequent studies conducted in the