The tainted pet food story seems to grow and grow, although it is currently being soft-pedaled in the media. But here is a recent Washington Post piece which warns us that
It's Not Just Pet Food
"...It's not just pet owners who should be worried. The uncontrolled distribution of low-quality imported food ingredients, mainly from China, poses a grave threat to public health worldwide.
Essential ingredients, such as vitamins used in many packaged foods, arrive at U.S. ports from China and, as recent news reports have underscored, are shipped without inspection to food and beverage distributors and manufacturers. Although they are used in relatively small quantities, these ingredients carry enormous risks for American consumers. One pound of tainted wheat gluten could, if undetected, contaminate as much as a thousand pounds of food.
[...]We know, however, that alarms have been raised about hygiene and labor standards at many Chinese manufacturing facilities. In China, municipal water used in the manufacturing process is often contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides and other chemicals. Food ingredient production is particularly susceptible to environmental contamination.
Equally worrisome, U.S. officials often lack the capability to trace foreign-produced food ingredients to their source of manufacture. In theory, the Bioterrorism Prevention Act of 2001 provides some measure of traceability. In practice, the act is ineffective and was not designed for this challenge. Its enforcement is also shrouded in secrecy by the Department of Homeland Security.
Even if Food and Drug Administration regulators wanted to crack down on products emanating from the riskiest foreign facilities, they couldn't, because they have no way of knowing which ingredients come from which plant.
[...]...80 percent of the world's vitamin C is now manufactured in China -- much of it unregulated and some of it of questionable quality.
[...]The United States is sitting on powder keg with uncontrolled importation and the distribution of low-quality food ingredients. Before it explodes -- putting more animals and people at risk -- corrective steps must be taken.''
And this blogger elaborates further on the vitamin issue in her informative blog entry.
Did any of you realize the fact that China monopolizes so much of the vitamin market? I was not aware of that situation. Some sources I read say that China produces almost all the vitamins we buy in this country, although according to the Washington Post article, they make 'only' 80 percent of the world supply.
Think how many vitamin supplements are ingested in our currently health-obsessed country. It's ironic that an item which is sold as a health-enhancing, life-giving product might turn out to be toxic or tainted.
Food Inspectors Target Bay Area Ethnic Markets
(CBS 5) ANTIOCH The cost of testing and inspection are making it a burden for county health officials in the Bay Area to examine the safety of imported foods sold at ethnic markets among other places.
Potentially unsafe imported food slips past inspection every day in California.
At one Thai and Laotian market in San Pablo, health inspectors found teas and puddings from China without ingredient labels, and food from Russia packed in cans made with lead.
"As safe as our food supply is, there is risk," he said. "I don't want people to be overly afraid of the food supply, but I think they need to be very careful."
Last month alone, the FDA detained almost 900 shipments of fish, vegetables, nuts, spices and oils. Imported foods were tainted by unsafe food-coloring, salmonella, or pesticides. Some shipments were just plain filthy.
China and Mexico are the biggest offenders.''
No surprise that those two countries would be the big offenders, and they are two countries which are seemingly being coddled and catered to by our government.
And speaking of our government, which supposedly acts in our interest,
Effort to guard U.S. food supply still sits on shelf
WASHINGTON - After the Sept. 11 attacks, the Food and Drug Administration developed a comprehensive plan to guard the U.S. food supply against tainted imports, which were seen as a serious security threat. But nearly six years later, the plan has languished because of a lack of official will and tight federal budgets, according to former senior officials involved in formulating the strategy.
[...]``It was a bitter pill to swallow,'' said Benjamin England, a former FDA regulatory lawyer who worked on the plan for the agency. ``I'm disappointed that they are basically sitting on the solution.''
In the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks, the government and an army of experts developed protections against a wide array of threats. But as time passed and no new attacks occurred, the sense of urgency faded. In the case of foodstuffs, the FDA's Import Strategic Plan fell victim to budget constraints, competing priorities and government inertia.
``The bottom line is that the United States is being overwhelmed with food imports, and they are not being screened by the FDA,'' said William Hubbard, a former FDA associate commissioner for policy and planning.
``A lot of time and effort went into it, and the best minds of the agency were brought in,'' he said of the import protection plan. ``It wasn't approved or disapproved. It was basically, `We can't do this because we have no money.''
There is, however, a new urgency to deal with the threat: The chemicals implicated in the pet deaths, identified as melamine and cyanuric acid, were found in protein ingredients used in human foods, ranging from bread to veggie burgers.
This week, the FDA announced that it is expanding testing for contamination of human foods. China, a country with a reputation for lax safety standards, is a major supplier of ingredients used in both pet and human food products marketed by U.S. companies.
And here, at the China Confidential blog, we read that
To make matters worse, China's retail sales arm--the brutal, Main Street-busting behemoth known as Wal-Mart--plans to grow so-called organic food in China. Organic food ... from a country plagued by toxic industrial pollution that taints the water and soil in which the crops are grown. Wonderful.
Dr. David Acheson, chief medical officer of the FDA's food-safety center, said the agency was alerting food producers and importers about possible risks involving six protein-concentrate products. It also is testing imports from China.
The blogger Fallenmonk thinks the tainted pet food incidents are
Just the Tip of the Iceberg
The companies that distribute foods nationally can get their meat from anywhere in the world and sell it at your local grocery and you will never know where that meat came from unless there is a problem identified after the fact.
This is ugly and will get uglier trust me on that. We are at high risk and there is no one doing anything about it.''
I have to agree with him on that point; I don't see the issue being covered by the Big Media for the most part, except minimally. Of the bloggers who are sounding the alarm, most are dealing only with the pet food aspect of this story, which is merely one part of it. Maybe the media are hoping to play this story down, minimize it into a pet food only issue. And I certainly don't see any sense of urgency on the part of our government and our emasculated FDA to do much about this worrying problem, considering the vast scale of the situation.
Certainly some activism is called for here; this issue, as I said, should transcend politics; it's our safety, and we should all be concerned, regardless of where we are on the political spectrum. And simply becoming more aware of where our food comes from, reading labels, researching things, is a first step. I think many people, myself included, were only marginally aware of our utter dependence on imports for so many of our necessities, including food.
For a big, rich country like the United States to be dependent on foreign countries, especially untrustworthy countries, for so much of our food supply is dangerous and just plain foolish; this is a situation that needs rectifying.