January, 2009 | Food & Water Watch
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Blog Posts: January 2009

January 29th, 2009

Mercury Madness!

Jellies and jam. Lunch meat. Cereals. Yogurts. Soups. What do all these have in common? Along with being staples in our everyday diet, they are also among the many food products that use high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  Now a new study has shown that this corn syrup often contains mercury. Specifically, two separate studies, one published in the journal Environmental Health, and the other done by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, have done testing that has led to the discovery of detectable mercury in many popular and name-brand products. There’s an even uglier fact associated with this discovery: according to the Environmental Health article, the Food and Drug Administration had evidence concerning the presence of mercury in HFCS and did not make any attempts to do further testing or create awareness among consumers about the issue. Withholding this information from consumers, as well as not circulating it among the food industry, is not only irresponsible, but dangerous. Raincoast Trading: canned solid white albacore tuna This mercury hit comes shortly after the Bush administration pushed for FDA to eliminate public health warnings on potential mercury levels in fish. An ongoing legal dispute over warning labels on canned tuna in California is currently being undermined by FDA‚ advice to consumers that the benefits of eating fish outweigh the mercury danger. Peanut Butter (p0022)Over the last year, we’ve seen FDA fail on many levels, whether it‚ being negligently slow in responding to the melamine in milk scandal, taking four days to issue a recall notice for peanut butter after the company announced the problem, or taking months to track down the largest Salmonella outbreak in U.S. history (this summer’s tomato/pepper debacle.) They’ll give themselves passing grades when really they should be working to fix their failings, and spend millions on morale boosting conferences and consultants. The new administration and new Congress have an opportunity to reform FDA by creating a new food safety administration within the Department of Health and Human Services. Lets push them to take that opportunity and run with it.

-  Sofía Baliño
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January 23rd, 2009

Poor FDA. Salmonella too much of a pain in the butter?

PB&J anyone? At this particular moment, you might hesitate to consume a snack of this sort. And who could blame you?  No, the blame is definitely well-deserved somewhere else. Considering peanut butter’s staple-status in most American households and its highly popular use in packaged foods, the latest salmonella outbreak is especially concerning.  Since January 10th and until today, the peanut related recalls just keep on coming… From cookies to health bars to dog treats, and from vending machines to supermarkets to natural food stores, the tainted peanut butter has spread indiscriminately to hundreds of products throughout the country. Read the full article…

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January 13th, 2009

New Year, New Administration

As the Bush administration draws to a close, the old adage, “out with the old, in with the new” is one way to describe the flurry of activity that comes with a presidential transition.  Food & Water Watch has been asking the incoming Obama administration to translate their campaign promises of change into action. One way to do that is for the new administration to bring a new determination for the food safety agencies that we look to for protection to actually do what is required of them.

Milk Shelves at Whole FoodsOne key change that we are encouraging the new administration to make is the creation of a separate food safety administration within the Department of Health and Human Services. FDA is both underfunded and understaffed , and the results have been glaringly evident, with their belated and inadequate import alert on Chinese dairy products being just one of many examples. Read the full article…

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January 12th, 2009

Morale Boosters

Towards the end of 2008, the Food and Drug Administration felt it appropriate to give themselves a “passing grade”, despite a series of failures throughout the year, ranging Tomato from massive recalls to large-scale outbreaks of food borne illnesses. And now, in another attempt to make FDA feel better about its own work, or rather, feel a sense of accomplishment despite the poor quality of their work “they have contracted a consultant for $1.5 million, purely for the sake of  morale-boosting.” Sounds like an awfully large sum of money for an organization that has itself complained about staffing shortages, no?

I suppose it‚ somewhat understandable that FDA needs some consoling. After all, with their poor showing with the regards to the melamine scandal, or the recall of cheese tainted with Listeria -  not to mention to the salmonella outbreak that was mistakenly traced to tomatoes, they have a lot of explaining to do. However, it seems far more logical for them to spend money fixing their myriad of problems, rather than to just give that money to a consultant whose job is to make the people at FDA feel better about themselves. Read the full article…

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January 6th, 2009

New Year… more melamine!

With the advent of 2009, one could only hope that some of the mistakes and scandals that haunted us in 2008 would somehow die out. Unfortunately that has not been the case with melamine, with thousands of children still sick, more products being put on the contaminated list, and with Chinese authorities trying to limit press coverage by detaining parents hoping to speak with the media. At least the trials of Chinese milk producers are now finally underway, which has led to new discoveries of how deep the melamine corruption spreads.

Milk GlassThe trial is showing that some dairy producers knew about the tainted milk before the scandal became public up to months in advance, and yet delayed informing the authorities. Specifically, the former chairwoman of Sanlu, Ms. Tian Wenhau, recently admitted that she knew in May 2008 of the use of melamine at her company, though authorities were only informed in August. This makes her, among others, directly responsible for all of the children who either became ill or died. Noticeably, family members of the sick children have not been allowed to attend the trial, which seems wildly inappropriate, given what they have been forced to undergo. Read the full article…

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