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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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December 22nd, 2008

Penn State Students Bring Holiday Wishes for Greener Campus

It’s not easy to carol gaily on dark and rainy days except when it‚ for something meaningful: a demonstration to ban bottled water and the waste it creates.  Yes, the biting sting of that cold December day at Penn State University subsided long enough to allow us to sing until the school’s administration heard us!

In a matter of weeks and with the generous cooperation of members of Penn State 3E-COE (Ecology, Environment and Education in the College of Education), Penn State Eco-Action, and the help of professors and Penn State staff, we were able to organize dozens of people who all had the same hope: a campus that would generate less needless waste. Read the full article…

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December 18th, 2008

A Holiday Gift Basket for FDA

hol2005-01Since it’s that time of year to spread the holiday cheer, What better way than to reproach FDA for having food safety regs disappear.
From melamine to mercury, consumers are kept on their toes, About what next food will be contaminated with what? Who knows?! Now is the time to give FDA a gift to remind them of what they let pass, Through to the market, to grocery shelves, and onto consumers plates, alas! After a year of what could be described as one of the worst in terms of food safety debacles, we felt inspired to not only rhyme, but also think about what we would give to FDA as a holiday gift, if we could. A food gift basket would be appropriate, especially because of all the “goodies” we could choose from this year alone. Cookies contaminated with melamine? Check. Jalapeños and peppers from Mexico? Check. And thanks to the latest news about fish with mercury, how about some canned tuna? Check! Read the full article…

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December 17th, 2008

Dinner and a Movie?

FLOW the Film and Water Action Workshop Celebrate Taking Back the Tap in Portland, Maine

A few Saturdays ago, water-conscious folks turned out to the movies for a world tour of our planet‚ deepest crisis , water.  FLOW: For Love of Water has been screening in cities coast-to-coast, and this month Portland residents caught the eye-opening film at Movie at Exchange.  The evening showing was followed by a Q&A session with City Councilor Dave Marshall; Bowdoin Campus Coordinator Abriel Ferreira; SOH2O water activist Jamilla El Shafei; and local Take Back the Tap representative Amy Dowley. Moviegoers learned about local struggles over water and how to join a movement to protect our most essential resource and keep water clean and safe into the future.

This summer, the Portland City Council, Peace Action ME and local restaurants endorsed a resolution to take back the tap in support of funding for public water systems.  Communities across the state have been mobilizing to protect local groundwater supplies from water mining by the Swiss conglomerate Nestlé, with local bottling brand Poland Spring intent on expanding operations. Local grassroots battles erupting in Fryeburg, Shapleigh and Wells contextualize the global freshwater crisis for the people of Maine and are just the stuff Salina‚ film, FLOW, unveils cinematically. Read the full article…

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December 16th, 2008

And to think that it took this long

It seemed as if we had our hands full with the melamine scandal that dominated food safety headlines for the past several months. Now, just as feared, it turns out that melamine may just be the least of our worries, as China recently published a list of 17 acids, chemicals, and other substances that are now officially banned as food additives. Looking over the list, all that comes to mind is the question, ‚Really guys? It took you this long to get to this point?”

Chickens at feeding troughThe list, just to give you an idea, includes formaldehyde (used often as a disinfectant), boric acid (used as an insecticide or flame retardant), and lye (found in drain cleaner). To clarify, some of the items on this list, which also included industrial dyes and colorings, had been banned before , but for the first time the Chinese government has actually compiled a list of illegal additives, that is probably not exhaustive. In addition, China recently announced that it is just beginning to investigate the practice of adding melamine in animal feed. To clarify, China did ban that practice in June 2007 , but clearly that wasnt enough to get the job done.

This is clearly just a feeble attempt by the Chinese authorities to try and undo the massive backlash theyve been experiencing as a result of the melamine debacle. Again, this is too little, too late. Consider how, just a couple of weeks ago, it was made public that instead of 53,000 sick babies and four dead as a result of melamine-tainted infant formula, the numbers were closer to 294,000 ill , and possibly six babies dead. And yet China only began to take action as a result of the media storm that erupted around the melamine scandal. They should have been able to respond before this got so far. Read the full article…

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December 8th, 2008

Making a Splash at DePauw University

I couldn’t imagine DePauw University’s first Water Week and H2O Conference having gone any better. The concept of this week was to introduce the campus and the surrounding Greencastle community to the world’s water crisis, show how this issue relates to other issues that people are concerned about, and offer opportunities for individuals to take action.  DePauw Environmental Club took this to new heights when they arranged to have a ban placed on the sale of bottled water during Water Week! The ban elicited great debate around campus and sparked many questions from students who only thought of water from a consumer point of view.   Read the full article…

December 4th, 2008

Bottled Water Sales Growth Down (or Consumers Wising Up?)

In the war against waste, the battle against plastic bottled water is on the frontline. Nothing epitomizes unnecessary waste more than the plastic bottle that brings you the same liquid as your kitchen sink, for 10,000 times the price. However, it is heartening to know that bottled water sales are down in the US, attributable at least in part to increased consumer knowledge of the environmental impacts.

monopolySome point to the economic downturn as the sole cause of decreased bottled water sales, but Nestlé‚ one of the largest bottled water producers‚ released a statement linking the sales slump to “perceived environmental issues” around bottled water. Additionally, PepsiCo and industry analysts acknowledged consumers are increasingly choosing tap water over other beverages at restaurants and at home to help save money and the environment. Furthermore, research done by analysts at Morgan Stanley found that “23 percent [of consumers] say they are cutting back on bottled beverages in favor of tap water or beverages in containers that create less waste.” Read the full article…

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December 2nd, 2008

Julia Roberts Knows About Lake Naivasha. Do You?

As a member of the international team at Food & Water Watch, I am responsible for our work in Africa. I recently spent time at Lake Naivasha, Kenya with Josphat Ngonyo and Dr. Daniel Maingi of the Africa Network for Animal Welfare, who are working on a sustainability management plan for the lake. Darcey on NaivashaThis region, 62 miles northwest of Nairobi, produces 70% of Kenya’s horticultural revenue and is facing environmental problems of tragic proportion. In the 1970s and ’80s, due in part to neoliberal advice from international financial institutions like the World Bank, the Kenyan government began encouraging development of crops for export markets. As a result, the lakefront property surrounding Naivasha was turned into flower farms that have grown to be the largest supplier of flowers to the European market, and have left only a small sliver of access for local Maasai pastoralists to gather water for both their families and their herds. Scientists have concluded that the lake’s level is now 10 feet below a healthy level. And while there was once an abundance of fish, lions, antelopes, leopards, giraffes, hippopotamuses and birds, the hippo population alone has decreased by more than 25 percent. Read the full article…

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December 1st, 2008

"Get Cookin'!" Recipe Contest video now online!

Get Cookin'!As you might have seen in our November 18 blog post, Food & Water Watch will be releasing our new recipe booklet, Fish & Tips, just in time for the New Year! And, as part of our lead-up to the book‚ release, we’ve just posted on YouTube a video of our Octoberfish “Get Cookin!” recipe contest. The video features tips from our partner chef Joseph “Rocky” Barnette and from Food & Water Watch Fish Campaign Director Marianne Cufone. Learn about what makes a good recipe, what questions to ask when buying seafood, and more! And watch members of the Food & Water Watch team as we put some of these amazing recipes into practice, with excellent results. The video highlights some of our favorite submissions from cooks all over the country, including some of those chosen for publication in the booklet. Other sustainable seafood recipes included in Fish & Tips were shared with Food & Water Watch by some of our allied fishermen and chefs. To learn more about where to look for safe and sustainable seafood, please check out our Seafood Buying Guide. Read the full article…

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