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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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November 25th, 2008

"Down the rabbit hole"

little chickenThe Food and Drug Administration has finally decided to come to terms with the fact that melamine is something of a problem. As of last week, all dairy products have been banned from China unless an importer can prove the products are free of melamine contamination. While being a step in the right direction, this is clearly another example of too little, too late. The ban should have been imposed ages ago, and it does not cover all of the products that have been shown to be contaminated with melamine, such as the eggs found in Hong Kong. Nor does it address the possibility that meat, pork, and chicken may soon be added to that list due to livestock being fed contaminated feed.

FDA claims that it has been aware of the contaminated milk-related illnesses in China back in September 2008 , which was two months after the first cases were reported and receiving international attention. Instead of instituting a ban in September, however, they imposed some arbitrary standard for a safe level of melamine, which allowed unsafe products to still make it onto U.S. grocery shelves. Only now have they begun to do something, and yet it still is not enough, and only barely begins to address the problem. Which begs the question, how much more melamine will it take for the FDA to actually do its job? Read the full article…

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November 21st, 2008

School Children Tattle on Nestlé

According to an article in the Globe and Mail, Nestlé handed out souvenir bags containing disposable bottles of flavored water to elementary school kids in honor of Toronto’s Waste Reduction Week. (The
eco-awareness event is put on by the Recycling Council, with the help of
corporate sponsors including the Swiss-multinational chocolate giant and
water bottler.)

If that’s not ironic, we don’t know what is.

But the schoolkids saw right through Nestlé’s cynical contradiction-in-terms. They flooded the recycling council with letters, asking, “Isn’t it strange to talk about not wasting when you gave us a water bottle to waste?”  Many of the fourth- and fifth-graders stated that they were prepared to boycott all Nestlé products if the company did not respond. Read the full article…

November 20th, 2008

James Bond Takes on the Corporate Water Privateers

Spoiler Alert: Back in the good old days of the Cold War, everybody‚ favorite secret agent, James Bond, fought villains like Dr. No, an evil scientist out to sabotage U.S. missile tests, and Mr. Big, a Soviet agent using pirate treasure to finance espionage in America. But as Bond‚ friend Mathis tells him in Quantum of Solace, “When one is young, it‚ easy to tell the difference between right and wrong. As one gets older, the villains and heroes get all mixed up.”

The reference is to a shady new Bond villain — agent of the Quantum organization — Dominic Greene. In public, Greene is a leading environmentalist whose organization, Greene Planet, buys up large tracts of land for ecological preserves. But behind the scenes, Greene has another agenda. As he says to his co-conspirators,  “This is the most valuable resource in the world and we need to control as much of it as we can.” Read the full article…

Time for some "Fishy Business"

Want a new way to teach your kids and students about farmed fish? Food & Water Watch  has just come out with a new animation, “Fishy Business,” available online as a fun and easy-to-use resource for parents and educators to teach their children about the potential dangers of fish farming. The animation describes in detail the process of fish farming. Specifically, it shows the effects of pollution, overfishing, and the cramped and unhealthy conditions in fish farms, as well as how fish feed is altered with antibiotics and growth hormones. Parasites and disease that are present as a result of the farming can also be spread to wild fish. The animation describes a variety of other problems also caused by this practice, in a way that is comprehensive, without being overwhelming , making it an ideal educational tool. Read the full article…

November 18th, 2008

Washington University of St. Louis Says No to Bottled Water and Yes to Energy Savings

Campuses across the country compete for placement on the cutting edge of climate action. Washington University of St. Louis’ recent switch away from bottled water consumption demonstrates an easy green initiative propelling the institution toward a more sustainable learning environment.

Kicking the bottle, the Washington Bears united with the city of St. Louis in celebrating award-winning tap water.  Just this August, Food & Water Watch joined St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay in providing 5,000 reusable drinking water bottles to city employees, banning the purchase of bottled water by city departments, and issuing a call for a federal trust fund for water infrastructure. Read the full article…

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