Friday, May 11, 2007

About That Food Supply

I'm a little late on this but still think it's very important. Turns out pets weren't the only animals eating melamine contaminated food imported from China.

A senior U.S. Department of Agriculture official confirms that as many as 20 million chickens may have eaten feed contaminated with melamine, the chemical added to protein shipments from China that has killed U.S. pets. The chickens are still on U.S. farms in several states. The USDA has ordered the birds to be held out of the human food supply until testing can be completed to confirm suspicions that the birds actually ate any of the tainted feed.

This is in addition to hogs from several states that were found to have consumed these food products. Though most have been quarantined and euthanised, several hundred entered the human food supply chain.

So how did this happen? According to the Chinese government;

...the contaminated vegetable protein slipped past customs because neither company declared them for use in pet food. Instead, the companies marked the shipments as products that did not need inspection.

I know I talk quite a bit about the quality of the foods we consume, but really, everyone should be on this bandwagon. At the turn of the 20th century the food processing, especially the meat packing industries were forced to place labels on their products detailing everything in the can. The call for regulation came about after tainted meats killed more American troops fighting overseas in the Spanish-American War than did enemy combatants; and with the release of Upton Sinclairs expose' of the meatpacking industry in his novel, The Jungle. This led to the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which in turn led to the formation of the Food and Drug Administration.

An argument can be made that there are more potential dangers to the food supply now than then. With the industrialization of food production and globalization of the supply chain, we're seeing more and more incidents of this type, including Mad Cow's Disease, and Bird Flu. We're paying a lot closer attention to what we eat; buying organic vegetables and meat whenever possible. With this era of deregulation still without an end in sight, it might be something for all of us to think about.

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