Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's up to the consumers after disclosures...

I had an interesting conversation with a friend who said, what if some people still choose to purchase and eat the food that was reported to have tainted ingredient? I told her, not to worry for those people. As long as the information is available to us, what the consumers will do with the information is up to the individuals. We can not tell people what to do with their lives.

In real estate transactions in California, the law requires the sellers to fill out a two to three pages of disclosure form about the houses. What the buyers want to do with the information is up to the buyers. Same defects of the house may bother one buyer, while others would not mind at all.

How about our food and drugs? These are about our long term health and well-being, why can we not demand at least same kind of disclosures?

It is important to learn the truth, especially when it comes to what we feed our family.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ingredient Matters: Securing our food sources

Ingredient Matters: Securing our food sources

Securing our food sources

There are two articles in the Insight of SF Chronicle on November 30, 2008 that caught my eyes: 1) Cheap Food Doesn’t Factor in Health Risk by Aleda Roth and 2) Better Oversight of Food Imports Needed by Mark Schlosberg and Elanor Starmer. The links to their articles are on the right side of this blog.

Dr. Aleda Roth is an international recognized scholar in global strategic sourcing and operational risk and a member of the Supply Chain Thought Leader Roundtable. In her article, we could get a glimpse of the dark secrecy of globalization by the food conglomerates in the Western food today. Even with the COOL (Country of Origin Labeling in meat and seafood effective in September), labeling is not required with any processing. Distributors don’t want us to know where they got our food!!!

In addition to recommending the establishment of cabinet-level agency for food safety (by the president-elect Obama), Dr. Roth suggests that food companies should make their ingredient sourcing information available when asked. I welcome this approach, but how would the food companies be willing to do so? Should there be a law requiring them to do so when asked?

When FDA has not enough funds and manpower to do inspections on the imported food, the consumers should have a second line of defense by gaining easy access to the information. We do not have such mechanism in our food supply system. We should at least demand that.

The second article about food security is by Mark Schlosberg and Elanor Starmer, the California director and a research analyst with Food and Water Watch, illustrates further the global food supply chain’s operations. The important statistics are here and remember that these numbers are growing with more people buying cheap food: “More than 4 billion pounds of food and food ingredients enter the U.S. every year. An unknown amount of additional food is imported from other countries that use Chinese ingredients but do not disclose them.” It goes further to talk about FDA’s inability to stand up (for the American consumers) to corrupt trading partners by accepting a limited level of Melamine (which should be zero tolerance).

Again, Schlosberg and Starmer stress the need of strong governmental oversight on food safety and requiring food companies to label country of origin on processed food and food ingredients.

I would like to echo the authors’ concerns and urge consumers’ action to ask for laws and regulations for country of origin labeling on processed food and food ingredients. Though such a law may be rudimentary and is not enough to close the loopholes of unsafe ingredients entering the U.S. by route of third countries. However, that would be a starter of protecting our food sources. We need to start somewhere.

By Sofia V.

Friday, November 28, 2008

It's okay to have a little of Melamin in baby's milk?

I found it hard to believe that FDA announced that it's safe for baby to have a little of Melamine in their milk. Melamine is for industrial and pesticide use, and it's okay for baby now.

I am sure glad I don't have baby drinking formula. But if you do, I hope you would not be feeding your baby milk suspected of containing Melamine.

I hope the new Obama administration will start looking into FDA and its personnel for the mentality that allows Melamine into baby's milk.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Country of Origin labeling

When grocery shopping the other day in an Asian market in Mountain View, I noticed this new market puts Country of Origin labels on most (if not all) of the fruits, vegetables and seafood. It was quite impressive.

Of course, when I got to the packaged processed food section, there was not such delight of information for consumers.

Why some small grocery stores can easily do Country of Origin labels while food manufactures can not or are unwilling to do so for the ingredients?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Abominably, contaminated blood thinner ingredients re-entered the US

On November 8th, 2008, I had read in a non-English newspaper about the re-entry of contaminated Heparin from China . Searching for two days, finally I found the news in English language. The stories of Chinese made ingredients in the American and Western drugs (Heparin – blood thinner) are on the right side of this blog. I am adding the most updated news on the top of the right side.

The most amazing thing is companies like Celsus Laboratories continued purchasing Chinese ingredients for distribution in the U. S. and internationally, after almost 250 deaths and hundreds of severed allergies that were blamed on the tainted blood thinner from China. The following is quoted from the news:

“FDA testing in January (2008) found that large amounts of Chinese raw heparin imported into the United Sates were contaminated with the chemical oversulfated chondroitin sulfate. The FDA believes the substance was added to allow the product to pass tests that measure heparin levels.

A major heparin recall ensued. Almost 250 deaths and hundreds of severe allergic reactions were blamed on tainted batches of the blood thinner, which is frequently given to patients having heart surgery and kidney dialysis.”

It is clear that ‘greed’ motivated the Chinese to add Melamine to food and drug ingredients; and abominably, it is also ‘greed’ that motivated some American companies, such as Celsus Laboratories, to continue buying and distributing ingredients from the same country where the tainted Heparin came from.

Under such arrangement of international trades, manipulated by greedy business establishments, what should consumers do? In addition to gaining as much information as possible, we should also demand country origin labeling on all packaged food and medication.

Your comments and recommendations are more than welcome.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

American consumers are vulnerable to contaminated products

Somehow I did not catch this report immediately after its publication. In the news links on the right side of this blog, there’s a report showing how vulnerable the American consumers are to the contaminated products. It’s shocking to know that FDA inspects less than one percent of imports a year. Less than one percent...

Former Director of Imports for FDA (1999-2005), Carl Nielsen, said "... There's so little known from the foreign markets." I totally agree. Especially food and/ingredients that are from countries that have little or no free media reporting. The melamine contaminated milk products from China is a very clear example. My understanding was that, in China there were complaints of melamine contamination in the Chinese milk since last December. But, with the Chinese style of media, no news outlets knew about, or reported it until huge numbers of Chinese kids got sick and were sent to hospitals.

Without sufficient FDA inspections, the American consumers are eating the food coming from the same "black box food supplies" as that of the third world countries.

Before FDA got enough funding and manpower to do sufficient inspection on the imports, we would like at least to see some transparency by food makers - labeling country origin for the ingredients.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Article by professor Marion Nestley (please see story link on the right)

In this article, Professor Marion Nestle, a nationally recognized nutrition expert, answered many questions about the Chinese melamine contaminated ingredients. She explained briefly the history of Melamine as ideal adulterant and talked about actions many countries should take. For the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) should be bearing a lot of responsibilities to do the job.

Regarding creating a new food safety agency, I am wondering about the financial feasibility in today's downturn economy. Wouldn't it be easier to simply increase FDA's budget and manpower?

I do agree with her that for now, we may want to say no to imported ingredients and foods, and that knowing where foods and ingredients come from is important for our purchase decisions in the store and also for our peace of mind.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Etiquette aspect of receiving sweets

Kids often receive sweet treats. The old tradition is saying thank you and eating them. In this era of unknown ingredients in packaged food, parents are facing dilemma of examining the sweets or even questioning the givers the source of sweets, and traditional etiquette.

I hope parents, as guardians of our kids, stand up more for the safety of our children. It's more important to set the priority right. Of course, we want to explain to the generous givers our concerns of unknown ingredients in our packaged food.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What do parents do for sweets this Halloween?

More candies and cookies are being recalled. I ask myself and my husband, what arewe going to do with candies this Halloween? We are thinking of giving out pen, pencils and erasers, maybe.

However, my utmost concern is: what else has not been disclosed to us?

In Trader Joe's today, I found a new label on my favorite seafood package showing the scallops are from Thailand and shrimps from China. I was thankful for such disclosure. Surveying many packaged food, I am still disappointed at no such label of country origins on them.

I am wondering whether some food manufacturers would answer to consumers' request of asking for where the country origin of the food ingredients. If anyone is interested in doing such survey, please email me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's not just food ingredients, how about medication?

While we want to know the from-where information of our food ingredients, the tragedy of tainted blood thinner Heparin killing and sickening people in U. S. and the rest of the world also makes us desire to know how best we can protect our loved ones.

In the contaminated blood thinner Heparin cases, people paid for products that are supposed to help them. They did not, instead, they hurt people. We are living in a society taking food safety very seriously. But to cut the cost, the manufacturers and suppliers import ingredients from countries that have low or no food safety concerns for their own people. We are essentially living, to some extent, in a third-world society.

I know some of us don’t care, but many do care. Most people would not feed their loved ones something that can cause cancer or do harms.

So how do we protect us? Don’t we wish there is information out there that can help us? Before the lawmakers realize that there should be certain law to prote

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Law or consumer pressure?

I was told that the bar code of food package would tell you where the food is from. Do you know how true it is? When I learned that you can import bulk ingredients from any country, assemble them here and label them 'Made in U.S.", I started this suspicious feeling in my guts. If the ingredients from country C can go to country N and end up killing cats and dogs in country U, the international trade business has become a black box. Shall we wait for the government to have a law to require country of origin labeling on food? Shall we push food makers to do such disclosure? But, what's their incentive for doing so?

We do need to have laws to require certain transparency in our food chain. But how long would it take? Let check into the process of COOL.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ingredient Matters

I subscribe to FDA's food alert. Then, I think it usually takes some deaths or sickness before such news was released. I am also wondering how much our government inspect food imported into this country. Therefore, I would like to share and learn from each other the information of food manufacturers we frequently buy. Where do their ingredients come from? Let us start the search and investigation.

Does any one know where the ingredients of Oreo cookies come from?
How about M & M?
How about Dreyer's Ice Cream?