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.