Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Plastic: It’s What’s for Dinner

A black mark for the other white meat:

Human consumption of tainted hogs probed
From Times Staff and Wire Reports
April 25, 2007

Health officials are investigating whether humans may have consumed pork from animals that ate feed containing a chemical linked to a recall of pet foods, the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

In California, traces of the chemical melamine were detected in hog urine at a farm in Stanislaus County in the Modesto area. The California Department of Food and Agriculture said it traced the hogs to several Northern California meat vendors, and most of the animals were quarantined.

Only the American Hog Farm in Ceres and a vendor in Half Moon Bay had sold the pork to customers. Both operate custom slaughterhouses that sell only to individuals for personal use — not to supermarkets.

It is important to note here that it was the hog urine, and not the feed, that was tested. So, on the bright side, maybe the pigs get their melamine somewhere else—maybe they eat off of fancy mid-century modern plastic plates, for instance—and not from tainted grain or grain gluten. On the dark side, maybe the melamine contamination is prevalent in hog feed across the country, and not just at this farm. We don’t know—at this point, as best I can figure, the FDA hasn’t tested much beyond the dog and cat food stage of this still emerging food safety crisis (and the LA Times story indicates there is some debate about how widespread the distribution was for this particular suspect feed).

Ever reactive, the Bush FDA has now decided to start looking at a selection of six grain products that are used in foods for human consumption.

"We're going to target firms that we know are receiving imported products," said David Acheson, chief medical officer of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in a conference call with reporters. "The goal is obviously to sample as much as we can."

Of course, when Acheson says, “as much as we can,” he is referring to the amount they can afford to test—not the amount they can get their hands on—and there, as they say, is where the fat hits the griddle.

The entire FY 2007 budget for the Food and Drug administration was $1.9 billion—that’s $1.9 billion for the food AND the drugs. After slashing food inspection budgets in past years, the recent E. coli outbreaks traced to spinach and lettuce have motivated the Bush Administration to propose increasing the amount spent on food safety in 2008 by $10.6 million. . . .

Or, roughly, what the US spends in Iraq EVERY HOUR.

The entire FDA budget? That will cost you about a week of the Bush-Cheney fiasco.

So, while Sunni insurgents kill Americans “over there,” maybe, because we don’t have the money to spend on a proper food safety strategy, cheap Chinese foodstuffs can kill Americans over here.

I suppose that’s one way to beef up “homeland security.”

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

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