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Food Contamination - A Much Larger Set of Problems

Just as the Dubai Ports World fiasco (1, 2, 3) brought to public attention that the US has ceded control of our ports to international corporate control, the pet food contamination has brought to the fore problems with globalization, our food supply, and the ineffectiveness of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Those of you who have been following my coverage of this story know that I predicted this was going to be a very big story. Well it is growing by leaps and bounds.

After the story essentially went dark for four days in the US press, it has reemerged with a flurry of articles on the inadequacies of the FDA (CBS, CNN, AP and many others).

As this story emerges in all of its various renditions, not so subtle variations also emerge. For example, the hogs that ate contaminated feed may (or may not) have made it into the food the human food supply. The US press is either being nonspecific about what food the hogs ate (CNN) or stating the hogs ate recalled pet food (AP, and Atlanta Journal). Meanwhile the Toronto Star reports that the hogs were fed tainted livestock feed. One might argue that perhaps tainted feed of any sort is "disposed of" by feeding it to livestock. That is a frightening thought.

If tainted pet food somehow was disposed of (sold dirt cheap) to hog farmers, it was not isolated. Hogs in six or seven (or more) states have been found to have ingested melamine. Now poultry are also under question. Whether it was poultry feed, or poultry farmers are also on the dirt cheap pet food deal, is another question.

There is a theory that the melamine in the Chinese grains was a deliberate addition to artificially increase the protein content of the grain products. The motivation for this is purportedly that they were able to get a higher price for their products by doing this. As the presence of melamine has been found in wheat, rice, and corn products from China, then this practice could be said to be "standard." Now Soy has been added to the list of products from China to be inspected. Increasingly India is cropping up in stories - implying that India may be using a similar "competitive advantage."

On the other hand, tons of pet food have been recalled - the biggest company hit was Menu Foods. Were companies with recalled product looking for a way to cut their losses by moving the toxin containing pet food into the livestock (and poultry) feed market? Or is this too "standard practice?" According to the Atlanta Journal article:

"Ten pet food manufacturers sent unusable dog and cat food containing the toxic chemical melamine to hog producers in California, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and possibly Ohio, FDA officials announced during a late afternoon press conference. Contaminated pet food was also sent to one chicken farm in Missouri, the officials added."

Based on this, one might pose the theory (assuming the hog farmers and who knows who else fed contaminated pet food) that this too is a "standard practice" among US producers - equally driven on all sides by profit. Perhaps bolstered as a (legally safe) practice as pet (and one presumes livestock) feed is under the FDA, but pork, poultry, beef (etc.) and byproducts are under the USDA. This might decrease the likelihood that such a practice would be discovered.

So the problem grows along the lines that the FDA really has no teeth and does virtually no monitoring (probably part of the same "corporation as customer model" that has resulted in various pharmaceutical disasters). For example, we now know that the FDA can't issue a recall on dangerous foods, and that they do virtually no monitoring of either domestic food supply, nor of food and ingredients coming into the country from around the world. Further, they apparently have no way of tracking where ingredients come from or go to.

We now know that in the globalized food market there are virtually no effective safety standards. While there are sanitary and phyto-sanitary agreements through the World Trade Organization, apparently there is no monitoring to see that even those minimal, industry set, standards are met.

"Free market" globalized capitalism meets the food supply. "Free market" wins all the way around, and how many die? Given that at least a number of hog producers (and perhaps poultry) now have on their hands "contaminated" livestock, where will they end up? Likely in feed for cattle, sheep, chicken and pigs.

From Sham: noun 1. something that is not what it purports to be; a spurious imitation; fraud or hoax. 2. a person who shams; shammer. 3. a cover or the like for giving a thing a different outward appearance: a pillow sham. -adjective 4. pretended; counterfeit; feigned: sham attacks; a sham Gothic fa├žade. 5. designed, made, or used as a sham. -verb (used with object) 6. to produce an imitation of. 7. to assume the appearance of; pretend to have: to sham illness. -verb (used without object) 8. to make a false show of something; pretend. [Origin: 1670-80; orig. uncert.]

--Synonyms 1. pretense. 4. spurious, make-believe, simulated, mock. See false. 6. imitate. 7. feign, fake.
--Antonyms 4. genuine.

There is something fundamentally wrong, and that wrongness is not simply in the FDA, or the USDA, or FEMA, or pick your system that seems to be failing when needed most. The basic institutions have been hollowed while billions of dollars flowed through their accounts. Meanwhile, citizens have been turned into consumers with voracious appetites to fill a void of meaning. The country we thought we had, the government we thought our tax dollars supported, is repeatedly being shown as a sham.

Apparently, what the sham is hiding is an elaborate Ponzi scheme - "a swindle in which a quick return, made up of money from new investors, on an initial investment lures the victim into much bigger risks." We are the victims, as are our pets, our environment, and even our planet.

This story is likely to fade from the news, as Dubai Ports did, and FEMA, and Mad Cow. It will not fade because it is resolved. It won't fade because the food supply is safe, or China (and whoever else) stops using toxins in the food supply. People will assume that such a huge problem, and such a catastrophic failure, must have been fixed. It won't have been, but more funds will go into FDA, or perhaps the FDA will be yet another agency rolled into the sham of Homeland Security. But the hollowing will continue. Finally, the sham will no longer be needed. Ultimately, the facade will crumble. By then all the power will be where it is already directed - the hands of the very few. The wealth and health of a nation will be gone, and the people will wonder "How could this have happened?"

Back to the issue at hand - "tainted" food

To make the whole issue even more complicated, it now appears that cyanuric acid has also been found in the tainted ingredients. It is now being speculated that this is the chemical which may be causing the damage and death in cats and dogs. Apparently, the most common use of cyanuric acid is in pools and hot tubs, but it is apparently also used as a fertilizer. This lends credence to my hypothesis, that this was a systemic food production issue. I speculated in that article that the application of cyromazine (a pesticide) might be ending up in grains from China. That a toxic fertilizer might also be involved only brings us back to the process of Chinese agriculture.

Agricultural practices in China are certainly under a cloud as was reported by the BBC - Pollution 'hits China's farmland'. As stated in the article:

More than 10% of China's farm land is polluted, posing a "severe threat" to the nation's food production, state media reports. ... Excessive fertiliser use, polluted water, heavy metals and solid wastes are to blame, the reports said.

And this is where the United States is getting millions of tonnes of food products.

It should not come as a surprise that the FDA is starting to test human food products. Of the "ingredients" now in question we have wheat, corn, and rice glutens, concentrated rice protein, and soy. Take a look at the ingredient lists of the food on your shelf - or the grocery store's. These are common ingredients in thousands of products. The frightening thing is that for some unknown reason this was not on the FDA's "to do list" as a common practice. However, as noted earlier, the FDA is being shown as another sham.

Posted by Rowan Wolf at April 25, 2007 10:56 AM
Comment #218425

If you want to argue that the FDA needs greater regulatory powers, then do so. If you want to make specific suggestions, then do so. You might start with fully researching the powers, responsibilities, and limitations of the FDA. Railing against the forces of darkness, though, just makes you seem rather hysteric.

Posted by: Gerrold at April 25, 2007 4:04 PM
Comment #218452

That’s me - hysterical.

I got my information on the enforcement powers of the FDA from a deputy director’s testimony in a Congressional committee hearing. He stated (and subsequent news stories have stated) that the FDA cannot demand a recall. They can request that a company make a recall of their product. The committee hearing was excerpted on CNN.

Posted by: Rowan at April 25, 2007 7:17 PM
Comment #218458

Maybe the FDA can not demand a recall, but I also
believe the Feds should stop all ships an all other
means of transport, be stopped from unloading any
an all products that may be hazardous too our
safety or health ‘imeadiatly’. Any products which

are faulty should be returned or seized before they
get a chance set foot on our soil. Than make new laws as to why Toxic Poisoning of Americans or American Pets. Where is American outrage, I guess all the money has been spent on security wall an
electronic eavesdropping equipment against Americans. This incident is totally unacceptable.

Posted by: DAVID at April 25, 2007 8:15 PM
Comment #218459

sorry about the last missing words after Pets[would be a good idea] David

Posted by: DAVID at April 25, 2007 8:20 PM
Comment #218485

This is the same Clinton rehash of the 90’s. We’re all gonna be poisoned to death by fast food restaurants was the cry back then, due to the Ecoli and mad cow scares. Doesn’t the left ever think of something different in their playbook?
Barbara Boxer made a fool of herself at the Democratic National Convention when she showed pictures of a boy that had eaten a tainted hamburger and died. She warned that Republicans were going to kill our children if they had their way in Congress and the White House.
This time around, they’ll probably parade all the pictures of family pets that had to be put down because of the FDA under this Bush Administration.
American food is the safest food in the world. The amount of food that we process and eat is astronomical. We’re the best at growing it, processing it, and eating it.
The strange thing that happened back in the 90’s after Boxer’s charade at the Democratic National Convention was that tainted strawberries from Mexico got through customs in California, (Barbara Boxer’s home state). It just so happened that there was a huge strawberry union strike in California at the time. The tainted strawberries were shipped primarily to elementary schools in Missouri, Illinois, and Michigan, (all big union states). The sickness that resulted from eating these strawberries prompted the MSM to run stories, not about how these strawberries got into the U.S. from Mexico, but rather on the working conditions of strawberry pickers in California. Isn’t that a coincidence? Needless to say, the strike was ended pretty quickly when the strawberry growers caved to worker’s demands.


Posted by: JD at April 26, 2007 12:36 AM
Comment #218506

Rowan, excellent topic. It points however, to a far more precarious problem facing humanity. But allow me to portray a stark contrast first. America was founded upon self-reliance in a wilderness. Though there were communities, forts, etc, our forefathers and mothers valued self-reliance and the independence that entails.

Today, the whole of mankind is dependent upon a mass of other people they have not met, and will never meet. It is like a house of cards. If some group at the base of the stack hiccups, millions if not billions of people can be negatively impacted. The global climate change is one example of a very, very small handful of powerful people in the world holding the fate of 100’s of millions or more of people in their hands. Should those hands falter, mankind will suffer.

The Food Chain is another example. Given the designs of al-Queda, should they adopt the patient sleeper tactics of cold war spies, they could become food workers who introduce an innocuous substance into the food chain that has very delayed effects and symptoms. It would not need to be lethal. It would only need to drive millions to seek medical help. The economic impact would be enormous.

Millions and millions of dollars have been paid to mechanics over the years for repairs that were never needed, or sabotage that drove the customer back to the shop weeks or months later. Since, few automobile owners know the first thing about the inner workings of their car, they have no choice but to become prey as a result of their dependency upon specialists.

Proving a mechanic’s misdeed is not particularly difficult, but, it requires a knowledge of what is wrong with your vehicle and the ability to document peripheral items which are not in need of repair through disguised markings, eye witness, or photos.

Billions are being lost due to hackers, phishers, and internet con artists, when you add up the direct losses plus the investments to constantly defeat such unscrupulous thieves inventiveness and creativity.

Globalization is touted as a great benefit to mankind by those reaping the profits. But, the truth be told, globalization exposes enormous masses of people to acts perpetrated thousands of miles away by faceless folks who have an axe to grind. It is only a matter of time before globalization becomes the shadow that cloaks evil doers and vengeful specialists.

Specialization of labor was a remarkable development in human evolution. But with its undeniable growth, comes ever greater risks. Risks which have a nasty habit of being reacted to rather than preempted, like 9/11. I believe my daughter or her daughter will witness a global effort in the future, back toward home grown foods and away from imports if mankind does not find a way to harmonize international and inter-cultural relations. Such is the risk associated with dependencies on the kindness of others which may not be forthcoming.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 26, 2007 12:19 PM
Comment #218572

6,000 hogs may have eaten tainted feed: USDA

I suspect this is just the start.

Posted by: womanmarine at April 27, 2007 12:20 AM
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