Published on: October 8, 2008
It figures. I actually say something charitable about the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and it comes back to bite me on the … well, you know.
noted a Washington Post
report that despite all the concern about Chinese dairy products tainted with melamine - the poisonous industrial chemical that can artificially inflate the protein levels of products to which it is added – the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that consuming small amounts of melamine poses no serious health risk.
According to the Post
, “The exception, officials said, is melamine in baby formula, which has sickened more than 54,000 infants in China. The agency said it was unable to determine what a safe amount of melamine in formula might be. The FDA set 2.5 parts per million as the maximum ‘tolerable’ amount of melamine that could be safely consumed in other foods.” Higher-than-tolerable levels of melamine have been found in items ranging from candy to yogurt that contain Chinese dairy products and that are sold in the US.”
I commented: I rarely say anything nice about the FDA, and I’m not exactly going to break that streak here. But in all fairness, if the science says that one
can ingest tiny amounts of melamine without significant health risk, it isn’t exactly the same as saying that one
should ingest tiny amounts of melamine, or that melamine products shouldn’t be banned.
user responded:One could probably place small amounts of dog feces in brownies and probably not be harmful. Do you really want dog feces in your brownies? I didn’t think so. Stop this nonsense now. If it was an American company they would have been fined, sued and closed.MNB
user Doug Campbell wrote:Melanine is an adulterant that in no way should be in any food product at any level. To argue otherwise is no different than saying there is a "safe" level of rat poison that will not harm people thus rat poison in food is acceptable if it does not exceed the established "safe" level.
user chimed in:John Kenneth Galbraith said, “faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” So the FDA, instead of changing its mind and saying, hey wait a minute…maybe we shouldn’t put all these chemicals in our citizen’s bodies…they get busy proving that a little bit won’t hurt. Well, what about the cumulative affect of multiple chemicals over time? What about health fragile people, what about the young and the old…are they just collateral damage?
user Mike Holman wrote:Perhaps the solution is to require that melamine is listed as an ingredient for products containing it and let the consumers decide what levels are "tolerable"!
Truth be told, I wouldn’t want to eat something with melamine, and I wouldn’t want to feed it to my kids. I was trying to be charitable, and frankly, I probably should not have been.
Got the following passionate email from an MNB
user:I am always writing in over my outrage about how the media never gives a complete picture of a situation, and their coverage typically instills mass hysteria and over-reaction. Whether it is tainted spinach or tomatoes or peppers or now defaulted loans, I am so tired of the chain reaction from the over sensationalized stories to sell commercial blocks or cable subscriptions.
For example, and I am not saying the current financial collapse is insignificant, but when the loan default rate is actually around 5% right now, I am left wondering if the normal load default is always 0? Wouldn’t it be almost an expected number of at least 2-3% of all loans being defaulted even in typical economic times? Does this warrant a rush on the banks to bring us all back to 1929??
Is the fact that the government came in and made banks give loans to high risk customers on an increasing real estate market which fueled greedy banks to give even more loans because it seemed to fuel the real estate market even more? Did they really think typical working people could afford $750,000 cottages in California and the NE and then second homes in Florida? Are there really that many CEOs out there who can live that lifestyle?? I am not surprised by any of this since the bubble was bound to burst and now everyone who made a bad investment is crying out to be saved or we will all go under……so much for those of us who have made sound investments, lived within our means and didn’t run off with some multi-million dollar exit package when we failed at our jobs.
Even the Boooya guy incited a massive dive on Wall Street when he shouted SELL, SELL, SELL yesterday, probably because he planned on doing a BUY, BUY, BUY after everything went into the proverbial toilet. Now we have the good fortune of looking to the brain trusts being offered by the Democratic and Republican parties to “fix” everything. Last time I looked, no one with a brain or a self-contained ego was willing to run for office. I am simply not impressed with the older, so-called wiser people running our companies and government today. It is an embarrassment.
That’s a pretty heartfelt series of complaints, but I would only ask you to consider what the alternative is. When people get sick from eating spinach or loans are being defaulted upon, is the media supposed to ignore it? I will grant you that in many cases the coverage could be a lot more sophisticated and comprehensive…but I’m not sure that ignoring these stories is the answer.
And, because I’ve said that I like to hear about people’s favorite food shopping experiences, MNB
user Annika Forester offered:I thought I’d pipe up about my personal favorite grocery shopping method. I grew up in Berkeley, and lived my entire life within reasonable range of proper, old-school, food co-ops. I had read Laurel’s Kitchen before I had graduated from high school. Even when I went to college at UC Davis, with a fantastic food co-op there, we one-upped those deals and went straight to the distributor (back then it was Mountain People’s Warehouse) and ordered as a group, in bulk, on a monthly basis. When I moved to Ventura County in southern California, I was shocked and dismayed to find that there were no food co-ops within any remotely reasonable driving distance, and Trader Joe’s was ‘as good as it gets’. Whole Paycheck does not even tempt me, though I could drive 40 miles to shop in Thousand Oaks if I wanted to. Too much show and excess and gratuitous flaunting of so-called greenishness.
A couple of years ago I started a food buying club, with some other moms, from the natural foods distributor Azure Standard out of north central Oregon. They actually began as a farm, and therefore produce a lot of the grains and legumes they sell, plus grass-fed beef. They also carry just about anything you’d find on your average ‘natural’ foods store, plus a lot of specialty items only available in the Pacific Northwest. Their prices compete with TJ’s, and their variety beats TJ’s hands down. Their prices leave WF in the dust. I shop almost exclusively from their sale catalog to get manufacturers’ discounts of 10-20%.
I shop online once a month. I can take my time to read ingredients lists, nutrition information, and even follow links from Azure Standard’s website to manufacturer websites to learn more about the company that makes the products I’m considering purchasing. I place my order by Wednesday afternoon, and on Tuesday the semi-trailer comes rolling down highway 101. Our group of moms meets at the appointed time and we off-load our groceries, sometimes splitting cases or trading novel items. I have a massive pantry that I keep stocked this way, and I never run out of anything.
This is where I spend 50% of my grocery dollars. Away from the dazzling lights and sensational smells of the grocery aisles, and free from the mesmerizing muzak and impossibly annoying impulse items. I feel like our little buying club is a small act of mutiny from the grocery-industrial complex.
An experience to learn from, I think.