Sunday, 3 March 2013

What's for Dinner? . . . Who the Hell Knows?

OK, I get that most (normal) people are not interested in politics. As long as all is relatively well in their little worlds, people don't much care who's in charge.

But what I DO NOT GET is how people can be unconcerned about the food and water they ingest.

Oh yeah, there are recalls and scares and stories, like the horse meat 'scandal' and the more recent revelation that tuna ain't tuna.
84% of fish samples labeled "white tuna" were actually escolar, a fish that can cause prolonged, uncontrollable, oily anal leakage.
Then there are bigger fish to fry, so to speak.

Alberta shit-beef



Some of these are stupid mistakes, compounded by failures of the regulators whose budgets are being merrily slashed all over the world.

Right now there are 42 products listed on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's website. How many would there be if the agency had better resources?

Don't know, do we?

But most of the mislabelling and contamination, I would submit, is attributable to sheer corporate greed. Again, compounded by lack of oversight.

Here is a interview by Amy Goodman of Melanie Warner, author of a book I'm not sure I'm brave enough to read called Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal.

Warner is talking about the nutritional value (ha) of processed food, specifically cereals. She's talking about vitamins being added to them. (This is a transcript but I'm tempted to go listen to it to hear Goodman's tone of voice.)

MELANIE WARNER: And I was really surprised to learn where some of these vitamins come from. I never really thought about it in much detail, as probably most people don’t. But it turns out that they’re—these vitamins are not coming from the foods that contain them. Like vitamin C does not come from an orange, and vitamin A does not come from a carrot. It’s very far from that. They come from things that really aren’t actually foods. Vitamin D, for instance, was probably the most shocking. It comes from sheep grease, so actually the grease that comes from sheep wool. You have giant barges and container ships that go from Australia and New Zealand over to China, where most of—a lot of our vitamins are produced. About 50 percent of global vitamin production comes from China inside these huge factories, very industrial processes. A lot of vitamins are actually chemical processes.


MELANIE WARNER: And they’re very technical and complex.

AMY GOODMAN: A lot of people, if they’re with someone, they’re looking at them right now. Wait a second. So, China gets all these shipments of sheep wool from Australia, and they’re pulling the sheep grease off of them to make vitamin D?
Yep. China is doing that.

China, where some of the world's most enthusiastic capitalists have made literal killings in the food biz.

Remember the pet food recalls?

And the absolutely horrifying case of infant formula adulterated with melamine to fake up the protein content?

And yet people seem to be OK with allowing the private sector to monitor and regulate itself?

People are OK with greedy bastards putting lard-knows-what in our food to make a few more pennies or yuan?

People are OK with governments cutting science and inspection budgets and muzzling the scientists whose work we pay for?

Why isn't this a HUGE issue?

I don't get it.

Image source and scary blog from the University of Guelph.


Námo Mandos said...

I honestly can't be too bothered by the "sheep grease" bit. Animals make vitamin D in their skin on solar exposure. It says on many Vitamin D supplement bottles, "lanolin".

Which is sheep grease.

fern hill said...

Yabbut, Mandos, aren't you bothered by Chinese manufacturing protocols? I had no idea that most vitamins were made in China.

Námo Mandos said...

In terms of whether I trust the inspection and regulation, well, that is of course an issue. But I have little patience for "OMG chemicals!!!" Like that nylon bit. News flash, we are carbon-based life forms.

I feel that the interviewee confused the issue by bringing up "squeamishness" issues that appeal largely to scientific illiteracy, rather than focus on the regulatory failures and the scientific evidence.

I used to shop at Whole Foods in the USA and know intimately that eyeroll-worthy culture, and this reminded me of that.

fern hill said...

That's the way science is treated in the media. As you well know.

I thought Goodman's reaction was funny.

But the main issues are inspection and regulation. And if we can't inspect and regulate Canadian producers, we're shit of out luck on Chinese.

Niles said...

There was a joke on the radio the last weekend about how we shouldn't worry about the flyability of the F35 jets, because they won't be able to take off from Cold Lake and environs as they'd be violating air space over Chinese territory.

fem_progress said...

Wab Kinew posted this link on Twitter.

With diabetes rates going through the roof (it costs is 16 billion dollars a year in Canada) I am glad he did.

Food manufacturers are pushers.

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