Monday, November 17, 2008

Food Safety

Poison in your food? If you obsess about it, you probably have a mental problem. At least that's how it used to be. Now it's a real problem. Can you avoid dangerous food by reading the origin labels and avoiding anything from China? Evidently not. Consider this:
"For all the outrage about Chinese melamine, what American consumers and government agencies have studiously failed to scrutinize is how much melamine has pervaded our own food system. In casting stones, we’ve forgotten that our own house has more than its share of exposed glass."
This paragraph introduces an op-ed in today's New York Times: Home-Grown Melamine Problem, which reviews the many sources of melamine in American food products that don't come from China. American agribusiness seems free from intentional adulteration such as the high-profile baby milk scandal that killed several Chinese babies; nevertheless melamine appears in fertilizer and other products that could taint our food. The author concludes:
"We can seek out organic foods, which are grown with fertilizer without melamine — unless that fertilizer was composted with manure from animals fed melamine-laden feed ... .

"We could further protect ourselves by choosing meat from grass-fed or truly free-range animals, assuming the grass was not fertilized with a conventional product (something that’s also very hard to know).

"But as all the caveats above indicate, these precautions will only go so far. Melamine, after all, points to the much larger relationship between industrial waste and American food production. Regulations might be lax when it comes to animal feed and fertilizer in China, but take a closer look at similar regulations in the United States and it becomes clear that they’re vague enough to allow industries to “recycle” much of their waste into fertilizer and other products that form the basis of our domestic food supply.

"As a result, toxic chemicals routinely enter our agricultural system through the back channels of this under-explored but insidious relationship.

"... the United States should seize upon the melamine scandal as an opportunity to pass federal fertilizer standards backed by consistent testing for this compound, which could very well be hidden in plain sight."

1 comment:

Jen said...

I'm going to catch up in a block...

Thank you for posting about the melamine situation - I hadn't read that op-ed piece.

I LOVE Shalimar, but the hot versus medium designations are often a little mysterious. Good choice on Adam's part, though.

Your book group looked very happy and it sounds like it was a wonderful session. As I've mentioned before I'd really like the time and space to read Fortune Cookie Chronicles.

I'm also afraid that my not-so-adventurous palate might blanch at authentic Chinese food.

The cornmeal cranberry cake looks simply amazing!