The USDA and Health and Human Services (HHS) today unveiled a new website focused on food safety at foodsafety.gov. It’s got lots of info on how to keep food from spoiling, but better still it’s a good launching pad for filing complaints, or keeping track of what’s going on in your state (check the “state agency” widget in the bottom right column).
When the CPSIA—the toy safety law that requires independent lab tests on toys—was passed, a lot of smaller toy manufacturers complained that it was really a dirty trick by the big toy companies to increase overhead for the small ones. Now comes word that the government has secretly exempted Mattel from the law’s testing requirements—even though Mattel was responsible for 6 lead-tainted toy recalls in 2007.
Remember back when lead toys were all the rage? Oh, those dangerous days, when you couldn’t lick a Dora the Explorer doll without fear of memory loss! Well, Mattel and the Consumer Prouct Safety Commission (CPSC) have reached an agreement on how much Mattel should pay for importing toys that exceeded U.S. lead safety guidelines, and the amount is $2.3 million. Maybe now the CPSC can use some of that money to grease the DC wheels and get their new chair nominee confirmed.
Peanut Corp. of America is now saying that its Georgia plant was regularly inspected by the FDA and given a “meets or exceeds” rating. This doesn’t excuse the company from its own failings, but we think it points out what President Obama recently noted, which is that the FDA inspection system doesn’t seem to work very well.
Twenty-two dairy companies sent out a text message to millions of Chinese consumers last week to apologize for selling tainted milk products. According to the BBC, it read, “We are deeply sorry for the harm caused to the children and the society. We sincerely apologise for that and we beg your forgiveness.”
Well, this is a weird one. People in Canada are finding DayQuil capsules inside sealed boxes of Smarties candy. So far, seven small “Halloween sized” boxes of the candy have been found to contain the cold medicine.
The New York Times reports that the FDA is now working under the assumption that the deadly contamination of heparin was intentional. In her prepared testimony before a congressional subcommittee, Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation said,
FDA’s working hypothesis is that this was intentional contamination, but this has not been proven.
More details, inside…
Last week, the Grocery Manufacturers Association told lawmakers that if the FDA doubled its safety oversight budget by increasing fees from food companies, they’d have to raise prices to make up the cost. That’s right: affordable food or safe food. Choose one!
On Tuesday, the city of Los Angeles and the FDA charged the heads of two U.S. importing companies with 14 counts each of “receiving, selling and delivering an adulterated drug,” for their roles in importing and distributing over 70,000 tubes of toothpaste containing diethylene glycol (DEG) instead of glycerin. “Each count carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.”
Finally! It’s been so long since we’ve posted about anything tainted with lead that we were starting to wonder if all the world’s trade problems had been resolved—but now comes a new study that found 210 parts per million (ppm) of lead in the porcelain veneer of a dental crown ordered from China. That’s a lot less than the CPSC’s current 600 ppm threshold, but a lot more than the international standard of only 90 ppm. The good news is it’s highly unlikely developing children will need a mouth full of crowns and bridges. The bad news is it’s yet another example of how hazardous material can slip undiscovered into the marketplace—and your mouth.
We can probably all agree that there haven’t been enough tainted-toy stories this year, so the Wall Street Journal is reporting that tests on about 1,200 toys by consumer and health organizations have revealed that about a third contain not just lead but “other potentially harmful chemicals, including mercury, cadmium and arsenic.” Oh, they must be talking about the new Bratz Heavy Metal dolls, R’senic and Mercurie.
China has arrested nearly 800 people over the past two months in a “nationwide crackdown on the production and sale of tainted food, drugs and agricultural products,” writes the New York Times. The country announced the number officially today on their website, but did not provide details on the violations involved. The announcement is part of a larger campaign to not only rehabilitate China’s image around the world, but to address concerns that its domestic products are even less likely to be safe.
You can add another item to your special “unsafe food” list for October: chicken and turkey pot pies, including the Banquet brand and generic store brands that have “P-9” stamped on the side, which may contain salmonella. Several cases of salmonella poisoning have now been reported in various states, and ConAgra and the USDA are asking consumers not to eat the product while they investigate.
Seventeen days after Topps launched the second largest meat recall in U.S. history, the 67-year-old company announced that it’s going out of business. Topp’s COO told American Agriculturist:
“In one week we have gone from the largest U.S. manufacturer of frozen hamburgers to a company that cannot overcome the economic reality of a recall this large… We want to thank our loyal employees and customers who have supported us throughout the 67 years in which Topps Meat has been in business,” D’Urso said. “Topps has always prided itself on providing the utmost quality and safety and never had a recall in our history until now. This has been a shocking and sobering experience for everyone.”
Sometimes being a conscientious shopper really does matter. The man who realized that tubes of discount toothpaste were tainted with diethylene glycol last May has been found and interviewed by the New York Times. Eduardo Arias, a 51-year-old government worker in Panama City, was shopping in a discount store one Saturday when he saw the toothpaste—he said he could read the ingredients list clearly without even picking up a tube, and when he saw “diethylene glycol” as an ingredient, alarms went off.