President Obama this week declared war on the Chinese Poison Train, announcing that the FDA will receive $1 billion in new funds for modern testing labs and additional food safety inspectors. Inspecting less than 5% of our food processing plants is apparently a “hazard to public health, and “it is unacceptable.” So what’s really behind the new policy shift? No, it’s not those melamine murders or salmonella outbreaks. It’s seven-year-old first daughter Sasha Obama!
FUN FACT: Sawdust is an accepted industry analog for snow when testing snowblowers. (Photo: thievingjoker)
In yesterday’s Peanut Corp. post, our commenter microguy07828 left a detailed explanation of how food manufacturers sometimes play dirty when it comes to getting the lab results they want on a product. We though it deserved more visibility in light of yesterday’s accusation that the Peanut Corp. of America knowingly shipped tainted peanut butter. As microguy07828 puts it, it “happens more often than you would think.”
In this letter (PDF) sent to CPSC chair Nancy Nord, and released to the public, Consumers Union and a bunch of other consumer interest groups ask the CPSC to please do its part to clear up all the confusion over the coming Toy Testing Apocalypse. Don’t want to read the whole thing? Here’s a much shorter summary:
Thanks to big companies like Mattel, this may be the last Christmas season for a lot of handmade or custom toys from small businesses.
Starbucks bravely asked us to try their new…
The Senate finally voted last week to send the ailing Consumer Product Safety Commission desperately needed funds, staff, and powers. The overdue reform bill passed with bipartisan support on a 79-13 vote.
The Times brings us the story of vigilant consumers who successfully drove regulatory agencies to yank dangerous toys from store shelves. We have argued, along with the CPSC, that consumer testing is an utter waste of time, but consumers who are willing to bring their suspicious toys to a professional lab are able to have a surprising impact.
Kraft is recalling 23,000 cases of Baker’s Premium White Chocolate Baking Squares after FDA testing “detected the presence of salmonella in some 6-oz. packages.” So far no illnesses have been reported, so if you’re the opportunistic con-artist type, you’ve got a shot at being first-to-media on this one. [Reuters
Like many parents, Mr. Jones said he was suspicious of all of his daughter’s toys now that millions of items for children have been recalled for high levels of lead.
This week, the House of Representatives passed a new bill that gives the FDA the power to require new warning labels on existing prescription drugs, and the power to request “post-approval” studies of medicines as warranted. It also gives the FDA the authority to levy fines as high as $10 million to companies that fail to comply. The bill passed with a 405-7 vote on Wednesday and is expected to be passed by the Senate and approved by the President.
U.S. companies are developing new safety measures in response to the continued rumbling of the Chinese Poison Train. The measures, along with renewed federal interest in food safety, suggest that we may be in the midst of a food safety revolution similar to the one that reformed the meatpacking industry after the publication of Upton Sinclaire’s “The Jungle.”
For the companies, the problem is two-fold: figuring out exactly what to test for and maintaining control over their network of suppliers, even as they turn to China for vast quantities of imports at lower prices.
Three companies are trying three different strategies to cope with the uncertain quality of China’s exports:
Honey can be labeled “pure” even if contains additives like high fructose corn syrup. Most people prefer the taste of 100% pure bee’s honey, but how can you test to be sure you are getting the good stuff? Testing the purity of honey is remarkably like testing the purity of a villager. To wit:
The USDA has vowed to safeguard your meat by fighting reckless meatpackers that want to test their dead cattle for mad cow disease. The USDA’s current policy of testing less than 1% of cows is clearly succeeding since none of you have caught Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human variant of mad cow disease.
“There are serious problems here,” Cook [City Councilman] said Wednesday afternoon. “I think Lincoln customers deserve better. They are not getting what they have paid for.” The new guide has been beset with problems since its introduction. Complaints have ranged from the guide itself — ugly graphics, incomplete information, etc. — to problems with slow-reacting cable boxes and DVRs after the software was loaded into them, causing some subscribers to reboot one or more times a day.
- The development and testing of experimental blood substitutes has been fraught with controversy: Baxter International Inc. stopped research on one such product in 1998 when more than 20 patients given the substitute died.