Sunday, May 13, 2007

Lax FDA allows us to be food guinea pigs

Great piece by the Contra Costa Times (thanks Mike!) (Bolding and red are mine.)

(Make sure to add Milk Protein Concentrate to your 'things to avoid' list)

By John E. Peck

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION needs to take a serious look at our food supply.

Late last month, federal officials were doing another round of damage control, this time contacting pork and poultry producers in nine states about melamine-tainted feedstock and culling suspected animals.

Unfortunately, some livestock could not be recalled because they were already on their way to your plate.

The Federal Drug Administration's response? Not to worry, there is no scientific evidence that eating melamine is bad for humans, so no grocery recall is necessary.

Consumers have now unwittingly joined their pets as subjects in a massive food-safety experiment.

Melamine is a plastic coal derivative used in the manufacture of fertilizer. It has never been tested or approved for animal or human consumption. And yet there is a large underground market in China selling melamine scrap for livestock feed as a cheap filler, boosting nitrogen levels and creating the appearance of higher protein content, according to the New York Times.

This is hardly the first case of an illegal byproduct getting dumped into the U.S. food system with the tacit approval of the FDA.

Milk protein concentrate, which enters the United States as an industrial-grade ingredient to make adhesives and which has never been subject to consumer-safety testing or given Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) status by the FDA, is now found in hundreds of adulterated cheese products, candies, chips, nutritional drinks and other processed junk foods.

For powerful corporations like Kraft, it is much more lucrative to import milk protein concentrate to make Velveeta, Mac n' Cheese or Kraft Singles and hope pliant FDA officials turn a blind eye than to pay U.S. family dairy farmers a fair price for real domestic milk.

Responsibility for this latest food scandal lies with runaway globalization, as well as the corrupting influence of corporate agribusiness on government oversight.

As U.S. trade barriers came down and imports skyrocketed, corporations raked in unprecedented profits and consumers were left fearing the old Latin adage: "caveat emptor," or buyer beware.

The FDA, with barely 1,700 inspectors, checks only about 2 percent of all U.S. food imports.

In the wake of last year's E. coli spinach outbreak and this year's melamine pet food scandal, citizens should demand greater accountability from such agencies as the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Country of Origin Labeling, which was mandated in the last farm bill but has been applied only to seafood, should be fully implemented for all imported food immediately.

Without this type of labeling, consumers and farmers don't have the choice to avoid products from those countries that have proved to be dangerous free-trade partners.

Something as essential as food deserves at least as much truth in labeling as clothing. And it deserves more serious government regulation -- not less.

Peck is executive director of Family Farm Defenders, a grass-roots organization that works on issues of sustainable agriculture, fair trade, consumer safety, labor rights, animal welfare, rural justice and food sovereignty.


Anonymous said...

The Bush Admin. should have came out and spoke to the poisoned pet food disaster immediately and ordered the FDA to act in everyway. Instead, they chose to hide away trying to protect their friends in big business. They are a complete and dangerous failure.

Anonymous said...

After reading this post I decided to email Kraft and see if they would answer my question on where they get their "Milk Protein Concentrate" imported from.
Here is "Krafts" reply to the question:

Thank you for visiting

If a product (or component of a product) is manufactured in a country other than the United States, the packaging will reflect this information. The label will state:
Product of ....

If no statement is made about production in a foreign country, the entire product was made in the US.

When a product is manufactured outside the country for sale in the U.S., we comply with US Customs regulations to identify, on the label, the country where the product is manufactured.

In the United States, the 2002 Farm Bill mandated country of origin labeling for meat, produce, seafood and peanuts. In April 2005 country of origin labeling for seafood went into effect. However, legislation passed in the Fall of 2005 delayed implementation for meat, produce and peanuts until September 30, 2008.

Please be assured that Kraft complies with all applicable laws and regulations. As new requirements that impact our products go into effect, we will adjust our labeling to comply.

If you haven't done so already, please add our site to your favorites and visit us again soon!

Kim McMiller
Associate Director, Consumer Relations

Anonymous said...

This is not surprising, but it is still terrible. The Food and Drug Administration has decided to turn its backs on America’s cats by not investigating cat deaths.

Volunteers Needed! Get food off shelves...,,,, and have joined together to ask for your help.
Update 6-10: Recalled food was purchased from a
California store on 5-29th – this stuff is still out there!
We need Volunteers to help get recalled food off store shelves. Read this post at Spocko’s Brain for instructions. Print a list (or two) on this site. Visit stores, then report safe stores here at

Printing Information:
1. Print the main FDA Pet Food Recall page – this will be handy to show retailers who haven’t heard anything about the recall. (3 pages)

2. Print the list of 14 Major National Brands - it includes flavors and date information where applicable so you can tell if specific products for these brands have been recalled. The brands are: Alpo Prime Cuts, Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul, Doctors Foster and Smith, Eukanuba, Gravy Train, Hill’s Science Diet, Iams, Jerky Treats, Lick Your Chops, Mighty Dog Pouches, Natural Balance, Nutro, Pounce, Royal Canin. (It’s 7 pages and includes FDA contact information.)

3. Print the List of All Brands – it will remind you what products have been recalled - but it does not give you date and flavor information, there is just too much to put in one document. (7 pages, but the 7th page is links to more detailed information so you don’t need to print it)

If you want, and are going to a store that you know has store brands that have been recalled (such as Walmart), go to that recall information at the links on the summary or at the FDA site and print it out. Some of the information is formatted in ways that make it difficult to read (one of the main reasons for this site), but it’s better than nothing.

Note: The FDA is the official source for all recall information and recalled products. This is an unofficial volunteer effort to help get the word out and get recalled foods off of shelves. We’re doing the best we can but can’t guarantee these lists are completely accurate. Again, here is the official recall site: