January 29, 2009

It's a Message, Mr. President

Really, I think it is. It's the food gods saying, (cue James Earl Jones -like voice):

"President Obama, after you deal with this whole economic meltdown -- good luck with that, BTW -- you must turn your attention to the safety and sustainability of the food system. Pick a food czar, if you must, but DO something, soon."

'Cause, you know, like, there's this whole one of the largest food product recalls in history thing. A few people are dead, a bunch more sick, including some pretty young kids...

More than 500 people have gotten sick in the outbreak and at least eight may have died as a result of salmonella infection. More than 400 products have already been recalled. The plant has stopped all production.

And there's more. All those cheap-a@# food products all loaded up with high fructose corn syrup. Well, turns out some of them have just a wee bit o' mercury in them.

Mercury was found in nearly 50 percent of tested samples of commercial
high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), according to a new article published today in the scientific journal, Environmental Health. A separate study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) detected mercury in nearly one-third of 55 popular brandname food and beverage products where HFCS is the first or second highest labeled ingredient—including products by Quaker, Hershey’s, Kraft and Smucker’s.

The ironic thing, of course, is that the high-fructose corn syrup industry, has launched this ad campaign, The Truth about High Fructose Corn Syrup, that says, "HCFS is nutritionally the same as sugar" and "the FDA says HCFS is safe for use in food." Ringing endorsement, indeed!

Of course, the folks behind the campaign rushed out a remarkably brief response to a study that just called into question the safety of their product.

“This study appears to be based on outdated information of dubious significance. Our industry has used mercury-free versions of the two re-agents mentioned in the study, hydrochloric acid and caustic soda, for several years. (emphasis added) These mercury-free re-agents perform important functions, including adjusting pH balances,” stated Audrae Erickson, President, Corn Refiners Association.

For several years? Really? So, up until a few years ago, some little kid whose mom was plugging him with instant oatmeal for breakfast every morning... he's potentially a candidate for a little brain damage down the road. Thems the breaks, I guess. But that same kid today, he's only a candidate for a little bout o' diabetes.

So, yes, President Obama, it's time to get serious about food safety. Oh, and about factory farms, more money for organics and (real) family farms, better nutrition in schools...

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