Sunday, May 20, 2007

It's not just the pet food...

Why is the US so driven by greed? Somehow we care so much about corporate profits that we can't even effectively make sure that our food is safe. This story in Sunday's Washington Post (free registration required) details the tainted food (human food - not just pet food) shipments from China that the underfunded and understaffed FDA is trying to keep out of the US food supply. The foods that the FDA turns back are unsanitary, stored in carcinogenic preservatives, filled with antibiotics banned in the US, and much more.

In spite of numerous recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences and various other expert panels to institute more serious efforts to protect our food supply, corporate interests and the large potential Chinese market for US exporters have been higher priorities than the safety of US consumers.

Here's how the Washington Post puts it:

"Dead pets and melamine-tainted food notwithstanding, change will prove difficult, policy experts say, in large part because U.S. companies have become so dependent on the Chinese economy that tighter rules on imports stand to harm the U.S. economy, too.

"'So many U.S. companies are directly or indirectly involved in China now, the commercial interest of the United States these days has become to allow imports to come in as quickly and smoothly as possible,' said Robert B. Cassidy, a former assistant U.S. trade representative for China and now director of international trade and services for Kelley Drye Collier Shannon, a Washington law firm."

The US economy always ends up being the sacred cow that must not be harmed at any cost - such as our health or our environment. And it is unfortunate that in a nation where much of the world's very best science is done, and where at one time we made groundbreaking advances in modern society by establishing agencies that were charged with protecting our citizens based on the best science available, we can't put together the political will to actually make use of our considerable expertise to keep our food safe.

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