The Melamine Debacle – Is NOTHING Sacred?

November 15, 2008 at 1:46 am 2 comments

Melamine plates with cross design

Melamine plates with cross design

As if I needed more incentive to start making even more of our food from scratch.. this just came in from today’s Wall Street Journal:

Two months after China’s melamine-tainted milk scandal first made headlines around the world, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it is blocking all products made with Chinese milk from entering the country until they are proven to be melamine-free.

Although it’s unusual for the U.S. to stop a whole nation’s food imports at the border, other countries have imposed wide-ranging restrictions on Chinese food products in response to the melamine scandal. The U.S. now joins France, Bhutan and Malaysia in restricting products made with dairy from China. Over two dozen other countries have limited their import bans to Chinese milk.

But the timing of the FDA’s decision raises some questions. Most other countries imposed their bans way back in September, as part of the immediate response to the melamine scare. (A list as of Sept. 23 is here).

According to today’s WSJ, an FDA official said the agency acted after about 60 tests of products such as candy and crackers. It’s not clear when the FDA conducted its tests or how many of them turned up excessive levels of melamine, but its numbers are a relatively small compared to the thousands of products tested by authorities in a places such as Hong Kong, which is far more dependent on food imports from mainland China than the U.S. is. (Lists of Hong Kong test results are published daily and can be viewed here). Hong Kong has already moved past testing dairy and products made with milk and moved to test a much wider range of foods that may have been contaminated by melamine in the general food supply, such as eggs, meat and produce.

 chinesepoison1

Are you confused that the goverment would (a) wait this long to inform us of the expanded list of contaminated foods coming from China and (b) that they would do a half-assed job of testing in the first place?  Well wait – the story gets even better! A second story in today’s WSJ Health Blog provides these interesting tidbits:

Around 4 p.m. yesterday, HHS, FDA’s federal parent, sent out an upbeat announcement, headlined: “Latest Efforts with China to Further Improve Cooperation on Food Safety.”

Say what? Oh, that’s right – I suppose given that the Chinese goverment has not, thus far, made any real effort nor cooperated in any significant way to mitigate these problems – allowing us to test the enormous quantities of food we import them should count for something. [scratching head in consternation]

If you think “improve cooperation” doesn’t quite meld with a massive import alert on Chinese goods, you aren’t alone. By chance, the Health Blog was talking with a lobbyist for China about the import alert when the ribbon-cutting release hit his email inbox, causing a brief gap in the conversation as the lobbyist gasped for breath.

Ye-ah.  And – lest you take this latest recall with a grain of salt (I think  salt is still melamine-free) believing that simply taking processed foods out of your diet (and your pets’ diets!) and making sure that the dairy products you purchase come only from US suppliers will keep you and yours safe — remember that melamine has also been detected in wheat and corn glutens, rice protein, commercial fish feed, eggs, instant coffee, cookies, chocolate and animal feed — so while you’re baking home-made goodies from scratch (using organic ingredients, of course) be sure to put fresh ground coffee and locally produced meat, fish, dairy products and eggs on a safe to eat shopping list that’s shrinking faster than AIG stock.

As if that wasn’t enough – the melamine epidemic has now hit sex shops too!

EDIBLE body paint has become the latest import to be withdrawn from sale, after the adult novelty products were found to contain melamine.

The alert was first raised by British and Canadian food authorities almost two weeks ago and published on an international chemicals information website on October 20.

Dear gawd – please tell me that wine and scotch haven’t been affected… I can make my own beer and hard cider. Bake my own bread and cookies. Feed my dogs a raw diet. Buy locally raised meat, produce and dairy products and grind my own coffee. I can even give up cherry-flavored sex paint – but PLEASE don’t tell me I have to give up wine. Or scotch.

Is nothing sacred?

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Entry filed under: cynicism, dogs, health. Tags: , .

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