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Contaminates from China causing health concerns

Posted by Stephen on May 9, 2007

This is not a new story but it is important that citizens keep up with its conclusions. There are increasing concerns regarding food being imported from China. Contaminated wheat flour is being blamed for bad U.S. pet food and has now made its way into chicken and pig feed.

The Washington Post is reporting that “The finding adds a new layer of fraud to an already seamy tale of international deception.”

Additionally, the contaminated flour, mislabeled as gluten, has made its way into fish food in Canada which was exported to the U.S. and later fed to fish raised for human consumption. As a result, the Post states, “some American fish may be laced with melamine, the industrial toxin whose spread has revealed in startling detail the many ways in which the food chains for pets, farm animals and humans are internationally intertwined.”

“It shows the degree to which, with the globalization of agriculture, things that go wrong in one country can affect many of us who never thought we’d be touched,” said Rebecca J. Goldburg, a biologist with advocacy group Environmental Defense. “Americans now need passports to travel just about anywhere, including Canada. It appears that food and even animal feed traveling from country to country should receive similar scrutiny.”

The challenge now is to come up with an improved system to track the sources of food and ingredients, their biochemical composition and their safety.

“Our food-safety system is broken,” said Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.), who chairs the subcommittee that funds the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture. She has called for the creation of an independent food safety agency that would consolidate tasks now handled by a dozen or so agencies.

FDA Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach wrote last week that the controversy has “demonstrated our effectiveness at detecting and containing a problem.”

DeLauro strongly disagrees saying that “What we have is a fragmented legal and organizational structure without enough resources or authority to protect the public health.”

Meanwhile the Post reports that “FDA officials said they do not yet know how many U.S. fish farms may have used the tainted feed or what kind of fish may be affected. Some of the fish may have been sold to grocery stores and restaurants, and others may have been raised to stock lakes and rivers for fishermen.”

Last week government scientists reported that small amounts of contaminated pet food fed to chickens do not pose a threat to humans. Now scientists will dive into the testing of American fish supplies, but before any conclusions can be made it must be determined where the fish have gone. Many will land in grocery stores but others that have been fed the contaminated fish food are used to stock ponds and lakes across the country.

Channel catfish is the most prevalent U.S.-raised fish, and all 600 million pounds of it raised annually get only domestic ingredients. Other top sellers include rainbow trout, tilapia and striped bass.

Important is that tests had found that the tainted Chinese pet-food ingredients, which had entered the United States labeled as wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate, were in fact ordinary wheat flour. The broken system of checking incoming food from China is the tip of the iceberg. In the world of terror that exists today, this becomes a subject of national security.

The Post report explains that Gluten is the “high-protein constituent of flour that remains after starch has been removed.” The report goes on to say that “Investigators suspect that Chinese exporters boosted their profits by using cheap, unprocessed, low-protein flour and adding melamine, which gives false high-protein readings.”

While the latest reports have centered on Chinese fraud and deceit surrounding food exports, there is nothing that suggests that other vulnerabilities do not exist in the importation of foreign foods. American food processors, such as rice producers, could benefit from an added emphasis on their part that food produced in the U.S. is melamine free.

Regardless, it is imperative that the U.S. Government make necessary adjustments to the processing and clearance of imported foods, especially those coming from countries that have proven to be reckless in their exportation practices, such as China.

Stephen Winslow is the executive editor of Conservative Viewpoints.

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