Food Safety

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photoFirst it was pet food in Canada and the US with Chinese ingredients killing thousands of cats and dogs. Then came reports of toothpaste in Panama with Chinese ingredients killing people.

Now, we learn that just last month, food from China bound for the US included dried apples preserved with cancer causing chemicals, catfish brimming with banned antibiotics, mushrooms laced with illegal pesticides.

Monitoring our own food supply has been tough enough — think e-coli and spinach. Now it looks like a weakened FDA is in no way up to the global challenge.

This hour On Point: big and still unanswered questions on the safety of the food we eat.

A caller mentioned Stonyfield Farms. The company has given us a statement saying the strawberries it imported from China in 2005 and 2006 were certified and independently monitored to be in compliance with USDA organic regulations. T.A.

"One thing we all know about stuff that comes from China is that it's cheap and Americans love cheap stuff. American companies love cheap ingredients because the food they can sell will then be cheaper or have a higher profit margin. Companies in the US have become quite integrated into the Chinese economy and they're not really so crazy about the idea of changing the rules radically ..." Rick Weiss

"The current system puts all the responsibility on the FDA to protect us from unsafe food and the FDA's food safety program has sustained ten straight years of budget cuts. The FDA has not been supported. It's time now for Congress and the White House to put their money where their mouth is and strengthen the FDA and give it some people to solve this problem." William Hubbard

"China ministers are speaking up and are defending the quality and safety of Chinese-made goods and they're urging international cooperation in solving what they say is the global product safety problem. The difficulty Chinese officials have is that there are so many small farmers, tens and millions, and they are producing with very heavy chemical fertilizers, toxic pesticides, and many products lack standards, and so China is having a very difficult time really monitoring and insuring safe foods even for the Chinese, let alone for goods that are going out." Don Lee

"I think we have to look at all food producers. ... We don't get new rules for food safety, we get voluntary guidance; we don't get enforcement of rules, we get what are the incentives to get producers to comply. We have a real problem with a lack of enforcement of the basic food safety standards that we have and every time there's a problem we get more and more talk about how do we get the companies to police themselves. We think that's really a privatization of these basic functions of government which is to enforce food safety standards as a safety net." Patty Lovera


Rick Weiss, science and medical reporter for the Washington Post

William Hubbard, former associate commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration

Don Lee, Shanghai correspondent for the Los Angeles Times

Patty Lovera, Assistant Director of Food and Water Watch.

This program aired on May 21, 2007.


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