Observing from beyond the solar system, a cultural outsider looks in.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Edwards Takes All the Fun Out of Imported Mystery Food

I'm adventurous when it comes to different cuisines. I love to experiment with different, unknown and improperly labeled food items from other countries. So what if they occasionally contain lead and yummy industrial additives? It looks like that spoilsport John Edwards wants to take all the fun out of my gustatory Russian roulette. Can you believe the nerve of that guy? Imagine wanting our food supplies to be safe!

Today, Edwards introduced plans to take the thrill out of eating something from overseas that might be poisonous, giving your child that shiny new lead painted toy from China, or shining up those pearly whites with tainted toothpaste.

"America is facing a crisis of quality in imported products, food and medicine," Edwards said. "We can no longer rely on corporations to initiate recall after recall while our government sits on the sidelines and our nation's children and families remain at serious risk. Multinational corporations' race to cut costs by offshoring the production of drugs, toys and other consumer goods has come at the price of quality and safety.

"The broken system in Washington has created weak consumer protection regulations and bad trade deals leaving our children and families vulnerable to unsafe products. Worst all of all, this is not by accident – industry lobbying has persuaded Washington to keep protections for families lax and out-of-date. As president, I will overhaul our import safety system and stand up to the special interests who put corporate profit about the health and safety of the American people. It's time for our government to take steps to protect our children from dangerous toys, strengthen food safety regulations and ensure that drug imports are safe.

"But American families shouldn't have to wait until 2009 – they deserve to know right now that their government is doing everything possible to keep them safe. That's why today I sent a letter to President Bush demanding the resignation of Nancy Nord, the acting chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, who has accepted travel expenses from the toy industry and opposes congressional efforts to strengthen the CPSC and protect Americans families from dangerous imported toys."

But...but...oh my gosh! I count on those cheap but deadly imported toys to keep my sister's kids happy during the holiday season! That's practically grinchy! Is this going to be the year that Mr. Edwards steals Christmas?! (She cried with faux outrage, knowing in her heart that actually that shiny red paint on her nephew's new fire truck really wasn't worth the brain damage the lead in it might cause.)

Americans now eat an average of 260 pounds of imported foods a year, but the FDA inspects only 0.7 percent of imported food products. China recently admitted that 180 food processing facilities had been caught putting industrial additives into food. [Boston Globe, 5/9/07; CDC, 2007; AP, 4/16/07]

Require Country-of-Origin Labels: Large meat packers, agribusiness lobbyists and retailers like Wal-Mart have blocked implementation of country-of-origin labeling requirements. Edwards will finally enforce mandatory country-of-origin labeling, giving Americans an informed choice and giving other countries an incentive to improve their food safety systems. [USDA, 2007; The Hill, 4/7/05; National Family Farm Coalition, 2007]

Integrate Food Safety Rules and Enforcement: Fifteen different agencies regulate some part of our food supply, enforcing 35 different laws. Different agencies regulate meat lasagna and vegetable lasagna. Edwards will give one regulatory body clear responsibility for food safety and give the FDA the resources to scale up inspections. [National Academy of Sciences, 1998; GAO, 2007; CSPI, 2007; Government Executive, 6/19/07]

Give the FDA Mandatory Recall Powers: Neither the Agriculture Department nor the FDA can order mandatory recalls of the food products they inspect. The agencies are not even equipped to monitor how well companies carry out voluntary recalls. Edwards will establish the power to order mandatory recalls and make it illegal for companies to sell recalled products. [GAO, 2007]

Require Safety Systems Abroad: Edwards will require countries exporting food to the U.S. to have safety systems certified by the FDA as equivalent to our own. This added protection will supplement, not replace, inspections by U.S. officials.

This is a very faux outrage! I want my imported squid a l'orange with dioxin sauce, I tell you! I suppose John Edwards thinks that if imported food has to be inspected, it might lead to U.S. farmers being able to compete and people eating more locally produced, healthy foods! Is there no end to this madness? Check out THIS hidden agenda!

Building on Edwards' Agenda for Family Farmers: Today's announcement builds on earlier efforts to create fairness for family farmers and help them create a healthy, abundant and safe food supply:

Strictly enforcing laws against anticompetitive mergers and unfair pricing.

Passing a national ban on packer ownership to stop the spread of large corporate hog interests.

Passing a national moratorium on the construction and expansion of hog farm lagoons.

Limiting farm subsidies to $250,000 per person and closing loopholes in payment limits.

Expanding conservation programs that help farmers preserve the land.

Yup. I knew it. I knew it. Giveaways to those greedy small farmers who grow our safest, most locally produced foods, too! This is the crime of the century against big corporate agribusiness!

Well, at least Hillary knows which side her Wonderbread is I Can't Believe It's Not Buttered on! You may remember that SHE held a "Rural Americans for Hillary" fundraiser at the office of the lobbyist for those nice folks at Monsanto a while back.

“John Edwards believes family-owned farms are critical to America’s future and that the corporate greed that’s killing the family farm is hurting America. Apparently, Hillary Clinton doesn’t feel the same way. While John Edwards has introduced policies to ensure family farmers can compete against big agribusiness, protect the food we eat and preserve farming communities, Hillary Clinton, beholden to Washington lobbyists, is tailoring her rural policy to reflect the needs of big agribusiness. While corporate America and lobbyists may want someone like Clinton in the White House, regular Americans are ready for someone who will stand up for them and fight for real change.”

As it turns out, there's news out today that really highlights the need for better safety controls on imported products, and this is something I really can't joke about.

Chinese toys are back in the headlines. Today, retailers around the world scrambled to pull a popular toy called Bindeez off their shelves, after a chemical in some shipments of the Chinese-made product was found to mimic the effects of the so-called date rape drug.

The activity followed reports that at least three children had been hospitalized in Australia in recent weeks after swallowing contaminated beads from the toy. As of Wednesday morning in the U.S., where the toy is sold under the name Aqua Dots at retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp., the toy was still available in the online stores of Wal-Mart, Target and eToys, though it isn’t clear whether that version poses any danger.

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