Dunn’s Civics > Home Economics

Feeding Yourself

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Can you assume that all these foods will continue to be available in abundance and be safe to eat for the rest of your lifetime or that of your children? 

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U.S. regulators lack data on health risks of most chemicals

By Lyndsey Layton

Public Intelligence Blog
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 2, 2010

This summer, when Kellogg recalled 28 million boxes of Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, Corn Pops and Honey Smacks, the company blamed elevated levels of a chemical in the packaging.

Dozens of consumers reported a strange taste and odor, and some complained of nausea and diarrhea. But Kellogg said a team of experts it hired determined that there was “no harmful material” in the products.

Federal regulators, who are charged with ensuring the safety of food and consumer products, are in the dark about the suspected chemical, 2-methylnaphthalene. The Food and Drug Administration has no scientific data on its impact on human health. The Environmental Protection Agency also lacks basic health and safety data for 2-methylnaphthalene — even though the EPA has been seeking that information from the chemical industry for 16 years.

The cereal recall hints at a larger issue: huge gaps in the government’s knowledge about chemicals in everyday consumer products, from furniture to clothing to children’s products. Under current laws, the government has little or no information about the health risks posed by most of the 80,000 chemicals on the U.S. market today.

“It is really troubling that you’ve got this form of naphthalene that’s produced in millions of pounds a year and we don’t have some of the basic information about how toxic it is,” said Erik Olson, an expert at the Pew Charitable Trusts, which is advocating an overhaul of U.S. chemical laws. “In so many cases, government agencies are missing data they need on even widely used chemicals about whether they pose a health risk.”



Pink Slime: Ammonia-Treated Meat Still Good Enough For America's Schools


McDonald's, Burger King, and Taco Bell all agreed last week to promise to stop using ammonia-treated meat after some prodding a public shaming by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. The so-called "pink slime," which is caused by the use of the ingredient Ammonium Hydroxide, is no longer good enough for our fast food restaurants—but it IS still good enough for our schools.

According to The Daily, the U.S. Department of Agriculture officials confirmed that they will buy seven million pounds of the ammonia-cleansed meat for the national school lunch program in the coming months. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration as well as the Food Safety and Inspection Service considers ammonium hydroxide as ‘generally recognized as safe,’ ” USDA spokesman Aaron Lavallee told them in an email.

The pink slime is made from treating otherwise inedible scrap meat with the chemical Ammonium Hydroxide, which is he same stuff you use to clean your kitchen counters. The use of treated scrap meat "to me as a chef and a food lover is shocking," Oliver said on his TV show Food Revolution. "... Basically we're taking a product that would be sold in the cheapest form for dogs and making it 'fit' for humans." You can see his original segment on the topic below:

On the Season Premiere of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution filmed in Los Angeles and aired on April 12, 2011, Jamie demonstrates how 70% of America's ground beef contains leftover cow parts (a.k.a. "pink slime") containing e.coli and salmonella that has been treated with ammonia.

“As far as we're concerned, this isn't going far enough. Why should all these poor, lazy public school children get precious pink slime-infested meat, let alone the real stuff? Why waste all these abundantly useful chemicals on them when there's a much cheaper, much more renewable form of meat that we could be feeding our kids: poop burgers.”