Saturday, May 5, 2007

COOL-for Your Own Safety

Yesterday, as I sat at the table discussing politics and consumerism, food safety and other paramount issues that affect Americans (mostly without their knowledge) I asked the questions, “What if the wheat gluten that contaminated our pet food supply also got into our food supply?” It seemed entirely possible, as we import food products from China and wheat gluten is a common ingredient in many of our food products and food producers feed livestock just about anything, including pet food.

Well, according to federal health officials at least 2.5 million broiler chickens from an Indiana producer were fed pet food scraps contaminated with the chemical melamine and subsequently sold for human consumption. It’s believed that hundreds of other producers may have also sold an unknown amount of contaminated poultry in recent months resulting in a much broader consumption of contaminated feed and food than had previously been acknowledged in the widening pet food scandal. Go here to read the May 2 article at the Washington Post.

The second topic that came up at the dinner table yesterday was about not knowing where our food comes from, (which is good enough reason to me, at the very least, to avoid processed foods). Often you’ll read a label and all it will tell you is where it was packaged, not where it was actually produced. I suspected that was a purpose driven “oversight” that allowed food corporations to buy cheap imported ingredients, possibly of questionable safety and quality.

Ironically,the 2002 Farm Bill explicitly mandated that Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) on foods go into effect by September of 2004. Nearly two years have passed since that deadline and nothing has changed, except now we have major retail chains (such as Wal-Mart, Meijers and Krogers for example I highly assume), carrying their own brands of USDA certified organics due to consumers demand. Let’s have a look at this…

Corporate agribusiness and retail chains like Wal-Mart have fought the implementation of COOL, claiming it will be too costly for the consumer and producer. The truth is, Wal-Mart, and the supermarket chains bribed Congress with millions of dollars to block implementation of COOL labels. As a result, Americans are buying billions of dollars of imported foods without knowing it, while cheap, bogus "USDA Organic" food from China is starting to appear on the shelves of Wal-Mart and other Big Box chains.

In order to promote health and sustainability, and to save North American family farms, we need to restore our right to know where our food is coming from. Enforcing COOL laws will have a positive impact on the U.S. economy, as more and more consumers choose food products that are grown on American farms. At present, the U.S. imports more food than at any time in history and many of these imports are traditionally domestically grown crops.

So, what can we do? Speak out while we can! Visit the Organic Consumers Association and make your voice heard if you value food safety and organic standards and believe we should be supporting local food growers and manufacturers.

We must NEVER, EVER assume our government has our best interest at heart. Those who make “our” decisions (the ones that affect the safety and welfare of every one of us) have proven time and time again that they do not have our best interests at heart. The only ones who can bring about change are we, the people. If I sound fired up it’s because I am. We must stop our complacency and stop naively believing and depending on others to do what is in our own best interest.

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