Asia’s Food Additives Another Threat to US Food

The venerable Wall Street Journal, to which we are proud subscibers, opened today’s Marketplace section with a story about how unsafe food additives — known carcinogens and deadly dyes and preservatives — are widening fears among US authorities that they, too, will find their way into our food supply.

 If you are an online subscriber, find the entire article here:

If I wasn’t completely frightened already when I wrote yesterday, at length, about the threats since the beginning of this year alone to our food supply, today’s article would have sent me into near hysteria.  With complete sincerity, I am frightened beyond words.

From the WSJ free preview:

Unsafe Food Additives Across Asia Feed Fears

By Nicholas Zamiska

“HONG KONG — Formaldehyde, which has been linked to cancer, has legitimate uses in adhesives and embalming. But in Indonesia, Sutikno, a 35-year-old tofu maker in south Jakarta who goes by one name, uses it to keep the tofu he sells fresh.

“Formaldehyde is magic. There is no comparison,” he said on a recent afternoon at the market. Last year, he switched briefly to a legal preservative, but his bean curd went bad in less than 24 hours. As for his customers, he doesn’t tell them he uses formaldehyde. “There is no complaint,” Mr. Sutikno said.

“Across Asia, small-scale food manufacturers and street vendors often boost profits by using cheap but toxic chemicals as sweeteners, dyes and preservatives.  While the most egregious examples generally involve food for local consumption, dangerous additives occasionally end up in foods exported to the U.S. and other Western countries, highlighting the scope of the problems regulators face.”


And from the article comes a chilling quote of the day:

“Human ignorance as well as greed knows no bounds,” says Gerald Moy, manager of the World Health Organization’s office that monitors chemicals in the global food supply.

The article chronicles hundreds of examples of just how close our lax food inspections through the FDA and USDA are placing Americans in huge danger.

According to the article, in March of this year, “the FDA stopped 215 shipments from mainland China for a variety of problems.  One shipment of dried dates was considered filty; plums contained unsafe sweeteners; and oranges had pesticide residues.  A few dozen also had unsafe color additives.”

Among the chemicals are

Sudan Red, a known carcinogen, which is used to color all types of foods and drinks, and is even used in China to coilor the feed given to poultry and thereby “redden” the yolks of eggs, which then sell at a premium price.  In 2003, the article states that Sudan Red was found in hot chili products imported from India into the U.K., Canada and South Afrika.  And by March of 2005, more than 580 products had been withdrawn by U.K. grocery shelves.

Another is Formaldehyde, a very common food preservative in Asia and other parts of the world where refrigeration is hard to find.  Formaldehyde is commonly found throughout Asia in fish, shrimp, squid, tofu and noodles.

Another group of commonly found chemicals are borates, including boric acid.  Most countries prohibit the use of borates due to their toxicity, but not in Asia.  And those foods are headed here daily…like the minced pork and mealballs laced with borates common throughout Thailand and Malasia.

People, our food supply is in crisis.  And you, individually and we as a group, had better get off of our complacent arses and DO something about this!

Go to your local farmer’s market this weekend and keep going all season.  Demand your grocer reveal the country of origin of the fruits and vegetables it sells and encourage them to buy locally.  Call and write your congressmen regarding this entire fiasco and the unbelievable underfunding of the FDA, as well as the undermining of our food supply at the hand of their 2000 legislation for globalization of food products.


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