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Pork Chops Melamine, It's What's For Dinner

by BobHiggins Tue May 1st, 2007 at 08:40:04 PM EST


Suppliers in China have admitted to adding melamine to animal feed. The FDA
is trying to screen out the additive, which is now blamed for many pet deaths
Associated Press Photo


"A lot of animal food companies buy melamine from us to add in the animal feed," said Ji Denghui, manager of Sanming Dinghui Chemical Trading Co. based in the eastern province of Fujian. "This can lower the production cost and increase nitrogen levels."

"As far as I know, there are no rules or regulations that make this illegal. As to whether melamine is toxic or not, I believe it won't do any harm if there is only very small amount," Ji said. "Otherwise, those companies could not do that."

Ji Denghui, quoted in yesterdays morning's Washington Post article titled "Chemical Common in Chinese Animal Feed" by Christopher Bodeen

A few weeks ago while surfing the net to find out which pet food brands were killing America's Garfields and Fidos and learning about wheat gluten, melamine, seitan, and the intricacies of the international trade in food additives, I was mildly surprised to find that we import wheat gluten from China and found myself wondering if someone had sold America's heartland while I wasn't looking. Did a foreign country buy up all of Illinois' farmland as part of the Chicago Skyway deal? Did the current batch of incompetent boobs who pass themselves off as our government manage to misplace Kansas and Nebraska along with our national integrity, respect for humanity and the Bill of Rights while making America safe for Laissez-faire capitalism?


To be on the safe side I've been feeding my personal Garfield (actual name, Ms Cat) only dry food, which has placed me on the receiving end of incessant feline nagging and withering dirty looks for several weeks now. A nagging cat is nearly as irritating as a whining teenage girl, although the cat's grammar is generally better.

An article in the Washington Post last Wednesday (and excerpted here) "China Food Fears Go From Pets To People" by Ariana Eunjung Cha brought me to attention and made me aware that I might soon be sharing bags of dry kitty chow instead of what I'm used to eating which was once called "food" back in the era when federal regulators actually did their job which was called "regulating."

It seems that the wheat gluten which was purchased in China, (where we currently spend more than 2.5 billion on agricultural products annually) was tainted with melamine. The melamine was added intentionally it appears, to increase the protein content, a practice which is considered normal in China, where, I suppose, products derived from coal mining are deemed edible. The melamine laced wheat gluten (it even sounds yummy) was included in thousands of tons of pet foods causing the deaths of many American pets and may have been fed to thousands of hogs as well as an unknown number of chickens (update) in this country.

The agency for the first time also said it has received reports, which it has yet to confirm, that approximately 1,950 cats and 2,200 dogs died after eating contaminated food. The only number of pet deaths that the FDA has confirmed thus far is 14.

From FDA Limits Chinese Food Additive Imports
By Elizabeth Weise and Julie Schmit, USA TODAY


Some of this toxic swill may soon be available in the pork and poultry sections at the meat counters at your local supermarket. Can Beef be far behind?

Our intrepid government regulators are hard at work on this as I write, that is they are inspecting about 1.3 percent of the food and agricultural products which cross our borders:

Just 1.3 percent of imported fish, vegetables, fruit and other foods are inspected _ yet those government inspections regularly reveal food unfit for human consumption.

Frozen catfish from China, beans from Belgium, jalapenos from Peru, blackberries from Guatemala, baked goods from Canada, India and the Philippines _ the list of tainted food detained at the border by the Food and Drug Administration stretches on.


from Imported Food Rarely Inspected by Andrew Bridges at the Washington Post

I'm not sure (math was not my strength in school) but that leaves something like 98.7 percent that is not inspected. Mr Bridges continues:

Consider this list of Chinese products detained by the FDA just in the last month: frozen catfish tainted with illegal veterinary drugs, fresh ginger polluted with pesticides, melon seeds contaminated with a cancer-causing toxin and filthy dried dates.

Now there's a menu that really kicks my salivary glands into overdrive and then I realize that this is only the tip of the regulatory iceberg, merely affecting what we eat and of that, only what is being imported.

That leaves a long list of domestic agricultural products, pharmaceuticals, manufactured consumer products, cars and trucks in which we risk our lives on crumbling highways, deregulated airlines unenforced environmental and workplace laws and dozens of other public chicken coops now being guarded by Bush loyalists, fee market true believers and budding young theocratic graduates of places like Pat Robertson's Regent (formerly CBN) University, Motto: Christian Leadership to Change the World.

And change the world is what they have done. They have embroiled us in war, curtailed civil liberties, destroyed our reputation in the eyes of the world, mortgaged our children's economic future, tripled the price of fuel, engaged in attempts to wreck public institutions from education to social security and now have given us reason to distrust our food supply.

The results of tax cuts for the wealthy and the slashing of regulatory budgets to ease the pain and increase the profits of their buddies in industry and commerce are now being felt at the dinner table.

As global trade and the importation of foodstuffs has increased, the level of scrutiny by those appointed to protect the public health has actually decreased.

The task of guarding against contaminants in imports has become far more complicated because an increasing portion of the tens of billions of dollars in Chinese food and agricultural imports involves powders and concentrates for the processed-food industry -- including the wheat gluten and rice protein at the center of the pet food scandal. Animal feed imports alone grew sevenfold from 2001 to 2006, the Commerce Department says.

Pet Deaths Spur Call for Better FDA Screening
By Rick Weiss and Ariana Eunjung Cha Washington Post



"Leadership has been missing for far too long, and that needs to change quickly," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.),

"We need to take FDA from being a toothless agency to one with the authority to act to protect the public health," DeLauro said.

Rosa DeLauro, chairwoman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over FDA funding, has been a long-time advocate for improving the nation's food safety system pressing for a consolidated food safety agency. 

In the quotation that leads this article Ji Denghui, manager of Sanming Dinghui Chemical Trading Co said this "As far as I know, there are no rules or regulations that make this illegal. As to whether melamine is toxic or not, I believe it won't do any harm if there is only very small amount,"

That quotation deserves repeating as it points to the core philosophy of the Cheney/Bush era which is that "if we believe it, it must be true and the rest of the world must be made to believe it as well." They believed (or pretended to, which, to them is the same thing) that Saddam possessed WMDs, lack of evidence be damned, go to war.

They believe or have been told to believe by the plutocrats of Big Oil, that global warming is a myth concocted by pointy headed liberals so damn the evidence, screw the National Academy of Sciences, they believe.

They believe that this country should be some kind of weird ass plutocratic theocracy which operates for the betterment of the ruling class so they have been carefully stacking the regulatory and public policy decks with sycophantic loyalists, pathetic yes men like Alberto Gonzales, venal neo conservative hardliners like Wolfowitz, and doddering incompetents like Rumsfeld.

We will pay the price for the incompetence, the crimes and the lies of the Cheney/Bush fiasco for a generation or more. The war in Iraq is only the noisiest and most visible of their collected and felonious folly, beyond that ongoing and murderous horror lie legions of illegal deals, shady scams, constitutional abrogations, obstructions of justice, and breaches of the public trust so profound as to leave any thinking American stunned that such an administration could continue to rule without sanction.

Well enough of this, it's almost time for dinner and I have to decide between the Pork Chops Melamine, the Kidney Failure Roast Chicken or the Kervorkian Casserole. For dessert I have an ambulance on standby. Bon Appetit!

Bob Higgins
Worldwide Sawdust

Display:
The top recommended diary at Daily Kos is

My Dog Died Today - He Had Wheat Gluten in his food

Other promoted diary is

Chinese Wheat Gluten: There is no Accountability

Another industry shortcut gone awry?

by das monde on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 03:45:46 AM EST
One of the reasons I ignore the advice to stick to one type of feed for our dogs: we rotate between three different brands of dry food, two or three non-dry food and home made food and leftovers on the basis that hopefully they won't be getting too much horrible from any one food or missing anything that isn't in a single food. It occasionally confuses Cleo's digestion, but that might be down to her bug hunting in the garden ...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 04:44:30 AM EST
"As far as I know, there are no rules or regulations that make this illegal. As to whether melamine is toxic or not, I believe it won't do any harm if there is only very small amount," Ji said. "Otherwise, those companies could not do that."

Thank god for REACH. Now tell me the EU is good for nothing.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 05:06:48 AM EST
Yeah, and I bet it will be totally awesome when REACH is 'harmonized' with US rules...
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 05:16:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure (math was not my strength in school) but that leaves something like 98.7 percent that is not inspected.

Ok, Bob, let's look at the math because you and Mr. Bridges are pissing me off.

Inspecting 1.3% of the food imports can mean

  • inspecting 1 in 77 food imports
  • inspecting 1 in 77 shipments of all food imports
  • inspecting 1 in 77 food containers in every shipment of every food import

Which one do you think it is?

And why is it a contradiction that "Just 1.3 percent of imported fish, vegetables, fruit and other foods are inspected — yet those government inspections regularly reveal food unfit for human consumption."

That the inspections regularly reveal tainted food means that the inspections are working.

Now, maybe there's evidence that the screening of food imports is flawed [the link to "Imported Food Rarely Inspected" doesn't work], but this is not it.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 05:44:30 AM EST
"Just 1.3 percent of imported fish, vegetables, fruit and other foods are inspected -- yet those government inspections regularly reveal food unfit for human consumption."

The way I read the above:

as 100% of foodstuffs travel from (eg) ships out to shops and from there into our (or animals') stomachs;

1.3% is held back and checked for various contaminants.  The other 98.7% of foodstuffs are therefore NOT held back and do, indeed, travel out to shops and from there into our stomachs UNLESS a specific batch from that day's check is found to be unfit for (human) consumption

and if you assume that rather than deliberately sell us unfit food the rule is "Well, we think it's okay (Bob's belief system described above)", then we can assume that of the 98.7% that isn't checked the same amount (though not necessarily the same specific products?) is unfit for consumption.

It's similar to looking for smuggled goods.  You can search one container, or one lorry, or one person, but if smuggling is endemic you will only catch what you find.

Did I get that all wrong?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 06:41:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's a working link to the article, and here's another quote.

Last month alone, FDA detained nearly 850 shipments of grains, fish, vegetables, nuts, spice, oils and other imported foods for issues ranging from filth to unsafe food coloring to contamination with pesticides to salmonella.

And that's with just 1.3 percent of the imports inspected. As for the other 98.7 percent, it's not inspected, much less detained, and goes to feed the nation's growing appetite for imported foods.

[...]

FDA inspections focus on foods known to be at risk for contamination, including fish, shellfish, fruit and vegetables. Food from countries or producers previously shown to be problematic also are flagged for a closer look.

Consider this list of Chinese products detained by the FDA just in the last month: frozen catfish tainted with illegal veterinary drugs, fresh ginger polluted with pesticides, melon seeds contaminated with a cancer-causing toxin and filthy dried dates.

Sounds to me as though they see 1000 containers A DAY and have to choose which thirteen to open.  All the other containers...go off to wherever they're going.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 06:47:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The guy used "food", "shipment" and "import" interchangeably, so I can't tell what is being inspected. Also, he says things like "200 containers per month are detained" without telling us how many containers per month are examined, and how many are shipped. But here is a meaningful statistic that shows deteriorating quality control:
Even as the amount of imported food increased, the percentage of FDA inspections declined from 1.8 percent in 2003 to 1.3 percent this year to an expected 1.1 percent next year.
There would be legitimate reasons for such a reduction, but since they are not given one has to assume they are not present, and this is just about inspections not being able to keep up with incresing import volume.
"Whenever they say 'risk-based approach,' it often means they don't have enough staff to actually do the job. They're doing triage. They're trying to hit what's most important to inspect but they're missing a lot," DeWaal said.
Maybe, but this person either doesn't understand sampling or decision theory, or is scaremongering (which is likely since she's an advocate feeding a soundbite to a journalist).

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 07:01:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As I understand it, sampling/decision theory would work if afterwards you could block ALL imports from offenders.  So: is that happening?  If not, then they are simply saying how much they find and stop.  I was interested in what the punishments are.

The FDA has been stopping Chinese food import shipments at the rate of about 200 per month this year. Shippers have the right to appeal the detentions, after which the government can order products returned or destroyed.

Nothing there about fines, punishments, revoking of licences.  If I wished to import something, say powder cocaine, and I knew the punishment was destruction, detention (of goods), or return, I would simply flood the ports with containers full of my preferred product (I would probably use different company names, too.)  Those stopped, okay, that's my loss.  Those that get through--won't be recalled because the product is off...into the consumer chain.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 07:08:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you saying it's impossible to recall a product? That is patently not true. You make it sound like "the consumer chain" is untraceable.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 07:11:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The point is, they can only recall all the batches associated with the particular product name/producer they have discovered.  (I'm assuming that contamination is widespread across types of foodstuffs/producers.)  From the report, it seems China is the culprit (maybe other countries in the far east) because they have lax--or no--internal checks: if they have unhealthy practices across the board, the only effective result of sampling would be to ban all imports from there?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 07:19:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can recall whatever you want, if you want to recall all chinese imports you can order a recall of that.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 07:22:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Another way to think of it: They search 1.3% of...shipments/containers/types of foodstuff/etc... and find notable levels of contaminated food.  Extrapolation will tell us on average how much of the other 98.7% (of whatever) is also contaminated.  That 98.7% is already out of the port and away.

I can see this as a kairos moment.  Suddenly declare:

"Our main problem now is not recreational drugs; it is drugs being introduced into the food chain.  Henceforth all resources allocated to the seizure and destruction of recreational drugs will be diverted to examining imported foodstuffs.  And, we will be changing the penal code so that importation of illegal foodstuffs (defined as...damaging to human health) will carry--for producers AND shippers--the same penalties that used to acrue to recreational drugs."

Heh!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 07:13:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's not how it works.

You test 1% of the food (sampling as widely as possible), and if you find something contaminated you recall all products from the same batches as the contaminated ones.

"Out of the port and away" is a red herring. Shipments are traceable all the way to the local retailer.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 07:20:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's an FDA report from 1998.

http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/commissioner/speeches_statements/archives/1998/sep241998.xml

Now, when the FDA refuses a food shipment, we work with the importer, under the law, to destroy or ensure exportation of that shipment. Should an importer select destruction as an option, the destruction does not necessarily take place at a Customs port of entry. The destruction may occur, for example, at a landfill or at an incineration plant. It is difficult to determine whether a shipment presented for destruction is the actual shipment that was imported and tested because the shipment remained in the physical control of the importer. Another challenge we face is that every port does not have the resources to send an inspector to witness every destruction. Some of our ports do witness all destructions. We estimate that there are approximately 10,000 FDA required destructions conducted in a year.

If an importer selects exportation as an option, as stated above Customs is working with FDA to target high-risk shipments for heightened levels of verification of exportation or destruction. Customs will disseminate examination guidelines along with designated targets to all of our inspection personnel to aid in this process. Once we have confirmed the exportation of food that has failed testing, the possibility remains that the importer may try to re-import the food. This is a complicated issue for FDA and us, and we will consult with FDA to review their policy on this subject and do all that we can to ensure that rejected food is not brought back into the United States.

http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/commissioner/speeches_statements/archives/1998/sep241998.xml

That's for the shipments they have stopped at the port.  I'm assuming the stituation has deteriorated since 1998 (that would be one of the premises of the article quoted by Bob: that things are getting worse.)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 07:33:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just surfing around...I found this, from February this year.

Federal auditor calls for massive reform to food safety system

The current federal system for food safety regulation is fragmented, ineffective and inefficient and needs to be fixed, according to a report by the General Accounting Office (GAO).

Another area the GAO targets for reform is in the sensitive area of food recalls. The agency noted that recalls are voluntary and federal agencies responsible for food safety have no authority to compel companies to carry them out. The exception is infant formula, which the FDA has the authority to force a recall.

"These agencies do not know how promptly and completely companies are carrying out recalls, do not promptly verify that recalls have reached all segments of the distribution chain, and use procedures to alert consumers to a recall that may not be effective," the GAO stated.



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 07:39:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Like I said, there may be evidence that the system is not working, but the 1.3% sampling rate is not it. Declining sampling rates, ineffective recalls, etc, that I can go with.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 07:43:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, okay.  But I think your insistence on the 1.3% is a red herring.  I think what the author meant was: "They only look AND DEAL WITH 1.3% of what's coming through the ports."

If they looked at 1.3%, extrapolated out and uses that to deal with ALL products coming through the port (and I'm not sure how they'd do that without closing down the port for a few weeks and checking through every last producer--supplier-shipper-buyer chain--whatever the order is--so that the extrapolation turned into a real regulatory process)...then, really, they're checking 1.3% of throughput and blocking the percentage of the 1.3% (which I read is about 16%) which is fails FDA controls in some way.

That's what I've understood so far.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 07:49:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Coz, ya know, I'm just doing a bit of googling, but my "internal narrative" (my prejudice) tells me that contaminated food...is cheaper...makes more money...and the health of people...is a secondary consideration.  So: I is no expert, but what I've found so far confirms my prejudice (Republicans increase funds to fight wars against drugs and belief systems; they reduce funds to fight wars against health risks to US citizens...that kinda thing.)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 07:52:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
..though when I write "Republicans"..I dunno.  "Corruption"--corrupted individuals in positions of power sounds more like it.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 07:53:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The declining percentage of imports controlled could also be explained by the development of Quality Assurance certification like ISO 9000 standards. In that case, products and processes are inspected and certified at the manufacturer's production site under very strict rules.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 08:03:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you think they sample chinese factories too?  (The same rules would therefore apply.)  My suggestion is that we are seeing the deliberate reduction of standards due to...the lust for higher profits.  My bet: the companies shipping the contaminated foodstuffs are...owned by people with lossa money, including (but not only) americans.

Hence your good point re: REACH.

Recently, the European Union has adopted some of the world's strictest policies on e-waste and potentially hazardous chemicals.

http://www.brown.edu/Administration/News_Bureau/2006-07/06-074.html

Does it also regulate foodstuffs?

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 08:11:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, hence Miguel's good point re: REACH.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 08:12:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think this is the original GAO report.

http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/useftp.cgi?IPaddress=162.140.64.21&filename=d07449t.txt& amp;directory=/diskb/wais/data/gao

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 07:44:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
as 100% of foodstuffs travel from (eg) ships out to shops and from there into our (or animals') stomachs;

1.3% is held back and checked for various contaminants.

Is it 1.3% of all food products? 1.3% of all shipments? or 1.3% of the contents of each shipment? That makes a difference to your ability to detect contamination and recall contaminated food.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 06:50:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Doesn't a spate of dead pets counts as evidence that the screening of food imports is flawed?

Sometimes, as here, mathematical precision seems somewhat incidental to the story.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 06:44:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I submit pet food is not screened like human food.

I am not convinced that screening more than 1.3% of the imports is necessary for good quality control.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 06:47:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you read your food labels carefully, you will see that wheat and rice gluten are ingredients in many foods in supermarkets, not just pet food.

I  always wondered when this globalization of the food market would show that conditions in other countries are environmentally bad, but I expected a food scandal with respect to pollutants in the water used to grow food stuffs in developing countries.

If caring for the health of our less well off human beings isn't a good enough reason to care what is happening in these countries, the threat to our own health has now been added to the list of reasons why we should care about pollution across the planet.

by zoe on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 09:48:55 AM EST
but hey, you're really supposed to be worrying about the dangers of organic local foods!  those, according to the rightwing echo chamber, are the real killers.  the E Coli noise machine is operating 24x7.  that, and cheese made from raw milk (those damned Frenchies again, trying to poison US citizens).  OTOH, the unstoppable contamination of conventional cropland with GMO crops is no biggie, nothing to see here, move along...

Upton Sinclair would feel right at home...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 07:28:22 PM EST
It's a price/class thing. Organic in the US is high end, expensive food while the factory farmed junk is the cheap stuff. So organic is safer. Go to a poorer country where the factory farmed stuff is aimed at the high end market while the small and by default free-range small peasant farmer stuff gets sold at markets to the poor with little or no food safety controls you'll get the reverse.
by MarekNYC on Wed May 2nd, 2007 at 07:44:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Soylent Green never seemed more prescient.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Thu May 3rd, 2007 at 12:49:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
actually I don't buy this theory, because it contradicts the experiences of personal friends who have cruised worldwide in small sailboats, as well as the written testimony of other more well-known sailors.  there's a strong consensus among them that the best food in third world countries -- in the absence of drought, pestilence, war, etc which create artificial scarcities -- is the wonderful local fresh produce and regional dishes from rural and small-town mom&pop groceries, open-air markets, roadside and boat-based food vendors, in other words from small family farms, local kitchens, etc.

supermarket food in such places, so my friends tell me, is mostly packaged corporate cr*p from the first world or their comprador operations overseas, being dumped on 3w populations, often outdated and always overpriced, sometimes contaminated with pesticides banned in the first world (but again dumped on the 3w).  there are occasional exceptions -- Danish and Dutch canned butter is reliably excellent anywhere in the world, they don't seem to have a double standard for dairy.  so while local elites may indeed flaunt their wealth by buying packaged junk food, that doesn't make it better food or safer or healthier...  the travelling cruisers save a lot of money and eat far better and healthier meals by "going local" and noshing like a fairly successful paisan.

how much of this food is "organic" is anyone's guess as there is no labelling, but industrial farming practices are expensive and many smallholders just grow stuff the way Grampa did.  3w water quality has been a bigger issue (healthwise) than food quality for most of the adventurous sailors I've known.  and in terms of survival and boat repair, diesel quality can be a big issue in remote locations...

organic-label food may indeed be better inspected and supervised than factory junk food in the US, but that doesn't stop the rightwing/corporate spin machine from demonising it at every oppo.  the Spinach/E.Coli scare has not died down yet;  and many organic farmers fear it will be used to legislate small salad-greens operations right out of existence.

there may yet come a day when the Enclosers realise the ir longtime programme and it becomes illegal to buy or sell -- or even to grow or eat -- any food or drink that is not controlled by the corporatocracy.  vile thought...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu May 3rd, 2007 at 05:39:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was speaking purely in terms of avoiding food poisoning or stomach flu, not nasty chemicals, let alone taste. Sanitation and refrigeration are more consistent among the larger scale producers - the pork at Pani Marysia's stand will have been sitting out for a while and the eggs will be speckled with chickenshit.  But to be fair I haven't seen any studies and I may just be projecting off of the number of times I've gotten sick in Poland. However, I've hear the same thing from people who have lived in Africa or Asia - the market stuff tastes amazing but be ready to get sick on a regular basis.
by MarekNYC on Thu May 3rd, 2007 at 06:49:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
cooking at 250 deg F (throughout) for more than 15 minutes will kill just about anything live and nasty in meat -- other than prions, of course...  and yeah, serious cooking is recommended for any meat that's been out in the sun for more than a few minutes in the tropics :-)  also I have received dire warnings about cardboard boxes anywhere in the 3w and anywhere w/in 30 deg of the equator:  never bring them aboard, as they always, without exception, harbour cockroach eggs.  and eliminating roaches from a boat is a sisyphean task...

interestingly enough those speckly dirty open-market eggs are much in demand among sailing folk, because eggs that have never been refrigerated keep a lot longer than eggs that have been refrigerated.  eggs fresh from the henhouse this morning, oiled and stored carefully in a sand-filled canister, will still be edible 3 or more weeks later w/o refrigeration.  but eggs out of the cold case, if you don't have another cold case to put them in, will go bad really fast...

also veg with the dirt still on them will keep amazingly long compared to veg that have been washed and chilled.  I tried this with carrots from own garden last summer and found that they were still crisp and sweet after over a month (!) in a paper bag in the kitchen averaging 70 deg F in the early Fall.  fridge carrots kept for a month are either dehydrated carrot-mummies if left outside plastic bags, or getting pretty slimy and sad if left inside plastic.  similar results for taters and cabbages and leeks;  never wash, never chill, and they last longer.  celery can be kept alive, crisp and juicy for over a week as a kind of houseplant just by sticking the crown end in a dish of fresh water.

anyway I digress (methods of keeping food w/o refrigeration being a pet interest of mine)... and it occurs to me that it may be that cruisers, seeing mostly coastal areas and (if they are low-budget like all my friends) avoiding big cities whenever possible, are experiencing a different food spectrum from what you would find by wandering in the favelas or townships or the kaleidoscopic alleys of Mumbai...  it would figure too that food vendors in crowded cities might be able to get by with few repeat customers, whereas out in the sticks or some nowhere coastal town, if Uncle Theophile's wonderful sweet potato fly makes folks throw up, his business won't last much longer than it takes for village gossip to travel :-)

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu May 3rd, 2007 at 07:19:06 PM EST
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