U.S. regulators lack data on health risks of most chemicals
By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 2, 2010; A01
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.
Tuesday, December 22 06:38 pm
More research is needed into Monsanto’s genetically modified maize MON 810, the only biotech crop commercially grown in Europe, to assess its environmental impact, a French advisory body said.
The opinion given by biotech committee HCB, published on Tuesday, was requested by the French government, which last year banned cultivation of MON 810 citing environmental concerns.
In an debate about whether to renew the license for the maize type, France and other European Union states have criticized as insufficient a favorable opinion in June from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
HCB called for further studies to evaluate potential drawbacks in MON 810, such as damage to non-targeted insects or the development of resistance to the crop among targeted pests.
"The only way to highlight … a significant increase or decrease in populations of non-targeted invertebrates is to implement monitoring over several years," the HCB said.
A new pilot program in Hawaii should help another 100 or so of the state’s local growers get their food into local hotels.
House Bill No. 1471 was passed into law late July and established the Food Certification Pilot program, which will be managed by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, with assistance from the Hawaii Department of Health.
The program is designed to coordinate purchasing agreements between agricultural cooperatives and hotels, restaurants and other buyers in the visitor and hospitality industries, according to the bill. The pilot program should help with that by developing and implementing safe food certification for locally grown produce.
Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed the bill originally, saying the program “appears to be a gesture to improve food safety without the teeth necessary to make it a viable program,” according to West Hawaii Today.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority Special Fund will allocate $140,000 to establish the program. The idea is that if safe, local food is offered to local hotels and eating establishments, it could help Hawaii tourism.
Lingle argued there was no real connection to tourism. Her veto was overridden by the Legislature late July.
According to the West Hawaii Today article, only 32 of the state’s 2,000 farms are food safety certified by third-party audit. Supporters of the pilot program from the hotel and restaurant industry in Hawaii said food safety was a major concern for them, and that if good agricultural practices were followed and assured to buyers, it could make a big difference.
With this year’s string of frozen food recalls fresh in consumers’ minds, cooks and diners may be more concerned than usual about the safety of their Thanksgiving dinner.
The USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline, 888-674-6854, which has handled more than 2 million calls since it began in 1985, answers questions from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday and will take calls on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
But for an immediate answer anytime, consumers can consult “Karen,” a virtual representative available 24/7 at www.fsis.usda.gov. Launched in 2004, the “Ask Karen” service taps into a database of more than 9,300 questions about the safe handling of meat, poultry and eggs and the prevention of food-borne illnesses. Here Karen addresses some typical Turkey Day dilemmas.
Question: Are frozen turkeys safe?
Answer: All turkeys found in retail stores are either inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture or by state systems which have standards equivalent to the federal government. Each turkey and its internal organs are inspected for evidence of disease. The Inspected for Wholesomeness by the U.S. Department of Agriculture seal ensures that it is wholesome, properly labeled and not adulterated.