Between melamine and diethylene glycol, most of my attention this past week has been on unsafe food and drug additives in products imported into the US and other countries. Nicholas Zamiska has an article in today’s Wall Street Journal detailing this widespread problem: China, India, and Mexico are the countries that lead the number of refusals of food product imports by the US FDA:
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.
The article is currently subscription only, but these types of WSJ stories often find their way into the free press over the next few days.
The money quote:
“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.