Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Many "Safe and Suitable Ingredients" Not on Ingredient Lists

A reader left a comment to my post last week about the warning label on 2,4-D, a widely-used pesticide.

I won't succumb to a point-by-point shouting match, as that doesn't get anyone anywhere. I will, however, highlight one comment that brings up a bigger issue I've been meaning to address.

The reader wrote, "It's not food therefore doesn't require a full list of ingredients."

Unfortunately, food doesn't require a full list of ingredients either. Far from it. Click here (please, if you are ever going to "click here," now is the time to "click here") to view a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) list of "safe and suitable ingredients used in the production of meat, poultry, and egg products," many of which don't have to be labeled.

I believe the safety of these ingredients is immaterial. Rather, the obfuscation so prevalent in our food (and drug) supply is shocking. Tom Laskawy, writing in Grist, mentions the list and sums up the issue perfectly:
"Helena Bottemiller of Food Safety News dug up this United Stated Department of Agriculture document, which lists dozens of chemicals that processors can apply to meat without any labeling requirement. Things like calcium hypochlorite (also used to bleach cotton and clean swimming pools), hypobromous acid (also used as a germicide in hot tubs), DBDMH (or 1,3-dibromo-5,5-dimethylhydantoin, which is also used in water treatment), and chlorine dioxide (also used to bleach wood pulp), to name just a few.
"All these chemicals can go on meat. Not that you’d know it, because both the industry and the USDA keep it on the down-low. In fact, they work together on this. The USDA requires processors to label certain approved antimicrobials, such as salt, spices, and even lemon as ingredients, but not their hard-to-pronounce brethren. Why not? Perhaps because it might shock and disgust consumers to know how thoroughly their meat must be chemically disinfected before it can be sold. USDA’s head of food safety Elizabeth Hagen told Bottemiller recently that, 'Just being honest, I don’t think your average consumer probably knows a lot about how food is produced.' She’s right. We don’t know the half of it — and the more we find out, the angrier many of us get."

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