Poison

The Times today has an excellent expose on tainted medicine. The article is specifically discussing the substitution of glycerin with diethylene glycol, but I have a sense that it could be expanded to talk about larger issues of contamination in the food and medicine supply. Contamination seems to be hitting the news a lot more lately, what with spinach and peanut butter and pet food. The question is, is it happening more often, or is it being reported on with greater frequency?

Given the content of the Times article, I suspect that it is happening more often, and this makes me extremely uncomfortable.

I think that most of us purchase and eat food and medicine from commercial suppliers with the understanding that it will be safe to eat. It might not necessarily be good for us, but it shouldn’t kill us outright. This is why we have regulatory agencies like the USDA and the FDA, to inspect and certify our food sources as safe. These agencies are responsible for enforcing laws which are supposed to protect consumers, so that we can consume food and feel secure about it.

Recent issues with food originating in the United States have shown that our food supply may not be as safe and secure as we think it is, and contamination of ingredients from outside the United States illustrates that we cannot rely on other countries to police their food supplies. This article showing a shocking disregard by the Chinese government. It’s not just that something was contaminated, it’s that people are knowingly selling toxic supplies to pharmaceutical companies and labeling them as something else. You get a cough, you take some cough syrup, right? You don’t think that it would be deadly.

So what is going on with the world? Are so many people so greedy and shortsighted that they are really willing to risk other people’s lives? Regulatory agencies protect against accidental contamination, and surely enforce laws designed to catch people cutting corners, but what do you call it when someone knowingly sells poison as safe?

I don’t eat much packaged food, so I like to imagine that I am immune to the problem. But, of course, there could be toxic pesticides on my mangos, or poison in my wheat. Each bite I take, it seems, carries a risk, and I hardly think that this is healthy for the economy. Eating locally may be one way to address the issue, but what about when I need medication? Eat at a restaurant? Travel?

This underlying fear of our food…it’s no way to live.

Given the global nature of the food supply, the question for me is what the world intends to do about it.