Monday, April 30, 2007

Border Control

Melamine will cost you about $1.20 for each protein count per ton whereas real protein costs you about $6, so you can see the difference.
-- an animal feed seller in Zhangqiu, China

Actually, I can't. I don't buy cat food by the ton. I buy it four pounds at a time. I have to say, I'm not getting rich on the 76 hundredths of a cent per bag savings.

The NY Times's lead story today is about melamine as a pet food filler being an "open secret" in China. Apparently, melamine can fool the tests run to determine the protein content of a sample.

I'm not usually aligned with the isolationist point of view. But ever since the poisoned pet food story first broke, the lizard part of my brain has been clamoring for attention. And it's not just my cats that I worry about. It's clear, although the story doesn't say so explicitly, that there's every reason to worry about human food products being treated in the same cavalier fashion. And (wild guess here) this so-what attitude is probably not limited to China.

I like the option to be able to buy fresh produce from other countries when it's out of season locally, and I love imported delicacies. (And, okay, even some "necessities" -- apart from Hawaii, we don't grow too much coffee in the US, do we?) But I strongly believe that the first thing that any nation must do is guarantee its own food supply.

This is a hard problem. It's all good to preach "buy local" and to prefer "organic" and "free range," and I make an effort to support all of these philosophies. But the fact is, virtually all of us opt for convenience foods at least some of the time, and we all like to save money. It's also a fact of life that to satisfy these two consumer demands, food production is ever-increasingly viewed as a manufacturing task, which means that the producers will of course focus on saving systematic pennies.

In all the yammering about homeland security, though, I know how I'd like to reallocate some funds.


2007-05-01 06:04 EDT

I guess I'm not the only one worried about this. The NY Times is soliciting reader input, too.


2007-05-01 07:24 EDT

And they have a follow-up article.

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