food-safety alert system urged
Source of Article: http://www.newsday.com/business/ny-bzreca045911300nov04,0,6591387.story
Richard Lin, manager of the Warehouse Food Outlet in Hicksville, seemed shocked to learn recently that he
had cookies on his shelves that had been on the Food and Drug
Administration's recall list for almost two weeks because of possible
Vowing to remove the Koala's March cookies, Lin admitted that he needed to
figure out how to check the Internet for recalled items.
Lin's lack of critical information is just one example that the country's
food-safety alert system needs to be upgraded, consumer groups and some in
Congress have said.
"I need to learn how to reach these Web sites," Lin said. "I
know there are lots of entries to reach that area. ... If the USDA and FDA
tell us, that would be better. It takes time and I don't know where [the Web
When ingested by humans, melamine -
which is used in plastics and fertilizers - can cause kidney stones as the
body tries to eliminate it, and in extreme cases can lead to kidney failure.
Babies are particularly vulnerable.
The FDA said it canvassed about 2,100 Asian markets nationwide. The state
Department of Agriculture and Markets inspectors assisted the FDA and visited
more than 200 Asian supermarkets in September and October, making sure items
on a list of possibly melamine-contaminated products from China were
removed from store shelves. Despite the effort to alert food retailers,
consumer watchdog groups said cracks remain in the system.
"In the case of imports they need to have a system in place that they
can really monitor food safety systems of countries that export to the U.S. And China's, at best, is weak, and at worst is a
corrupt food safety system," said Tony Corbo
of Food & Water Watch, a consumer protection group in Washington, D.C.
The recent scandal of melamine-tainted milk products in China
prompted Sen. Hillary
Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) to write FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach.
"It is essential that you broaden your efforts beyond outreach to state
and local health departments and work with communities directly - especially
those that are frequent consumers of these imported milk products - and let
them know how to keep themselves safe," Clinton wrote in an Oct. 22 letter.
Both the FDA and the state Department of Agriculture and Markets said they
have made efforts to regularly educate and inform various communities. Still,
it is widely acknowledged that the federal food-safety system needs to be
restructured. At congressional hearings this year, health experts and
representatives of the Government Accountability Office expressed concern
that FDA staffing levels and funding had failed to keep pace with the
significant growth of domestic and foreign operations falling under its
Judy Braiman, president of the Empire State
Consumer Project, a consumer protection group based in Rochester, said
government agencies need to do more to alert store owners. The day after the
recall of Koala's March cookies, she said she had to alert two Asian markets
that the items were still on their shelves.
"What if our group wasn't here?" Braiman
asked. "Shouldn't the government be contacting these stores?"
PULLED FROM STORE SHELVES
Some recalled items that federal officials say may be contaminated with
melamine. For more information, go to the Food and Drug Administration's Web
site at www.fda.gov.
KOALA'S MARCH COOKIES. The cookies are distributed by Lotte
USA Inc. of Battle Creek,
Mich. The company recalled
these cookies, which were produced in China.
WHITE RABBIT MILK CANDY. QFCO Inc. of Burlingame,
Calif., recalled the candy
after it was discovered that the product contained melamine.
YILI MILK DRINKS. HUA XIA Food Trade USA Inc. of Flushing
recalled YILI brand sour and YILI brand pure milk drink packaged in 250-
milliliter flexible paperboard boxes after FDA testing discovered that the
product contained melamine.
BLUE CAT DRINKS. Tristar Food, Jersey City, N.J.,
recalled their 100-milliliter plastic bottles of Blue Cat Flavor Drink (Lanmao) after FDA testing discovered that the product