TOPIC: Product Safety

Natural foods co-op gets a raw deal

Acting in concert with federal officials, authorities in Los Angeles raided a local natural foods buyers co-op and arrested three people for distributing raw milk and dairy products, reports Ian Lovett of The New York Times and Stuart Pfeifer and P.J. Huffstutter in the Los Angeles Times. Authorities also seized $70,000 worth of inventory from the Venice co-op, Rawsome, on the grounds that the shop was selling unsafe and unlicensed products to consumers and doing so without a business license. Operators of the co-op maintain that the products in question weren’t being sold to unknowing consumers, but distributed to members of a buyers’ club who specifically sought out unadulterated foods and were well aware of the risks. Because the operation wasn’t open to non-members and was run by volunteers, its trustees claim they aren’t required to have a business license. (more…)

Crazy Idea Dept.: make things safe before you sell them

That’s what Dominique Browning is proposing in the New York Times.  She explains why “the system is broken” when it comes to product safety, and the surest evidence is in baby’s bottles.

Business to CPSC: Let’s handle this offline

One of the signature reforms to the product safety system in America may be in danger, according to reporting by Andrew Martin in the New York Times.  The 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act meant more inspectors testing toys and a range of other products and overseas inspections of factories shipping goods to our shores (such as drywall from China).  It also meant the creation of an online public database where people can report problems they’ve had with different products they’re already using.  Martin notes on an amendment passed in the House of Representatives that would  “strip financing for the consumer products database.”  How about we trust the people and try this out?  (Rather than stating, as one member of Congress skeptically did, “I know what people put online.”)

Gardasil, the FDA, and VAERS: How Americans concerned about vaccines interact with government

Emily Tarsell thought she had enough information about Gardasil — a new vaccine marketed to young women to prevent certain types of cervical cancer — when she agreed to have her daughter receive the vaccine.  But after her third and last injection of Gardasil, in 2008, Christina Tarsell, a previously healthy 21-year old, was dead.

The depth of this family’s anguish at the death of their daughter can’t be conveyed.  But after some time (more…)

“If the FDA can’t track chicken eggs, you think they’re going to be able to track fish eggs?”

Genetically modified salmon, designed to grow faster with the injection of growth hormone genes from another species, is likely to win approval for human consumption from the federal Food and Drug Administration this coming weekend, reports Susanne Rust of CaliforniaWatch.

The panel will also determine what, if any consumer labeling will be required for the creature. If the non-debate over adding radiation to ground beef is any indication, consumers will be left in the dark. (more…)

Some recalled beef hit store shelves 10 months ago

Another day, another food recall. A California slaughterhouse is voluntarily recalling 1 million pounds of ground beef after seven people sickened by E.coli contamination had their illnesses traced to the meat.

According to an Associated Press brief in The New York Times, the recalled ground beef was processed by (more…)

USDA prepares fig leaf for European olive producers

They may be preliminary, but the results are nonetheless shocking: Nearly 70 percent of the 19 different brands of foreign and domestic extra-virgin olive oil tested by researchers at UC Davis weren’t what they claimed.

Despite the assurance of labels and premium prices, much of the oil was adulterated with cheaper refined oils, pressed from olives already past peak, damaged by heat or light or just plain old and stale, (more…)

Better regulation needed because oil and water don’t mix

Ever wonder why more aggressive government regulation makes sense?  Read Ian Shapira’s minute-by-minute account in the Washington Post about seafood buyers for major supermarkets who are trying to make sure Americans have fresh, safe fish to eat.  Just the hint of petroleum in the fish Americans buy every day is enough to force seafood purchasing overseas, where suppliers don’t maintain as high food safety standards as U.S. companies.  The money goes abroad.  The fish may be worse in quality and come from rapacious fish harvesting practices. (more…)

A testy toy recall

In 2007, a nine year-old Chicago boy died from inhaling a one-inch dart that was part of his toy gun.  Today the Consumer Product Safety Commission has finally reached an agreement with Family Dollar Stores Inc. to stop selling the “Auto Fire” toy. (more…)

The Zhu Zhu Toy Kerfuffle

By Marci Greenstein

If it’s the holiday season, it must be time for scary stories about toys.  Usually they’re brought to you by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a federal agency that is supposed to protect our kids from dangerous toys. Just look at its current list of hazardous toys.  But the CPSC is not as muscular a watchdog as it should be (an Understanding Government in-depth report explains why).

Our family discovered that a few years ago when Thomas the Tank Engine toys made in China were found to have dangerously high levels of lead.  (A law limiting lead in toys went into effect last February.)  More and more consumer advocacy groups are testing toys and putting their findings on the internet.  To its credit, the CPSC takes note of these reports.

Recently, as Melanie Trottman and Ann Zimmerman write in the Wall Street Journal, caused near panic among parents who brought the popular Zhu Zhu pet hamster toys, which GoodGuide said contained higher levels of the chemical antimony than government standards permit. Antimony, which is used as a fire retardant, is found in nature, but at high levels can be toxic.  The CPSC countered that GoodGuide tested the toys incorrectly – testing the amount of the chemical on the product’s surface, rather than the amount that dissolves in liquid and released from the toy, the federal government’s testing standard.  GoodGuide acknowledged its mistake (and you can’t find a reference to it on their site today).

What troubles me is that there doesn’t seem to be a debate about GoodGuide’s findings, just that government standards have been met.  Well, if my son were 4 and not 14, I wouldn’t be satisfied with a standard that allows dangerous levels of harmful chemicals on the outside of a toy.  I’d be ditching those toys pronto. Shouldn’t we be asking — demanding — a different standard of safety for these toys, rather than be lulled into complacency by the fact that the toy met the current standard?  With all of the stories about environmental hazards in the home, shouldn’t we raise the bar on what’s acceptable to have around our house, and around our children?