Showing posts with label food adulteration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food adulteration. Show all posts

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Food Facts to Chew Upon

About one-third of all food produced globally, worth around 1 trillion U.S. dollars, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems.

The average German food wastage amounts to 15 kg food per year while British wastage 9 times higher than the Germany. 30 per cent of the UK’s vegetable crop wasted occurs on the corporate end because the food does not meet aesthetic standards, e.g. size and color. Japan wasted about 20 million tons of food annually which is equivalent to 30 percent of the country’s production. Americans contribution to food waste was at about 28.25 million tons per annum.
In developing countries, most food loss or wasted occurs during production stage due to poor infrastructure, low levels of technology, and low investment in food production systems. At the consumption stage, the food wastage amount is almost zero. Bangladesh contributes insignificant share to the global home and it mostly occurs during food production stage due to poor technology and infrastructure. It is pointed that during pre and post- harvesting processes almost 12 percent rice and 15 percent wheat are wasted. It is further reported that 3 percent of rice is wasted due to unconventional seed conservation practices. The wasted rate of perishable items like vegetables and fruits are alarmingly high is nearly 40 percent.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Being fed lies

An ever-shrinking number of mega-corporations controls an ever-expanding food industry, from seeds to equipment, from chemical inputs to processing, from the farm field to the supermarket shelf.

In America just four companies own approximately 84% of the U.S. beef market. Four firms control 66 percent of the pork-packing market and another four control 58 percent of poultry processing. Four companies own 43% of the world’s commercial seed market.Three companies control 90 % of the global grain trade. Four companies own 48% of grocery retailers. Monsanto, is the largest seed making company and DuPont the second biggest so they may technically be competitors yet a $1.75 billion deal between them ensures that Dupont gets access to Monsanto technology and Monsanto can access DuPont’s massive customer base. Much will be the same for the UK and Europe as in America. All those corporations appear to be recession-proof, having in recent years increased their profit margins.

Our food comes in vacuum-packed plastic bags, in boxes, bottles, jars and cans -- but it isn't really food. It's food stuff. It doesn't come from an animal or plant; it's made in a plant, rolled off an assembly line. It's processed with sugar salt and fat to be addictive. Its not just the manufacture of processed foods, it is us who are being processed too. Processed food tastes good and the added ingredients and chemicals ensure we keep coming back for more...and more.

The food industry just want to make money. Manufacturers and retailerswho sell junk food don't much care for the truth about food. The obesity, heart disease and diabetes epidemics they are causing is of no concern to them. There are now health experts predicting that our children will have shorter life expectancies that we have.

Land-grabbing by the multi-nationals is nothing new, the most obvious example being the fruit plantations of the Central American - the aptly nick-named - “banana republics.” Oxfam reports that in the past decade, an area of land equal to eight times the size of the U.K. has been sold in rapidly accelerating global land transactions. Nor is it the usual imperialist western powers which the Leninists love to blame. A Brazilian-Japanese venture is planning to farm 54,000 square miles of land in northern Mozambique for food exports. These agribusiness schemes exacerbate the problem in areas of chronic hunger and malnourishment and have farmers growing cash crops for export, rather than food crops for consumption. In Sudan the United Arab Emirates was growing sorghum – a Sudanese food staple — to feed camels. Indian corporations’ are active in Ethiopian land-grabs. Anuradha Mittal of the Oakland Institute calls it a “new form of colonization.”

Meanwhile a French newspaper reports upon food scavenging from the garbage of the supermarkets. In France, 1.2 million tons of food is thrown away every year – about 20 kilos per person per year. Of these 20 kilos, seven kilos are still in their packaging, and 13 kilos are leftovers and fruits and vegetables.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Capitalism - Flogging a dead horse

Most people are several generations away from the actual hands-on experience of producing their own food and this leads to many misconceptions such as over-romanticizing it but armers have a CEO mentality. They make decisions based on return on investment. The food system is in a crisis because of the way that food is produced. Most people's food budget is spent on processed food, which is where the big food processing conglomerates like PepsiCo, Nestle and Kraft make their money. The industry has worked with food scientists to develop foods using fat, sugar and salt that affect brain chemistry and are literally addicting, making people continually crave junk food. The ingredients that give junk food their taste and texture are relatively cheap. These sweeteners, oils and chemicals are big business. When food becomes a commodity, it goes where profits can be made.

 Today, twenty food corporations produce most of the food eaten by Americans, even organic brands. Four large chains, including Walmart, control more than half of all US grocery store sales. One company dominates the organic grocery industry, and one distribution company has a stranglehold on getting organic products into communities around the country. Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke recently said higher food prices and food price speculation should be welcomed. Big supermarkets have squeezed farmer’s margins and much of the retail competition has been eliminated. The type of ‘long life’, ‘always available’ food on display has been pumped full of chemicals from field to shelf, or is shipped half way around the world from poorer countries that produce cash mono-crops for export to rich nations, which in turn impacts their own agriculture and contributes to poverty and hunger and the destruction of local, bio-diverse, self-sustaining communities.

 Since 2008, through the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, the big 4 – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s have made over £26.5 billions profit. Tesco takes £1 out of every £7 spent in the UK. Capitalist  'efficiency' means market domination (30% for Tesco), squeezing that market at both ends by shafting the supplier and customer, exploiting low paid workers to maximise profits, damaging the environment with megastores, and contributing to the devastation of local high streets by reducing diversity and putting small stores out of business.

The super profits of Walmart and indeed giant supermarkets like Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons in the UK are made on the backs of their low paid workers. Justin king, the CEO of Sainsbury’s, receives £3.2m a year; Tesco’s Philip Clarke gets £6.9m; Dalton Philips of Morrisons receives £4m.

 In the early days of capitalism workers’ food was frequently adulterated to lower costs and increase profits. Karl Marx wrote of the ‘incredible adulteration of bread’ in Victorian London, and used a report of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to reveal that the London worker, ‘had to eat daily in his bread a certain quantity of human perspiration mixed with the discharge of abscesses, cobwebs, dead cockroaches, and putrid German yeast, without counting alum, sand, and other agreeable mineral ingredients’. It was the same story in America. A committee  in 1859 launched one of the first studies of American food purity and their findings make for less-than-appetizing reading: candy was found to contain arsenic and dyed with copper chloride; conniving brewers mixed extracts of “nux vomica,” a tree that yields strychnine, to simulate the bitter taste of hops. Pickles contained copper sulphate, and custard powders yielded traces of lead. Sugar was blended with plaster of Paris, as was flour. Milk had been watered down, then bulked up with chalk and sheep’s brains. Hundred-pound bags of coffee labeled “Fine Old Java” turned out to consist of three-fifths dried peas, one-fifth chicory, and only one-fifth coffee. Though there was the occasional clumsy attempt at domestic reform by midcentury — most famously in response to the practice of selling “swill milk” taken from diseased cows force-fed a diet of toxic refuse produced by liquor distilleries — little changed.  “Oleo-margarine,” a butter substitute originally made from an alchemical process involving beef fat, cattle stomach, and for good measure, finely diced cow, hog, and ewe udders.  This “greasy counterfeit,” as one critic called it, was shipped to Europe as genuine butter.

Capitalism is presently demonstrating that nothing has changed. Whether it’s best beefsteak or a horsemeat burger it is a commodity produced for the sole purpose of making a profit. If it takes adulteration to do so, then so be it. We live in a capitalist country, within a global capitalist economy, where the pursuit of ever-greater profit is all that matters, even in relation to food, one of humanities basic needs. The cause of the ‘horsemeat crisis’ is the capitalist economic system and its core principle of making as much money as possible. Capitalism only works for a very small group of people and they are called capitalists. Those capitalists make a lot of money, and they can only do that by exploiting the rest of us – they pay us less than the value of our labour, they sell us products for more than their actual worth, and they sell us ‘beef’ that is actually horsemeat. During a recession wage levels are held down as a matter of course, which means costs must be trimmed elsewhere in the production process. The capitalists have forced-down supplier costs to maximise their own profits, which means the cheapest, least nutritious contents go into the supposedly "value" meals sold in such large quantities in areas of poverty and deprivation.

Humanity faces serious, highly interconnected environmental problems. The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that drugmakers sold about 30 million pounds of antibiotics in 2011 for use in food animals such as pigs, chickens, and cows. This was a record high and nearly four times the amount sold to treat sick people. Using antibiotics to make food animals grow faster and to compensate for the overcrowded conditions in which they are raised breeds drug-resistant bacteria. These "superbugs" can end up in our air and water, in our meat and poultry and, ultimately, in us. If they cause infections, the diseases can be more difficult and costly to treat and more likely to result in death. Each year, antibiotic-resistant infections are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations.

Imagine going to the grocery store and buying 10 bags full of food. Now imagine throwing four of those bags into the trash. Seems crazy, right? But this is what’s happening every day in homes, businesses, and institutions throughout the United States. Forty percent of the food produced in the US is wasted every year, according to a Natural Resources Defense Council report. It’s happening at all levels – on the farm, during processing, in restaurants, and in the home – due to cosmetic preferences, misleading date labels, over-purchasing, and excessive portion sizes. This unnecessary waste is destructive to the environment.

It doesn’t really matter what you call it, capitalism is about money. Everything people need to live – homes, household appliances such as washing machines and vacuum cleaners, TVs and smart phones, clothes and the car at the door – are all commodities. Quite simply, a commodity is anything made for human use. Commodities are produced in order to make profit, and are bought by people wanting to make use of them. This system of production and sale for profit is called capitalism. The one and only purpose for producing anything is profit. It’s what commodities are primarily for, to supply a human need only so a profit can be made.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Mince and Tatties?

Next time you tuck into your mince and tatties you should be aware that it is meal of fat and gristle and tatties. And is doesn't seem like it will get any  better.

The UK have asked for an exemption from new EU regulations that limit the amount of fat and connective tissue that can be used to bulk up minced meat.Under the regulations, lean minced meat should have up to 19 per cent fat and collagen, while pure minced beef should contain no more than 35 per cent fat and collagen ( derived from the tendons and ligaments of animals and used to help bulk out meat and also used in cosmetic surgery).  In October last year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs issued an “impact assessment” on the new EU regulations, which are due to come into force next year. The report states: “A significant proportion of mince meat currently sold in the UK contains a greater proportion of collagen than would be permitted."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The crazy logic of capitalist economics

The Sunday Times has found that home-grown products are being transported thousands of miles overseas for processing before being put on sale back in Britain. Socialist Courier reported this market madness back here .

Scottish prawns are being hand-shelled in China, Atlantic haddock caught off Scotland is being prepared in Poland and Welsh cockles are being sent to Holland to be put in jars before going on sale in Britain.

Meanwhile, products grown overseas are taking circuitous routes to Britain. African-grown coffee is being packed 3,500 miles away in India, Canadian prawns are processed in Iceland, and Bolivian nuts are being packed in Italy.

“We are producing food in one corner of the world, packing it in another and then shipping it somewhere else. It’s mad.”

Dawnfresh, a Scottish seafood company that supplies supermarkets and other large retailers, cut 70 jobs last year after deciding to ship its scampi more than 5,000 miles to China to be shelled by hand, then shipped back to the River Clyde in Scotland and breaded for sale in Britain.

The company said it was forced to make the move by commercial pressures. “This seems a bizarre thing to do but the reality is that the numbers don’t stack up any other way,” said Andrew Stapley, a director. “We are not the first in the industry to have had to do this. Sadly, it’s cheaper to process overseas than in the UK and companies like us are having to do this to remain competitive.”

Haddock is one of the fish most commonly caught by British trawlers, but Tesco sends its Atlantic haddock for processing to Poland where labour costs are lower. It is then driven more than 850 miles to Tesco’s depot in Daventry, Northamptonshire.

Traidcraft coffee, sold at Sainsbury’s, is made from beans grown in Bukoba, Tanzania.

Once the coffee is cultivated, it is driven 656 miles to Dar-es-Salaam and then shipped 3,250 miles to Vijayawada in India where it is packed. The coffee is loaded back on the ships and transported another 5,000 miles to Southampton. It is then driven 330 miles to Gateshead and is finally driven to Leeds for distribution to Sainsbury’s stores.

Sainsbury’s organic fair trade rice, produced in the lush foothills of the Himalayas, is shipped to Lille, France, rather than Britain, to be packed. It then makes a second journey to end up on Sainsbury’s shelves.It is not just fair trade coffee that is sent from country to country. Instead of directly importing coffee beans from Costa Rica for their instant coffee, Sainsbury’s and Tesco first send them to Germany. The final product then undergoes another 500-mile lorry journey to get to Britain.Similarly, French-grown walnuts sold in Waitrose are sent to Naples to be packed. The retailer’s Brazil nuts from South America are also transported to Italy before being sent to Britain.

The industrialisation of the food chain means even small firms are being forced to ship their produce abroad for processing. Pilchard fillets, produced by the Pilchard Works in Cornwall, are sent on the overnight ferry to France because there is no suitable processing plant in England. The pilchards are canned in Douarnenez in Brittany, then returned to Cornwall. Similarly, Welsh cockles – produced by Van Smirren Seafoods – are driven across Britain to Dover and then transported to Yerseke in Holland. They are pickled and put in jars before being sent back to Britain.

Caroline Lucas, the Green party MEP, said: “Ultimately, the price is paid by all of us in the shape of higher greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and congestion, and food that is both less tasty and less healthy.”

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Capitalism's Waste

Waste & Resources Action Programme reports that a third of the food we buy, amounting to 6.7 million tonnes, gets discarded from UK households annually. Fruit and vegetables are a major component at around 40% of this. The top five fruit & vegetables which get binned without even being touched are apples (4.4 million or 179,000 tonnes pa), potatoes(5.1m or 177,000 tonnes pa), bananas (1.6m or 77,000 tonnes pa), tomatoes (2.8m or 46,000 tonnes pa) and oranges (1.2m or 45,000 tonnes). Producing, storing and getting the food to UK homes consumes much energy through transport, packaging etc. If we could stop the wastage of all this food, it would save the equivalent of at least 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. This would be equivalent to taking 1 in 5 cars off UK roads, according to WRAP.

The amount of discarded food-stuff is boosted by supermarket marketing promotions such as "two-for-one" deals with the result millions of Britons buy more than they need and then fail to eat much of what they bought before it goes off.

The study findings show essentially that much is discarded because it simply goes off, and storage conditions at home bear much blame. Simply storing most fresh fruit and vegetables inside the fridge keeps these foods stay fresh for up to 2 weeks longer.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Cost-Cutting Cost Lives

Hoping to expand profits has led to the courts for Cadbury chocolate.

A major salmonella outbreak caused by Cadbury chocolate bars followed a decision to change the company's product testing system . The confectionery giant sought to save money and reduce wastage by introducing an "allowable tolerance level" for salmonella in its products . There was no safe level for salmonella cells in ready-to-eat products and that the organism could survive in chocolate for years. Chocolate acts as a protective layer for salmonella organisms, shielding them from acid in the stomach.

Until 2003 Cadbury had destroyed any chocolate which tested positive for salmonella, adopting an approach that "no amount of testing will make a positive result go away."
They then changed it to what they believed to be an allowable tolerance level. Cadbury sought to save money from wastage by allowing a tolerance for salmonella in their food. Large quantities of product were being destroyed and Cadbury's were looking for ways of avoiding that . There is no dispute that there is a linkage between the chocolate that was distributed by Cadbury and the poisoning that took place later on.

Cadbury has pleaded guilty at Birmingham Crown Court to breaching food and hygiene regulations in the summer of 2006 and the scare led to the recall of more than a million chocolate bars.

Mr. Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of China's ministry of food and drug safety , was found guilty of putting cash before food safety has been sentenced to death . Fortunately for Cadbury's directors and management , Socialist Courier does not condone capital punishment .