Interview with FDA Spokesperson – Part Three
Interview with FDA Spokesperson – Part Three
It took some time for me to arrange this third interview with I. M. Clueless, my ingenuous Food and Drug Administration spokesperson. Unlike his willing participation in Part One and Part Two of our interviews, I.M. was difficult to pin down this time.
My customary one-on-one brain wave transmissions elicited no response. I sent emails and letters, made phone calls, left messages. No reply. Finally, I received a phone call from a male with a low whispery voice who identified himself as my hard-to-find FDA contact.
me – Hello, Mr. Clueless. I have been trying to reach you for this third interview. Is all well with you at the FDA?
Mr. Clueless – Not so much. I’ve been keeping a low profile since I think I may be getting a pink slip soon.
me – Why? Did your bosses learn about your participation in our previous ‘Interview with FDA Spokesperson’ articles?
Mr. Clueless – No, I think it was because I shared negative Obama jokes with my team.
me – That’s not PC (politically correct). Let’s move on. I would like to discuss some more disgusting, gross additives and other substances approved by the F.D.A. in the food we eat.
Mr. Clueless – Fire away. I may be moving on soon, too.
Beware: Foods labeled as ‘all natural’ may contain GMOs -- genetically modified ingredients.
#1 – Herbicide-flavored food
me – Are you familiar with Roundup?
Mr. Clueless – Isn’t that what cowboys do when they herd cattle? Sorry, just a little FDA humor.
me – Yes, very little.
Mr. Clueless – Roundup is an extremely effective and widely used herbicide or weed killer produced by Monsanto. Glyphosate is the active chemical ingredient. Roundup is used primarily on corn and soy crops which are genetically modified to withstand large amounts of the chemical.
me – Did you know that it is so widely used in farm fields and around homes that it is now being detected in streams, the air, and even rain?
Mr. Clueless – That’s because it is such an effective systemic herbicide which is actually taken up inside the plant. It is legally allowed in our food.
me – That’s right. We eat it. And we eat it in an amount that worries scientists because it’s found in most non-organic packaged foods that contain corn-or soy-derived ingredients. Glyphosate is a hormone-disrupting chemical which has been linked to obesity, learning disabilities, birth defects, infertility, and potentially irreversible metabolic damage.
Healthy Hint: To avoid weed killers in food products, eat organic. Eating processed foods is like sailing on the Titanic.
Why shrimp from Oregon you may be asking? Because the fisheries there are certified under stringent Marine Stewardship Council guidelines.
#2 – Shrimp coated in cleaning chemicals
me – Seafood is healthy for us. Do you enjoy shrimp, Mr. Clueless?
Mr. Clueless – Yes, I like it breaded, or in a salad, in a shrimp cocktail or scampi. Shrimp is delicious.
me – Did you know that the delicious shrimp you eat could be contaminated with chemicals that are used to clean shrimp-farm pens that get filthy?
Mr. Clueless – That’s why I only eat shrimp that is imported. 90% of the shrimp we eat is imported from overseas, you know.
me – Yes, and imported shrimp is often full of antibiotics, mouse and rat hair, and pieces of insects because less than 2% of all imported seafood (shrimp, crab, etc.) gets inspected before it is sold.
Healthy Hint: For safer options, choose shrimp that are American. An excellent choice would be shrimp from Oregon.
#3 – Hot dogs with rat hairs
me – Is it true that the FDA allows foods, such as hot dogs and sausage, to have a minute amount of insect parts and rodent hairs.
Mr. Clueless – Yes, a minute amount is allowed. That’s why I eat popcorn and not hot dogs at baseball games. (Chuckles)
me – Do you happen to know what the ‘minute amount’ actually is?
Mr. Clueless – Not exactly.
me – Here are the findings from a 225 gram sample using AOAC* extraction procedures: 32 insect fragments, 4 rodent hairs, and 1 whole insect (weevil larva)
*AOAC International – provides the authoritative compendium of methods for food, agricultural, pharmaceutical, environmental, and forensic analysis.
Healthy Hints: When you go to the ball game, take better care of your belly. Instead of a hot dog, bring a sandwich – peanut butter and jelly.
In 1997, Japanese manufacturers voluntarily stopped using BPA in food cans and other products.
#4 – Risky Receipts – wait till you read this!
Mr. Clueless – I don’t understand. What is risky about a paper receipt? What does that have to do with dangerous food additives?
me – Let me explain. You already know about the chemical BPA (bisphenol A) that is used in the epoxy linings of nearly all canned foods and drinks. As well as in rigid plastic dishes, water bottles, and baby bottles
Mr. Clueless – Of course. BPA was first approved by the FDA in the early 60s. BPA is a chemical produced in large quantities for use primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins.
me – Did you know that it has been found in varying levels of most canned food tested, even Del Monte green beans – and it has been linked to infertility, diabetes, obesity, sperm damage, and heart disease among others?
Mr. Clueless – Well, BPA is not like cyanide. It won’t kill you if you eat a single can of beans.
me – That’s comforting. Did you also know that some animal studies suggest that infants and children may be the most vulnerable to the effects of BPA leaching from polycarbonate bottles into liquids like water and milk?
Healthy Hints: Reduce your use of foods in cans for real. Opt for glass, or porcelain or stainless steel. And obey my very urgent plea. Use baby bottles that are BPA free.
Mr. Clueless – So what was that ‘risky receipts’ warning all about?
me – A new study suggests that the BPA in paper register receipts could be a major source of chemical exposure. We absorb BPA through our skin after handling cash-register receipts for just a few seconds whenever we make a purchase.
Mr. Clueless – How is that possible?
me – Simple. Thermal cash-register receipts are the norm now, and many of them are coated with high levels of colorless BPA-containing powder on one side. When heat from the printer strikes the paper, it turns the substance into ink so we can read the receipt.
Researchers of this new study, published in the journal, Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, found BPA transferred from paper to the skin after handling a receipt for just a few seconds. And some receipts harbor BPA levels up to 1,000 times higher than BPA detected in the linings of metal cans.
Mr. Clueless – We can wash that off with a handy-dandy hand sanitizer.
me – Not a good idea – the hand sanitizer increases absorption into the skin.
Healthy Hints: Important: Appleton Paper supplies over half of the thermal receipt paper used in the U.S. and began manufacturing it without BPA when a number of studies came out finding that the chemical could cause reproductive problems.
To make it easier for the average shopper to distinguish BPA-free receipts, Appleton prints its receipt paper with red flecks on the back made from biodegradable cellulose rayon.
#5 – Newest GMO development
me – GMO or GM (genetically modified) ingredients have long been hidden in foods like corn syrup or soy protein. But now Monsanto has been successful in developing and getting approved the first GMO vegetable sold directly to consumers. Sweet corn!
Mr. Clueless – This is a very important breakthrough. The corn has been genetically engineered to produce its own pesticide: Bt – Bacillus thuringiensis – a bacterium that kills insects. Now available at your nearest Wal-Mart.
me – And unlabeled last I heard.
Healthy Hints: Buy your sweet corn at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, Or your farmer’s market – where the source they’ll disclose.
“Older people shouldn't eat health food; they need all the preservatives they can get.” – Robert Orben
#6 – Additional additives to avoid
Mr. Clueless – You know that all packaged food is required to list all the ingredients on the label.
me – Yes, and that is part of the problem. Food producers often use long, foreign-sounding, unfamiliar chemical names or just initials in extremely small print.
Mr. Clueless – That’s because labels are often so small.
me – Spot on, Mr. C., and that contributes to the list being tedious and difficult to read. We should avoid foods with these additives: BHA, BHT and MSG.
Mr. Clueless – But BHA and BHT are preservatives and MSG is a flavor-enhancer.
me – Correct. BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydrozytoluene) are used as preservatives in chips, cereals, even chewing gum. But they are known to oxidize the cells and cell oxidation is the precursor to cancer.
MSG (monosodium glutamate)is a well-known food additive used primarily as a flavor-enhancer. But it can cause reactions in some people such as headaches and nausea. See my hub: “MSG, Fat Rats and Us.”
me – I want to thank you again for your assistance, I.M. Good luck in finding another job.
Mr. Clueless – Not to worry. I work for the government, remember? We never get fired – just transferred!
© Copyright BJ Rakow, Ph.D. 2012. All rights reserved. Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So." Includes valuable information for older workers, and how to negotiate salary successfully.
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