Counterfeit Foods Are Labeled a Worldwide ‘Epidemic’

Investigators uncover thousands of food frauds. The incidents raise questions about regulatory oversight as organized international criminal networks provide shoppers cheap versions of everyday products. As the recent European scandal involving the substitution of horse meat for beef showed, even legitimate companies can be overtaken by  food fraud. “Around the world, food fraud is an epidemic — in every single country where food is produced or grown, food fraud is occurring,” said a food security consultant. “Just about every single ingredient that has even a moderate economic value is potentially vulnerable to fraud.” He said many processed foods contain tainted sugar, vanilla, paprika, honey, olive oil or cocoa products. The New York Times

SunCoke Energy will pay $2 million fine to settle air pollution charges at plants in Illinois and Ohio. The agreement between SunCoke Energy and the U.S. Justice Department also requires the company and two subsidiaries to spend $100 million to upgrade pollution control equipment. The alleged violations occurred at Gateway Energy and Coke in Granite City, Ill., and the Haverhill Coke in Franklin Furnace, Ohio. SunCoke also agreed to spend $255,000 to help remove lead paint hazards from low-income homes in southern Illinois. The plants allegedly allowed coke gases to vent directly into the atmosphere, leading to excess heart- and lung-damaging soot emissions. Coke is made by “baking” coal, and is used in steel production. The Associated Press, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Nitrate contamination plagues Minnesota waterways. The problem with nitrogen, mainly in the form of nitrates, is so severe that 27 percent of Minnesota’s lakes and rivers cannot be used as drinking water, according to an assessment of the state’s most prevalent form of water pollution. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said, overall, 41 percent of Minnesota’s streams and lakes have excessive nitrogen, all of them in the state’s southern and central regions. The nutrient, which is used as fertilizer in agriculture and comes from wastewater treatment plants, is a primary cause of the vast oxygen-depleted area in the Gulf of Mexico known as the dead zone. As FairWarning reported last month, water pollution from factory farms is a major problem in many states, yet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency remains largely in the dark about such basic facts as which operations are potentially the biggest polluters. Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Babies whose mothers drink nitrate-tainted water show higher rates of birth defects. A study of children in Texas and Iowa linked nitrates to higher risks of such defects as spina bifida and cleft palate. Used as fertilizers on crops, nitrates are among the most widespread chemical contaminants in aquifers worldwide. Previous epidemiological studies have linked prenatal exposure to birth defects but the latest research broke new ground by evaluating the amounts and sources of the water consumed by mothers. The new study found that mothers of babies with spina bifida, a disorder where the embryonic neural tube does not fully close, were twice as likely to ingest at least 5 milligrams of nitrates daily from drinking water than other mothers. Environmental Health News

Texas factory charged with failing to monitor workers’ asbestos exposure. In all, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration accused National Electric Coil Co. of eight violations at a Brownsville, Texas, plant where it employs nearly 170 workers. That included a willful violation, OSHA’s most serious charge, related to the asbestos monitoring issue. “By failing to monitor asbestos exposure, National Electric Coil Co. puts its workers in harm’s way by exposing them to a variety of health issues,” an OSHA official said. The company also was accused of a repeat violation involving power controls on equipment. OSHA proposed $120,000 in fines against the company, which makes parts for generators and high-voltage motors. OSHA, KRGV (Weslaco, Texas)

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

Print Print  

Leave a comment