We are blind when it comes to knowing where our food is from. Even President Obama thinks it is America's right to know where their food is coming from. In 2007 he stated "As President I'll immediately implement country of origin labeling because Americans should know where their food is coming from." So far it hasn't happened.
Not having country of origin labeling on processed foods to date is especially concerning because it has come to my attention that the FDA is allowing ingredients for our food supply to be sourced from Japan, even in close proximity to the Fukushima, Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
Major corporations have stated they are sourcing ingredients from Japan: Kellogg's, General Mills, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, and even Johnson and Johnson, maker of baby wash products and parent company to many medicine manufacturers. These companies combined produce a vast proportion of the products on our store shelves today. There are probably more companies doing the same, these are just the ones I know about.
Why is eating food from around Fukushima, Japan a bad idea? Because the food could be contaminated with cancer causing nuclear waste material and the Japanese government is covering up how bad it really is there.
The Japanese government, the same entity that the FDA is relying on to tell us what is safe for our families to eat, has raised the amount of radiation that children are allowed to be exposed to from 1 microsieverts per year to 20 after independent reports found levels significantly higher than the 1 microsieverts . As one mother from Fukushima stated, “Do they imagine that people can suddenly withstand doses of radiation 20 times greater than were previously allowed?"
Additionally, mothers in Japan have demonstrated against their government begging their government to stop sending potentially contaminated ingredients around the world.
Furthermore, according to nuclear experts like Arnie Gundersen, there is no test known to man to measure for something called "hot particles". They are tiny cancer causing waste materials from nuclear disasters that cause cancer but cannot be found with geiger counters. So even though these major companies say they have safety measures in place, their safety measures cannot catch the nuclear waste material that can still give our families cancer.
As consumers, we have a right to know where the ingredients from Japan are going in our food supply so if we don't feel comfortable with feeding it to our families, we can leave it on the shelf. Right now we don't have a clue. In essence, we are dining in the dark.
I was also surprised to learn from the report below that as of 2008, that China had become the third largest source of US agricultural and seafood imports. Additionally, as stated in the report below, these imports increased roughly fourfold from 433,000 metric tons (MT) and $1 billion in 1997 to 2.1 million MT and $4.9 billion in 2007. I was not aware of this either.
Furthermore, currently labeling laws do not require companies making products that are processed, meaning where at least one ingredient is mixed with another, from lotions to sunscreens, makeup to toothpaste, from shampoos to conditioners to foods and medicines that we consume to disclose where those ingredients are sourced from. Put simply, for example, in a box of cereal, I have no idea if the ingredients in that box that make up that cereal are from the United States, China, or Fukushima, Japan or all three. I just have no idea and on their own companies are not willing to say.
Companies that market single ingredient items are required to list country of origin. For example, if I go to the store today, I can purchase a bag of peas and turn over the bag to find where those peas are sourced from. On the other hand, if I go to the store today and purchase a bag of peas mixed with carrots, this rule to let me know country of origin no longer applies. In the second case, corporations are not required to disclose the country of origin on those peas and carrots since it is processed, two ingredients mixed together. To inform consumers, both single item products and processed products should be held to the same standard. The labels of both products should list the country of origin for ingredients.
Under current law, companies that make processed items are able to simply list the ingredients on the labels and print on the labels "Distributed by... somewhere, USA" or "Manufactured in somewhere USA" or "Made in the USA" whereas in reality, in most if not all cases, one or more of the ingredients in these products are sourced from somewhere outside the United States.
Current labels of processed goods do nothing to help me make informed decisions for my family. As mentioned "Distributed by somewhere USA", or "Manufactured In somewhere, USA" or "Made in USA" gives me absolutely no information as to the country of origin of the actual ingredients that formulate that product.
As a citizen who wants to be an informed consumer, I am asking for the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) to be modified to include the The Consumer Right To Know Act whereby as a consumer I have the right to know the country(ies) of origin of the ingredients from processed goods, just as I already have the right and ability to know country of origin information with single ingredient items like fresh fruit.
To be clear, I am not asking for the labels on processed products to specify the country of origin for each ingredient. For example, I am not requesting labeling of the country of origin of sugar in a particular processed food, or of a particular chemical in sunscreen. I understand that some companies do not want to disclose what they consider to be proprietary information.
However, I do want to be an informed consumer whereby labeling on the packaging tells me any country that is the source of any ingredient in the product. If, for example, a certain item has ingredients sourced from three different countries, say, China, United States, and Brazil, then companies under the Consumer Right to Know Act, would be required to state on their label “Product of China, USA, and Brazil.”
If for some reason that is too difficult for companies to do--some may say our sourcing countries change too frequently to do this-- then an alternative option under The Consumer Right to Know Act is for companies of processed items to list their products on their company website under a tab called “Consumer Right to Know”. This will be presented in the form of a spreadsheet whereby one column has the product name and in the next column over, the corresponding up-to date country(ies) of origin for the ingredients composing that product, and the next column over has the corresponding lot numbers. This list must be updated as sourcing information changes. Furthermore, under the Consumer Right to Know Act, the website information must have information as to when the website was updated last. Additionally, if companies choose the second option, to post country of origin for ingredients in a product on their website, they must state on their packaging label, “For information on the country(ies) of origin of the ingredients in this product, visit ____ and then give the website address. This will enable consumers to know exactly where they need to go to get the information they are seeking.
Lastly, another issue has come to my attention regarding product labeling. It is the issue having to do with genetic modification.
Genetically modified ingredients are making their way to our shelves in the United States and we have no idea where they are going. While genetically modifying corn might make it more disease resistant, some families may choose to not consume it. Genetically modified salmon may make for more meat, but some consumers may choose not to eat it. Some studies have suggested eating genetically modified food is not good for our health. For some people consuming a genetically modified product doesn’t make one bit of difference. Put simply, as consumers we have the right to know what items are genetically modified so that if we feel as consumers we don’t want to consume them, we can make that choice. As it stands now, we don’t always know because companies are not currently required to put it on their labels, so we don’t have a choice.
As noted on the Center for Food Safety’s website, The FDA relies on the very companies that have a financial interest in bringing these biotech crops to market to assess their safety. FDA has stated, "Ultimately, it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring safety" of gene altered foods. Congress must step up and fill the gaping regulatory hole left by the FDA to protect American consumers by requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.
The Center for Food Safety goes on to say that genetically engineered foods are required to be labeled in the 15 European Union nations, Russia, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries around the world. If food makers like Kraft and Kellogg's can label the products they sell in these countries, they can certainly do it in the U.S.
I am not alone in this. According to the Center for Food Safety, a recent poll released by ABC News found that 92 percent of the American public wants the federal government to require mandatory labeling on genetically engineered foods. As ABC News stated, "Such near-unanimity in public opinion is rare." I hope you will listen to me and the other 92 percent of the American public who want mandatory labeling of all genetically engineered foods including labeling on finished meat products to indicate if the meat is genetically engineered and/or if that finished meat product was ever fed genetically engineered food.
In summary, I am asking for better labeling laws so as a consumer I can make informed choices for my family. Thank you for supporting the rights of your constituents to be informed consumers by supporting and/or co-sponsoring a revision to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) to include the enactment of The Consumer Right to Know Act. Thank you.