Now More than Ever, Let the Buyer Beware

Consumer protection is one of the “big government” nuisances that Tea Party crusaders are trying to get rid of. Naturally, they have the support of Big Business. What corporate executive wouldn’t want to be rid of those pesky restrictions on fleecing customers?

That kind of “nanny government” costs money, don’t you see. It adds to costs, driving up prices. And policing the market takes money, too – taxpayers’ money.

With the Tea Party and their corporate allies lobbying to get rid of consumer protection, there’s a noticeable trend toward that “free market” Republicans dream about. It’s already so “free” that we’re exposed to widespread fraud and rampant recklessness.

One particularly sensitive area is food.

Even with existing inspection mechanisms, hidden health hazards lurk in the stuff we eat. And the “sequester” due to take effect on Friday would inevitably reduce inspection funding. So. we can expect things to get even worse.

Apparently the  danger is especially acute at the seafood counter, which is already tainted by widespread fraud.

One of the gourmet delicacies here in Florida is grouper. Overfishing has depleted the grouper stock and I’ve heard that other kinds of fish are routinely sold as grouper.

Now, I understand the “snapper” we buy is likely to be something else, too. And the “tuna” could actually be a species of fish that makes us sick.

An item by Anthony Gucciardi distributed by Reader Supported News this morning, reports that 59 percent of the “tuna” sold in America is “not only mislabeled but is almost entirely …. a fish once banned by the FDA.”

Quoting a study by a non-profit group called Oceana, Gucciardi reports:

A whopping 84 percent of ‘white tuna’ was actually escolar, the snake mackerel fish that causes oily anal leakage and was banned by the FDA until 1992. It is still banned in Japan and Italy, and requires warning labels regarding the leaky discharge in Canada, Sweden, and Denmark.

Oceana found that mislabeling is common among seafood products sold in the US. Here’s an excerpt from the organization’s findings:

DNA testing found that one-third (33 percent) of the 1,215 samples analyzed nationwide were mislabeled, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines.

Of the most commonly collected fish types, samples sold as snapper and tuna had the highest mislabeling rates (87 and 59 percent, respectively), with the majority of the samples identified by DNA analysis as something other than what was found on the label. In fact, only seven of the 120 samples of red snapper purchased nationwide were actually red snapper. The other 113 samples were another fish.

Gucciardi observes that:

The blatant lack of knowledge regarding the actual ingredients in so-called ‘tuna’ products is reminiscent of recent food ingredient disasters such as the Burger King horse meat incident, in which Burger King was forced to admit that consumers “had been eating either horse or donkey meat in their juicy Whoppers for who knows how long.

An admission that not only grossed a lot of people out and emotionally touched a lot of horse lovers, but brought up a great consideration: we really don’t even know what we’re putting into our mouths.

What indeed?

I concede  that (as we say in Jamaica) “what doesn’t kill you fattens you.”  The trouble is that some of the stuff lurking in our daily diets could kill us – or at least make us sick.

According to Oceana:

In some cases, seafood fraud can directly threaten human health. Seafood in general is extremely sensitive to proper handling and refrigeration, and in some cases can cause severe illness if not handled properly. Swapping one fish species for another that may be riddled with contaminants, toxins or allergens can make people sick.

I guess that’s the price the big shots backing the Tea Party want us to pay to keep their taxes down.

Click here for Gucciardi”s article.

Click here for the Oceana study.

Click here for mislabeling examples

Click here for more on tainted seafood.