Imports

China Gives $48,000 Incentive to Food Safety Whistleblowers

chinamapWhen China announced its food safety whistleblower reward program in late 2011, reports didn't say how much would be up for grabs, and six months later, fear of retaliation was still routine among those merely keeping track of public data – including the recall of mercury-tainted infant formula by China's biggest milk producer.

This week, Reuters reports that Chinese authorities will offer up to $48,200 as a cash reward to individuals who report food safety violations (and whose claims are then confirmed). The Government Accountability Project's Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) has said before that the notion of rewarding whistleblowers within the food industry is a unique step that's not even an option in the United States. At the same time, however, it's a cautious move to equate the new incentive with better whistleblower protection, given China's history of punishing citizens who raise the alarm too loudly. One father whose son fell ill from milk contaminated with melamine in 2008 was sentenced to jail after campaigning for victim compensation. Other forms of punishment for whistleblowers in China have been wide-ranging over the years, and although the government is seemingly desperate to prevent more food scandals, its track record for securing freedom of speech rights is a poor one.

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XL Foods (Canada) Beef Plant Workers Call for Whistleblower Protections

beef_productsThe massive beef recall that keeps expanding internationally due to E. coli contamination may not have been such a surprise to those employed at the Canada-based company XL Foods Lakeside.

According to the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union that represents workers at the Alberta meat plant, The Globe and Mail reports, "workers were fearful of raising concerns about food safety and managers refused to discuss the problems."

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Safe Food Starts at the Border: USDA Pilot Program on Canadian Meat Threatens Safety

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As long as legal protections for meat industry workers remain inadequate, it's simply not right to gut government oversight. But that seems to be a pattern for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The agency is planning on starting a pilot program that would allow certain Canadian companies to transport their fresh beef and pork products directly to food processing facilities in the U.S. sans traditional border inspection.

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Imported Mangoes Linked to Salmonella Outbreak; Food Safety Auditors Unreliable

mangosThird-party food safety auditors have failed to come to the rescue once again.

Last year, just six days before the first person fell ill in the Listeria outbreak now blamed for 33 deaths, auditor Primus Labs gave a high audit score (96 out of 100!) to the Colorado cantaloupe farm at the center of the debacle. The same auditing company is now also involved with the food safety and traceability scheme of a California-based produce importer that has recalled Mexican mangoes for potential Salmonella contamination. There have been 101 reported illnesses in a multistate Salmonella outbreak that may be linked to the imported fruit.

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Whistleblowers Still Face Obstacles Amidst China's Food Safety Week

china_wen_jiabaoChinese Premier Wen JiabaoFood safety scandals continue in China, including last week during the country's "Food Safety Week," just as the government was announcing regulation improvement plans. China's biggest milk producer recalled mercury-tainted infant formula, evidence that the dairy industry is still struggling with food safety four years after the melamine scandal blamed for the deaths of at least six children and illnesses of nearly 300,000 people.

The Associated Press noted the seeming desperation of the Chinese government to get things under control, to the point that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao last week "called for greater public involvement in food safety and even said whistle blowers should be rewarded." FIC was cautiously optimistic about China's food whistleblower reward program when it was announced last year, unable to ignore the country's past ill treatment of whistleblowers.

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Bill Would Set Federal Limits for Arsenic and Lead in Juice

applejuice_factory_attPhoto via wikimedia user Kohn33Given the recent findings of arsenic levels in apple juice that surpassed acceptable limits in drinking water, people may be surprised to hear that no such standards exist to limit the presence of heavy chemicals in juice.

Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced a bill this week that would change that, requiring FDA for the first time to set limits for arsenic and lead in fruit juices.

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Arsenic & Apple Juice: More Whistleblowers to Come?

apple_juice_with_2apples_attHeadlines regarding arsenic in apple juice, big in the news earlier this summer, have come around again this week after a Consumer Reports investigation summary revealed arsenic levels exceeding federal limits and calling for improved FDA standards.

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