September 27, 2008

Whey Protein Powder Contaminated?

The FDA announced it had started testing some imports of Chinese dairy products coming into U.S. ports after the news hit about the way that milk products in China had been contaminated with melamine.

But we all know that the FDA has been gutted by the Bush administration and does not begin to have the resources needed to test the avalanche of foods coming in from China. Not only that, but even when the FDA samples foods coming into our ports, the paperwork is so sloppy that if a food is tested and rejected, the shipper need only take it to a second port. There is often no paper trail showing it has failed inspection elsewhere.

And that doesn't even get into the issue of how the FDA only tests a tiny sample of shipments.

Why should this scare you? Because we don't know the extent to which Chinese dairy products filled with melamine, a toxic plastic, have permeated out own food supply.

All we know is this: large food manufacturers who are buying millions of pounds of powdered milk, casein and whey to put into everything from bread, to cookies, to candy, to sauces on frozen vegetables are very likely to have been buying these products from the Chinese factories because the Chinese are able to offer much lower prices than competitors.

Now that we are learning WHY they are able to lower their prices--by replacing milk protein with plastic, for example--shopping the Dollar Store for our food supply is not looking like such a good idea. But until two weeks ago, what large manufacturer was thinking like that?

This latest scandal has special relevance to people with diabetes. Many of us are already walking around with kidneys that have been damaged by years of exposure to high blood sugars. We have been assured that the tiny amounts of melamine that may have found their way into our packaged food products are only toxic to babies, not adults, but the truth is that melamine may very well be toxic for anyone with microalbumuria whose kidneys are already damaged.

The other issue relevant to people with diabetes who eat low carb diets is that a lot of us use whey protein powders as a base for baked goods since we try to avoid baking with grains. Given that whey powder is one of the products that the FDA has said it has been inspecting, and given that we have no idea where the makers of these whey protein powders have gotten that whey powder, it is not outside of the range of probability that some of this whey protein powder might be contaminated.

With that in mind, it might be a good idea to eliminate whey protein powder from our diets for a while, until the melamine that may very well have slipped into this country before the scandal erupted has finished making its way through the system.

Yes, this might seem overcautious, but with every day's news reports adding additional products and countries to the list of those found to contain Chinese milk products contaminated with melamine, it might just be prudent.

If you are a fan of so called "nutrition" bars, you might want to give them a miss if they list whey or casein on their labels for the same reason.

Manufacturers are clamoring to reassure the public that their products don't contain these suspect substances, but that is to be expected. They may not contain them now. What they may have contained three months ago when the product on your shelf was manufactured may be another story.

And sadly, there is no requirment to list the country of origin for the ingredients of any food sold in the U.S., only where they were packaged. Since the Chinese sell raw materials to other companies that package them in the U.S. and slap their own labels on them, you cannot trust any label information to keep you safe.

2 comments:

Anna said...

I never could have foreseen the amount of contamination of foods and food ingredients that have come to light in recent times, but I sure am glad I made a decision to reduce my family's consumption of processed foods a while back. I know the convenience and what seems like cost-savings might seem worth it, but food, being not just energy/fuel, but building blocks of our bodies, needs to be as wholesome and uncontaminated as possible.

Not only did I make major changes in how I feed my family, but I took my two cats off commercial food, and spend about 1 hour every ten days making their food (a frozen raw ground chicken recipe). The elder cat's labs have gone from suggesting Chronic Renal Failure to normal.

Rather than trying to guess which ingredients are contaminated or not, or worrying which contaminants slip past the FDA, or avoiding the toxin-du jour, it is far simpler to eat real food, as local and un-industrial as possible. Start with a subscription veggie box from a local farm. Buy frozen *pastured* (not grain-rationed CAFO meat) in bulk from a local or semi-local ranch (there are also online distributors that ship), seek out local small-scale egg producers, preferably pastured. Start a garden, even just a few items in containers. Get a few laying hens; pet hens are often legal even in urban areas and not nearly as difficult as they might seem. Home-raised is the ultimate in local, seasonal food, and one gets exercise and important Vit-D producing sunshine at the same time.

The arguments I usually hear against this plan is it is too hard and too expensive. Sure, when the struggle is to put food on the table or for low income families who work multiple jobs just to meet basic needs, I understand the dilemma. But most often I hear these protests from people who think nothing of dropping $40-60 at a Saturday matinee with their kids, who have lavishly-appointed homes and landscapes, and take 2 or more expensive vacations a year, not people truly strapped for time or cash. Or they shop at the pricey gourmet organic shops and somehow think these unsafe ingredients don't make it into "organic" processed foods (ha!). IMO, their priorities are scrambled and could use some rearranging.

When one buys less manufactured foods, organic or not (crackers and crunchy snack foods, sodas, bottled juices, individual packaged servings of anything, boxed cold cereals, meal replacement concoctions, bottle salad dressings, pre-cooked and pre-seasoned meats, boneless and premium meat cuts, "lite" cheese, heat-n-serve anything, or otherwise know as "edible food-like substances" - thank you, Michael Pollan, etc., one has more money available to spend on real foods that can be prepared in a multitude of recipes - eggs, plain yogurt (or ferment your own - a grade schooler cn do it), real fresh milk cream and butter, raw nuts for home-roasting, fresh veggies and fruits, high quality fats like pastured butter/ghee and olive oil, whole roasting chickens and less expensive, slow-cooking meat roasts, etc. Check out the Nourished Kitchen blog for great ideas - http://nourishedkitchen.com/?page_id=21 . That blogger, a different Jenny, feeds her family very well for $441 per month! I know people who spend nearly that much *per week* on groceries and take-out!

Then, when the headlines scream about this contaminant or that bacteria outbreak, you can read without worry or horror, because those products aren't likely to be in the foods you serve your family. Isn't a little time and effort to eat safe food worth that peace of mind? And if you plan well, it could even save money.

Of course, as a side note, the FDA is not up to the task of monitoring the massive amounts of imported and potentially toxic ingredients from overseas sources, but they somehow seem to have plenty of resources available, with the USDA, to orchestrate the states' agriculture departments to harass and raise insurmountable barricades for small, independent farmers and artisan/traditional food processors. As interest in local, seasonal foods has risen, the big industry-friendly regulators have really stomped on small producers with large-scale regulations and excessive abuse of power. It's as if the powers-that-be want all control over what we consume, yet they can't guarantee the safety of the options they leave us. Most consumers have no idea what is happening, because they have so little connection to their food. But once one starts consuming what I like to call "food with a face", then it is hard not to know that our choices, in fact our very liberty, is seriously threatened, 50,000 items in an average grocery notwithstanding.

Colleen said...

As always, thank you Jenny for posting information important to so many of us. I appreciate your time.

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