(NOTE: Visit the SourceWatch Portal on Toxic Sludge)
Fifteen years ago, the Center for Media and Democracy in my book Toxic Sludge Is Good for You first exposed the deceptive PR campaign by the municipal sewage industry that has renamed toxic sewage sludge as "biosolids" to be spread on farms and gardens. Unfortunately, the scam continues to fool more people than ever, even in San Francisco which is often dubbed the country's greenest city.
I suspect that Bay area celebrity chef Alice Waters would never dump sewage sludge onto her own organic garden, nor serve food grown in sludge in her world famous natural foods restaurant Chez Panisse. The mission of her Chez Panisse Foundation is to create "edible schoolyards" where kids grow, prepare, and eat food from their own organic gardens. But Francesca Vietor, the new executive director of the Chez Panisse Foundation, is at the same time actively promoting dumping toxic sludge on gardens in her role as Vice President of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
The National Cancer Institute has awarded a five-year, $2.7 million grant to Northeastern University Law School to research how the tobacco, fast food and sweetened beverage industries use and exploit the concepts of "personal responsibility" and "choice" to avoid liability and litigation for diseases that result from use of their products.
"The ingenuity of the food manufacturers and marketers never ceases to amaze me," remarked author Michael Pollan. "They can turn any critique into a new way to sell food." Marketers are appropriating language from the "eat local" or "locavore" movement, which encourages support for small farms, sustainable practices and better treatment of animals.
The number of warning letters sent by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to corporations has dropped by 50% in the last decade. In 2002, the regulatory agency decided that all warning letters should go through the office of its chief counsel, a move "designed to strengthen the letters and make them legally consistent and credible." But the change may have just succeeded in slowing the process to a crawl.
The global increase in grain prices may make the meat supply less safe. The European Union is considering a relaxation of feed bans that prohibit animal by-products being used as feed for other animals in the human food chain.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been criticized for not totally banning "downer" cows -- animals "too sick or hurt to stand for slaughter" -- from the food supply. So "when a coalition of major industry groups reversed their position and joined animal advocates and several lawmakers in calling for an absolute ban," why wouldn't the USDA agree?