business news in context, analysis with attitude

On the subject of the FDA’s “draft assessment” saying that bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical commonly found in household products such as baby bottles and food containers, does not pose a health hazard when people are exposed to small amounts. – despite some significant opposition saying precisely the opposite – one MNB user wrote:

This appears to be heading in the same direction as rBST…Chemical industry studies indicate safe…NGO studies indicate unsafe. If science is so black and white, why can you not use science to determine an issue? Again, the FDA has lost sight of their mission statement – to protect the people of the US - and have again sided with business. If there is so much conflicting “Scientific Evidence” on both sides…let’s find an arbiter and determine the real “Scientific Facts” before the FDA makes a decision!!!

The ultimate problem is that consumers become victims here. The government and industry are supposed to be looking out for consumer safety, but their credibility is waning and the debate is such that we cannot make our own decisions with a reasonable degree of certainty.

Which is a shame. And erodes overall trust in the system.

Regarding the fact that Nebraska Beef, the company implicated in the E. coli-related recall of 1.36 million pounds of beef, is still operating despite all the questions about its safety procedures, one MNB user wrote:

Couldn't agree with you more regarding Nebraska Beef and how they are still in operation. What I want to know as a consumer, how can I possible know where the beef I buy comes from? As a Whole Foods consumer, I thought the extra few cents a pound I paid for ground beef ensured that it wasn't coming from an outfit like this...apparently I was wrong. And this week, I officially changed my buying habits. I
skipped the meat counter at Whole Foods and instead went to our Farmers Market and purchased meet from a local rancher who personally walks the floor of the slaughterhouse where he sends his cattle for processing.

Not everyone can or will make that change, but until enough consumers do, places like Nebraska Beef will stay open (with the full support of the USDA).

Another MNB user wrote:

Hello? Are 100 studies finding the hazard of BPA enough to ban it? Apparently not. Here is a clear and blatant example of how the government works against the very health of the citizens it has pledged to protect!

What folly is this is! Here's how it works: These corporations who created BPA in the laboratory want to make a return on their investment in creating this chemical. They then give enough money to elect the politicians who will select the FDA officials to make this decision in their favor!

Fortunately there are companies like Wal-Mart and countries like Canada who see through the politics and make a choice to ban it from their stores. Appalling!

MNB user Brenda Strombeck wrote:

My question is, who owns Nebraska Beef? Nebraska Beef should obviously be closed and shut down by FDA. But why isn’t it? Probably because it’s owned by a big Republican corporation.

Shouldn’t all Americans be questioning the FDA for allowing this plant to remain open? And shouldn’t FDA be looking at all aspects of the plant, such as the humane treatment of the animals, slaughtered animals with disease and more.

This is why I choose NOT to eat beef when I am in the US, as I am an American living in both California and Quebec, eastern Canada. Quebec and Canada have laws and regulations that they apply and follow because they actually care about their people first, money second. Social is great when it comes to food safety, prescription drugs, social medicine and more. There are some flaws in this system although, there are flaws in any system.

Although flaws in a social system don’t seem to compare the flawed system within the US. At least nothing that I have encountered that comes close to what the Bush administration has allowed and gotten away with for the past 8 years within the US. Priority must be the people first, then capitalism. In the US, unfortunately, it’s the other way around.

I suspect that there are a lot of people who feel the same way.

But to be fair about it, I did a little research via Google into the political donations of Nebraska Beef, which is a privately held company. And while I couldn’t find anything on the corporate donation side, I did see that over the years there were a number of donations to political campaigns made by company executives – to Democratic candidates.

Now, this was not exhaustive research…it was the low fruit on the tree. But it is important to keep in mind that politics gets played by both parties, and sometimes the easy answers aren’t always completely accurate.

On the subject of disposable bag fees and taxes, MNB user Fred Chang wrote:

I skimmed over the bag taxes article from last week but I'm surprised there has been such strong objection to it from Seattle grocers. I used to live in Taipei, Taiwan, where the city has in the past few years implemented a variety of (mostly) successful pro-environment policies. First of all, to reduce garbage going to landfill and incinerators, the city government mandates consumer-centric garbage separation into 5 -6 categories. They also require garbage be disposed of in garbage bags that cost money to buy -- usually 13-14 cents or so.

Consumers, businesses, anyone who either doesn't use the mandated garbage bags or fails to separate recycling out, are fined. This has been extremely successful in changing people's perception of "what is garbage". It's so strongly ingrained that my relatives who recently visited a very affluent city in Southern California commented "What? In this most advanced country in the world they just have all their garbage dumped into one bin???"

A similar step for reducing plastic bag usage at grocers was also announced a few years back, after the garbage legislation. Grocers and retailers are required to charge for single-used plastic bags (usually 5-20 cents). In a city where a convenience store is located on every block and most people walk to their grocery stores, you would think people would find it very inconvenient to bring your own bag. The reality is that as humans, we can all adapt.

Of course, at the beginning everyone complained and talked about how it didn't work, and the legislation was modified and amended a few times to allow for special cases (open air fish, meat, and produce markets, for example, are allowed to have single use plastic bags). But in the end, I think everyone is proud and happy to reduce the needless negative impact on the environment.

It's about providing incentives to do the right thing. If the incentive is avoiding a small negative impact on your wallet, so be it.

As a disclaimer, I'm also one of those people who advocates everyone bringing their own mug to work, and was one of the people who vocally protested my workplace's use of Styrofoam. One year later, we stopped providing styrofoam cups and take-out containers. People bring their own mugs, or pay for their own single-use cups.

MNB user Wayne Barrett disagreed:

KC, another example of the government fooling the people. It’s not about the environment; it’s ALL about the money (aka more taxes) and adding to the bureaucracy.

Can you imagine the role of the compliance inspectors going into the stores? They’ll probably have a quota to meet each day. I wonder if they thought thru the costs of implementing this program. Do they have an exit strategy if the costs of implementing the inspectors is higher than the revenue that they collect? Why are they singling out some retailers and not others? Maybe it’s about the political contributions. Or maybe, I’m like you and have a jaundiced view on this subject. Seattle vote the (bums, idiots, or whatever) out of office.

KC's View: