Tuesday, January 19, 2010

We Need a Consumer Finance Protection Agency!

So far, we've seen precious little reform of the financial system which enriched the big shot bankers and brought the rest of us to our knees.

One piece of reform that we desperately need--and which the bankers are lobbying mightily against--is a new Consumer Finance Protection Agency.

Unless legislation creating this agency or something similar is passed, regulation of the various players in the finance industry will continue to be split among six different agencies. And, unless you do some research to figure out which one applies to the banking institution that's behind your credit card or your mortgage, you can't tell which one has jurisdiction.

This, of course, makes it really hard for consumers to even make a complaint, much less get any help with it, as I wrote here a while back.

So now's the time to weigh in on this issue, and the easiest way is to sign the petition being circulated by The Campaign for America's Future.

You might also call your Senator in Washington (202 224-3121 is the Capitol Switchboard).

Now's not the time to feel fatigued about fighting the mighty lobbyists. We can prevail if we keep up the pressure.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ammoniated Fat Now Standard Ingredient in McDonald's, Burger King

I've been recovering from shoulder surgery for the past few weeks, so I couldn't react immediately to the latest revelation about the trash that now gets added to hamburgers without any notice to the public.

The New York Times reported a few days ago that fat trimmings from the outer surfaces of beef carcasses are now getting mixed into McDonald's and Burger King burgers as well as the frozen prepared patties sold in supermarkets, and, best of all, to our children as part of the school lunch program. These trimming used to be considered unfit for human consumption because they are so contaminated with bacteria. They used to go only into dog food and cooking oil.

But by treating this garbage with ammonia, an enterprising company was able to kill the bacteria and then got approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to sell it to burger makers who are permitted to mix it into the patties--without any labeling! The incentive, of course, was money. The huge agribusinesses that produce pre-made patties save 3 cents a pound by mixing it in.

The news stories that followed the Times's expose focused only on whether the ammonia process is really effective in killing the bacteria. Apparently, the process doesn't work as well as initially expected because the lovely taste of ammonia was detectable. So the manufacturer seems to have cut back on the ammonia.

But this begs the more important question: is junk like this fit for human consumption? When do we decide that the magic of food processing has gone too far? Shouldn't use of such trash at least have to be revealed on the label?

When are we going to stop letting agribusinesses put whatever they want in our food supply so they can increase their profits and put producers of wholesome food at a disadvantage?