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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Americans for Safe Food

Let’s try some facts on food on your inclination toward correction action:

— There is no mandatory federal inspection and testing of fish and shellfish, unlike the inspection of meat and poultry plants.

— The Natural Resources Defense Council, a respected environmental organization, comprehensively tested green coffee beans imported into this country. The Council found “multiple, illegal chemical residues on every sample taken,” including such U.S.–banned pesticides as DDT, BHC, Lindane, Aldrin and chlordane.

— Five dangerous pesticides — that cause cancer and birth defects — are used on grapes. They are Captan, Parathion, Phosdrin, Dinoseb and Methyl Bromide. The federal government continues to permit these applications.

— Nine thousand Americans die every year due to food poisoning and there are tens of millions of illnesses.

— The Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have knowingly allowed imported beef, kiwi fruit and other products to reach your dinner table even though FDA tests showed major violations from chemical contamination.

— Tomatoes from Mexico, which account for over half of the tomatoes consumed during the winter months in the U.S. are heavily sprayed, doused in tubs of chlorine, treated with eythelene gas to turn red and then waxed to appear shiny. The Mexicans are learning fast from American agribusiness and have added some new risks.

— A potent carcinogen, Urethane, produced during the fermentation process, has been found in some wines and distilled spirits. Canada has ordered the destruction of some offending products and set maximum permitted levels for urethane. The Reagan government has refused to do anything.

Many food contaminants take a long time to wreak their havoc in the form of cancer, birth defects and other harms. Others lead to epidemics of food poisoning, as those recently in the Chicago area, California and New York City. Over a million watermelons, contaminated by the pesticide Aldicarb were destroyed by law in the California breakout. While in the New York case, over 700 people became sick after they ate raw clams. Nonetheless sewage and garbage still are poured off the New York and New Jersey coasts.

The list could go on. The reports on food contamination are voluminous. What is missing is the critical amount of action by eaters to put a stop to the various assaults on the integrity, the wholesomeness of the food supply.

Dr. Michael Jacobson, co-founder of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, has started Americans for Safe Food. An MIT graduate in biochemistry, Jacobson is an experienced hand in mobilizing consumers. His materials, which you can request free, are full of practical action tips about how to get your supermarkets to offer contaminant-free foods, to label the colorings, waxes, drugs and pesticides used in or on foods, and

to locate natural food stores and farms.

He wants a national movement to fight for laws that are enforced against unsafe food and for national and state policies to support sustainable agriculture and standards for “organic” or “natural” foods.

Along with a growing number of farmers and scientists, Jacobson knows that the 40 year fling with ever-increasing amounts of herbicides, fungicides and pesticides is self-destructive. The pests are mutating faster and faster and becoming resistant to these chemicals. Result: although ten times more chemicals are being used in agriculture than was used in 1950, the percentage of crops lost to these pests has not decreased.

So, in pressing for prevention of food contamination at its source, we are also pressing to clean up our air, land and water and to encourage past and present methods of chemical free farming. More farmers are finding that moving away from chemical fertilizers, pesticides and other additives has resulted-in healthier soils, lower costs and in many cases higher yields per acre.

All this is a great crusade for the health rights of children, infants and future generations: If you are inclined to agree, contact Americans for Safe Food at 1501 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036.