The Local Antidote

The dust from the China-made poisoned pet food incident has yet to settle, but disturbing news is heard from China again. This time around, melamine was used to artificially increase the protein count in dairy products to get around quality checks. The industrial chemical has been found in baby formula and other milk products from 22 Chinese companies. So far, 54,000 Chinese children have been affected, with more than 100 in critical condition. Four deaths have already been associated with kidney stones and other complications caused by the toxic milk. Supermarkets from countless countries have been cleared of Chinese dairy products, biscuits, candy, rice balls or other foods that could contain Chinese dairy derivatives – ranging from Oreos, Snickers and M&Ms in Indonesia, to Dutch Lady strawberry milk in Singapore and Cadbury Chocolates in Hong Kong. For anyone in the world, food is something of utmost importance, so I went to two places to check out the sources of food at PA. First, I met with Mr. Paul Robarge, the Senior Food Service Director at PA. On the surface, it seems that we are safe. Our milk comes from Highland and HP hood, and our cheese comes from Cabot and our yogurt comes from Stonyfield. These are all US companies. However, when I went online to look for more information, I found that some of them did not have information as to where the food was produced and the origin of the food ingredients. The second place I went was the snack machine in our dorm. All the snacks, like Three Musketeers and Snickers, state that they are distributed by US companies. But the distributor does not necessarily have to be the manufacturer. In fact, even if the manufacturer is a US one, it does not necessarily produce the products in the US. This makes it very hard for a consumer to ascertain the origins of a food product as few, if any, companies state where they obtain their ingredients. I feel that this is a good time for local, American farms to step up, because a solution to the problem would require regionally grown food. Andover already does a good job buying products from US farmers, as it patronizes companies that sell home-grown food. The benefits of doing so heavily outweigh the extra cost. By supporting local farms, we would be investing in a clean, steady supply of food, instead of constantly having to be affected by overseas scandals. In addition, food from local farms is guaranteed to be fresher than imported food, which most of the time has to be frozen. This undoubtedly results in better tasting food and happier faculty and students. Lastly, buying from local farms means supporting the regional economy. Not only would more people be encouraged to take up the business, thus creating more jobs, but this also keeps the money circulating in the region instead of being lost to other countries. The current financial situation makes this even more crucial, as this is a time when we need a strong dollar. Of course, the Food and Drug Administration has leapt into action, alerting Americans to potentially melamine contaminated food, from coffee to candy. But we must continue to be vigilant, because China is obviously not going to inform the rest of the world. Mr. Xiang Yuzhang, the Chinese national quality monitor’s chief inspection official, summed it up well on September 24 – “There will be no more bad news.” Max Png is a new Upper from Singapore.