The price we pay for cheap crap

Crossposted at The Vermont Political Observer, where you can also read my takes on that new “centrist” political action committee, the ethics and legalities of high-stakes political fundraising, and a Republican candidate’s kinda-sorta-almost call for “another 9/11” to wake up the country. You can’t make this stuff up.

Two news items on a single theme: Big Mac Mystery Meat, and toxic baubles.

Second one first, ‘cuz there’s a direct Vermont connection. Two-Fisted™ Attorney General Bill Sorrell has filed suit against Dollar Tree, purveyor of cheap crap and nothing but cheap crap, “for selling jewelry that contains toxic substances.”

What’s more, DT is a repeat offender. Sorrell says the botto m-barrel retailer is in violation of an earlier agreement to stop selling jewelry with unacceptably high levels of lead and cadmium. Charming. Sorrell’s office says the chain has sold “over 30,000 individual items… through its stores in Barre, Bennington, Burlington, Derby/Newport, and Rutland.”

The original 2010 settlement arose from what the AG’s office calls “a growing awareness… that many products imported from China and other countries contained toxic substances.” And the release adds, not at all reassuringly, that

“…although Dollar Tree routinely requires the testing of products it purchases for resale to consumers, its testing protocol does not ensure that all items of jewelry sold in its stores are free of toxic substances.”

So they require testing, but the testing program doesn’t ensure untainted products. I guess if they had a really thorough testing program, that’d interfere with the free and open flow of cheap crap. Which probably violates Dollar Tree’s constitutional right of free speech. Heck, if money is speech, isn’t a commercial transaction also speech?

On to Mystery Meat. McDonald’s, purveyor of oddly gray “hamburgers,” is portraying itself as “a bit deceived” over an audit of a Chinese meat supplier. The Daily Mail reports that Shanghai Husi Food was shut down after “a TV report showed workers apparently picking up meat from the factory floor, as well as mixing meat beyond its expiration date with fresh produce.” Yum, yum!

Mickey D’s CEO Don Thompson says “We are no longer serving product from the primary facility there that has the challenges and the issues.” I should hope so.

But that’s not the bad news.  

The bad news is this, from CNBC:  

McDonald’s and many other food companies rely on third parties to perform audits to check whether facilities are complying with food safety rules and other regulations. It is not uncommon for suppliers at the center of food safety scandals to have received high marks on their audits.

Apparently, a whole lot of weak links in our food chain is the hidden price we pay for Cheap McCrap. And cheap pizza and “chicken,” since KFC and Pizza Hut have also served meat from the factory floor and compost heap at Husi Food.

At least they didn’t find elevated levels of lead or cadmium. Then again, how can we be sure they’re testing for that?

3 thoughts on “The price we pay for cheap crap

  1. Speaking of cheap crap remember Pink Slime ? It’s the beef, bone and fat scrap ground-up ammoniated slurry made into burger additive that was said to have been largely phased out of use. Well…


    Cargill says, sales of the product are up as beef prices are rising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says in 2010, the cost of ground beef averaged $2.25 a pound. Now it’s nearly $4 a pound. So grocery stores and food processors, like the makers of lasagna and pasta sauce, are buying more ground beef with the cheaper beef product [aka Pink slime !] mixed in.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesa

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