Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tainted infant formula in China; lessons (not) for Harper

It's been nearly a month since the listeriosis outbreak hit the Canadian food supply chain. Yet somehow it has conveniently, for "Steve" Harper anyway, dropped off the media's radar screen. I find it amazing that the opposition parties are not hammering away enough at this issue, nor are they making hay of Harper's plans to deregulate the food inspection business even more.

To prove the point of how lack of regulations can cause serious damage, look at the tainted infant formula scandal in Mainland China. Here, at least three children have died and 6200 more fallen ill from drinking formula tainted with melamine, an industrial chemical used to make plastics and fertilizer. It also has fire retardant properties. Melamine was added to formula apparently to make the milk look like it was higher in protein. Worse still some batches may have been exported to such countries as Bangladesh, Burundi, Burma, Gabon, Yemen, -- not surprisingly, countries with less than stellar human rights records of their own. What if some of that formula made its way to Canada?

Kids shouldn't get kidney stones, or die from kidney and bladder failure. It's happened.

Clearly, people's confidence in the food supply system in China has been undermined. In response, Beijing is ordering a "full investigation," which includes (surprise) suppressing chat forums discussing the tragedy.

At least here in Canada, the business involved is taking full responsibility even though it knows its reputation for quality has been sullied. But part of the problem may turn out to be inspection procedures that were not followed and a "who cares" attitude at the agency's head office in Ottawa. Who's in charge of inspections, then? Is it possible that one or more ministers dropped the ball on regulation inspections in general, and Harper called a snap election among other reasons to prevent discussion of this?

What can we expect when we have laissez-faire in Canada like we used to, i.e. no regulations at all? How many babies dying will be satisfactory before Harper then says he was wrong? Or will he resort to invoking the notwithstanding clause he loves so much to suppress dissent here, too?

Kiss all the babies you want, Steve. Your contempt for necessary regulation proves the only children you care about are the two you sired. We're not going to fall for it.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

No comments: