Sunday, December 07, 2008

Contamination Inc.

The presence of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in animal feed and pork samples from Ireland was confirmed on Saturday afternoon. This is the latest reported example of food adulteration. You do not need to have been paying close attention to the news in order to think of others, whether it is the near 300,000 children in China who became became ill as a result of consuming dairy products tainted with the industrial chemical melamine. or the delightfully monikered Maggot Pete, who sold contaminated chicken from a rat-infested and sewage-ridden factory in Denby, England. But such adulteration, not to forget the related human and animal suffering, is far from new:

“In London, there are two sorts of bakers, the “full priced”, who sell bread at its
full value, and the “undersellers”, who sell it at less than its value.
The latter class comprises more than three-quarters of the total number of
bakers (cites report). The undersellers, almost without exception, sell
bread adulterated with alum, soap, pearl-ash, chalk, Derbyshire stone dust
and other similar agreeable, nourishing and wholesome ingredients (Marx
cites another report). Sir John Gordon stated before the committee of 1855
that ‘in consequence of theses adulterations, the poor man, who lives on
two pounds of bread a day, does not now get one-fourth part of nourishing
matter, let alone the deleterious effects on his health.” (Capital Vol 1
Chapter 6: The Sale and Purchase of Labour-Power, Page 278, footnote,
Penguin edition).

Simply put, adulteration = more profit and competitiveness, a
natural part of capitalism.

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