Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Melamine-Free Halloween!

Green Halloween Buys: Lake Champlain or Sweet Earth foil-wrapped milk and dark chocolate coins; Yummy Earth organic, individually wrapped lollipops, Sour Z treats or Gummy Worms; Annie's Organic Bunny Fruit snacks

Don’t Buy: Sherwood Pirate’s Gold Milk Chocolate Coins; White Rabbit “milk” candies; unlabeled candies of any kind, which may contain toxic melamine.

Buccaneers are big this Halloween, but make sure your pirate’s hoard doesn’t contain melamine, the chemical illegally added to Chinese dairy products, including infant formula, that has caused 54,000 cases of kidney stones and four infant deaths in that country.

First, it’s important not to panic: These illnesses are due to contaminated infant formula, and eating a candy or two doesn’t begin to approach a dangerous dose, according to nutritionist Marion Nestle in her column. However, Dr. Nestle points out, melamine is symptomatic of a broader consumer protection matter, namely, that we are entitled to know what’s in our food.

Next, here's what to look out for: The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has issued a recall of Sherwood Brands Pirate’s Gold Milk Chocolate Coins, sold in Costco and dollar and bulk stores. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not recalled Pirate’s Gold because, the agency says, the candies were not distributed in this country. However, on its website, Sherwood admits that it really can’t be certain where all its products end up. The FDA has recalled White Rabbit candies, but its tracking has been less than reassuring: The agency’s list of states where the candies were distributed does not include Connecticut, where White Rabbit toffees containing melamine were found this month by that state’s office of consumer protection.

As a vigilant Greenerpenny reader advises:

“Please make sure to check your children’s Halloween candy and DO NOT LET THEM EAT THE PIRATE COINS (you know, the ones wrapped in the shiny gold foil) and please let other parents know about this!”

Food origins, tracking, meaningful safety standards and enforcement are the broader issue, in this age of global markets. Melamine has just leapt beyond products containing milk, such as Chinese cookies found with high levels in Asian and Europe, (the FDA has also recalled Mr. Brown powdered "nondairy" creamer) to crop up in eggs from China. Dr. Nestle says, “For the moment, it’s best to just say no to imported foods and ingredients supposedly made with milk or soy powder, unless they are certified free of melamine and other toxic contaminants. But for this, it helps to know where food and ingredients come from.”

Organic certification, of course, means a product can’t contain melamine or other synthetic chemicall. Organic labels are transparent, that is, the ingredients are regulated each step of the way and can be traced back to the source. If your child brings home unlabeled candies, “trade” them for organic fruit (including individually boxed organic raisins) and chocolate treats, U.S.-made chocolate coins by reputable companies likeVermont’s Lake Champlain, and organic cookies shaped like cats, bats and autumn leaves from Dancing Deer. Find nearby retailers on company websites; or check at Whole Foods. Also, as much as possible, buy from local producers you know and trust. Check your yellow pages or local “green” pages or food magazines, for candymakers near you; many independent bakeries also make confections, including chocolates and fruit gels. Type in your zip code at Sustainable Table and zoom into your local food network.

More treats:

Fairly traded, foil-wrapped mint-chocolate bits at Kate's Caring Gifts

Sweet Earth Very Scary organic milk or dark chocolate colorful wrapped "coins," skulls, witches' hats, bats

Endangered Species small wrapped chocolate bars and creepy crawly bug bites (10%) of profits go to species protection

Annie's Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks (vegan)

Yummy Earth individually-wrapped soft and hard candies.

Remember...screen, then have a screaming good time!


Anonymous said...

great ideas, good warning. i liked seeing the "alien" in the picture. is he organic?

GreenFemme said...

He's not organic, but he is PVC-free!