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Pet Food Scare Raises Questions About Food Safety

The recent cases of tainted pet food have raised concerns about food consumed by humans. Agriculture companies are taking new precautions to sterilize food supplies, but some experts say more regulations are needed.

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  • BETTY ANN BOWSER, NewsHour Correspondent:

    Never have Mexican farm workers had to be more concerned about food safety than they are today. Horror stories of dead pets and sick Americans have meant revved-up safety programs, with workers constantly washing and disinfecting their hands and tools.

  • ANDREW POIRIEZ, Circle Produce Co.:

    This is us staying in business here. I mean, we do what we have to do, because we have to produce for that market. And if we don't do it, it'll cause problems.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    Andre Poiriez is a second-generation owner of an American company that grows fruits and vegetables about an hour south of the U.S.-Mexican border. He says, without rigid safety procedures, he could lose business.

  • ANDREW POIRIEZ:

    There's a better possibility of the product being contaminated and then coming across and making somebody sick, and then the whole thing happens after that, up to even the company going out of business.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    Mexican food represents only part of the skyrocketing food imports coming through ports like Seattle. Many of the imports come from Asia, developing countries like China, which supply very high amounts of frozen seafood, apple juice and garlic.

    Nationwide, there are 25,000 shipments of imported food a day, 20 million a year, with the market is growing. The statistics tell the story: 92 percent of all fresh and frozen seafood consumed is imported; 52 percent of the grapes; 75 percent of the apple juice; 72 percent of the mushrooms. The list goes on, and almost none of it gets inspected.

    Listen to Bill Hubbard, who was associate commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, for 14 years.

  • WILLIAM HUBBARD, Former Associate Commissioner, FDA:

    Virtually everything we're eating is coming from foreign countries. As it comes off the ship, the FDA inspector is allowed to go look, but there's so many of these containers they can only look at only 1 percent.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    Hubbard says the problem isn't just whole food products, like fish and vegetables, but a growing list of imported ingredients that go into processed food.

    You send your kid down to the store. "We're out of bread. We need a loaf of bread." And he brings home 100 percent whole wheat bread. Not so?

  • WILLIAM HUBBARD:

    Well, the wheat is probably coming from the United States, but there is wheat gluten in this, almost certainly will come from China or another Asian country. They're also retardants for bacteria and mold, like propionic acid that's in here. It's likely coming from overseas, as well, countries that have less-developed regulatory systems, which is why you need a strong regulatory system in the United States.