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How Safe Is The Food We Eat? The Biggest Food Scandals Of All Time.

November 3, 2016 by  
Filed under Health, Money/Business, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.comWe live in modern times now. Most of us go to a store to do the weekly grocery shop, pick up the things we want, maybe check a few little details on the back of the packet, and then buy it in confidence. It’s true that health standards have come a long way over the years when it comes to food. However, that doesn’t mean that you can blindly trust everything you buy in a store or order at a restaurant. There have been countless scandals which have shaken the food industry and the world at large throughout history, and changed the way many of us think about the food products we see on the shelves. Here’s a list of some of the food scandals which shook the world.

Mad Cow Disease

This was a horrific beef scandal that hit the UK during the late 80s. Many of the nation’s cows had been fed bone meal which was infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, which became popularly known as “mad cow disease”. Tragically, this fatal disease ended up infecting some of the humans who consumed infected beef,black and 166 people in the UK died from it. Immediately following the news scandal surrounding mad cow disease, many countries placed an outright ban on beef from the UK. There was a large-scale cull to stop the disease in its tracks, however the fear of the disease hung over the country for some time afterwards. One notably horrifying aspect of this disease is that it affects the brain of the person or animal infected, hence the name. It results in rapid neurodegeneration, manifesting as memory loss, dementia, balance and motor skills dysfunction, seizures, and other terrible symptoms. There is no cure for the disease, and most people infected with it die within a few months of the initial symptoms. Some have been recorded as having survived for as long as two years afterwards. However, mad cow disease is invariably fatal. An unprecedented food scandal for the UK, mad cow disease caused a huge blow to the international beef industry.

Iraqi Poison Grain Scandal

This was a massive case of poisoning, which was fairly shocking in itself. However, what’s really frightening about it is that it happened more or less because of language barriers. In 1971, the US and Mexico sent shipments of grain to Iraq. This grain had been treated with a popular fungicide of the time which contained methylmercury. Though the shipment wasn’t intended for human consumption, it inevitably got mixed in with Iraqi grain, due to the labels being in Spanish and English. Unfortunately, the grain was used in countless products throughout the country and many people became horribly ill from ingesting the poisonous additive. The official death toll peaked at 650. However, there are some estimates suggesting that it was over a thousand. On the upside, this massive loss of life lead to much tighter regulations on the labeling, handling, and distribution of mercury-treated grains, in an attempt to ensure that such a massive tragedy would never happen again. The Iraqi army was deployed to locate and destroy all the remaining grain, and there were severe punishments for anyone found knowingly selling it.

Jack-In-The-Box E. Coli Scandal

This scandal is one of the most recent, and perhaps one of the most infamous cases of food poisoning in the history of the States. It all started when the Jack In The Box chain of fast food restaurants began selling a new, specially promoted “Monster Burger”. Though the root causes still aren’t exactly clear, 73 different restaurants scattered across Idaho, California, Washington and Nevada served undercooked patties. The remaining bacteria caused severe food poisoning in hundreds of people. Four children died from the incident, and 178 other people had permanent damage from the intense sickness. What makes this particular scandal even more shocking is that it occurred in 1993, a time when food standards were relatively sophisticated. It just goes to show that even when all the possible precautions are being taken, there are still gaps in the net. Again, although this scandal was a tragedy, there was a certain silver lining. Due to the sheer impact of the news, many new health and safety regulations were imposed on the American beef industry. It also breathed life into specialized law firms like this one:, ensuring that the people who are affected by food poisoning have a route to justice.

Radioactive Oatmeal

This is likely the most infuriating and horrific food scandals ever to happen in the history of the world. This is not only because of the damage to human life, but the total disregard for it, and the fact that this scandal was engineered intentionally by our own government. Between the years 1946 and 1953, the US Atomic Energy Commission in partnership with Quaker Oats fed 73 mentally disabled children radioactive oatmeal, for no other reason than to see what would happen. The young and terrible power of nuclear energy was something new to the whole world, and fears of a third world war were spreading rapidly in both the Soviet Union and the western world. Apparently, some higher-ups decided that this justified feeding children radioactive material. Many lawsuits were filed in the aftermath of this scandal, but none were settled until 1998. Spokespeople for Quaker insisted that the level of radiation administered was similar to what a person would usually be exposed to over the course of a year. Thankfully, the courts involved in the case concluded that the children’s civil rights had been violated by the company. Though the scandal was of monolithic proportions, Quaker Oats managed to pay their fines, and remain in business to this day. The next time you see that grinning, rosy-cheeked face on a box of oatmeal, think about the history behind it!

Fake Apple Juice

As everyone knows, babies need a lot of vitamins and nutrients to help them develop properly as they grow into children. Baby food company Beech-Nut, however, figured that they could save themselves some money by trimming down the nutrients in their apple juice, or even cutting them out altogether. After all, the babies aren’t going to tell anyone that something tastes off! When Beech-Nut’s fake apple juice was uncovered in the 80s, they were fined millions of dollars, one of the largest fines ever imposed on a company by the Food and Drug Administration. By marketing the product as “100% apple juice”, the business was found to have breached the trust of their customers. In reality, the product was a mixture of corn sugar, beet sugar, and various other cheap food products. Even though the fake juice was safe, it wasn’t exactly healthy, and there had never been such a massive case of deception by an American food company before. Remarkably, Beech-Nut survived the scandal, and get by with healthy sales figures to this day.

Chinese Lamb Substitute

As you probably know, China is a little more liberal when it comes to what animals count as livestock. However, when the customer gets deceived, they certainly don’t let it slide. It was only in 2013 that various vendors in eastern China were found to be passing rat, mink and fox meat off as lamb. Sixty-three people in the ring of distributors were caught, and thousands were outraged when the scandal came to light. Food safety has been a huge issue in China for some time now, and the government have been taking steps to clamp down on it in recent years. While the rat meat scandal was certainly a big success, it left a lot of people wondering how many of the culprits managed to slip through the law’s fingers. Scandals still continue to plague the Chinese meat industry, as you can read here: . Hopefully, as more crackdowns go ahead and standards are lifted, the people of China will one day be able to live in a nation where they don’t have to be so cautious about the food that they eat.

Beefless Beef Taco

In this scandal, the issue wasn’t really in the meat, more the lack of it! If you walked into a Taco Bell and order a beef taco, you’d naturally assume that the meat would be mainly beef, correct? Sure, it may not be the highest quality in the world, but it’s beef. Well, not quite! In 2014, a nationwide scandal broke out when it was found that Taco Bell’s meat was only 35% beef. Naturally, you may be wondering what the other 65% was. A test on the fast food chain’s beef came back with pretty worrying results. Though a lot of lurid rumors went around, the rest of the mixture wasn’t anything that serious. Oats and various additives you would expect to find in processed foods made up the part that wasn’t beef. It also appeared that the 35% figure may have been embellished. Despite this, the scandal was a massive blow to the Taco Bell brand, and many people vowed never to buy from them again for their dishonesty.

Staff Writer; Gary Hall

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