1. Imported Chinese products loaded with risk

    The dangers of Chinese imports

    Looks like China is finally getting a taste of its own bad medicine -- or, in this case, a taste of its own tainted food.

    Seems a little accident at a Coca-Cola plant there caused a batch of drinks to become contaminated with chlorine. Apparently, there was a mix-up with the pipes during maintenance.

    Some 120,000 cases of beverages were contaminated, 76,000 of which ended up being distributed to an unsuspecting Chinese public.

    Coke is apologizing, which is more than what we usually get from China after the tainted food scandals that have come and gone over the years -- and will no doubt come again and again.

    Now, I'm not going to make light of this because it shouldn't happen to anyone, anywhere. Food and drink should be safe no matter where you live.

    But after years of us getting tainted toys and contaminated food from China, I can't help but think there's a little cosmic justice here.

    The Chinese have been caught red-handed sending us fish laced with antibiotics, vegetables loaded up with pesticides and fungicides, and even tainted toothpaste -- and let's not forget the tainted pet food scandal.

    They've even been sending us contaminated honey -- although it's hard to prove that it comes from China thanks to a practice known as "honey laundering" that removes all the pollen that could be used to identify the source.

    That laundered honey is then shipped to a third country before finally making its way to the United States -- where it's often sold as store brands and under discount labels, and nowhere on the package will it say "Made in China."

    Expect this to get worse, not better: The FDA inspects less than 1 percent of food imports.

    I guess they're too busy going after vitamin makers to focus on the "F" in "FDA."

    Support the local food movement instead -- buy locally, and buy organic.

  2. Playing the name game over sugar

    It's like a battle between two horror movie monsters: In one corner, you've got the corn industry responsible for high-fructose corn syrup as well as all the other corn-based additives used in everything from food to fuel.

    They've been trying to change the name of HFCS to "corn sugar," launching a multimillion-dollar ad campaign and lobbying the FDA to allow them to use the name in both marketing and ingredients labels.

    In the other corner, you've got the "real" sugar industry -- and they've just filed a lawsuit to block the ads, supposedly in the name of consumer protection. The name "corn sugar," they say, is just too confusing. People might think they're getting "real" sugar when they're really just getting HFCS.

    It's enough to make your head spin, especially since this is a game about semantics and marketing -- not health. The "real" sugar industry has lost plenty of business to the HFCS people over the years, and they'll be damned if they're going to let the corn people take the "sugar" name, too.

    So they've tried to position themselves as the good guys here. And amazingly, we've fallen for it -- hook, line and sweetener: Foods now wear a "MADE WITH REAL SUGAR!" label like a badge of honor.

    Some people even think they can taste the difference -- although a recent taste test proves otherwise. People were asked to try either regular HFCS-sweetened Coca-Cola or the increasingly trendy "Mexican Coke" made with real sugar -- and they picked the HFCS stuff by a 7-to-1 margin.

    But at the end of the day, your body doesn't care much whether the sugar comes from corn, cane or beets. Sugar is sugar -- and it's all bad for you.

    Sure, some studies have found that HFCS might be a little worse for you than real sugar -- but does it matter? One will cause obesity... the other will cause obesity, too, maybe just a little faster.

    The bottom line on this is that any product with added sugar -- no matter what they call it -- shouldn't be on the menu. Let the only sugars you get be the truly natural kind: The sugar you'll find in a piece of fruit.

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