The Hightower Report
Chocolate That Isn't; and Bush's Farewell Gift to Chemical Bosses
Chocolate That Isn't
Be careful out there. The corporate powers are messing with us again.
Here comes Hershey, the iconic candy company that claims to be "committed to making the world's best chocolate." For example, such brands as Mr. Goodbar, Milk Duds, and Take 5 brag right on the label that they're "made with chocolate." Only ... they're not.
Chocolate, as you probably know, is made of cocoa butter. It's yummy stuff. But get out your magnifying glass to read the labels of the Hershey bars that claim to be "made with chocolate," and you'll find oils from palm kernels, soybeans, sunflower, and safflower listed – but no cocoa butter. None.
How can this be? Trying to find the logic of it will cause your brain to explode, but here is the essence of the deception. The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates candy contents, says flatly that cocoa butter is the required fat for chocolate. However, under pressure from most of the industry's big players, the FDA allows the use of such tricky phrases as "made with chocolate," "chocolatey," and "chocolate candy" to label products that actually have zero of the good stuff in them.
It is, in other words, a government-sanctioned consumer fraud. But the industry wants to deepen the fraud by getting FDA regulators to alter the very definition of chocolate so that it no longer mentions cocoa butter. It would be like saying that wineries could eliminate grapes and still label their products "wine." A spokesman for the big candy-makers' lobbying group says that their attempt to pervert plain language is necessary in order to "modernize" FDA's rules and "accommodate innovation."
It's more like accommodating a blatant consumer rip-off. The good news is that independent chocolatiers and consumers are in rebellion against this sneaky push for nonchocolate chocolate. To learn what's going on with your own favorite chocolates, check out www.candyblog.org.
Bush's Farewell Gift to Chemical Bosses
For nearly eight years, George W.'s Labor Department has been a do-nothing agency, viewing the safety needs of America's workers with benign neglect. Thank goodness for small favors.
In the 11th hour of the Bushites' reign, this comatose agency has suddenly jumped from benign neglect to malevolent aggressiveness. At issue is the protection of laborers from exposure to deadly workplace poisons. With no public warning, no consultation with labor groups, no discussion with key lawmakers, and no compliance with the normal rule-making procedure, the political office of the Labor Department is engaged in a regulatory sneak attack, quietly issuing a proposal that drastically weakens protections for America's work force. In response to industry lobbyists, the new rule undermines the cautious assumption that a worker's risk of harm must be based on very long, accumulated exposure to the toxins. Corporations complained to the White House that this precautionary principle overstates the workplace dangers posed by asbestos, lead, and other lethal chemicals.
The department's risk assessment experts were not even shown the proposed change until April. They opposed it – and assumed that it was dead. On July 7, however, a cryptic, nine-word item on a White House website revealed that the politicos had gone around them and were determined to sneak it through. Exposed, Bush appointees asserted that administration policy prevented them from revealing the details of the proposal, much less explaining who wrote it and why it was being pushed in a rush of secrecy.
Actually, I would let the industry have its weakened exposure limits – as long as the corporate CEOs agreed to have the same dosages of the same toxins placed in all of their executive suites. I'll bet personal danger would enhance their zeal for safety protections.
For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.