Thursday, December 23, 2004

Small minds thinking tiny

Leadership in public health in this country comes in sizes: small, smaller, tiny, miniscule, absent. How would you grade the Arizona Department of Health Services? Consider this.

The Arizona Republic reports that there is lead in some Mexican candy being sold in the state but the state of Arizona is doing nothing to stop it, saying it is the job of the Federal Government. The state also has no plans to conduct tests to see which candies are involved. The implicated sweets, made with chili powder and tamarind, are popular with Latino children. Not to worry, says the Arizona Department of Health Services:
... the primary source of lead poisoning [in children] is not candy, but lead-based paint found in older housing. Children are poisoned when they eat the paint chips or inhale lead dust. Other sources are folk remedies that contain lead and cooking with pottery with lead-based glazes, she said.

"At this time, we haven't found Mexican candy to be the primary source of lead poisoning."
Question: have they looked? Not too hard, it turns out.
Trying to ban the treats in Arizona isn't the solution, said Will Humble, chief of epidemiology and disease control for the DHS.

Most of the questionable candy is flavored with chili powder or chili paste that sometimes gets contaminated in the manufacturing process, he said.

"So it's the spicy candies that are the problem, but it's not all," Humble said. "There are some spicy candies with chili powder in them that are absolutely fine. That's what is really tough about this. You can't just say, 'Well, all the candy made in Mexico with chili powder in it is bad.' You can't make that kind of a statement because it's not true."

Although extensive testing has been done in California, Arizona public health officials have not tested candy from Mexico or tried keeping it off the shelves. Humble believes that's the federal government's responsibility.
Yeah, just like protecting the environment is the federal government's responsibility. Just like keeping an eye on predatory energy companies is the federal government's responsibility. Just like keeping us from getting ripped off by pharmaceutical companies selling unsafe drugs at exorbitant prices is the federal government's responsibility. Just like . . .