Cerebral Soup - The Archives
The Herald Sun - Sunday (link found again!) exclaimed in a story today that Vegemite has been banned in the USA. Not only banned - but people are being asked if they have any when they enter the country.
Kraft spokeswoman Joanna Scott in this article states:
"Kraft spokeswoman Joanna Scott said: "The (US) Food and Drug Administration doesn't allow the import of Vegemite simply because the recipe does have the addition of folic acid.''
Sounds straightforward right? Except when you start to dig around.
First off there is no mention of this ban on any of the US government sites.
US Customs and Protection - nothing.
US Transportation Security Administration - nothing.
Now the US Food and Drug Administration - here is where it gets interesting. There is only one reference to the banning of Vegemite and it states that it is only banning of import of it from the U.K.
United Kingdom 084-1013637-1 47 1
Grimsby , GB NYK-DO
25HCT99 KRAFT VEGEMITE SANDWICH SPREAD, DOES NOT REQUIRE FCE/SID
Reason: NO PROCESS
Section: 402(a)(4), 801(a)(3); ADULTERATION
Charge: It appears that the manufacturer has not filed
information on its scheduled process as required by 21 CFR
108.25(c)(2) or 108.35(c)(2).
Which does not say anything about it being banned for containing folic acid at all.
Interestingly enough a Google search for Joanna Scott + Kraft shows that she is a spokesman of Kraft - in the UK.
Vegemite is manufactured in Australia and New Zealand. You would think the author of the article Kelvin Healey might have thought about calling a spokesperson in one of those countries - not the one in which exporting was banned because some forms have not been filled out.
Also the only news articles about this banning that have appeared are all derivatives of the same article written by Kelvin Healey.
In the Herald Sun article linked above we have the following quote:
Paul Watkins, who owns a store called About Australia in San Antonio, Texas, said he had been forced to stop importing Vegemite six months ago.
"We have completely stopped bringing it in, which has been hard," he said.
Mr Watkins said some companies were flouting the law by continuing to import Vegemite and hoping the shipments would not be inspected.
Interestingly enough if you go to the About Australia Vegemite Page it states nothing about this ban, nothing about them being unable to supply it, and in fact they still list it as being available to purchase in their online store.
Ben Peek raises suspicions on his blog about this ban, and his experience with trying to order Vegemite.
The news articles cite one guy who got stopped at customs and was asked whether he was carrying Vegemite. Now you would think this singling out of Australians and having their Vegemite confiscated (because I'm sure the Customs guys are not asking everyone who comes through if they happen to be carrying Vegemite - only those with Australian Passports) would be ALL OVER the web. But guess what?
Hardly a blip.
In an interesting twist Shane at Eyestrain Productions talks about a Vegemite confiscation - but it was related to all liquids and gels being banned at that time - not because it was Vegemite in particular.
Considering also that has it would cause inconvenience to Australians travelling to the States it seems remarkable that the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on their smart traveller site mentions nothing about Vegemite at all.
So is someone just playing silly buggers?
If this is true, then let's have a lookie at possibly why.
Folic acid (folacin) - NUTR, REG, May be added to foods subject to a standard of identity when standard of identity provides for addition of folic acid. May be added 400 ¬µg per serving to breakfast cereals, to infant formula 4 ¬µg per 100 kcal of infant formula, 1 mg/1 lb. of corn grits, to foods represented as meal-replacement products 400 ¬µg/serving if the food is a meal-replacement that is represented for use once/day or 200 ¬µg/serving if the food is a meal-replace-ment that is represented for use more than once/day. May be added to medical food at levels not to exceed the amount necessary to meet the distinctive nutritional requirements of the disease or condition for which the food is formulated, and for food for special dietary use not to exceed the amount necessary to meet the special dietary needs for which the food is formulated - 172.345.
On the Vegemite site:
Folate 100 ¬µg (50% RDI)** (5g) 2000 ¬µg(100g)
The presence of Folate is due to the yeast in Vegemite. Vegemite at its most basic is a concentrated yeast extract.
Is the alleged ban on a technicality due to the classification of Vegemite as a food? Because folic acid is actually added to bread and cereals in the States. The FDA in 1993 made this proposal.
The Food and Drug Administration today proposed that folic acid, a B-vitamin, be added to flour, breads and other grain products to lower the risk of neural tube birth defects.
I think here at this point we have run into the surreal. (Although that is not uncommon when it comes to dealing with Government agencies).
What is the real story?
Update: The original article on the Herald Sun site has been removed*. The article on the news.co.au site is still accessible - but does not appear on searches, or in the listing of articles published yesterday. News.com.au have published 90 comments on this article - but interestingly enough not mine is which I mentioned some of the facts mentioned above.
* was found again! Thanks Blick_TX.Posted by mjd-s on October 22, 2006 4:35 PM