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THIS CONTINUES RACHEL Handler’s entertaining story of missing bucatini pasta, described in “What the Hole Is Going On?,” New York Magazine’s “Grub Street,” December 28, 2020. Yesterday’s tidbits concluded with Food and Drug Adminstration revelation that De Cecco bucatini was being held up at the U.S. border.
Toting Insufficient Iron? De Cecco’s FDA hassle prompted Rachel Handler to do “a deep dive at the FDA website, “where, to my great shock, I found a buried couple of jargon-y paragraphs published on March 30, 2020, that did indeed mention De Cecco bucatini.”
Her New York Magazine “Grub Street” article shares three finely printed paragraphs of dense legalese describing De Cecco’s bucatini containing “10.9 mg/lb of iron which is below the level of 13-16.5 mg/lb as required by the standard of enriched macaroni.”
Rachel writes, “As someone who is not actually a food reporter by trade, and by law am not allowed to read sentences with this many numbers in them, I had no idea what any of this meant.”
Rachel then discovered, “In Europe, which houses the grand nation of Italy, where De Cecco is made, the standards of identity are different.” Not better or worse, she’s told, just different. “So,” she says, “while the De Cecco bucatini might have been ‘in balance’ for the E.U., the U.S. had found its iron levels lacking—specifically by 2.1 milligrams. This, to me, seemed both petty and confusing. Why had the FDA singled out De Cecco in the first place to test its iron levels?”
Seriously Stirring the Pot. Rachel dug deeper: “I emailed Dave De Cecco, who I imaged to be the heir to the De Cecco empire, by guessing his email address multiple times. He did not reply, and later I realized he may not be at all related to the De Ceccos, which is another investigation for another time.” A footnote at the end of her article confirms that, indeed, he’s not related.
Rachel even went to the trouble of filing an FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request with the FDA. She’s no sissy, though she acknowledges that the FDA is “very busy approving a life-saving vaccine for billions of people.”
Big Pasta. Her correspondence with Carl Zuanelli, chairman of the National Pasta Association, yielded a reply “with a tale that sounded so Coen brothers-y I could not believe it,” Rachel says.
It involves the established noodle industry “(henceforth referred to as Big Pasta)” and its possible post-World War II concern with ramen noodles.
Rachel says, “Big Pasta made sure that all noodles had to meet certain specifications to be considered ‘enriched macaroni products’ and sold in the United States. As time went on, it would seem, the petty beef spun out into a juicier beef, with the main agitators of Big Pasta turning on each other.”
“Thrilled by the There Will Be Blood of it all,” Rachel writes, “I reached out to a legal source who asked not to be named but who has deep knowledge of the inner workings of Big Pasta. The legal source, whom I will call Luigi for fun but whose real name is very different from that, confirmed Carl’s suspicions: ‘FDA is quite slow to take action involving standards violations. I’m speculating that a competitor put some heavy pressure on FDA,’ he said.”
Rachel concludes, “At time of press, I am still waiting for the fruits of my FOIA request, as well as for literally anyone from De Cecco to reply to me. De Cecco, if you’re reading this: Please contact me immediately, then also put 2.1 milligrams of iron into your freaking bucatini and help rescue us from this national nightmare.”
I concur, not about the De Cecco contact, but about the rescue. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021