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Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Thursday, April 6, 2000

Fat content of beef
a matter of honor

Question: When we buy ground beef, the store usually indicates 7, 15 or 25 percent fat -- whatever the fat content is. Does anyone monitor the standards? How can I trust that 7 percent fat is 7 percent? I swear I have bought ground beef that has a lot more fat than the label states.

Answer: No government agency regularly checks whether there is truth in labeling for ground beef.

However, you can call the state Department of Health's Food & Drug Branch, 586-4725, "and we can check it out," said branch chief Maurice Tamura.

"In the past, we used to take ground beef samples from various supermarkets, but because of all our budget cuts, we haven't done that for awhile," he said.

Also, deceptive labeling is considered "an economic violation," rather than a safety violation, and thus, not a high priority for inspectors, Tamura said.

And, again, because of budget cuts, "we are focusing more on safety issues rather than economic issues," he said. "I think the public would want us to do that."

But what does this mean for consumers? Generally, consumers have to know and trust the store they patronize, Tamura acknowledged.

"But if the consumer suspects that the store may be misbranding ground beef (or some other product), then give us a call and we can check it out," he said.

There should be some basis for suspicion. Tamura has a total of five inspectors on Oahu, and one each based on Maui and the Big Island, to do such inspections.

"We lost 40 percent of our field staff -- inspectors -- statewide, the last few years because of downsizing," Tamura said.

While restaurant inspections are handled by the Department of Health's Sanitation Branch, his staff is responsible for monitoring food manufacturers and distributors; food markets; drug wholesalers and pharmacies; cosmetic manufacturers, distributors and retailers; medical devices, etc.

"Our priority now is on food and drug safety, not as much on economic-type issues and violations," he said.


One night last week, before 6:30 p.m., I was going for a walk and saw three teen-aged boys skateboarding on the roof of Manoa School. That was the second time I saw this. I told them if they didn't get off I would call 911, so they finally did. I wish HPD would patrol that area a little more often. -- D.M.

(You have described a continual problem, said Manoa School principal Victoria Bannan. In fact, someone was actually riding a bicycle on the roof one day.

(Bannan encourages people to call 911 to report such sightings. "Our community is very supportive, so there are people who are watching" over the school, she said. "We appreciate that.")


To the good Samaritan who turned in my car keys to the Kahala Mall Star Supermarket courtesy counter on Monday, March 20. I had dropped them and you so graciously left a note telling me where you had turned them in. May the Lord bless you for being such an honest and considerate soul. -- Grateful Grandma


To Asia Allen, who assisted my in-laws after coming upon an accident scene recently. She notified the Honolulu Police Department and asked for an ambulance. She notified my wife about the accident. Thank you, Ms. Allen, for all your assistance, thoughtfulness and kindness. -- R. Gima

Need help with problems? Call Kokua Line at 525-8686,
fax 525-6711, or write to P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu 96802.
Email to

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