Brazil: ‘Pet food’ for the poor

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In Sao Paulo prosecutors have opened an enquiry into plans to feed school children and poor people with a flour – farinata – made of freeze-dried leftover food, often processed near its sell-by-date, dubbed ‘human pet food’. It also comes in pellet form.

The conservative mayor Joao Doria, of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), and Catholic cardinal Dom Odilo Schere, said the scheme would alleviate hunger at no cost to the city when they defended the plans on 18 October. It has not met safety or nutritional standards.

Doria is a tycoon and ex-host of Brazil’s Apprentice TV show. From October, farinata will start being distributed by the Church, other third sector entities and City Hall. The church has promoted it for four years. Many types of food – like potato, tomato and even meat – can be reduced to this compound. The flour-like powder can last for up to two years and can be used as a supplement in baking. The Regional Nutrition Council, an institution that regulates nutritionists, said in a press release that the mayor’s policy contradicts the principles of the Human Right to Adequate Food. It said it is ‘in total disrespect to the advances made in the last decades in the field of food safety and with regard to public policies on actions to combat hunger and malnutrition’.

Sao Paulo has 12 million inhabitants, nearly 20% of the population live in poverty, and over one million people live in the city’s favelas – shantytown slums, or cortices – occupying abandoned buildings in the middle of the city. Unemployment, poverty and homelessness have risen for four years, and the ruling class fears the political consequences for themselves.

Doria has the insolence to call this farinata ‘solidarity food’, presumably because as it would maintain the poor at almost zero cost it acts in solidarity to the propertied classes and sustains the reserve army of labour; effect is to hold down the wages of the employed. For good measure a law backed by Doria proposes tax breaks for companies that donate food within its sell-by-date.

Doria dropped a comprehensive city plan to improve diet, promoting small farmers markets and controlling fruit and vegetable prices. This ultra-processed product, this ‘food’, thus acts only in solidarity with the exploitation of the working class.

We demand full employment and healthy nutrition for all workers!