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Child deaths in India push global issues of pesticides, food safety into news

Food safety is a global issue. I was reminded of that with the news that more than 20 children in India died after consuming school lunches provided by a government-run program. Some children remain ill and authorities are trying to pinpoint the source - possibly a chemical found in pesticides that somehow made it into the lunches.

As soon as I heard "pesticides" I remembered a Food and Drug Administration database recently shown to me at a workshop in Illinois. Any products imported to the US found not complying with the FDA's Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act can be detained. These import refusals and the charges they make are maintained in monthly reports and in a database.

A search of this data since 2011 finds more than 3,000 reports of products refused entry due to pesticide chemicals. Products were refused from more than 60 countries including India, Mexico, China, Canada and the United States.

Chances are that whatever made the India school children ill cannot be found within this data, but it might help journalists investigate food safety and business within their own countries. Reports cover products ranging from food and cosmetics to pharmaceuticals and findings include everything from mislabeling and misbranding to products containing pesticides, unsafe food additives and more. Search for reports and data here.

This is just one example of how journalists can use U.S. data to investigate internationally. Check out this and other tipsheet from the IRE Resource Center to find links to more data that can be used for investigations.

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