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Looking at the food we eat

Posted: June 27, 2013 11:43 a.m.
Updated: June 28, 2013 5:00 a.m.

I’ve seen some interesting food pieces in the news lately concerning chemicals we eat in America that are banned in other countries.

As much as I don’t want to start eating the insects that some countries consider delectables (that’s a little too natural for my taste), I do often wonder why we allow certain products to sit on the shelves of our grocery stores. I consider it good practice to shop around the perimeter of the store. Walking around the perimeter, you are most likely to find your produce section, your meat counter, your dairy products and your prepared foods and in some grocery stores, your frozen fruits and veggies.

Anything that’s in the middle should be relatively off limits and, honestly, some of the juice drinks and dairy products people can find on the perimeter should be off limits, too. There is a sizable movement of people who are pushing to get milk containing growth hormones banned. Personally, I don’t care for any kind of milk unless it’s mixed into something, but cow milk is risky because the hormones used to produce milk and dairy can be harmful to our bodies. Milk containing those certain growth hormones is allegedly banned in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and the European Union. The United Kingdom and Canada also banned the fat substitute found in fat-free chips; Purdue University tested the fat Olestra or Olean and found that it caused a number of bowel issues in rats and interfered with the absorption of several vitamins, which must be added to any product that Olestra is included. Canada, along with China and the EU have also banned potassium bromate, or bromated flour, which is used in bread to help the dough hold together. Potassium bromate is linked to cancer, tumors and kidney damage.

Arsenic in the meat supply has been getting some attention lately, too, although the manufacturer of the specific kind of arsenic-based drug is no longer producing it, according to National Public Radio. Arsenic has been fed to chickens for quite some time to increase their weight, kill parasites and give meat color. Obviously, arsenic can be deadly. Artificial food dye is a concern and it’s in pretty much every odd colored food, drink and candy that we can think of. Dye is linked to hyperactivity and nerve-cell deterioration and is banned in the UK, France and Finland. One of the things that gets me every time is breakfast cereal, especially the kind made for children. There may be some added vitamins in the mix, but there is so much sugar that it just astounds me that parents let their children eat that mess before they go to school. Honestly, I think a lot of the fun food that attracts kids is probably bad for their little bodies.

It’s important to know what’s in the food supply and I like that the media is shedding light on potential (a key word in all of this) harmful effects of eating what’s in most of our standard American diets, but sometimes I think there is a lot of hype to scare people. Sometimes people need to be scared into action, but there is something to be said for balance. Yes, there are potentially harmful chemicals in the food supply -- a lot of time it’s necessary to keep food looking fresh on its long journey from the producers to your kitchen -- but small amounts won’t kill you. We are going to consume chemicals that are potentially harmful -- I’ve read that consuming food that’s been burnt is harmful because of the carcinogens, which can cause cancer. I’m sure they are on to something, but I’m surely at risk, because I’m always burning something. I highly doubt that the Federal Drug Administration has a vendetta against the American people, as they have to eat, too. Although the more natural, the better, I don’t think people need to freak out. As much as I hate to say it, even the natural/organic producers have an agenda: they want your money just like everybody else.

If you feel terrible every day, however, the first thing you need to look at is what you are consuming. Most of the things I’ve seen in the news as a food we should ban because of these specific products are generally harmful because they lack basic vitamins and minerals that people need to sustain them throughout the day. Micronutrients are necessary and you can’t get them from eating a bagel and cream cheese with your coffee for breakfast every day; that’s just a simple fact. Some of the fruits and vegetables you eat are going to have chemicals and some of your boxed food will have some nutrients. If you separate food into all-natural or “going to kill you,” you are going to live a sad, sad, unpleasant life.

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