Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Learning to trust what you consume

I’m scared of my food. But who’s not?

These days, it seems like everyone is becoming aware of the many disgusting truths about what we eat. In fact, the Food Marketing Institute reports that only 66 percent of Americans think that the food they buy is safe.

In case it’s been a while since you’ve searched the Internet with the intention of scaring yourself, allow me to bring you up to date.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for inspecting just about all imported foods, except for most meats and poultry, which are the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The FDA Web site lists alerts for violations against its codes. Among the more disturbing of these are reports of seafood products rejected because of E. coli, dangerous chemicals, unapproved preservatives and “filth.”

These reports might not seem so frightening on their own; these are all cases that have been investigated and dealt with. These products are not reaching consumers.

But there are only 85 FDA workers who inspect seafood. They are responsible for inspecting approximately 6.6 million tons of imported seafood every year. That’s almost 1,000 pounds of seafood every minute for each worker. With inspectors working at such a pace, I wonder how much “filth” is making it through to our dinner plates.

In November, USA Today pointed out another huge problem: In many cases, the private laboratories that test other imported foods aren’t even allowed to automatically report their findings to the FDA.

This means that if one of these laboratories finds something wrong with a shipment of food, the importer can just go to a less reputable lab to get the bad food approved and shipped through.

Apart from issues of quality and taintedness, there are also plenty of scary additives and chemicals that end up in our food.

Until recently, we were all eating dangerous butter flavoring, diacetyl, in our microwave popcorn. The nation’s biggest microwave popcorn makers only began to phase out this chemical in September, and even then they were not sure how long it would take to get rid of it completely. We may still be eating it.

Many diet sodas contain the artificial sweetener aspartame, which has been shown to cause cancer in studies as far back as 1970 and as recently as 2005.

There are so many dangerous chemicals out there in our favorite foods; it’s truly scary. If you’re looking for a bit of unsettling truth, google “dangerous food additives.” They’re lurking in your hummus and your breakfast cereal.

Sometimes all this information makes me want to take a page out of Candide’s book and cultivate my own garden. That way I’d be completely in control of my food, and I’d know exactly where it came from.

Apparently, this is actually a popular notion. More than a half million people participate in community gardens in the United States and Canada. It’s a really cool idea: They bring greenery to cities, bring neighbors together and provide people with an inexpensive food source.

But recently, surveys have shown that many of these community gardens: especially those in urban settings: are contaminated with lead and arsenic.

It seems that there is no way to avoid the unpleasant by-products of our modern world.

Maybe the only practical way of dealing with all this information is turning a blind eye to it. People have been exposed to far worse in the past and survived.

There are just so many scary things out there, known and unknown, that it seems kind of hopeless to try to avoid them all. My advice is to eat unabashedly what you would otherwise; there’s no use in paralyzing yourself with too much information.

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