More people are wondering what’s in the food they buy at the store. They have reason to wonder. Once upon a time, food was for nutrition and was eaten for nutrition and for flavor. In addition, most food was raised in an organic way. Today, food is eaten for fun and comfort as well as for flavor and nutrition. Foods, especially children’s foods, have added color, texture, and are shaped to appeal to children. Food is raised using a host of chemicals spread on the land. What’s more, the media has used its power to entice kids to consume these products while assuring parents they are nutritious. Now we have a couple of generations who have grown up under the motto of let’s make food fun for kids. This has changed the way we look at food and nutrition. In fact, the media is guilty of participating in this change as well. Kids are the key to future sales. They have been manipulated to want the processed foods corporations are selling.
If you would like more information on additives in your food, I suggest you read my article, Ractopamine in Your Food found on my website. I also direct you to the Organic Consumers Association where you will find several articles on food additives and their health effects.
A personal story I have about food additives that resulted in my shunning highly processed foods happened when I was a cook for Campbell’s Soup. I was involved in making Swanson TV dinners. I was cooking up a retort full of franks and beans when I noticed how much sugar and salt were needed for the recipe. I went to the head cook and asked him why so much sugar and salt were added. He thought for a moment then said, “The product is sold by weight. Salt and sugar are heavy, and both are cheap. If you put them into a recipe in the right proportions, the tongue will not know the difference.” He would not elaborate further, but I got the picture. On that day, I stopped eating highly processed foods. Years later, through reading, I discovered that sugar and salt are both addictive.
But the additives are not the only reason your food isn’t as good for you as it should be. The dirt it is grown in has few of the essential trace elements needed for plant growth. I call it dirt because the soil that it used to has been turned into dirt from the use of pesticides, herbicides, and inorganic fertilizers. Much of the commercial farmland in the US has lost almost all its topsoil by farming this way. The crops that result from growing on this land do not have the vitamins and minerals in them that they would have if grown in soil that was carefully taken care of. The microorganisms in the soil are gone due to the use of chemicals. Without these little creatures, any trace elements that might be in the soil would not be available as microorganisms are needed to prepare them for the plants to use.
In addition, by using these chemicals we are also killing off helpful insects such as bees that are needed to pollinate many crops. That will eventually bring down yields. How happy would you be without an avocado for your guacamole or peaches for a pie? If we happen to make these insects extinct, payment will come, at least in the loss of foods we enjoy, and perhaps in the form of famine as well. Another problem comes in the consumption of foods grown this way as they have chemical residues on them. Some can be washed off. Some will incorporate into the plant and cannot be removed. Many of these chemicals, such as glyphosate and neonicotinoids wind up in our soil, water and air. The FDA has said certain levels are safe, but can we trust an agency of the government that is influenced by those it regulates? Has there truly been enough study done by neutral parties to allow the use of these chemicals in our environment? I can definitely say no to that. What I can say “yes” to is that just since I was born, the land and our people are a lot less healthy than they were years ago.
When I started high school, we moved to the country. There were birds everywhere. At certain times of the year, masses of black birds would dim the sun as they flew across the sky taking a couple of minutes before the entire flock had passed. Frogs croaked from every place where there was water. In the spring and again in the fall the air would be filled with strands of silk. Each strand would have a little bulb of silk at the bottom filled with a hundred or more tiny spiders. That was when we were more in tune with nature, you could drink from a stream without a filtration unit, and far fewer chemicals were used to grow and process our food. At school, the majority of kids were healthy and not overweight. Autism, diabetes, and a host of other diseases rarely existed. It was truly a different world.
I point these things out not just to opine on our loss, but to let the kids know what used to be and to suggest some actions we can take to get us started on the path to healing what has been broken. If one is of voting age, one can ask candidates for office about their stands on farming and the environment. Letters can be written, and petitions can be filed with those in office to let them know that the people want. One of the best ways to influence change is to vote with your dollars. If no one is buying crunchy, blue and pink, sugar-coated cereal, it won’t be produced. Another way is to grow some of your own food and share the experience with children. Let them get down in the dirt. Teach them their place in the web of life. Let them learn the pleasure of consuming a fresh fruit or vegetable they have helped grow. If you are unable to grow any food because of your living quarters, at least take your kids to a nearby farm or community garden. We must influence children to make a lasting change. This is what the corporations and media have done to get their products in our homes and change our way of living to be more profitable for them. We must turn the tables to get back to a healthier society with healthier people. Profits should be secondary to our health and well being.
Bio of Ira White
I was literally born into the food industry. I started caring for and harvesting rabbits with Mom at the age of 6. Later, Dad bought a meat shop and the family worked together to make it a success. I also worked in the fields as soon as I could get a work permit harvesting berries, grapes, peaches, onions and performing other agricultural activities. Later, I worked as a cook and in the meat prep department of Campbell’s Soup company. I worked in a vegetable processing plant and turkey slaughter plant. I finished my career as a USDA IIC (Inspector in Charge) for more than half of my 26 years with the USDA.
In addition, I earned a BA from California State University, Stanislaus as well as a teaching credential. I served as a Grange Master as well as the President of the California State Youth Grange.