Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

There's many a slip.

Earlier in the week, I ran across a Prevention article, 7 Foods that Should Never Cross Your Lips. I do find Prevention interesting, intriguing and sometimes right. Not this time.

To start with, what we really have here is "seven single-source opinions about what you should not eat." Single-sourcing, for the uninitiated, is getting an opinion from one individual on one subject. Press statements from interest groups don't count, except if no other source is available and if the reporter has specifically asked for a statement for this story. I have plenty of scar tissue, old and new, inflicted by editors and teachers hammering home this point. It would have been far more useful to put together three or four sources and ask all of them to name their top seven forbidden foods. The intersections would have made interesting reading.

Single-sourcing leaves a publication open to little "Oops" moments which is what seems to have happened here about at least four of the seven forbidden foods. First, there's the canned tomato business. Here, the source states that tomato cans are lined with bisphenol-A (BPA), which is becoming disreputable. It would appear that all cans have epoxy resin linings containing some quantity of BPA. Does a relatively stable polymer like epoxy resin actually leach hazardous quantities of BPA over the normal shelf life of a can? We don't know; at least we don't know from this article.

I have no particular objection to taking a pass on beef of any description (item 2), microwave popcorn (item 3), or even taking it easy on milk (item 6). I eat very little red meat, and while I understand that microwave popcorn is a dietary staple for some people, it isn't for me. However some people make a staple of cheap microwave popcorn because they must. There is still a substantial disconnect among those advocating for safe food, who forget to advocate for safe and affordable food. That gets no attention in this article.

Item 4 is "nonorganic potatoes," which of course opens up that charming debate about what "organic" means in this context. (It's all very confusing, because the term "organic" is itself a chemical standard: it's all chemicals, and most of what we eat is organic, that is, carbon-based.)
Here, we are told, "Try this experiment: Buy a conventional potato in a store, and try to get it to sprout. It won't."

My local farmer's market closed in late October, so we've worked our way through our local-bought root crops and into the second bag of New England spuds from the local grocery. After reading the article, I went down into the bulkhead where I keep the roots. Ayuh, the potatoes were sprouting, and I paid normal, nonorganic prices. Must depend where you live.

I have a similar objection to the stricture against conventional [sic] apples (item 7). I assume this to mean the ones in the big supermarkets that come coated with car wax, which I wouldn't eat anyway. I suppose my scepticism on forbidden pommes et pommes de terre has to do with living in a part of the world that still grows both. I don't mind a blemish or two on my fruit. It proves the stuff once grew somewhere, while the car wax makes me wonder.

Visiting my daughter in California's Central Valley has been both an education and a counter-irritant to some culinary advocacy thinking. If I recall the statistic correctly, two out of every three pounds of American produce come from that area. That produce is hauled up and down Interstate 5 (aka "the Five") in open tandem trailer rigs about the size of a small circus. I have seen this for myself, and I can't think that any of that inventory is improved by exposure to a couple of hundred miles of carbon monoxide, whether it was "organically grown" or not. That is why I'm more inclined to be moved by "local" as a priority than by "organic." If I had nothing better to do with my time (which may be the case soon enough), I'd "put up" all my own produce. But that has its dangers too, just as eating only seasonal food does. Humans can't escape every danger from what they eat.

Just one gets a huge "hey wait a minute" from me, and that's the commandment against eating farmed salmon. Why just salmon, for one thing? There are other farmed fish. But more to the point, the proposed alternative is eating "wild catch" salmon. "Wild catch" is a euphemism for fish caught as humans have caught them for thousands of years. I guess it is supposed to conjure up images of happy native peoples setting up their nets and weirs on pristine shores. Having spent a little time in the business, it conjures up for me images of factory fishing or other methods that scour the seas of a fundamental natural resource. "Wild catch" is a cute expression that lets the affluent get their omega-3 from overfished resources with a clear conscience. If farming fish contaminates, prove it and improve it, but keep at it. Whatever happened to sustainability? We are left to wonder.

Only the potato section gives the reader an explicit disclaimer regarding potential conflict of interest. However, the alert reader will observe that all seven sources have one or more biases or conflicts of interest. When one makes allowance for that, it ought to send one scampering out for additional data. I suppose it's too much to expect Prevention to have already done that: that would be the old journalism.



Blogger malevolent andrea said...

The "nonorganic potatoes don't sprout" is hilarious.

3:37 pm  
Blogger crispix67 said...

Hmm, my non-organic potatoes were sprouting when I went to fix hash browns this morning. Imagine that ;-)

Any single person who has bought a 5lb bag of potatoes can tell you that's total B.S. about them not sprouting.

Im just about ready to move to some farm far away and become self sufficient, between the BS from the food companies and the deceptive labeling and then the left wing "dont eat anything you havent grown yourself in organic soil from organic seeds" paranoia. Geezzz.

4:13 pm  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home