Some proponents of real / organic / local food chant “Poison!” about conventional food.
Most people think of fast-acting, single-dose substances when they think of poison, but it’s true that the word also refers to things that are toxic over long-term exposure to low doses. This kind of toxicity is harder to study — and harder still is to study how different substances act in mixtures.
Still, the “Poison!” shout irritates me. It seems exaggerated. Misleading. And especially unlikely to help anyone start on the path toward real food — too sensationalist, too alarmist, too overwhelming.
Someone recently quoted “The dose makes the poison,” which is a somewhat helpful statement. I was looking up oxyclean recipes the other day and some folks were declaring the dangers of Borax, and some other folks pointed out that table salt has the same level of toxicity. The problem with the statement is that it can be used to justify ignoring low amounts of contaminants in something, forgetting about potential cumulative and synergistic effects.
Here’s an interesting article about toxicity in general…
And a few other semi-related bits I’ve come across recently:
This bit of humor struck me as particularly biting — highlighting the ethics side of the food issue. Organic / local / real food proponents are already criticized for elitism, considering how difficult it is for many folks to afford such food or to make the time to prepare it. And here’s this other piece to consider — under what conditions is the food being produced — what’s it like for the workers at your favorite organic supplier? Or any food supplier, really.
Read the section with this heading, about two-thirds of the way down the article. This organization was on the leading edge of the campaign to replace animal fats and tropical oils (which can be heated to high temperatures without burning or turning rancid, and therefore accumulate less in the frying food) with hydrogenated oils.
I think Michael Pollan still says it best: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” In Defense of Food does a good job of making eating wisely less overwhelming to think about, without leaving the reader feeling like they’re just putting their head in the sand.