Losing faith in our food system

This post has been sitting in my drafts section for the passed four months or so. I have been meaning to share it for awhile, but was (and slightly still am) very concerned with making it ‘perfect.’ This month, I have decided to take part in NaBloPoMo (or National Blog Posting Month), which involves publishing a post every day of the month, so I decided it was finally time to share this with the world. 


I love food. I always have and always will.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite places to enjoy food was at Mickey D’s. I loved the Happy Meal box the food came in – I think I preferred nuggets over the hamburger – and of course the best thing was the prize. Somewhere in storage, I still have a box full of the toys I collected. The only ‘toy’ that truly lives is the evergreen tree that we planted next to my grandparents’ two-story house and is now (about 20-ish years later) significantly taller than the house.

McDonalds tree
The one in the middle is my McDonald’s Tree.

Back then, I didn’t give much thought to food, I just enjoyed it. I trusted that what this place served to me wouldn’t harm me in any way. And so did my mom. Other staples from my childhood are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Kid Cuisine meals. I always loved the penguin on the box and the way each serving was separated into its own compartment.

But now, my experience with food is slightly different. I still love it, but sometimes I feel as if my enjoyment of it is tainted. This is mostly because I do not trust the majority of our food suppliers. My awareness of food now includes the knowledge of added chemicals, hormones, pink slime, and ‘ingredients’ that are carcinogenic. It’s almost enough to make anyone want to stop eating altogether.

Where is the joy in food? Where is the honor? Where is the respect? I understand that this is nothing new, that companies have been doing this for many years now. What has changed is our overall awareness of the quality of our food. What hasn’t changed is these companies’ willingness to disclose their ingredients. They do everything in their power to stop any laws that would require them to reveal ingredients, and even go so far as to have a bill passed that protects them from any potential litigation if any of their genetically modified organisms are deemed unsafe or harmful.

I think it’s really sad and depressing that you can’t just go into any restaurant or food place and know that you are eating healthy foods. Why is it acceptable to sell food containing products that that are banned in other countries because of the potential harm they can cause? Why is it acceptable (and endorsed by the USDA) that 70 percent of ground meat products might contain pink slime? Why is it acceptable that the majority of readily accessible foods contain preservatives, added sugars, hydrogenated corn syrup, and ingredients we can’t even pronounce?

And it’s not something that just affects humans. Most of the major pet food brands also contain additives and preservatives that just don’t need to be there. And the recent story about a salmonella scare in pet food is not any more reassuring. My thoughts on pet food have always been: If you’re not willing to eat it, don’t feed it to them. For years, my mom fed her cats IAMS. Her one cat, Tigger (a beautiful calico) loves to eat and has a tendency of gulping his food. For a few years, he weighed about 15 – 17 pounds, and he was definitely a little reminiscent of Garfield. But, about six months ago she switched to a brand that doesn’t include additives, and ever since he has dropped a few pounds.

The quest for healthy food isn’t new. Since the 1960s there have been organic food, farm-to-table and other movements that seek to raise awareness of where our food comes from. Sometimes, I can’t help but feel that we’re in a losing battle and that eventually all of our food will be manufactured just like in Margaret Atwood’s The MaddAddam Trilogy, harvested from gene-spliced animals and chemically manufactured produce. I don’t think I’ll ever understand all of the reasons these companies choose to produce food the way they do, but I’m pretty sure it all boils down to profit margins. However, as long as they don’t care about my health then I won’t care about their profit margins.

The wonderful thing about a society in which information is readily available, is that it allows us to discover other likeminded people, as well as sources of delicious and healthy food. The path out of ignorance and acceptance is never easy, but always worth following in the end.

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