So it is with much disturbing food news lately:
High fructose corn syrup, which we feed in huge amounts to Western children. It is in so many products one can barely list them all, but let's start with baby formula, cereal, bread, lunch-meat, ketchup and, of course, soda. And now we find that it not only has mercury--a potent neurotoxin--in it, but that this has been known and that the information was basically suppressed. And that the FDA is not doing anything definitive about it--other than to try and reassure us that things are not what they seem. Never mind that we have been telling pregnant women and mothers to avoid all fish in order to avoid the same toxin . . . Could it be that the corn/HFCS industry is just too huge a financial interest? Nah.
And what about Peanut Butter? Another recent revelation is that a huge amount of the nation's peanut butter has been tainted with salmonella. Nothing new--we are getting used to these contaminated-food statements (unless you happen to be or be related to one of the people who have been sickened or died, in which case this is new and incredibly pertinent). Again, this has not only been known for months, it also turns out that the plant producing this peanut butter has had over a dozen known instances of salmonella over the last eight years! And that they were allowed to keep sending this tainted food out to be made into peanut butter crackers and cookies and other "foods" for our children.
Who could make up these stories? Knowingly allowing corporations to sell tainted food to a nation's children--this seems like a story-line from a less evolved society. I am being kind, trying to avoid using the word "evil", but it's so hard when this all looks so very much like conspiracy with a profit motive. And then add the sometimes violent suppression of our rights to access real food, such as raw milk (which is only available from small producers) . . . it does begin to look like large business has succeeded in controlling food policy and oversight. Remember the raid on the Ohio food coop last Fall? What about the various raids on raw milk farmers in Pennsylvania? I am beginning to think my parents were right in the 70's--our only food security will come from producing food ourselves or accessing small and local producers.
I thought my folks were a bit crazy then, but now I find myself trying to recover and teach as many age-old food preparation skills as possible. I am making every effort to source local food, to know the farmers, to encourage friends with land to raise chickens and grow fruits and vegetables. I am teaching people to make lacto-ferments and to use every scrap of the food that they have. This is not an effort to do historical reenactment for some sentimental reason. We need to do this so that we can continue to eat. We cannot depend on the huge concerns that have taken over Western food production to provide for us, to protect us. I am not sure if government "oversight" or the end of oil will do us in first, but I want us all to be ready, to teach our children and each other how to find and make real food. I dream that this will all change, that we will again become a nation of small farmers and local foodsheds. But, in the meantime, I am not taking any chances.
In order to create this new/old ideal, we have to fight an entrenched system of cheap pseudo-food and strange regulations. We have to educate ourselves. We have to take responsibility for our food. None of this is easy, but it will pay off in the end with real health and independence. Which brings to my mind another motto: Ad astra per aspera (To the stars through difficulties). Won't you join me in this revolution of recovering the Old Ways?
For more information and perspectives (just a small sampling):
A great blog post on HFCS/mercury at Crunchy Domestic Goddess
A New York Times editorial on the peanut issue
An aritcle on raw milk politics("Raw Milk and the Sour State"--you have to download the article from the web magazine)