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Really Healthy Real Life
Local Shrimp From China
BY MAGAZINE CORRESPONDENT DIANE HERBERT
Yesterday we explored the first of three reasons — the slippery definition of “organic” — that buying healthy and safe organic food isn’t as easy we’d like it to be. Today we look at two more reasons.
Well, your first hurdle to healthy eating is the fact that conventional farming practices (both produce and animal) have made organic eating (in my opinion) the only safe and responsible way to go. But even once you’ve reached this conclusion and you’re willing to join the ranks of those who travel to multiple markets in order to meet your family’s needs with organic products – buying is still far from straight forward!
No International Standards for Organic
To further complicate matters for the consumer, the organic standards vary greatly from county to county. Much like the feeling I got when I discovered my organic Honest Kids juice was being produced by Coca-Cola, I was equally concerned when I flipped over my organic frozen broccoli and saw that it came from China.
With a horrific track record for low quality, high toxin production methods as well as a history for breaking standards that are set, China is not where I want my broccoli to come from. The consumer is losing on all fronts. They’re paying more for their organic broccoli but have no greater protection from toxic production methods.
In addition to having to weigh in on the debate between what is better – local produce that isn’t organic, or organic produce that has been shipped in from far away places (depleting both taste and nutritional value) – the consumer also has to be up on the organic standards of the country of origin.
Misleading information about processing and distribution
The difficulty related to understanding where your food comes from (after you’ve figured out problems 1 & 2) is further muddied by many unlabeled facts about how food is processed. I experienced this with buying shrimp.
There’s much debate over farm raised vs. wild seafood. Are you better off with the toxins fish acquire from open water pollution or do you take your chances with seafood farming practices? Personally, I’m opting for wild seafood and staying away from fish that have the highest toxin accumulation.
That’s one well-traveled shrimp!
I was looking forward as I always do to the season when I can get wild Carolina shrimp, a personal favorite. For me this is fairly local, it’s wild, it supports an industry under much economic pressure, and the taste can’t be beat — usually.
Why doesn’t Carolina shrimp taste the way it did when I was growing up? Have my taste buds changed?
Well it turns out that although the shrimp is caught wild off the coast of North Carolina, it’s shipped to China for processing. This processing involves soaking the shrimp in chemicals to kill bacteria that is present in the processing plant.
So what I waited for all year — local, wild, Carolina shrimp — really is no better than if I had purchased the cheaper, available all year long Indonesian shrimp.
The worst part of it all is that there are no requirements to provide this type of information to consumers on any food products.
Be your own food private eye
Americans have historically placed a great deal of faith in government agencies to ensure that the food that comes to our table is safe.
A drastic reduction in funding for inspectors, pressure by mega food companies to limit regulation on everything from the use of GMOs, to organic standards to processing practices makes the task of buying safe, healthy food a challenging one that requires a huge amount of time and sleuthing — even if you have mastered the food pyramid.
All of this is just about enough to send a girl back to Twinkies and Tang, but alas, given that “you are what you eat,” what I feed my family is too important to give up.
I continue to seek out honest brands and get closer to the source of my food, despite the many layers I continue to discover as I peel back the onion.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.