I recently had the opportunity to view a very graphic, interesting movie now showing in one of our local theaters. The movie, "Food, Inc.," was thought-provoking, but you should stay with facts and be sure your own "home" is in order to impact change. Remember basic logic:
1) The more processed the food you eat, the higher the risk for problems (higher expense, fewer nutrients, more preservatives and/or added chemicals, and greater risk for contamination). When we buy food in center aisles of the grocery store, we pay the bulk of our food dollar for packaging (often more than the food inside). The more the product is handled, the higher risk for contamination by food-borne pathogens, bugs and destruction of nutrients. When we purchase food from a restaurant (drive-through or otherwise), we pay labor costs, rent, paper supplies, profit and the cost for the same foods that we could purchase. There is no purchased meal from any restaurant that could not be prepared in the same quantity with better quality for lower price.
2) Each of us is given the opportunity to know a great deal about what we eat and to make a choice. In this community, regardless of income, there is no shortage of food for anyone.
More importantly, how we handle our own food has the most immediate and direct impact on our health. Yes, we are constantly being bombarded with food recalls and contamination - salmonella in one of our chain grocery store's hamburger meat, E. coli in Swift's beef, E. coli on spinach and tomatoes and, oh, the peanut butter. If you purchased the contaminated meat but handled it with recommended refrigeration and cooked it to the recommended 165 degrees, you would have killed the highly dangerous salmonella bacteria.
Consumer Reports tell us 83 percent of whole chickens available to us contain the deadly salmonella or campho. Deadly bacteria can be found anywhere - in our hospital operating rooms, in our soil, at our office desk and in our food supplies, regardless of whether it originated 30 miles or 3,000 miles away, be it organic or mass produced.
The closer the source of the food, the more you can question the producer and the more you can appreciate the process. You can, however, learn a great deal about foods if you will read labels, particularly ingredient labels, expiration codes and origin stamping. Eating produce sourced from other countries can expose you to less acceptable farming practices and contaminants. Did you know something so processed as a hot dog or lunch meat can cause a miscarriage resulting from the presence of listeria bacteria? What about that unpasteurized apple juice that was recalled because of E. coli?
Look in your cupboards, look at foods in grocery baskets in the checkout line and look at health issues based on our wellness actions (or lack thereof). Though there are many hands in the production, profit and legislation of our food industry, are there improvements we can control?
The movie is thought-provoking and laden with emotion. Take those thoughts and think it through completely. It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education than to have education without common sense (Robert Ingersoll). Education and logic must fit hand in hand.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.