Food-parency

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Food has been making the headlines again, but not quite in the light we would hope.

We’ve learned that here in the U.S. we’re eating 8 foods banned elsewhere in the world. Within a few days, the list had evolved into 11 chemicals in our food. And when this list features growth hormone-infused milk and bromated flour breads, you’re left wondering how two innocent foods have become so adulterated.

And believe it or not… your pantry may house some frauds. That’s right. Certain food items and ingredients have a decent market value, so counterfeits are fast becoming the norm. Don’t you remember the honey debacle? Well vanilla, cocoa and sugar join its ranks. And unfortunately, this may impact the organic industry too.

Unfortunately less desirable practices impact major food industries too. Kelloggs is in the headlines regarding its labeling of certain products like Pop-Tarts. If it says ‘made with real fruit’, it’s not. Turns out General Mills had a similar issue a couple of years ago with its fruit roll ups. You would’ve thought that this earlier stern tap on the knuckles would’ve jolted the industry to cut dubious labeling… but no, this keeps happening and it’s impacting consumers the most. After all, if it’s going to say ‘made with real fruit’, consumers deserve to know the truth before they or their children eat these products.

By now you can’t help but feel fear and angst at the thought of going to a supermarket, but don’t panic. Here are some simple strategies to improving your food literacy for food-parency:

1. Most HIGHLY processed foods are likely to be loaded with ingredients you can barely pronounce, so check the ingredients. But there are some safe havens. For example cereal choices like oatmeal, cream of wheat, grits or muesli are better if you really want to stay clear of artificial colors and ingredients at breakfast.

2. The candy, snacks and soda aisles are havens for anything artificial. These foods shouldn’t feature in your daily food choices AT ALL.

3. If in doubt… make your own. Yes, this means you’ll need to set a little bit of time aside to find easy recipes and cook, but the more control you have over your food, the better it’s going to be for you. After all, I doubt you have tartrazine or bromated oil in your pantry.

4. Follow food blogs (like this one!) or major media outlets via social media. This helps you keep up with any food developments, recalls, food illness outbreaks etc.. Being engaged makes for a well-informed consumer.

5. And finally, air your grievances with the food industry. If you don’t like what you see, or believe you are being misled, tell them, even rally up the troops of you have to (try online petitions). The food industry has to respond. If they don’t, they lose their consumer base. And to date, their track record isn’t too hot so they’re going to need to make some fundamental changes on all levels (labor rights to food transparency) to survive the age of enlightened consumers.

So the next time you’re at the supermarket, you’ll be able to discern the friends from foes and still enjoy a nutritious and delicious life!

Stay hungry my friends,

Jessica Avasthi MS, RD, LD

Minding My Peas & Food

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