Friday, February 12, 2010

Our Health Failings - Who Should We Blame?

I wanted to follow up on Tuesday’s post about emergency medical teams’ need for extra large equipment to better handle the increasing number of obese people. I failed to make some important points regarding known health risks and consumer responsibility.

Two readers suggested that I wasn’t hard enough on those who need the super-sized equipment. There has to be some personal accountability for poor lifestyle decisions, they argued, and ill health shouldn’t be solely pinned on the big food companies.

My thought process is a little different.

I would suggest that 98 percent of the people who smoke and 90 percent who ride motorcycles know the risks they are taking. On the contrary, how many people truly understand the deeper dangers of Trix yogurt, Nature Valley granola bars and Gatorade? Where are the government warnings—as we have for tobacco products—for artificial colors, excessive sugars and genetically modified corn and soybeans?

While I wholeheartedly agree that consumers have to do better, in many cases there are no options, whether it be an availability or financial issue. (See Brian M.’s comment.)

But this transcends socioeconomic levels and I no longer believe all people are knowingly eating poorly. Again, while the majority of smokers know what they are doing to their bodies, most of us eating supposedly healthy chicken breasts are not aware of the animals’ antibiotic and pesticide content.

After giving countless cooking lessons in the homes of well-educated people who have access to and can afford any food they want, I’ve come to believe that it is more about the dominant supply (what’s available in conventional supermarkets) and the ideal of convenience, a term perpetuated by the multinationals.


Anonymous said...

More and more I think it is a question of what choices are available. Yes, I can chose to not eat fast food, or heavily processed foods. I can chose to eat animals that were raised without pesticides by choosing where I shop. I cannot, however eat animals (especially poultry) that have not been fed hormones of some kind. All are fed soy in their grain, a source of phytoestrogen. The processor is not required to declare this, although poultry or pork proudly labeled 'vegan diet' I find, have been fed soy almost exclusively. This is merely one issue in many with regard to our food supply. As a consumer, I'd like to have more choices. I will continue to ask for them, but until we as a group demand more and better choices, we are stuck with the status quo.

Anonymous said...

Me and my boyfriend stay away from anything that has the ingredients, high fructose corn syrup, sucralose, and aspartame. It is like a treasure hunt to find products without these in them. We try to tell our families not to consume them as well but it seems our society has been dumb downed and we usually receive a response like "Everything is bad for you". They don't even realize they can change it. The concept is difficult to grasp when foods that are thought to be healthy have these additives in them. They probably think it's a granola bar how is this bad? Or it's only ketchup that is made from tomatoes, where is the danger there? I can see the difficulty, however, people need to realize what is being put into their foods that they are consuming and giving to their children. The government doesn't need to ban sodas from schools; what they need to do is keep these big companies from pumping in these additives into our food!

Anonymous said...

OMG, Aloha again, yes, yes, yes, you are so right. People shop where it is convenient, and they buy what everybody else would buy, they think it is OK. I believe that we need a real consumer protection initiative, and really hammer it in. I have lived in Europe off and on, and just witnessing the last fifteen or so years how children over there have been taught about recycling, environmental issues, and here it is still wasteland. Schools are still not talking about it, neither are they advocating on behalf of their children for better food. We have missed about two generations here compared to other countries...
Aloha again, have a great day.