You're what you eat (Blog 7)

Our Food Supply: The Next Terrorist Plot?


 terrorists

 I found this cartoon in an image search and chuckled at it when I read it. Then I went to the page where the cartoon was paired with an article. The article was… interesting, and maybe a bit over the top. It is an emotional rant attacking the FDA and suggesting to terrorists how they could legally kill the American population. Although the article was a bit more than ridiculous, the author made a few points about the American food supply system that made me shiver.

If you really want to poison the U.S. food supply, just use aspartame. It causes neurological disorders and yet remains perfectly legal to dump into foods such as diet sodas and children’s medicines. You don’t even have to dump it into the food supply in secret, either: You can do it right out in full view of the public. Heck, you can even list this chemical right on the ingredients label!” In his article, Adams makes the point that the FDA allows ingredients to be put in food that science has shown are harmful to human health and cause hundreds of thousands of deaths. He then says that terrorists could do the same and get better results than their acts of violence. This is a stretch. Yes, these ingredients are not good for human health, but I do not think that aspartame or MSG were strictly and directly responsible for as many deaths as Adams claims.

It is worrisome that an organization that is supposed to protect us from harmful food, the FDA, allows ingredients in our food that are known to be harmful. They even allow ingredients that many people know to be harmful, like MSG, to be renamed in the ingredient section of packaging so that people cannot pick it out quite as easily(Adams says that MSG is often listed as “yeast extract”). Who knows how many other ingredients have multiple names, some sounding friendlier than others. Can we ever know what we are actually eating?

Another issue that Adams mentions is that of genetically modified food.

gefoodsAdams didn’t say much, other than labeling genetically engineered food as a “biological weapon,” but I thought this cartoon summed it up pretty well. If chemicals that kill insects are put into the crops that eventually become our food, the effects they have on us cannot be positive. Why do we need all these chemicals in our food? People lived before the chemicals, so they are obviously not necessary for survival. It seems like the effects they have are all negative. We have become accustomed to the intensified flavor that they give our food, so cutting them out would be near impossible. Agencies like the FDA could consider add more strict regulations regarding harmful ingredients and the levels of them allowed in our food. The power of big business (the food industry is relevant here) in politics will have an effect on this however.

So the question becomes: which stakeholders should the businesses and FDA put as their top priority?

[picture credit]

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7 thoughts on “Our Food Supply: The Next Terrorist Plot?

  1. I like the point you made that completely cutting out harmful chemicals from our food would be near impossible. These chemicals have been used in food production for a long time and on such a large scale, that it is quite unrealistic to expect all food production companies to completely wipe them out at once. I do, however, think that they should start making efforts to decrease the use of harmful chemicals and avoid manipulative labeling on packages.

  2. I understand that some ingredients are harmful to us, but at what dosage? I understand where you are coming from, but I also think that the FDA understands where to draw the line. Wouldn’t you think that if these ingredients truly hurt people at the current dosages then they would be removed?

    • Yes. Amounts is a huge issue. Apple seeds do have cyanide in them. I don’t know how many you would have to eat to hurt yourself.

      At the same time, neither the FDA nor anyone looks at lifetime levels of exposure nor interaction effects. Their protocols, I think, tend to focus on does this chemical hurt creatures over this time period.

      FOr example, a few years ago, someone measured the amount of medicine in the water. See, when people are done with it, they often dump in toilet, sink. Those compounds are stable, they go into water supply and come back into your drinking water. Low levels, yes, but we don’t know what drinking a little estrogen and anti-depressant medicine does to you over years.

  3. I like the raw fact that the chemicals engineered into our food kill insects and then we eat them. The amount of chemicals in food is frightening. To Garrett’s point the dosage of harmful ingredients is kept at a low enough point that they shouldn’t hurt humans. But I agree that they should be removed from food altogether. Also how long term could the research be on these ingredients that supports the dosage levels that are maintained?

  4. I’m not sure if the FDA or the EPA or both are responsible for creating laws about pesticide use, but I do know that the trace amounts allowed in food are not supposed to affect the average person. The level of pesticides ingested may not affect a healthy adult, but children and elderly are more susceptible. Some fully healthy adults may be more sensitive due to a biologic disposition. In any case, the regulating party can never be completely sure that a toxin will not affect every consumer.

  5. While the government is allowing businesses to feed its population pesticide ridden food, do we want the government telling us what we can and can not eat? I think it comes down to the consumer and taking initiative to educate yourself on whether or not you want to be ingesting food with additives, hormones, pesticides, and artificial flavorings. Do you want the choice of deciding what food we should eat, or do you suggest government intervene?

  6. Terrorism is a media strategy, not an actual “win by killing strategy.” Hence, acts need to be spectacular and traceable to the group so as to cause terror in a population. Slow death may not meet their needs.

    If the poisoning could be dramatic and traceable to the terrorist group, then maybe it would work. I would guess a biological pathogen, akin to using WMD, in the food supply would better fit their needs.

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