Column: Food matters, and so does your health

By Sara Frost Azzam/Guest coumnist
WickedLocal Wellesley
Posted Feb 02, 2011 @ 02:26 PM

Read more: Column: Food matters, and so does your health – Wellesley, Massachusetts – The Wellesley Townsman http://www.wickedlocal.com/wellesley/archive/x1779421001/Column-Food-matters-and-so-does-your-health#ixzz1ZCPMhDyN

Wellesley —

Food matters; indeed, it is one of the three basic human needs. In the United States, as well as many other countries, food is a celebration of life. Food is connected to religious celebrations such as weddings, funerals, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, christenings. We have dinner parties and meet people for lunch. Holidays are celebrated with food, often connected with certain cultures and/or customs. “Breaking bread” is a way we socialize, reach out, and reaffirm. So, what is the problem with food?

Although many of us may still assume that the food we eat is grown or produced on small rural family-owned farms, the fact is that, since the middle of the 20th century, changes in technology have brought about the same types of changes in food production as we have seen in other industries. Advances in highway and ocean systems allowed for the delivery of “fresh” produce from as far as away as Chile or Argentina. Technology advances that occurred as a result of World War II and the Vietnam War allowed for mass production of freeze-dried and processed foods. Pesticides and herbicides became more efficient for farmers to use in order to keep up with the increase in American population and thus, the increased need for more food. Antibiotic use in meat and poultry production to promote animal growth and to eliminate disease in crowded holding spaces became routine.

Because of these many changes brought about by technology, the cost to human health has been significant. Antibiotic resistance in human beings is now a major public health concern; no wonder, when one considers that about 50 percent of antibiotics used in animal agriculture are medically relevant to humans, according to a study conducted by the Healthcare Without Harm organization. Practices are allowed in the United States that are not allowed in other countries, such as the routine feeding of arsenic to over 70 percent of broiler chickens (determined in an EPA study), and the use of Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), which has banned in other countries because of cancer risks and antibiotic resistance concerns, not to mention concerns with animal welfare. Ironically, pesticides and herbicides that have been orwere deemed unsafefor use on our produce are still regularly shipped overseas; thus, they are on the produce that we consume from those other countries. The problem is not limited to the food itself, but also to food containers and cooking utensils. Just this week, new research by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) suggests that the obesity problem in the United States may be linked to hidden chemicals called “obesogens” that are not only found on food itself, but also in the linings of canned goods and the non-stick coatings on cooking utensils. This gives the consumer further cause for concern.

The good news is that there are solutions, including making good consumer choices, to the growing concerns about our food safety. In order to do so, one must find out how to make those choices. To that end, please join the Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project as we host “Food, Chemicals, and Your Health,” a presentation by Michelle Gottlieb of “Health Care Without Harm,” where she serves as co-coordinator of its National Healthy Food and Healthcare Program. The program will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 8 from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Wellesley Free Library. Learn how to think about the food you eat every step of the way, from farm to table. Food matters and so does your health.

This article was submitted on behalf of the Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project. Sara Frost Azzam is the president of the local grassroots organization.

Read more: Column: Food matters, and so does your health – Wellesley, Massachusetts – The Wellesley Townsman http://www.wickedlocal.com/wellesley/archive/x1779421001/Column-Food-matters-and-so-does-your-health#ixzz1ZCPSCwwT