NATURALLY-OCCURRING AND MAN-MADE FOOD POISONS
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© August 2014, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
Many people believe that there is little difference between natural food and processed foods. This article discusses why this contention is totally false.
Natural foods refers to naturally-occurring food crops such fruits, vegetables, fresh meats and eggs, poultry and others that are raised preferably without the addition of artificial fertilizers and pesticides. This is called organic or sustainable agriculture methods.
Processed foods refer to almost all the food in the supermarket and in many restaurants other than those above. These are products that have been refined, processed, canned and boxed. Most contain some residues of pesticides and artificial fertilizers that just stimulate plant growth.
Food additives. Most refined, processed and prepared food items also contain up to 100 or even more different food additives. These include dough conditioners, sugars, salt, preservatives like BHA and BHT, sodium benzoate, nitrites, nitrates, mold inhibitors, aluminum, sulfites, artificial colors, artificial flavors, anti-caking agents, and many more.
IS IT TRUE THAT FOOD CONTAINS POISONS, TOO?
Some in the food industry argue that while it is true that processed food contains some chemicals, even natural food has naturally-occurring poisons in it. Therefore, we should not worry about adding a few preservatives and other chemicals to our food. Let us take a closer look at this idea.
WHO CONDUCTS THE STUDIES?
One ‘study’ was prepared by a member of the National Council on Food and Health. This group sounds very official, but in fact it is a group that is made of companies that make food additives and other chemicals used in the food processing industry.
Based on their past record, the bias of this group in favor of pesticides, food additives and other chemical alterations of food is blatant. However, even if the study were conducted by a neutral party, several flaws exist in the reasoning that since natural foods contain poisons, there is no reason we should not eat a few more chemical poisons in our food:
NATURALLY-OCCURRING FOOD POISONS ARE COMBINED WITH FIBER AND OTHER SUBSTANCES THAT MINIMIZE THE EFFECT OF THE POISONS. IN CONTRAST, ISOLATED CHEMICALS ARE NOT BUFFERED IN ANY WAY
For example, a study might point out that a food contains a bit of lead, a toxic metal. The study might then point out that adding an artificial color or flavor is not more toxic than lead, so it should be fine.
However, the study fails to mention that the whole food product also often contains antidotes or substances that offset the toxic substance. For example, calcium in a food will offset some lead. Zinc will offset some cadmium. Vitamin C will offset some copper, and so on. Many carcinogens found in food are deactivated by vitamin C found in the same food.
Other protective substances in whole foods include vitamin E, glutathione, bioflavinoids, selenium, lipoic acid, fiber and many others.
In contrast, pesticides and harmful food additives do not come packaged with substances to offset their harmful effects. In other words, they are not buffered by any protective nutrients. In addition, often additives are found in processed food. In these foods, the protective vitamins and minerals in the food have often been removed, leaving even less protection against toxic additives.
HOW MUCH POISON DO WE REALLY EAT?
In natural foods, the structure of the food itself tends to limit the quantity of a particular chemical in the food. For example, how much broccoli or celery can one eat at a sitting?
However, with pesticides and additives, there is no such control. The consumer has to assume that the quantity of pesticide and additives in his batch of food is within safe limits. This is a much riskier idea.
It is true that the US Food and Drug Administration and perhaps the Department of Agriculture tests food for pesticide residues and at times for bacteria. However, they readily admit they are understaffed and test only about 1% of the food. Also, they cannot not test for all pesticides, due to the high cost of such testing.
With regard to most food additives that are placed in the food during processing, no independent testing occurs to check the levels of food additives. The FDA waits for sickness or death to occur before investigating a food company. Therefore, the safety of food prepared with pesticides and hundreds of preservatives, colors, flavors and other additives is much less safe and usually hardly checked at all.
NATURAL FOODS HAVE STOOD THE TEST OF TIME
Food has evolved with mankind over thousands of years. If a food was found to be harmful, the human community stopped using it as a staple food. Many plants classified as herbs are in this category. They can be eaten in small quantities, but should not be the main course on a daily basis.
No such 'field research' exists for pesticides and additives. Pesticides and additives did not evolve with humanity. Our experience with them spans only the past few generations, in fact. The best we can say about most additives and pesticides is that we are not sure about their safety. In fact, all food additives that are permitted in our food carry exactly that label. They are GRAS or generally regarded as safe. Note that the label does not say they are safe, only that they are regarded as safe.
WHAT ABOUT COMBINATIONS OF POISONS?
The American public, in particular, regularly consumes complex combinations of pesticides and additives. Several hundred pesticides and over 3000 additives are permitted to be in or on our food. Even if they were each safe by themselves, who can say whether the combinations are safe?
The truth is that no one knows the combined effects of three or four pesticides and hundreds of chemical additives eaten all at once. This simply has not been tested. Such tests would be very costly and involved, and next to impossible because of all the possible combinations. Yet we are often told by doctors and TV ads that such combinations are safe.
In contrast, natural, organic foods are generally eaten whole and cooked, in most cases. The combined effects of any toxins in the food are therefore easy to evaluate, and have been tested on hundreds of generations of human beings. Also, combinations of foods such as meat and potatoes or tortillas and beans have also been tested on thousands of generations of human beings. So the combination of toxins in various foods have been tested in the field, once again, for safety.
THE SUBTLE SIDE EFFECTS OF FOOD CHEMICALS
Naturally-occurring food toxins are all biodegradable and do not affect the soil or the environment. However, the same cannot be said of modern pesticides and food additives. Many pesticides, for example, damage the healthy soil bacteria that are needed to break down the soil to release minerals to the plants. As a result, pesticide use often results in poorly nourished plants that require more pesticides so as not to be attacked by bugs. A vicious cycle ensues. Even if the pesticide is not that harmful directly to human beings, it may be very harmful to the soil.
Because of their effect on the soil, many pesticides also cause soil erosion, contamination of water supplies and illness in animal species such as fish and wildlife. These are all compelling reasons to avoid their use.
WHY ADD MORE POISONS TO OUR FOOD?
Even if some pesticides and food additives are not too toxic, adding more poisonous chemicals to our food does not make sense at all. We cannot do without food, so we must consume a certain quantity of naturally-occurring toxins. Why add more?
In summary, there is little basis for comparing food toxins to chemical additives and pesticides. Adding more poisons to our food makes no sense, in any case.
Some day farmers and the consuming public will realize that toxic agriculture is a bad idea and is rarely needed. Soil chemistry can be balanced, just as body chemistry can be balanced, to enhance resistance to pests. Healthy plants are like healthy people – they resist all sorts of diseases and pests. Unfortunately, there is a lot of money involved in the production of pesticides and food additives. So there is a lot of incentive for some to distribute false information about the safety of these products. Fortunately, more and more people are choosing to eat only organically raised, pure foods to improve their health.