My New Year’s resolution: Ignore the food alarmists 

Printed from:

The year of 2015 was a busy one for food alarmists. You know who I’m talking about — the people who constantly clutch their pearls and wring their hands while warning that everything sold in the grocery store is toxic. These fear-mongers scare the average consumer and tell them to change their purchasing habits only to follow up with conflicting advice weeks later. It creates confusion and frustration for consumers and does nothing to improve the health of Americans.

So, I’d urge Americans to make a resolution: In 2016, let’s try something new. Let’s ignore the food alarmists and instead listen to our doctors and nutritionists and resolve to trust our own instincts about the way we feed our families and ourselves.

Of course, it’s hard to block out the alarmism. They’re a loud bunch and because the press loves a scary story, many have become media darlings. From the media savvy Vani Hari (known as the Food Babe), to financial analyst turned food activist Robyn O’Brien to corporate heads like Honest Company founder and actress Jessica Alba; these professional activists excel at telling people they’re doing it all wrong and endangering their own health. Radical environmentalists are more than happy to push their message.

For instance, last month, environmentalists and animal rights activists fueled the exaggerated media reports that both cured meats (deli ham, bacon, etc.) and red meat are cancer-causing carcogenics. Of course, most of these media reports failed to mention that you have to eat a ton of the stuff every day to increase your risk of cancer in a measurable way. But the damage was done and now plenty of people — afraid they’re eating a big cancer sandwich — are forgoing the convenience and enjoyment of deli meats in favor of other lunch options. Some have probably cleaned their refrigerator’s deli drawer of all those scary ingredients and committed to putting more greens in their lunches.

But hold on a second … that might not be the right way to go. According to another new study, you’re killing the earth if you choose to go the leafy green route at meals. That study, from Carnegie Mellon University and published in the journal Environment Systems and Decisions, examined the farming methods, processing and transportation requirements associated with the sale of fruits and vegetables and concluded that eating more fruits and vegetables is “three times worse for greenhouse gas emission than eating bacon.”

It isn’t just purchasing lettuce, however, that sets you apart as an earth-hating, climate denier. The type of milk you choose to drink also has a social and environmental price. According to the New Yorker, there’s a raging debate between “Team Almond Milk” and “Team Cow Milk.”  Each team maintains a bench of smug, self-satisfied health nuts who are quick to lecture you that your beverage choice is wrong for a variety of reasons.

Trying to save money? Isn’t everyone around the holidays? Well, canned food is a good option, right? Wrong! Some environmental groups claim that because canned food is packaged using a chemical called Bisphenol-A (BPA) you should only eat it if you have a death wish. Of course, anti-chemical activists won’t tell you that BPA has been used in food processing for decades and has passed thousands of safety test both by government and independent scientists. In fact, the European Food Safety Authority’s latest safety assessment of the chemical states that “BPA poses no health risk to consumers of any age group (including unborn children, infants and adolescents) at current exposure levels.”

Of course, consumers will have to weigh these unfounded warnings about canned food against yet another recent study found that people who eat canned fruits and vegetables are healthier that those who don’t eat canned food.

Feeling confused, anxious, nervous? Aren’t we all? This holiday season, give yourself the gift of control. Ignore the mixed messages about food and nutrition, and be your own best judge of how to eat.

Julie Gunlock is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.