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It’s Just a “Small Amount” of Poison

“…All of our survival is tied to the survival of everyone.”

– Bryan Stevenson, TED Talks 2012


I’m not sure what the exact date was when the tide turned in our food supply, but we definitely have a crisis on our hands. Food just isn’t food anymore. Unless you’re buying a diet consisting purely of non-GMO, artisan, organic meat, dairy and produce, you’re likely buying at least some foods that contain chemicals or amalgamations of chemicals that are hard to pronounce and mystifying as to why they’re ingredients in our food in the first place. Basically, most food contains small amounts of poison. Gross.

For example, what is BHT? I know it’s a preservative, but what is it? Turns out, it’s butylated hydroxytoluene. Oh. That clears it right up. But why am I eating it, exactly? Pretty sure my cavewoman foremother wasn’t going out to gather bundles of BHT to help fortify her tribe—especially if she was a European cavewoman, because BHT is banned in Europe.

Even though living in caves meant simpler times and poison-free food sourcing, nobody wants to return to the Stone Age. (I, for one, do not want to battle a bear for a basketful of berries.) But modern conveniences like being able to buy food at a grocery store comes with a price that might be a little too high these days: every year, a horrifying list of poisons—okay, additives, preservatives, “natural” flavorings, hormones, pesticides and more—get added to our food supply. Some of this happens because food companies work ever harder to create chemical cocktails that taste good to our mouths, even while they’re not doing our bodies any favors. Sure, food manufacturers need to be able to package and preserve food so that it can sit on a store shelf. I get all that. But I think ingesting small amounts of poison every day for every meal is a higher price to our overall health than many people ever bargained for. Remember, we’re talking about three times a day, every week, every month, every year for nearly 80 years or more for most of us, if we’re lucky. The only winners in this scenario are the pharmaceutical companies.

Part of the problem is that we’ve handed over too much power to the food companies, not to mention the government agencies that are supposed to be watching them (spoiler alert: those agencies just spend their time watching reruns of “Green Acres.”). People used to have one-on-one relationships with their local farmers, but that’s a modern rarity. While there are some efforts to return to a more locally sourced diet, it’s just not practical to feed 300+ million people in America and 7+ billion people worldwide this way. So we have to trust that the food that’s grown and processed and sold and served to us also nourishes us. Thing is, we’re suckers.

What floors me is that we know this. We have to. Look at what’s on store shelves. Most of it doesn’t resemble anything you’d find in nature. Blue beverages? Bright orange snacks? Red candy? It might taste good to our tongues, but it’s pretty clear just from looking at this stuff that our bodies aren’t going to have a clue what to do with it. Mostly, we’re handing our livers quite a puzzle. And after what must amount to a liver shoulder shrug, a lot of it just gets stashed away in our burgeoning muffin tops.

So, what happened? Why are people so willing to accept the small amounts of poison that’s added to so many of our foods. And why do we go ahead and EAT this stuff?

It’s time to draw a line in the sand and start treating our bodies better. First thing you can do is take five minutes at your next snack break and eat a crisp, delicious organic apple instead of diving into a store-bought muffin, a bag of chips or a candy bar. Then, next time you’re at the grocery store, vote with your dollars by buying healthier foods in every category. Real foods. Organic, nourishing foods. Be sure to read labels and aim for food that’s recognizable and contains ingredients you can pronounce. Avoid overly processed foods, frequent your local farmers market, cook at home more, and generally become more aware of what’s happening with our food supply. Lastly, after you finally realize that we’re all guinea pigs in a giant chemical experiment and your outrage bubbles over, you can voice your opinion loudly and intelligently to your government reps and favorite food companies: STOP POISONING US!

As the opening quote suggests, we have to start caring about what we eat, not just for ourselves, but also for humanity at large and for the entire planet.


Scary Bonus Reading:


Sandra J. Payne is an award-winning writer/filmmaker and serves on the advisory council of the nonprofit charity news site (it) magazine. Originally from Alaska, she started her Hollywood career as a staff writer for "Barney & Friends." Her favorite organic food is raspberries.  

Sandra J. Payne is an award-winning writer/filmmaker and serves on the advisory council of the nonprofit charity news site (it) magazine. Originally from Alaska, she started her Hollywood career as a staff writer for "Barney & Friends." Her favorite organic food is raspberries.