Who regulates fear in the American diet?

[USA] Anyone who has watched what passes for political discourse lately will agree that we live in a polarized society and that this polarization extends far beyond our politics.

Some of us don’t trust business unless it is our own.  Some of us believe that vaccines or fluoridated water are just the tools of a vast conspiracy. Some of us no longer believe in science or scientists and there are days when almost no one believes in government.

Then there is the matter of our Food.

We want a world where food is no longer nourishment. It’s an ideology complete with ‘miracle’ foods.

Like the worst of any faith, misunderstanding, fear, guilt and shame are  forces that often drive our beliefs and our food choices. The food scares of social media depend on language alluding to what ‘they’ won’t tell you.

There should be no place for fear-mongering among us. Too often, marketers have unwillingly bought into a consumer strategy that panders to the same people who reject vaccines, fluoridated water and other advances supported by real science.

We often fail to embrace or accept the overwhelming amount of high-quality evidence regarding food safety upheld by those who are truly experts and choose to trust food scares driven by those falsely claiming to work ‘in the public interest’.

If you want to see how fear can be manipulated to benefit niche businesses you need only watch the process by which foods are certified by the federal government as ‘organic’.

To clarify the word ‘organic’ the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) began the National Organics Program (NOP) and the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).

The word organic applies to agriculture that was free of synthetic pesticides and to finished foods that limited the use of food additives that were synthetic or not naturally sourced.  Most of us are in full support of local farming communities providing us access to healthy, fresh foods and a clear definition of ‘organic’ is surely helpful.

Food additives or ingredients that are not organic go through an NOSB ‘sunset review’ every five years. This process allows the NOSB to maintain or ‘delist’ compounds based on science, environmental and ‘essentiality’ to organic foods and the intent of the National Organic Program.

Campaigns against food additives begin in social media long before the official sunset review. The constant in these negative drumbeats is a reliance on shoddy science and accusations against the food industry and government that these substances are not safe.

One of the more egregious examples of the process involves carrageenan, a derivative of red seaweed used as a stabilizer in some U.S. organic foods.

For centuries people have been using the same seaweed to stabilize soups, stews and other foods.

Carrageenan seaweed is sustainably harvested by farmers in Asia and Africa. They have an affinity with American organic farmers, but the benefits to Asians and Africans are not part of the decision process.

Carrageenan is used as a substitute for animal fats and is accepted as an additive in vegan, kosher and halal foods. It does not alter taste or color and cannot be easily or efficiently replaced. It is the only stabilizer approved for U.S. organic infant formula.

The science and functionality of carrageenan is simple, easily accessed and yet, routinely ignored.

A comprehensive, independent ‘Technical Review,’ should make it easy for NOSB members to evaluate carrageenan science. Only one of the 15 advisory board members is a scientist (as stipulated by the USDA).  None of these members has any expertise in food science, nutrition and food regulations.  The whole board is under tremendous pressure by a community with a large share of zealots.

There is little doubt as to the sincerity or commitment of these people to the organic movement. You could say the same – and get roundly castigated for it – of the USDA people who oversee the NOSB.

If 10 of the 15 vote under undue pressure to delist an additive, such as carrageenan, the vote is carried – if not finalized by the USDA — no matter what the science, history or common sense says.

Leaving us with more fear and greater polarization.

 

View original article at: Who regulates fear in the American diet?

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