US Trade Deal Risks

I’ve never understood the Brexiteers’ obsession with the UK doing our own trade deals. I’m sure someone could enlighten me on areas where we can gain some advantages where our needs are different from the European average. But Brexit surely wasn’t all about trade deals?

What really scares me is the possible prospect of a trade deal being done with the US without proper democratic scrutiny, which appears to be the intention of the extreme Brexiteers. It seems we must all get to understand the risks better. The Soil Association has produced a magnificent document Top 10 Food Safety Risks Posed By A Future Transatlantic Trade Deal, which needs more widespread understanding.

My brief summary:

  1. Chicken washed in chlorine to remove bacteria caused by poor animal welfare.
    (And did you know that eggs in US must be kept in fridge, as natural protection has been washed off for similar reasons.)
  2. Hormone treated beef.
  3. Ractopamine in pork, which can cause animal disability.
  4. Chicken litter used as animal feed. (Remember mad cow disease.)
  5. Common use of herbicide Atrazine, claimed to be endocrine disupter.
  6. GMOs in 88% of corn, 54% of sugar beets.
  7. Brominated vegetable oil used in citrus drinks, believed to cause health problems.
  8. Potassium bromate in baked goods, possible carcinogen.
  9. Azodicarbonamide in baking, possible carcinogen.
  10. Food colourants that are not allowed in UK.

And this list doesn’t include anything about animal welfare – see previous post.

From my own experience of periods staying in the US, I can say that much US food is excellent, but when you get to the cheap and heavily processed stuff it is quite disgusting junk. And they mostly don’t know how to bake bread.

Rather than worry, support the Soil Association to help them fight the battles, and tell your MP about your concerns.

Featured image shows a cattle feedlot in Weld County, Colorado.
Photo © J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue

Deadly Whites

I’m reading an outline in the excellent Watkins Mind Body Spirit magazine, of the book The Seven Deadly Whites by Karl Eliot-Gough. It’s all been known for a long time actually, but good to see it restated.

The basic premise is that the modern diet full of refined and processed foods is responsible for the modern ‘diseases of civilisation’: diabetes, heart conditions, obesity, cancer, dementia,…

Refined flour, white rice, refined sugar essentially had their nutritious ingredients removed. Too many polyunsaturated fats, too much salt and milk products are also unhealthy. Processed foods are full of them all. The body is just not receiving the nutrition it needs. Hence the diseases of civilisation.

Easy processed foods were a great innovation and provide great convenience to modern living. But beware the cost of not intimately knowing what you eat.

Of course, there are many other factors – pollution and pesticides in much of the food, the depletion of intensively farmed soils, insufficient fresh vegetables,… So this is certainly not the only game in town.

Now, if we all had a healthy and unpolluted diet, what would then be the relative cost of our NHS? Rather less, methinks.

Oh, I think the seventh white is the white lies that it’s all healthy.

Sugar in Bread

While staying in Houston I became aware of just how sweet the average US supermarket loaf is – both the white and the nice-looking granary/wholemeal type of loaf. It’s actually a bit like French brioche, but a different texture. Some commenters compare it to cake.

Now, why would you want extra sugar in bread? It is now surely understood that too much sugar in the diet is not good for you. (Of course you need a small amount of sugar or honey in the bread baking process, but that gets used up.)

This all suggests that the average US palate has been educated to like too much sweetness in their diet, just possibly one contribution to the epidemic of obesity that is so apparent there. For confirmation, just try a Hershey ‘chocolate’ bar.

Of course, this is a well known problem, and some bread suppliers are better than others. See eg picturebritain. And the problem is not just sugar, see eg. Food Babe.

Now, where’s the breadmaker… But, will the flour have sugar or other unhealthy ingredients in it? Nightmare.

Featured image of a particularly bad set of ingredients from foodbabe.com

Uncle Budge

We did not see Aunt Helen very often while I was growing up in 1950s Lincoln. Actually she was my mother’s aunt. Budge was her husband.

Although living in a terraced house near Lincoln City’s Sincil Bank football ground, Helen was ‘posh’, their child was a choirboy at the cathedral. It almost felt like visiting royalty. Budge was in contrast large, cheery, hearty, funny, apparently a normal working man.

I particularly recall visiting on a Friday – fish day. Budge always had fish on a Friday – I remember a large piece on his plate, maybe skate, which he soon demolished. A big thing was made about Budge always having fish on a Friday.

The rest of us, including Helen, just had an ordinary ‘tea’ – maybe potted meat sandwiches, cake if we were lucky, and a cup of tea.

This seemed odd to us, as we always ate the same stuff together as a family. I think we were seeing the vestiges of times when (a) men regarded themselves as special (b) there was hardly enough food to go around and (c) the working man’s life was physically hard so he needed extra food.

We were lucky!

Featured image of skate by Titus Tscharntke, via Wikimedia Commons