Food Choices for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet

All posts tagged Controversial


Suppose we could get all the protein and leather-like fabric to satisfy the world’s population – without ranches and slaughterhouses? Sounds like a dream to anyone who is concerned about animals and the environment.

Tofu and TVP satisfies a lot of us BUT you can’t wear them. Enter, stage right, a man named Andras Forgacs, an entrepreneur whose experience in tissue engineering includes making materials for pharmaceutical research and replacing damaged human tissues. (You’re probably seen pictures of the human ears that can be grown in a lab).

In his TED talk, Forgacs outlines the virtues of what he calls a “Humane, sustainable new industry.” A biopsy is used to acquire the initial cells, which are then grown in some sort of medium. (We’d need to know what that medium is made of). Then the “biofabrication” factory would work it into collagen, form sheets, make layers, design it for various qualities, and use less chemicals than in the traditional tanning process. End result? “Cultured leather” made with no waste and, best of all (I hope) no tormented animals.

Forgacs acknowledges that it would be wise to start with leather, as people would be more willing to try it. We could have our experiment without eating it. As an opponent of GMO, I would need some convincing. Forgacs’s description of biofabrication sounds different from GMO – the product is grown in a cell medium, not engineered at the DNA level. At any rate, I share Forgacs’s vision of a world, unlike today, when we do NOT keep and kill 60 billion land animals for meat, dairy, eggs, and leather, as we do now. Given the immense environmental destruction caused by livestock worldwide, he adds, “What’s crazy is what we do today.”

Related links:
Biofabrication: a 21st century manufacturing paradigm
Biofabrication – IOPscience

You probably heard that on Wednesday, New York City announced that it would enact a ban on the sale of huge sodas (and some other sugar-heavy drinks) at some public places, namely movie theatres, restaurants, and street vending carts. The Center for Science in the Public Interest applauded the move.







The outcry has been deafening. You can read some of the “comments” appended to the New York Times story here. And as you can imagine, the sugary drinks industry is complaining.

Until recently, I personally have guzzled hundreds of gallons of caffeine-laden colas, some with sugar and some with equally perilous artificial sweeteners, so I think I can offer a somewhat balanced view. Let’s look at three facts:

  •  The obesity epidemic is dangerous to the health of individuals and to the future of our nation’s health care system. (we spend $14 billion a YEAR on obesity-related diseases such as diabetes).
  • Sugary drinks have empty calories.
  • People often don’t do what’s in their own best interest.

It’s the last one that starts the heated discussions. On a radio talk show Wednesday, I heard nutrition expert Liz Applegate criticize the move, saying that it’s a question of personal responsibility. Well, she has an impressive resume, but the “personal responsibility” line is exactly what all the makers of dangerous things (cigarettes, guns, pink slime burgers) say when threatened by attempts to curb their freedom to sell their products.

Two years ago, San Francisco banned the sale of sugary sodas in vending machines on city property. Somehow, the sky did not fall.

As a psychologist specializing in eating disorders for 25 years, I saw first-hand how people struggle to make good on their intentions to be healthy. And that doesn’t even count the people who aren’t even trying to eat healthily. As an academic who has published journal articles on obesity and read the research, I’m alarmed by the danger to our country.

What do you think? Obesity costs YOU in the form of your health insurance premiums, even if you aren’t overweight or obese. Should this ban proceed?

Not since kindergarten, when some of us ate the library paste, has a more yucky food ingredient been brought to our attention, with the obvious exception of pink slime. (You’ll recall that pink slime is made of the sweepings from the slaughterhouse floor, washed in ammonia, and mixed with ground meat). This newly revealed substance is called “meat glue” and has been around for a while. A powder made of transglutaminase (an enzyme) and beef fibrin can be used to stick together odd bits of meat to form them into apparently whole prime cuts.

It may surprise you to learn that I don’t totally condemn this practice – in concept, anyway. Waste is a terrible thing to do to food, and anything that can reduce food waste is worth considering. On the other hand, meat itself is a huge waste (of grain, water, land, etc.), not to mention the cruelty involved, and if the concept of meat glue turns you off eating meat, that is a good thing!

Of course, when meat glue is used deceptively, to falsely upgrade less desirable parts of the carcass, that is dishonest and should be stopped. There’s another problem: bacteria from the surface of different pieces of animal flesh are now in the middle of the final product and less likely to be killed during cooking, possibly causing food poisoning.

What do you think?