There are disagreements from one culture to the next about what actually constitutes food. For instance, many of us in western civilization don’t think insects even qualify as a snack, let alone a meal. Elsewhere, locusts and ants are considered delicacies.
Within cultures there are differences, too; there are members of my own family who only eat vegetables, while another family member shudders at the thought of having to put a slice of tomato into his mouth. These are simply questions of preference, though. The universal truth is that no matter what you choose to eat, there’s a chance that it will make you sick.
Results of scientific studies are released almost hourly which support that conclusion. The Centers for Disease Control recently stated that new strains of E. coli bacteria are mutating, causing a rise in food-poisoning cases. Salmonella, the most common source of gut-busting illness, was to blame for misery in about 1 million Americans last year.
“Junk food”, the epithet applied to stuff that is deep fried or laced with sugar, is a familiar villain that most of us seem to ignore. That may be because it doesn’t make us quickly (but temporarily) sick the way bacteria do. The onset of junk-food illnesses is more gradual, but the effects are a lot longer-lasting than an upset stomach.
What got me thinking about the perils of food was a recent story in the Los Angeles Times about hazardous dietary ingredients in China. Reporter Barbara Demick wrote that a woman in Shanghai had left uncooked pork on her kitchen table. The woman woke up in the middle of the night “and noticed that the meat was emitting a blue light, like something out of a science fiction movie.” Experts blamed it on phosphorescent bacteria, which was something I hadn’t known I should be worrying about until now.
Science has proven that there are good reasons to avoid eating almost everything, which might lead one to believe that swearing off food altogether is the solution. You’re welcome to try that approach if you like, but you should be aware that fasting, when conscientiously done (meaning no food whatsoever) is invariably fatal after a couple of months. Similarly, the all-alcohol diet adopted by William the Conqueror is not recommended; he sustained fatal injuries when he fell off his horse.
So what should we do to avoid the risks lurking in our food? Oh, you don’t really need me to tell you, do you? The experts all say pretty much the same thing, and you’ve heard it a thousand times. Consume smaller portions of healthier foods, exercise, wash hands before preparing your meal, etc.
Of course, you’re an adult and ultimately you’ll do as you please. For safety’s sake, though, I urge you to learn from the Chinese and heed this new warning: If your food glows in the dark, don’t eat it!