I just want happy food

Is that too much to ask? I want to know that when a food says that’s what it is, then that’s exactly what it is. Not kind of, pretty much there, or round-about.

very happy raw granola

I want truth in labelling, whether an ingredient is ‘compound’ or under a certain percentage of the final product. I want to know that a potato is a potato, not a tuber artificially inflated with limited nutrients and sprayed with harmful anti-sprouting agents before it reaches my shopping trolley. I want the term ‘organic’ to be consistent, without needing to refer to a table of different standards or having to look into the technicalities of a definition. I want to understand what’s in my food and what my body needs, without wading through a sea of ads, fads, misinformation and half-truths.

When something doesn’t make complete sense to me, or even if it just doesn’t sit well and I don’t immediately understand why, I do some research. This is very easy to start, with the plethora of web and journal articles, online experts and books available at the click of a button – although, more and more, I find myself compelled to delve further. It’s a long, slow process and I am discovering sensationalism, propaganda and bias on all sides.

Uncovering the Truth is a fuzzy personal journey. Some people are happy with surface explanations and a warm belief that food regulators, government officials, big pharma and big business are looking out for consumer interests. This simple view doesn’t wash with me, especially as I find out more about the harmful or unproven additives in our food.

Take additive 320 as an example. It’s a synthetic antioxidant that causes hyperactivity, skin disorders, intestinal problems, headaches, migraines and respiratory problems, yet it appears in a popular brand of peanut butter which is marketed directly to children. And artificial colours are linked to ADHD symptoms, skin irritation and cancer, yet these are used in a brand of jellybean that is sold at the counter of most Perth chemists.

How can these synthetic, non-food substances be legally used in our food products, sometimes without recognition on a label?

This outrage has led me to a bigger compulsion than the drive for second-hand knowledge. I need to make calls, send emails, meet food producers and personally visit farms and production facilities, challenge retailers and regulators. And I have already started. I’m just in a spin as to what I should report back to you.

You see, I have come to the conclusion that our world view is provisional. Even eating wholefoods as much as possible, I can not own an absolute view when I am constantly discovering new information and updating known data that changes the way I see issues. I mean, organic honey is great – so long as the bees aren’t driving native fauna from their nests, and so long as consumers are not being overcharged for a product that is essentially organic anyway. I also think that free range eggs are the way to go – unless they are from an overcrowded facility that debeaks its chickens to prevent cannibalism.

It pays to ask. We can’t make good decisions if we remain in the dark, and living in ignorance does not strike me as a very ethical or enlightened way to live.

A wise friend once told me, “You just have to make the best decision you can on any given day.” My Truth is a philosophy that comes with filters and standards by which I review each new choice. If I keep these consistent and look behind me every once in a while, I can live with integrity. That’s mindful living. To a point.

In our throwaway and consumer-driven society, it is more important than ever to second-guess everyday purchasing decisions (eg. Do I really need that? What effect will eating that food item have on my mind and body? Do I really want to add to the demand for this item by voting with my dollar?). This can be difficult when we face oft-competing aspects, such as organic vs local vs sustainable vs processed vs cost when buying, and social vs time vs health vs pleasure vs hunger when it comes to eating food.

Holding onto a conscious hierarchy of factors can help us to make mindful decisions based on what we know, but it won’t necessarily give us all we need to make informed decisions. So just how far do we go?

I have come to realise that, while doing first-hand research is incredibly valuable, not everyone has the time, resources or inclination to ask these questions. So I will report, as I see it at the time. I just ask for understanding and healthy debate, because I still have much to learn.

This is clearly a topic that has me all fired up. What about you? What concerns and confuses you about your food? How far are you willing to go to get the answers you need?

H 🙂

PS. Thank you to my wise friend, J 🙂

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Ivy Clark says:

    This problem has been fuelled by consumerism and in my opinion, unethical business practices. Food and beverage manufacturing companies often turn around and say that’s what consumers want; and until there is greater awareness, until we as consumers, do what you’re doing and start asking questions or stop buying these products, businesses will continue to do what they have been doing all these years. I can’t understand how our majo fast food chains can claim their product is good for health, when the ingredients they use are either pumped with preservatives or simply made from ‘fillers’ which are basically not nutritious at all.

    Yes, I agree with you. I too research ingredients I don’t understand. The plethora of E numbers and chemicals with strange names is just wrong. Consumers are not chemists or lab assistants and we don’t understand what they all mean. But the fact that large food and drink manufacturers are allowing such ingredients into our diet does not make it right or acceptable. It may be classified as a small harmless amount when tested and measured in isolation. But when every other product we consume has these ingredients, surely there is cause of concern. What are these chemicals, additives and fillers doing to us and our children?

    My husband and I have decided to make the change lately. Blessed with a small garden, we have started growing our own veges and herbs. We’re also only buying free range meats, and line caught fish. This is our way of saying no. But you’re right to ask questions. And it can’t stop here. Great article! Got me all fired up as well! Lol. I hope more people will ask questions about the food and beverage that end up in our shops. The fact they are sanctioned and available, doesn’t mean it’s right or ok.

    1. Hannah says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, Ivy! Great to hear that you have your own veg/herb garden and are making conscious decisions around your household’s consumption.

      You have touched on an excellent point which is something I wish I had included in my post: we need to actually do something about what we see and hear, as well as ask the questions.

      I firmly believe that many individuals living small changes can influence popular beliefs and practices, thereby making a positive difference to our food and our world. It starts with one.

      H 🙂

  2. Rachael says:

    I feel so very much the same. The problem is people want cheap food…I’m amazed at how stingy people will be over how much they’ll pay for the fuel they put in their body compared to want they will drop on other less critical items like clothes for example. Until we collectively demand a quality product we will not receive it.

  3. Hannah says:

    Your words ring so true for me, Rachael.

    Unfortunately, there are significant costs associated with ‘cheap’ food – including quality (eg. taste, nutrient content), sustainability and health – as this article from Nourished Magazine explains: http://nourishedmagazine.com.au/blog/articles/the-high-cost-of-cheap-food.

    Another excellent argument to spark us all into action!

    H 🙂

  4. Joshua Jones says:

    I love this entry Hannah, and your whole spirit and commitment to this cause.

    It mirrors a lot if what I’m feeling at the moment. I’m finding myself very driven to stand stronger against the quiet manipulations and misconducts of “what people don’t know won’t hurt them, but it will help me make money” corporate chicanery. I’ve been told it’s smart business, but do we call taking candy from a baby smart, simply because it’s easy and we can? Having the freedom and/or power to do something doesn’t make doing it right! 

    I’m tired of hearing that I should accept this is how the world works and nothing can be done to change it, and that even trying is just too hard and is a waste of energy. I can’t vote in this country (USA) so I’ve decided I’m going to at least be very careful who I spend my dollars with.

    Thanks for helping me make the most informed decisions possible. 😀 Jxo

    1. Hannah says:

      Thanks so much, Josh. This is an issue close to my heart and I really appreciate your comments.

      I am also heartened to hear that you are committed to vote with your dollars. If we do this often and loudly enough, I am certain that we can excite others into action, and together influence food standards, labelling and options.

      H 🙂

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