Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Almond Butter and New Age OCD Parasite Paranoia

I am so boring sometimes. There's a discount food store not far away from me that I'd really started enjoying going to(House of Bargains in Lebanon, TN). We've become spoiled at my house- getting things like Tahini, San Pellegrino, Cashew Butter, Porcini Oil, and high quality pasta sauces for 50 cents a piece.
I often just buy something because it sounds good- whether I'm sure what it is or not. When I get home, I google the product to find some recipes with the ingredient in it.
Today, this incidentally bumped me into a hilarious review of Almond Butter(which incidentally, also clued me in to just how expensive this item really is! )
[click the pictures to enlarge]

Apparently, this paranoia that "non-organic" food contains parasites is widespread. My wife is typically more familiar with these sorts of things, and didn't see this as surprising at all! She claims to have worked with and known several individuals and families who believe this to be true.
Playing on parasite anxiety is certainly far from new- any older American will tell you about the bevy of disgusting de-worming tonics and medicines they were subjected to. Here's the cover of a pamphlet from 1938. It's remarkably similar in tone to much of the material given to those susceptible to "holistic" quackery. The pamphlet was free, presented as science, and entirely an advertisement for products made by this company (Dr. D. Jayne and Son, Inc. whose headquarters in Philly was reputed to have been one of the most flamboyant in the city at its time)


People were umpteen times more likely to have a parasite during this era- and I'll bet it wasn't because of the high tech fertilizer and pesticides used on their crops- or the genetic modifications made to the foods.
The fact is, food paranoia appeals to some deep-seated survival instinct in people. Behaviors related to food safety are base instincts found the same in lower mammals. Taste Aversion being a good example of this: even when you know that you are sick, throwing up a food that you know is completely safe can make you not want to eat that good again for months- or for those who eat until they vomit, never. For most of us, it takes months for the logical part of us to overcome that survival behavior of avoiding Witness the response you are certain to have to this video, which alleges that pork is full of worms:

You know it's probably not true- but it's scary. I am thoroughly convinced that there is no notion, no lie, no belief more attractive than those that fall along the lines of "everything you know is wrong." And by the way, this video is entirely bogus. Calm down.
But so called "organic foods"(organic in scientific terms just means any compound containing carbon) are not subjected to the very measures that hundreds of years of commercial agriculture have developed as a means of making foods safer and easier to cultivate. Ignoring many of these procedures and practices might make your food taste better- repelling pestilence can actually make produce more nutritious. But I think its a long, long shot to say that NOT using pesticides makes food less likely to have pests in it.
Thats just dumb.

Luckily, there's now(finally?) a USDA Organic certification. I cannot imagine the complexity of developing or enforcing such a body of rules. Really, you can just view these as better quality products. If they taste better, eat them. We're lucky enough in the Western World to have people who get paid to check out our food. People who have spent a decade in school studying chemistry so complex it's beyond your wildest New Age fantasies.
I am beginning to really hate the holistic health and new age movements for their preying upon people who are uneducated or mentally ill- but that seems to be the norm for medical quackery in America. Many mental illnesses come with phobias of being poisoned, or of food contamination. Perhaps it's this tendency thats got the moonmaidens of the world pouring peroxides in their peanut butter, and coke on their pork.

1 comment:

James said...

hi,

its really surprising for me about the Parasite Paranoia in the non organic food...

cheers
suma valluru
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