Fenger Pointing

Becky Fenger | March 3, 2010

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Becky FengerFood for thought

"Nobody likes me, everybody hates me,
I think I'll go eat worms!
Big fat juicy ones,
Eensie weensy squeensy ones,
See how they wiggle and squirm!" ~ Unknown

Before heading to the worm farm for dinner fixings, maybe we should check with Cass Sunstein, President Obama's pick for Regulatory Czar, heading the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).

Sunstein is a radical animal-rights activist whose stated goal is to reduce the eating of meat. I don't know how he feels about protein-rich worms, but I would be very worried if I were a cattleman and made my living farming livestock. The Center for Consumer Freedom warns us that raising cattle could become a thing of the past under Sunstein's rule. Most grazing is done on land covered by the Endangered Species Act, and he could use it to put cattlemen out of business. They say that Sunstein has made no secret of his desire to get Americans to give up meat. "His grand plan is to make meat more expensive to produce, which will in turn make it harder for American families to afford," they report in their Daily News.

The feds aren't the only ones forcing what they call a healthier lifestyle on their subjects. New York Governor David Paterson's 2011 budget calls for a $465 million excise tax on the high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) used to sweeten soft drinks in an attempt to fight obesity. The truth is that HFCS has gotten a bad rap. It's the "in" thing to advertise products as "free of HFCS" and to look to other sweeteners.

I'm pleased that the Chicago Tribune reported last summer that there is no proven health benefit to choosing table sugar over HFCS. None. So there. Even the soft drink companies agreed with leading nutrition experts that advertisers tout the absence of HFCS merely as a marketing ploy, with no science behind the switch. Again, it is the Center for Consumer Freedom who brings us this admission from the chief operation officer of Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., Ken Romanzi. Even though Romanzi knows the score on HFCS, his company eliminated the ingredient because they didn't want people thinking there was something bad for them in Ocean Spray's products. "The problem," Romanzi said, "is that perception is reality in the minds of consumers. Pity.

Amazingly, even United Press International – never known for sound scientific analysis – noted: "The claim that beet sugar is healthier than high fructose corn syrup can't stand up to scientific scrutiny." The same goes for cane sugar. Chemically, they're almost identical.
Meanwhile, I wonder how many visitors to the XXII Olympic Games over the last fortnight noticed the sign in a Vancouver grocery store that reads: "Dear Customers, Please be advised that our Bread Slicer is used for Both Conventional and Organic Items." Huh? I got a kick out of the blogger who wrote: "It's not as if chemicals from conventionally made bread can leap across to organic bread via a bread slicer!" What a strain it must be for food purists to remain eternally vigilant and "chemically virginal," as if that were even possible.

There are, of course, some legitimate warnings from food police. Last month a state representative in Hawaii drafted a bill that prohibits "catching, selling or even possessing butterfish" in that state. Its other names are walu or escolar. It is also known as the "Ex-Lax fish," which should give one pause right there. Hawaiians call the fish Maku'u, or exploding intestines. The fish acts as a purgative, due to the high amount of wax esters in its tissue. Definitely not honeymoon fare.

Gourmands swoon over its rich succulence, delicate whiteness and ability to satiate. It has even been described as "decadent" by chefs. No matter; the Japanese government has banned it since 1977, believing it to be toxic. Our FDA found it not to be toxic, but indeed warns that it's "trots-sick" to some.

Compare this genuine warning about intestinal distress to TIME magazine's reckless listing of tuna among its "Top 10 Most Dangerous Foods" last week. TIME claims there are high levels of mercury in tuna that could damage the nervous system or increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Never mind that there has never been a case in medical literature of anyone in the U.S. getting mercury poisoning from commercially purchased fish. More harm comes from eliminating fish from one's diet.