Who wouldn’t be mad to discover the food you grew up eating was stripped of nutrition and full of chemicals? Americans are getting shorter (a sign of poor nutrition and health) and living shorter lives than nearly all other first world nations.
In other countries, the health of their citizens is a bigger priority than in America. In the USA, commercial chemicals, are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty, but the EPA isn’t allowed to test most chemicals to see if they’re guilty! Talk about Catch-22. In Europe, chemicals are presumed to cause harm unless proven innocent, like the prime medical ethic “First, do no harm”.
The 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) allows the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to test chemicals that pose a health risk — but only when it has evidence of harm. Since the law was passed in 1976, the agency has restricted just five chemicals, out of tens of thousands on the market. The TSCA gave the EPA the authority to regulate chemicals and chemical mixtures not covered under laws for food, drugs, cosmetics and pesticides. But the 62,000 chemicals that were already on the market in 1976 were exempted. Of 21,000 chemicals registered since 1976, only 15% were submitted with any health-and-safety data, and the EPA has been able to require testing for only about 200 chemicals. About 95% of notices of new chemicals include confidential information, ostensibly to protect company trade secrets; this effectively prevents scientists outside the EPA from challenging the chemicals’ safety (Nature magazine).
It’s hard to change the corrupt political and economic system we have now, which has prevent reform of the 1976 act despite numerous attempts to do so. But this is one thing you personally can fight by not buying processed food. Learn how to grow some of your own food, prepare fresh vegetables, fruits, mill whole grains, and so on. You’d be amazed how fast you can prepare simple dishes from raw ingredients — faster than driving to get fast food and back. Make enough stew, chicken, and so on to last several days so you only have to cook twice a week.
For me skepticism began when I was nine and learned to do magic tricks. If I could trick people, could they be tricking me?
At eleven I believed in ghosts, fairies, ESP, astrology, anything and everything. I had a book with 6 easy steps to having an out-of-body experience, but after a month of trying I got frustrated and told Dad. He laughed and said that books didn’t always tell the truth. That had never occurred to me!
In high school we read “The Jungle”, about the meat processing industry in Chicago. Gross!
My junior year of high school I wrote a term paper about the history of booms and busts in America (often due to banking and other financial fraud). Then I got to personally experience this when I lost a most of my savings in the Prudential-Bache brokerage scandal, which led me to distrust banks and Wall Street. Their bad behavior goes back 400 years to the very beginning of markets, as you can see at my Amazon book list Fraud & Greed: Wall Street, Banks, & How to Invest book list.
In my early 20s I discovered magazines devoted to Skepticism, which gave me the tools and critical thinking skills to understand how the world really worked. I totally abandoned any New Age or other wacky ideas I had about the world.
In 1981 I stumbled on health care fraud while I was working for Medicare Part B at Blue Shield as a contractor at Electronic Data Systems. I used real data to test coding changes and discovered many doctors who were probably submitting fraudulent claims. In my free time after work I wrote health care fraud detection programs, which EDS management in San Francisco saw as a new business opportunity, and they set up a meeting with Blue Shield management. Yet I was the only one on the EDS staff allowed to attend. Here’s why: Blue Shield managers told me they were only required by the government to find ten doctors committing fraud per year. And since Blue Shield was owned and operated by doctors, they weren’t interested in finding more fraud than that. Last year, they’d only managed to find 5 doctors. Wow! It was just like the scene from the movie Network where Howard Beale is told how the world really works. If only I’d had a secret tape recorder.j
I’ve since learned that health care fraud steals between 10 and 25% of the Medicare budget. Much of the fraud has moved up the level of high-level executives who can steer medical and hospital business towards companies they own or have a lot of stock in, and it’s very hard to detect. But there are a lot of other scams too, and some great books out there about how it’s done. This seems like an area that both Democrats and Republicans could agree on spending money to do more about, since any funding for this would more than pay for itself (plus the government could sue the hell out of people who were caught to get the money back).
I am wired to be trusting and gullible like most people. I am certain that 99% of the people I meet are honest and good. But there’s that 1% of psychopaths who seem to have entered the tobacco and financial industries (above all), chemical industries, and the food industry, where their ability to harm people is unchecked. Why aren’t the jails full of tobacco, chemical, banking, mortgage, health care, and wall street executives? Why aren’t food industry executives who’ve stripped essential food of nutrition or poisoned it with chemicals in jail?
The extraordinary poor health in America from our diet and health care system is threatening to bankrupt and topple our nation. We spend the most by far on health care, yet we’re 31st out of 34 nations.
When it comes to health, factory food kills, though slowly, via a stunning lack of nutrition, too many calories, chemicals, and by adding so much fat, salt, and sugar that 2 out of 3 Americans are overweight or obese and heading for diabetes, a stroke, heart attacks, cancer, bad knees, and many other illnesses.
I feel the way I do when I shake my fist at someone who’s nearly killed me on the road, I’m both angry and scared. The bad food I grew up on has lowered my odds of living a long life. So of course I’m angry! If you aren’t, why not? This is survival. The only way to fight back is to buy good quality food, grow as much of your own food as you can, and to cook from scratch with basic grains, vegetables, fruit, and meat. Stop buying processed food. Drive the bastards out of business.
So I feel compelled to expose how we’re being fooled. As the economic crisis grows worse, from 600 trillion in debt that needs to be purged from the system, and the gap between increasing population and decreasing resources, eating well is going to become more and more important (and expensive). Health care is going to grow increasingly unaffordable. The energy crisis that’s going to hit sometime between 2013 and 2017 is going to hit hard and lower our standard of living forever. Future generations will be amazed that we could have ever thought growth was possible on a finite planet, and see current economic theories for what they are — cover for the 1% to grow rich by looting resources that belong to all of us. We never complained because our small pieces of pie got very slightly larger, and we were kept fed (one in six of us are now on “food stamps”). I don’t think anything will change as long as the elites can keep people from getting hungry, there’s a lot of truth to the saying “we’re only 9 meals away from a revolution”.
As our resources decline, we will all need to get more of our calories from grain again, just like all civilizations have in the past and most do now. Grains can be stored up to 25 years and need no refrigeration, unlike dairy, meat, vegetables, and fruit. As natural gas and coal deplete, electricity won’t be running all the time.