Friday, June 24, 2016

Feeding Hysteria

I’m very careful about where I eat. I only buy food from people displaying a food badge, practicing good hygiene, and in the case of Sookdeo, the man I buy Oysters from; willing to give me half price off if I get Cholera. That’s why I am shocked by the news from the president of the Poultry Association of Trinidad and Tobago, Robin Phillips, saying imported chicken may be classified as pet food. Only last year, there was a public scare that Chinese restaurants were passing off dog meat as chicken. Now on top of unknowingly eating a dog; I have to worry if I’m eating my dog’s dinner.

Mr. Philips didn’t provide any evidence to support his claim, saying only that no testing is done on food entering the country. But some questions keep gnawing at me. For instance, wouldn’t there be a huge spate of food poisoning or people being seriously ill, if there was a proliferation of diseased meat on supermarket shelves? And isn’t Mr.  Phillips the same guy who in 2011, told the Trinidad Express that cheap imported chicken was costing the jobs of local poultry producers? Wouldn’t the president of a local poultry association have a vested interest in people not buying imported chicken? But as my ex-girlfriend told me when I found her and my best friend Sheldon doing what they said was “naked yoga” together; I need to work on stopping being so cynical and suspicious.

But it’s not just us flesh eaters who have to worry about what’s in their food. So too must our annoying vegetarian friends. According to a TV report this week, University of the West Indies Professor Jayaraj Jayaraman, says T&T farmers are flooding their crops with too much carcinogenic pesticides. Like Mr. Phillips, Mr. Jayaraman didn’t produce any real evidence of this, and it’s unclear if there is a link between the incidence of cancer in T&T and pesticide use. But using the scientific method of observation, it’s clear that T&T is a place where you say whatever you want on TV and people will report it as fact.

Misuse of pesticides by farmers is a real concern, as it does have a negative impact on the environment, particularly on fresh water supplies. Cancer Research UK says farmers who are in contact with pesticides may have a higher chance of developing cancer. However, they also state there is no evidence between pesticide use and contracting cancer via crops sprayed with them. In fact, they have this crazy idea that if you eat more fruits and vegetables, you’ll actually decrease your chances of getting cancer. I for one refuse to believe that until I see it reported on local TV or as a meme on Facebook.

As if imported chicken and trigger happy pesticide sprayers weren’t enough, we also have to worry about food fraud. Only a few weeks ago I learned that the coconut water I was buying from the supermarket was actually artificial. God alone knows what kind of dangerous chemicals I have been chasing my scotch with all this time. I have subsequently learned though, that real coconut water is extremely overrated. It may be touted as having miraculous health benefits, but there is no evidence that coconut water does anything special to your body other than hydrate you. Which is amazingly similar to another kind of water; plain, ordinary tap water.  

Anyone who has to rely on WASA for their tap water really knows that they have to rely on bottled water.  But according to recent statements by Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharat, bottled water is “one of the biggest frauds being practiced on the consumers in this country.” Naturally, the Minister didn’t elaborate on what he meant by this; because, really, what’s the point. But I better not find out that bottled water I buy is water they wash imported chickens with after spraying pesticide on it and mixing it with artificial coconut water. Or worse, that it's just tap water from WASA.

Until we sort out where and how the food we eat is being sourced and manufactured, I’m going to rely on that trusted institution that has long served the Trini diet well; fast food chicken and chips. I find junk food more tolerable than junk science.

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