I think most people have a cause: It could be breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, autism, diabetes, bullying, you name it.
Yes, mine is food.
Recent articles detailing the lack of proper safety inspections, regulations, honesty and common sense with regard to how the American food system works, what exactly we're feeding our children and how big of a risk we take every time we put fork to mouth have given me that heart-racing, terrified, angry feeling in my chest that you usually reserve for Mama Bear moments when your kid is about to run into the street or has just pulled a pair of scissors and a steak knife from a kitchen drawer.
I know what a lot of you are thinking. I get it. I've heard it said, in other venues: "Great! BPA is being replaced by other untested, potentially health-harming plastic alternatives. What's next, America?" I've even thought similar things myself when I'm feeling too poor and rushed to buy organic apples, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries (as grim as this sounds): Well, we're all going to die of something.
I, for one, would rather that not be from eating tilapia raised on pig feces.
Guys, this is NOT a joke! All off-the-cuff waving me off aside, how is this okay? The report on imported seafood alone shows that 27% of our seafood comes from China. FDA inspections "frequently" find the seafood to be contaminated. Salmonella, just one of the diseases we most often hear about in terms of food-borne illness, doesn't cause diarrhea and fever alone. It causes kidney failure. It causes stroke.
I know my readers well also, though — those who don't think I'm being alarmist and paranoid. You're shaking your head, saying to yourself, 'Oh, well I eat organic.' Honey, you're not exempt. Earthbound Farms is a prime example of an organic operation that has had to implement costly microbial tests after a nine-year-old girl almost died from eating their lettuce, which most consumers (rightfully) think is safer than its conventional counterpart.
'Oh, but I eat local, too.'
Beloved, every farm is local to someone.
I'm not here with all the answers, because, frankly, this is new and frightening and more maddening at every step. Food recalls are up. I've had food poisoning plenty of times, and I'm sure you have, too. The FDA "is trying, so far without success, to wrest back control of food inspection from the [food] industry."
Who are these spineless pushovers, and where the hell can I sign up to give them a FREAKING hand?
When senators, prime-time journalists and former presidents are either too uneducated, afraid or unwilling to even address the issue of GMOs in our foods (genetically modified organisms — banned or significantly restricted in over 50 countries in Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East but not in North America — which cause tumors, kidney and liver damage and premature death when tested on animals), it doesn't give me much hope for a few cases of nausea and vomiting. Are we waiting for more people to die, sometimes without even ingesting the contaminated food, before we do anything about this?
Yes, I may sound alarmist. Yes, I may sound paranoid, angry, afraid and on the rampage.
But you see, I have children. Children who I now feel like I don't know what to feed and when, children who I'd like to be around to care for, children who may even have another brother or sister one day if we all manage to stay safe, happy and healthy in a world where food poisoning, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and a whole host of other systemic ailments can most certainly be linked to what we eat.
This is it.
This is my cause.
I know that my posts have been vacillating from food to religion to spirituality and back again, and I can't guarantee that won't continue to be the case even as I continue to study the research on this issue and struggle with what to put on the table three times a day, not including what my 2-year-old snacks and grazes on 24/7. But as you've seen, I've been making changes. I've been sticking to my Stuff Diet, implementing new tools to help us stick to our budget and relying on real-food meal plans even when I would have ordered take-out in the past because I was too tired, busy or stressed out to cook.
So now more than ever it's time to keep my nose to the grindstone and really analyze every food purchase to the best of my ability. I'm going to talk to my local farmers to find out how their food is inspected, tested, stored and shipped. I will put my foot down when my son wants crackers that wouldn't be possible without GMO corn. I may be one tiny voice (a small "fish" in a big, black, choppy sea) that even my 2-year-old can overpower at times, but this is me, continuing to pledge my good intentions, ignoring that age-old aphorism about the fiery depths below. We can all only do our best, but in order to keep up with these crazy-ass food regulations (the lack thereof, really), we need to stay on our toes and constantly make that best BETTER.
Stay on the lookout for more resources, posts, news items and solutions from me and the people I do trust when it comes to what goes in my mouth and the mouths of those I feed.
We all need someone to journey with us every day, through school and work and meals and leisure.
I hope to do that, to a certain extent, for my readers, with regard to what interests me most and what I write about here.
Oh — and one more thing — if I'm not "your person" (important Grey's Anatomy reference intended) when it comes to who you trust and where you go for the latest on-line opinions about all things food, finance and faith (I think I stole that from Katrina), make Someone Else your person. Just have a person. Earthly or other-worldly, it would be unwise to go it alone. I just don't think the ignorance-is-bliss attitude is going to cut it anymore.