Your Food Is Killing You!!!

health, science, skepticism Leave a reply

Sometimes terrible things (for a certain value of ‘terrible’) make their way onto your Facebook feed, and sometimes it’s important to dissect them, to display their entirely non-functional innards to the world. To proclaim “Really? I mean, really? You believed this?”

In a transparent attempt to latch on to the general list-mania that Buzzfeed and others use to drive traffic, the Oracletalk website has posted 10 Foods Sold in the U.S. That Are Banned Elsewhere. I really don’t have enough info to judge the rest of their website, but this is quite the indictment.

Oh, and interesting point of fact: the links are *really* hard to see on the page (really? You have black-ink links on a black-ink page? You seriously have to be *trying* to hide your links…), and this whole thing has been stolen from MSN. So yes, MSN also sucks giant donkey turds for publishing this crap.

The title, alone, should give one pause. One should ask immediately ‘So this is just a comparison, right? You mean things like items that steal trademarks, that other countries respect? Like “champagne” that is produced in New York, or Kobe Beef that’s never seen Asia, let alone Japan? These are foods that are sold in the US, but are banned in countries that give a shit about trademark infringement. Right?’

Ah, but no. This article has a lot of facts, but then draws conclusions that serve no purpose but to scaremonger and drive readership. Let’s take these points one at a time. A general point: if an article makes claims about health and/or food, and provides no sources for those claims, you should immediately be on guard. Sure, it may be telling the truth, but the mark of a liar is their unwillingness for you to check things for yourself, to confirm that they did actually draw the correct conclusion.

#1:  Farm-Raised Salmon

Farm-raised fish is usually fed an unnatural diet of genetically engineered (GE) grains, antibiotics and chemicals unsafe for humans.

Built into this claim is a commitment to the notion that there is such a thing as a “natural” diet, and that such a “natural” diet is better than whatever “unnatural” diet the animals are fed when farmed. There is, nowhere, support for this notion. While it is certainly true that there is an optimum diet for a particular animal, and diets that are so sub-optimum that the animal will die, the argument here is that, in essence, the salmon in this farm are fed things that are poisonous to the fish, and subsequently poisonous to anyone who ingests the fish.

To mask the resulting grayish flesh, they’re given toxic and potentially eyesight-damaging synthetic astaxanthin.

Really? It’s “toxic”? Given than the particular molecular makeup of synthetic axtaxanthin is also found in wildlife… This reeks of incompetence.

Where it’s banned: Australia and New Zealand

Of course, the question of “why” isn’t answered here. As such, just declaring that it’s banned in a particular place isn’t an argument for anything. The goal here is to say ‘maybe they know something don’t! You should be afraid!’

#2:  Genetically Engineered Papaya

Most Hawaiian papaya is genetically engineered to be ringspot virus-resistant. But research shows animals fed GE foods like corn and soy suffer intestinal damage, multiple-organ damage, massive tumors, birth defects, premature death and/or nearly complete sterility by the third generation.

Embedded in the original (which I didn’t even notice until I pasted it here) is a link to the website of Mercola, a noted scam artist and purveyor of fraud. The discussion in that video discusses a(n at-the-time unpublished) study by an Alexei Surov, which claims that GMO Soy feed increased the number of birth defects.

Fortunately, I don’t have to spend time tracking down and taking apart a study in Russian because Vegan Sketic has already done so. The money-quote:

The results of this Russian study provide no evidence that the differing diets these hamsters were fed played any role in the different outcomes observed. Keep in mind that the predominant use of genetically modified soy around the world is as animal feed. Had chickens or dairy cattle started producing fewer offspring as a result of the genetically modified soy in their feed it would have long ago been recognized by the farming community. Perhaps unfortunately for the animals bound to suffer in our factory farms, there is no such sterilizing effect of genetically modified soy in their diets.

So this paragraph that links to a video that talks about a generally inaccessible study has no basis in reality. Of course it doesn’t.

#3:  Ractopamine-Tainted Meat

If in doubt, hyphenate your sciencey-word with “tainted”; it’s SURE to cause fear and/or confusion!

Ractopamine has had it’s ‘safe’ limits confirmed by the World Health Organisation, so unless you don’t understand the concept of “dosage” (i.e. you think that the only safe amount of something is ‘zero’), this is a non-issue.

If, on the otherhand, you feel that the WHO is incorrect in its assessment, I look forward to your peer-reviewed study.

#4:  Flame Retardant Drinks

That’s hilarious. Let’s move on to number fiv…

Wait, you’re serious? You’re actually referring to the original patent of the chemical to disparage it’s current use? Like “did you know that for millions of years, animals dumped their faeces on ground where we now grow food?!?!?” This is true, but completely irrelevant.

And it’s true that it’s possible to poison yourself with this stuff. And the guy who did it drank two to four liters of a soda containing BVO on a daily basis. Let that sink in, for just a moment, the quantity necessary for it to become a problem.

Or let’s think about it a little more: if I drank 2-3 litres of whiskey a day, would you consider my subsequent health issues to be caused by the whiskey, or by my choices? Aaaaaaand we’re done here.

#5:  Processed Foods and Artificial Food Dyes

The “featured article” mentioned here is referring to the original MSN slide-show that was stolen from whole-sale. Again, just swirl this around your brain: the “source” being referred to here, for credibility, is an article that says exactly the same thing as this one, and also has no references. This is akin to me stealing the notes from someone with a perpetual motion machine, and then pointing at their notes to say “see! I have references!”

The original article has, in its defense, some hyper-links. However, those hyperlinks point merely to a google search. How useful is this? Completely useless [Warning: this is a link to Natural News, a website that is filed with premium-grade bullshit, lies, deceit, and misinformation. Anything on that website that is found to be true is an oversight, and will be corrected in due course. Please, please, PLEASE do not take anything on that site seriously as a result of clicking the link I just provided. It will give me a major sad].

Meanwhile, the wikipedia entry for “yellow dye 5” indicates that it’s either harmless, or it’s harm is hard to entangle from life in general. I’m calling this 5 out of 5 for bullshit so far.

#6:  Arsenic-Laced Chicken

ARSENIC!!!! DUN Dun dun… And the chicken is LACED with it. We are in trouble now, eh?

The FDA says arsenic-based drugs are safe safe because they contain organic arsenic … But organic arsenic can turn into inorganic arsenic, run through contaminated manure and leach into drinking water.

But… Wait. What? Organic arsenic can turn into inorganic arsenic? While I certainly don’t doubt that this is true in a chemistry lab, my last 30 minutes of searching on google (including google scholar) has given me zero information on this.

Given that organic arsenic is readily flushed out of the bodybody (it’s water-soluble), this appears (again) to be a non-issue.

#7:  Bread with Potassium Bromate

More sciencey-words, clearly this MUST be bad for us. But wait, this section links its claims about thyroid problems to Mercola’s website. Again.

But in this case… It seems like it might, just maybe, be ever-so-slightly carcinogenic. So it might be a good idea to restrict your intake.

And sure, it’s not banned in the US, but the FDA is encouraging bakeries to stop using it. Good job, bullshit-website, out of 7 claims, one of them is kinda-sorta not-complete-bullshit. But… You linked to Mercola. Zero points.

#8:  Olestra/Olean

Olean makes you fat, Time Magazine said so (no Mercola link this time!). Wikipedia indicates that this is nowhere near the full story. Bad Time Magazine!

#9:  Preservatives BHA and BHT

From the wikipedia on this topic:

When examining human population statistics, the usual low intake levels of BHA shows no significant association with an increased risk of cancer.[6]


This is getting very tiring.

#10:  Milk and Dairy Products Made with rBGH

The main claim here is:

But it’s banned in at least 30 other nations. Why? It converts normal tissue cells into cancerous ones, increasing colorectal, prostate and breast cancer risks. Among other diseases, injected cows suffer exorbitant rates of mastitis, contaminating milk with pus and antibiotics.

And this claim actually seems true (I know, I’m shocked too!).

Now it’s important to note that the fact that this hormone gives the cows cancer doesn’t tell us anything about the effect the milk will have on the humans who ingest it. Biology be complex: the dosage passed on in milk is likely to be significantly lower than the dosage given to the cow in the first place, and it may be that the hormones are broken down by our digestive process.

But it’s definitely better to err on the side of caution with regards to this stuff, and I (not having an expert in bovine hormones and human ingestion to sit down with right at this moment) would prefer to avoid this stuff (which is easy, as I pretty much only drink soy).


So this list scores 1 out of 10 for facts and accuracy, and zero out of 10 for presenting things in proportion to the evidence. It’s just scaremongering, plain and simple. The final comments on that article are just the standard “eat fresh foods”, which is a safe claim for most anyone to make.

There’s no real logic to take apart here, as there are no arguments being made. Everything is implicit, the format being:

#Number:  Scary Science-Term in Food-You-Eat

1. It’s in the food you eat!

2. It’s REALLLLLLLY dangerous (lie)

3. Look! It’s banned in these other places

And this is not any kind of argument, with justifications or logic to examine and check. It largely relies on you, the reader, connecting the disconnected statements. And, I suspect, it has a stronger psychological hold on its readers because of that. It’s kinda predatory, frankly.

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