Monday, August 26, 2013

Dutch National Nutritional Agency feels the need to defend the food industry against 'natural food enthusiasm'

The original in Dutch can be found here, this is my quick translation. I'll do a bigger write-up later. But from this document, the question immediately comes to mind: why was this article written and promoted? What interests does it serve? Surely not the health of the Dutch consumer.. Their faith in nutritional science is also touching.

This is the same science that recommended we skip natural butter and replace it with margarine laden with transfats which are now known to be lethal.

But here goes:
"Organic and natural foods are becoming more popular. But this is creating an unjustifiable fear of non-natural ingredients. In addition, natural foods which are unhealthy are not getting enough attention" - opines dr Stephan Peters, specialist food safety of the Dutch National Nutritional Center. [Note that Peters spent most of his prior career working for the food industry]
Lately, we hear of people swearing off packaged food, and only want to see stuff on their plates that their grandmother would recognize as food. The food industry is also appreciative of this trend, and is supplying foods labeled 'pure' or 'without artificial additives'.
Eating (more) natural food has upsides. People who believe in natural food often eat more fruit and vegetables, and refrain from snack breaks. They are also paying attention to what they eat.
Food poisoning
Peters thinks these developments are healthy, because this automatically means people are eating more like the Dutch 'Disk of Five healthy food groups' [the food pyramid]. However, Peters notes that eating organic or 'pure' does not mean you are not ingesting poisons or other things that might make people ill.
In reality, there are also naturally unhealthy substances, like fungi and bacteria. The salmonella bacteria is one of the best known; this bacteria can be present on raw meat, raw egg, raw vegetables and fruit, and can lead to moderately serious health problems. In the Netherlands there are 720,000 instances of food poisoning annually. "So, even if one eats natural food, it is important to wash food, separate raw from prepared food, and heat all ingredients thoroughly" offers Peters.
Long live the liver
But what about chemical additives? Can the body handle those? Yes, says Peters: "For the body there is no difference between natural and unnatural substances. Via the intestine they all end up in the liver. The liver makes toxic substances water soluble, allowing them to be discarded via the kidneys as part of urine".
He also states that it is not the case that the liver has a bigger challenge with unnatural substances, or that such unnatural substances could cause reduced immune system capacity. "The liver is a powerful organ, and can handle what we eat just fine, including additives".
Detoxing is not necessary
Stringent Dutch regulation means there is nothing in our food the liver would not be able to handle, or could accumulate in the body. The only thing that could accumulate are dioxins, and these are in fact slightly more abundant in organic food. But with a varied food pattern, dioxins are not an issue.
It is therefore not necessary to avoid unnatural additives, or to 'detox' the body. "Our body cleanses itself naturally, after a few days, we start with a clean slate". Peters warns against "detox cures", some of which actually poison the body. He specifically cautions against eating clay or Pimba, which often even contain dioxins.
Enjoying natural foods
Is there then no reason at all to eat natural foods? There is. Many people find it enjoyable to grow their own food, they like to cook and enjoy preparing their own food. And cooking with basic ingredients is often cheaper, more sustainable and more animal friendly. 
But eating pure natural foods is no guarantee that you'll be having safer or healthier dinners [emphasis mine].

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