What is it actually safe to eat?

Added on 07 May, 2007 . There are .

Hands up everyone who's a little bit worried about the whole contaminated wheat gluten issue currently in the news? Not many wheat-free eaters I bet. But, whether you eat wheat or not, it's a really worrying hit to the food chain. And if you have a pet, while you may not eat wheat, I'm pretty certain that your pet does, or did, in their pet food.

Now hands up everyone who's a little bit smug that they don't eat wheat and enjoy watching the wheat eaters sweat? Come on, don't be shy, it's human nature to feel a bit mean about people that can enjoy eating out without breaking into a sweat at the thought of a little wheat contamination in for example, their supposedly crouton-free salad.

Vegetarians are probably congratulating themselves on their dietary choices, am I right? Because it now appears that chickens have evidently been fed with melamine contaminated feed.

In early April the importers of the contaminated wheat gluten said that none of the poisoned ingredient went into food for humans, it all went into pet food. But the importer also declined to identify what companies were supplied with it, despite the huge risk to pets, and evidently someone in the U.S. who said that eating their cat's contaminated pet food made them ill too... doh!

But now it's alleged that it was in chicken feed, and those chickens are most assuredly now in the food chain, either as someone's Sunday roast, or breaded, deep fried and served with fries and a large soda.

Well I'm bothered, really bothered, by the continual problems with our food supply. Earlier this year people were dropping like flies because of E. coli contaminated spinach. Some shops that were ordered to remove the pre-bagged spinach simply opened the bags and tried to sell it as loose spinach, because loose spinach wasn't included in the recall. So profit more important than human life then?

Then in February there were salmonella contaminated cantaloupe melons recalled in the eastern US and Quebec. Oh, and that same week salmonella contaminated peanut butter that left people sick in 39 US states.

And a really interesting one again in February was where people were getting really sick eating cod fish that they had bought from Chinese markets in Canada. Only it wasn't cod fish, it was oilfish labelled to say cod fish. Imported into Canada already packaged and labelled no-one knew there was a problem until people started getting sick. More than 600 people in Hong Kong also suffered. Because you see, cod fish is okay for humans to eat, but oilfish isn't fit for human consumption.

Then there are the food recalls for foods containing undisclosed gluten or wheat. For example, last week a gluten free breakfast cereal was recalled because it contained gluten. And in fact this year there have been quite a number of food recalls for undisclosed/contamination issues with wheat or gluten, in wheat and gluten free foods.

And we thought that we only had melamine contaminated wheat gluten to worry about?

This whole contaminated food problem comes down to one thing, profit. Corners are cut, processes are short-circuited, hygiene is skimped, all in the name of getting food grown or produced quicker, bigger with more bang for your buck, and more bucks in the producers or manufacturers pocket.

Products are bulked with wheat filler to make the better quality ingredients go farther. Wheat is used in food production to "assist" the manufacturing process, and if it's used to "assist" the process then it's not considered an ingredient, so it doesn't have to go on the ingredients list. Although in the US labelling does have to include any link to the top 8 food allergens e.g. manufactured in a plant that also produces wheat products.

So from the food scares this year alone, coeliacs, carnivores, vegetarians and vegans have all got to watch what they eat.

Hands up everyone now who feel smug about their dietary choices?