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What the Health!?

From the earliest times in human history, humans have identified themselves as hunter-gatherers – consuming seasonal foods, harvesting a range of fruit and vegs that their soils and climate permitted to grow and hunting/farming local poultry. Ironically, our first World countries’ primary goal isn’t to survive in a world of scarcity, but to survive in a world of overabundance. The quality of our soils is depleting, the number of GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) is rising, and a plethora of drugs are administered each year to our livestock. There are, of course, laws and regulations enacted by the EU which protect our food standards also known as the General Food Law Regulation – but in the light of recent negotiations regarding Brexit, our food standards might take a fall as we will have to accept a harsh trading deal with the US. 

A documentary in particular inspired me to write this article. What the Health is a Netflix documentary released in 2017, highlighting the science behind our diets. Do you know what your food is made of? Some of us might not feel too alarmed when watching health documentaries, because we think that our standards are so much better than American ones. Alas, it is not really the case – and most certainly not when it comes to food. In 2018, the Food Standards Agency stated that more than 4,000 breaches of animal welfare regulations had happened over the past 2 years at British slaughterhouses. A study conducted by the Global Food Security Index shows that the UK and the US present similar standards when it comes to their food safety and security. Nowadays, farmers inject their livestock with antibiotics in order to improve the rate and efficiency of gain in swine, cattle, and poultry. In the long term, the concern lies in drug resistance of bacteria, which affects livestock and us as primary consumers. 

But the meat industry isn’t the only one affected by our modern farming methods, plant-based diets also face a rise in pesticides which negatively impact our environment and our foods. Pesticides affect soil fertility and decrease biodiversity and impact our health. Although we do have access to organic farming, it is not without influence of pesticides and fungicides. Not to mention that some ‘organic pesticides’ are actually more harmful to the environment than conventional pesticides. 

Processed foods are everywhere, fewer people bother to cook because they can buy ready meals more cheaply. But what about the additives, the extra packaging and the nutritional values? Food labels do give you detailed information of the food content – but they don’t tell you everything and can be misleading, as some information is difficult to interpret. Do you know the difference between “Hydrogenated oils” or “partially hydrogenated oils”? Although both PHO’s start with an attenuation, little did I know that this ingredient is very unhealthy and can lead to high levels of cholesterol and as they are heart-harming trans fats. 

The hard truth is that most businesses don’t really care about your health: they want to make money and maximize profits. It would be time consuming to read every single food label, so my advice to you: buy wholesome ingredients and cook!

It is important to pay  close attention to our diets and what we feed our bodies. After all, what we consume has a huge impact on our health and the environment. Nowadays our markets have so much more to offer, for every food exists an ethical alternative. But it is also worth considering the correlation of your diet and your carbon print. Your body, your choice!

Leora Garling

Leora is a final year German and International Management student and Features Editor for 2020/1.

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