After I wrote about some of the highly questionable practices in the beef industry, a colleague asked me if my kids eat fast food burgers. No, they don’t, I answered; in fact, I don’t think either of them (then ages three and eight) have ever had a hamburger, period. I’ve never really made a conscious effort to keep the kids from consuming ground beef – I just don’t make it at home, and when we go out they’ve (thankfully) never shown an interest in burgers.
But the topic got us thinking that we should ask you: is there one food you avoid at all costs? And if you’re a parent, is there a food you won’t let your kids eat, even if they threaten to hold their breath until they turn blue?Let us know! Meanwhile, we asked this question to some of our favorite food experts and our CEH colleagues. Here’s what they said:
Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics and many other books and publications, is Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health and Professor of Sociology at New York University.
Soft drinks in particular and highly processed foods in general. They are bad for health, bad for the environment, shamelessly marketed, and promote corporate control of food systems in the United States and throughout the world.
Brahm Ahmadi is a founder and former Executive Director of People’s Grocery and is currently developing the People’s Community Market.
The one food I avoid as much as possible is not so much a food itself as a common ingredient in many foods: Trans fats (or trans fatty acids), also known as partially hydrogenated oils. The problem with Trans fats is that they raise your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your “good” (HDL) cholesterol levels. This can literally clog up your arteries and veins, which increases the risk of developing heart disease and having strokes. They are also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A few steps that people can take are to avoid trans fats are to read the nutrition facts on food packaging and, when at restaurants, ask about what kind of oils are being used. The American Heart Association has some great resources and information on alternatives to trans fats.
Bill Marler is one of the nation’s foremost personal injury and products liability attorneys, representing hundreds of children and families who have suffered from the food industry’s lax safety practices.
Hamburger – for a lot of reasons.
Niaz Dorry lives and works in Gloucester, MA, the oldest settled fishing port in the U.S. She is Coordinating Director at Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, which works to restore and enhance enduring marine ecosystems. Time Magazine named her a “Hero of the Planet” for her work in advancing the rights and ecological benefits of small-scale fishing communities as a means of protecting global marine biodiversity.
I wouldn’t eat fake seafood. It epitomizes all that is wrong with how we treat the ocean as well as how we think about what food should be. It represents the industrial scale extractive machines that are simply looking for volume regardless of their impact. It requires millions and millions of pounds of critical species to an ecosystem – usually what is food for other animals, putting them at risk while giving us a so called “food product” that is “cheap” only because they don’t calculate the real costs of this bad, cheap food that’s devoid of real nutrition and taste: cost to the ecosystem, cost to the local fishing economies that rely on the rest of the ecosystem, cost to our health. This industry represents the kind of “food” that shouldn’t even be called food. It is agribusiness on the water – an Aquabusiness with all the same implications as agribusiness. And, to top it all off, it represents a fishing fleet that is not connected to a place but rather to an antiquated economic formula that cares only about the lowest cost of production.
Mary Brune is a founder of Making Our Milk Safe, a grassroots network working to protect the health of children by eliminating the growing threat of toxic chemicals and industrial pollutants in human breast milk.
Deep-fried twinkies. I will never let my kids eat those.
Michelle Gottlieb is coordinator of the National Healthy Food and Healthcare Initiative of Health Care Without Harm, an international coalition working to promote more healthful practices throughout health care operations.
I think I will have to go with the poster child for bad food, the McDonald’s hamburger: Meat of unknown origin, highly processed, full of fat – just bad news all around.