Have you seen the Academy Awards this past Sunday evening? Food Inc. was nominated for an Oscar in the category for best documentary. And, rightly so. Have you seen it yet? We truly need to utilize this fantastic tool that has been placed in our hands.
Over the last three weeks I have been asking many health professionals if they’ve seen Food Inc. Surprising, few have. But even with those who did, just a handful have fully realized the transformative educational tool this film is designed to be.
So bear with me one more week as I dive back into these materials. My purpose is to inspire you to look more closely, to look deeply into them. You’ll need three things—the DVD Food Inc., the Discussion Guide and the book Food Inc. The Discussion Guide is downloadable through The Center For Ecoliteracy. When you click on The Center’s link wait a moment for the frame to rotate to the picture of a cow. When that frame comes up click on it to download The Discussion Guide—a teacher’s guide to the real story behind food.
In The Guide’s introductory remarks, Zenobia Barlow, Cofounder and Executive Director for The Center For Ecoliteracy, says:
Food, Inc. presents the challenges posed by our current food system. It also offers hope. As an educator, you play a vital role as communities address the issues facing them today. You challenge your students to think critically and to grapple with complex questions. You inspire them to become engaged citizens and help them gain the knowledge and skills they will need in order to develop sustainable solutions. I believe that you will find Food, Inc. and this companion discussion guide to be valuable tools. This guide is designed to support you and your students in exploring the profound impacts of daily actions. It is a learning aid that demonstrates how to make choices that promote well-being by honoring nature’s ways of sustaining the web of life.
The Center for Ecoliteracy is dedicated to schooling for sustainability. I hope that you will look to us as a resource. Through our initiative Smart by Nature, we offer guidance and support for school communities, from designing curricula to examining the ways in which schools provision themselves and use energy and resources. I invite you to consult our website, www.ecoliteracy.org, to learn more about our publications and programs on a wide range of topics, including school food, gardens, campus design, and curricular innovation.
Thank you for all that you do to educate students about creating sustainable communities.
Many of you have kids or have patients with kids, and these materials can motivate kids like none I’ve seen. There are several reasons for this. One, is the is the power of the DVD itself. Viewing it in bite sized segments (by choosing a particular chapter) keeps the attention and focus sharp. Two, each chapter is accompanied with a well-designed lesson plan that you will find in the Discussion Guide. Plans that would take teachers hours to design! And three, the Discussion Guide promotes and teaches one how to use the Socratic teaching method. This is critical if one truly wants to get kids involved in the thinking process. The Center for Ecoliteracy is one of the world’s leading institutes for teaching Systemic Thinking and the Socratic Method. They have arranged their Discussion Guide around these transformative principles. For this reason alone these material are worthy of your serious attention.
This week I want to share with you another chapter from the Food Inc—this segment is called: Unintended Consequences.
In this 13.56 minutes long segment, the focus is on one of the unintended consequences of our current food system: the occasional contamination of the food supply and the very real risks presented to the population. The film puts a face on this problem by interviewing the mother of a toddler who died from E. coli contracted from eating a hamburger.
The chapter describes how feeding cows corn—a cheap and abundant crop because of subsidies—has increased the incidence of E. coli, since corn raises the level of E. coli in cows’ guts.
This section of the movie, as you can imagine, is very emotional for it is presented by Barbara Kowalcyk and Patricia Buck, Kevin’s mother and grandmother, who have worked for years to pass the Meat and Poultry Pathogen Reduction and Enforcement Act, or “Kevin’s Law.” This bipartisan bill was designed to increase the USDA’s authority to set and enforce food safety standards for meat and poultry.
“During the Bush administration the chief of staff of the USDA was the former chief lobbiest for the beef industry in Washington DC. The head of the FDA was the former executive vice president of the National Food Proccessors Association. These regulatory agencies are being controlled by the very companies that they are supposed to be scrutinizing.” (Food Inc.)
“In 1972, the FDA conducted approximatley 50,000 food safety inspections. In 2006, the FDA conducted 9,164.” (Food Inc.)
“In 1978 there were thousands of slaughter houses. Today we have 17.” (Food Inc.)
“Our regulatory agencies have become toothless and that is how the industry wants it.” (Eric Schlosser, Fastfood Nation)
Beef Production Inc. (BPI) in South Sioux City, NE. is one of our nations handfull of beef processing plants. It is one of the biggest.
A view from the inside.
“Food processing plants have become bigger and bigger and are perfect for taking bad pathogens and spreading them far and wide.” (Food Inc.)
“The hamburger of today has pieces of thousands of different cattle ground up in the one hamburger patty. The odds increasing exponentially that one of those animals is carrying a dangerous pathogen.” (Food Inc.)
In light of this higher risk of contamination, the film shows meat packers taking such measures as using ammonia to cleanse meat meant for human consumption.
“The hamburger meat filler is in 70% of the hamburgers is the country.” (spokesperson for BPI, Food Inc.) Their goal is to be in 100% of hamburgers in America within five years. He concluded his remarks by proudly saying, “Our meat processing plant is a marriage of science and technology.
The BPI manager/spokesperson is correct. The plant is a marvel of modern industrial engineering. However, the fatal flaw is the error that modern science has been encumbered by—the lack of systemic thinking. The very weakness that we in the holistic medical community can offer a solution for. As Michael Pollan says:
If you take feed lot cattle off of the corn diet and give them grass for 5 days, they will shed 80% of their E.coli in their gut.
But the industries approach when it has a systemic problem like that is not to go back and see what’s wrong with the system. It is to come up with some high tech fixes that allow the system to survive.
Each year approximately 325,000 Americans are hospitalized and 5,000 die from food-borne ilness. Like two year old Kevin in the film, many are stricken by Escherichia coli 0157:H7. This deadly strain was first found in 1982 and has been traced to ground beef, sausages, unpasturized milk and cheese, unpasteurized apple and orange juice, alfalfa and radish sprouts, lettuce, spinach and drinking water.
Verocytotoxin producing Escherichia coli, such as E. coli s0157 are emerging food borne pathogens worldwide. They are responsible for a range of illnesses in humans from mild diarrhea to hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic uremic syndrome in humans.
The solution? Become a gentle activist: watch the movie, have it available for others to watch, support stores and farmers that produce and offer organic foods, and speak to your children’s teachers about the movie and the educational materials.
Bifido longum was found to neutralize E. coli. Oral administration of B. longum exerts marked inhibitory effects on ulcerative colitis in mice. Administration of methotrexate to rats on an elemental diet results in severe enterocolitis and death. Lactobacillus plantarum, an integral part of the healthy gastrointestinal micro ecology, provided therapeutic benefits to help in the recovery from enterocolitis. L. plantarum reduces the number of infections in patients after liver transplantation. L. plantarum fermented oat given to healthy volunteers significantly reduces the gut content of potentially pathogenic microorganisms such as Enterobacteriaceae, S. aureus and enterococci.
In pulling together our American collection of probiotic organisms that are in our Original Synbiotic Formula, Beta Glucan Synbiotic Formula, High ORAC Synbiotic Formula and the Triple Berry Probiotic we had protection against these pathogens in mind. Read our monographs on these products, found within the Library tab on our home page. Our most extensive disease is found in our Original Synbiotic Monograph. Perhaps read that one first.
The Last Quiz Answer: This beautiful creature is one happy pig, living on an idealic organic farm in the Shannandoa Valley of Virginia. It is raised free ranged, with no hormones, or growth promoting antibiotics. It is raised with lots of love. As you watch the chickens, cows and pigs moving about on this iconic, totally organic farm, the farmer reflects on industrial farming and the food it produces. He says, “We are willing to subsidize the food system to provide the mystic of cheap food when actually it is very expensive food. When you add up the environmental costs, the societal costs, the health costs, the industrial food is not honest food.” [And, it certainly is not cheap food].
||Discovery in legumes could reduce fertilizer use, aid environment (March 10, 2010)
– Escalating use of nitrogen fertilizer is increasing algal blooms and global warming, but a recent discovery by researchers could begin to reverse that.