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Food issues call for more than quick quotes

Objecting to the kinds of dietary fads that are too often created by slick headlines and CliffsNote quotes should be an important part of message to consumers.

CliffsNote quotes shouldn't be used to sell books about food. But it's so easy. A quick, pithy quote gets lots of attention and news writers love to do stories that pull in millions of eyeballs. People love those little sound bites. Facebook and Twitter have turned us into a nation of short attention span theater lovers. Can't get your idea across in a dozen words or less? Buh-bye, idea. Trash the careful thought and good science behind it.

Here's an example of CliffsNote quotes: “The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago" said Joel Salatin in his book with the absurdly overlong title Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World. It was his attempt at shaming the current way the food industry feeds America. Don't buy it, grow it! seems to be his sales pitch.

Supermarkets appeared just 73 years ago? Not true, Joel! And it is so easy to put the lie to that statement. Just google it.

I found this little gem in approximately 10 seconds. "Clarence Saunders’ Piggly Wiggly stores, established in Memphis in 1916, are widely credited with introducing America to self-service shopping, although other stores (notably Alpha Beta in Southern California) around the country were experimenting with the idea at about the same time. Self-service stores came to be known as “groceterias” due to the fact that they were reminiscent of the cafeteria-style eateries that were gaining popularity at the time."

My rant was driven by another 'pop culture-worthy' quote from the same good ol' boy, aw shucks farmer from down home Virginia. He thought it was 'amazing that we have a government that decides it's perfectly safe to feed your kids Ho Ho's, Twinkies and Mountain Dew but it is unsafe to feed them raw milk."

Nice little sound bite, isn't it? It is a hard fact, also borne out with a little Googling, that feeding children raw milk is damn dangerous. He's made an inane, false comparison that's sure to be a hot Twitter quote. Science proves again and again that feeding your children raw milk is a ridiculously bad and dangerous idea, akin to child endangerment.

An article in Reader's Digest encapsulated the pure insanity in a short and easy-to-digest article for even those people with the shortest of attention spans. It began with this scornful intro: "Raw milk is all the rage," it said, "with some nutritionists claiming the body digests it better."

The article continued with "That’s a myth, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. (Here are some more myths about dairy.) According to new research, unpasteurized milk—and cheese made from it -— are responsible for nearly all dairy-caused food-borne illnesses."

And, yes, Salatin was right on one thing. The government recommends a ban on raw milk products, but two thirds of our individual states still allow it under the guise of freedom of food choice, usually through some clever “work around” like buyer's co-ops. Buy a share in a cow, for instance, and get a share of its milk, straight from the udder, unpasteurized, potentially deadly.

A new study, published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, analyzed outbreak data from 2009 to 2014. It reported on 87 outbreaks of food poisoning involving pathogenic bacteria like E. coli, salmonella, campylobacter and listeria. Raw milk and cheese made from it were responsible for 96% of all illnesses. During the study period, products made from raw milk were directly tied to an average of 760 cases of food poisoning per year and approximately 22 cases required hospitalization.

I googled the number of deaths caused by Twinkies. None. Let me stipulate that Twinkies as a part of overeating and a generally unhealthy diet does lead to America's weight problem and the early deaths it causes. I googled the number of deaths caused by Mountain Dew and found this headline in the May 16, 2017 edition of the Washington Post: "A teen chugged a latte, a Mountain Dew and an energy drink. The caffeine binge led to his death."

Let me be perfectly clear, feeding children a steady diet of Twinkies and Mountain Dew is not a proper, healthy diet. Feeding them raw milk, though, is giving them a ticket to serious and sometimes fatal diseases. It's proven to be far deadlier than a Twinkie diet, although I will agree that gross misuse of Mountain Dew can be a problem.

Because the ag industry grows everything we eat -- whether it’s the “processed” foods we find on supermarket shelves or the “all natural and/or organic” foods we find at farmers markets -- objecting to the kinds of dietary fads that are too often created by slick headlines and CliffsNote quotes should be an important part of message to consumers.

The one CliffsNote quote about food worth remembering is "Eat everything but in moderation." -- Giada De Laurentiis, well-known TV chef.

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