THE NEFF ZONE -- BY JIM NEFF
CADILLAC NEWS -- MARCH 23, 2019
“You are what you eat” is a generally accepted concept. If this is the case, the food scene is about to get a bit more interesting. Many meals center around a main entree, usually meat or fish. Soon, that main entree decision may involve a science component.
In basic scientific terms, the phrase, “you are what you eat” is literally true. Nutritionist Cynthia Sass observes: “Nutrients from the foods you eat food provide the foundation of the structure, function, and integrity of every little cell in your body, from your skin and hair to your muscles, bones, digestive and immune system.” (https://cynthiasass.com/sass-yourself/sass-yourself-blog/item/116-why-you-really-are-what-you-eat.html)
This is even being recognized in business. “For entrepreneurs, eating isn't just about satisfying hunger. So say the growing ranks of nutrition experts who specialize in fine-tuning the metabolic performance of business leaders. 'You're like an athlete in the workplace,' says Richard Chaifetz, CEO of ComPsych, a Chicago-based provider of corporate wellness and employee-assistance programs. 'So you should eat like an athlete.'" (https://www.inc.com/magazine/201307/adam-bluestein/the-best-foods-for-leaders-to-eathtml.html)
This seems like an easy concept to implement. However, as football announcer Lee Corso might say: “Not so fast, my friends.” Choosing the right foods is getting more complicated by the day and the future could be even trickier.
For example, take a typical American entree, the burger. Pretty soon a choice will be between traditional beef and beef grown in a lab. “Burgers made by growing cow cells in a lab dish have a clearer path to reaching supermarkets as U.S. regulators (this month) outlined how the emerging food category will be monitored.”
According to scientists, all meat starts with cells. “Developers feed the extracted cell salts, sugars and amino acids so it can grow and multiply via hundreds of cell divisions. The cells created can be of different lineages — muscle cells, fat cells or tissues — allowing producers to create different types of meat such as steak or chopped burger.”
This process produces what is being called “clean meat.” It's still experimental, so clean meat burger costs around $363 per pound. However, producers say: “Clean meat will be in the supermarket within two to five years, and could be as inexpensive as conventional meat in a decade.” (https://scienceline.org/2019/01/the-truth-about-lab-grown-meat/)
If “clean meat” does not sound too appetizing, perhaps some seafood might be an alternative. Again, not so fast. What some critics are calling “Frankenfish” are being raised.
“Genetically engineered salmon is swimming your way.” As of last week: “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now allowing this kind of fish, whose DNA has been altered to speed up growth, and its eggs into the U.S. The announcement means that AquaBounty Technologies (Albany, Indiana) may import (Canadian company) AquAdvantage Salmon eggs to its facility, where the fish grow faster than traditional Atlantic salmon. In its research four years ago, the FDA also determined that genetic engineering is safe for the animal and that the product would have no significant impact on the environment.” (https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/03/12/gmo-frankenfish-salmon-could-hit-store-shelves-early-next-year/3134439002/)
Opponents have a different view of this development, namely the U.S. senators from Alaska. “They're particularly angry that the federal government plans to allow the genetically engineered salmon to be made and sold in the United States without clearly marked labels. If we are going to allow this fabricated fish to be sold in stores, we must ensure there is at least clear labeling." (https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060127455)
Trusting the government to monitor the new salmon development may be problematic for consumers. On the one hand, seafood produced in the United States should be subject to more scrutiny, which is good. On the other hand, government inspections of imported seafood has an unnerving track record, which is concerning.
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office: “The United States Food and Drug Administration should increase seafood import drug residue testing and other efforts to prevent contaminated shipments from entering the country. The FDA sampled only 0.1 percent of all seafood imports for the presence of banned antibiotics in fiscal year 2015.” That means 99.9 percent of imports are not inspected. (https://www.seafoodsource.com/features/report-us-should-step-up-seafood-import-testing)
How lax are the inspections? “Approximately 90 percent of seafood consumed in the United States is imported and about half of that fish comes from farms rather than the wild. The GAO notes that during fiscal year 2015, the United States imported roughly 158 million pounds of contaminated shrimp. Worse, the office found only 0.1 percent of the one million shipments of fish imported annually is specifically inspected for illegal drugs, and the FDA finds evidence of banned drugs in around 10 percent of what it actually tests. Out of 250 million pounds of catfish imported into the United States in the 2015 fiscal year, the FDA only tested 33 samples for drugs. The findings were even worse for shrimp - inspectors found more than 12 percent of shrimp samples tested positive for unsafe drugs.” (http://www.wsfa.com/2019/02/11/untested-water-percent-foreign-fish-goes-without-testing-unsafe-drugs/)
What this all means is that selecting meal entrees in the future could entail a combination of taste and science. Consumers will have to be more vigilant than ever. “You are what you eat” may have a whole new meaning.
Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews.