Girl Planting seeds

What Foods Are Our Children Eating?

girl_eating_pastaBy Deirdre Imus, February 1, 2019
What are our children eating? Even the most diligent, diet-conscious parent may not necessarily be able to answer this question, because so often the foods we feed our kids (and ourselves) are, to quote Winston Churchill, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” That is to say: we don’t really know.

Sure, we can inform ourselves as much as possible by reading food labels, breaking down complicated jargon, and keeping up with the latest food safety news. But the glaring fact remains that genetically engineered (GE) foods pervade the market, in mostly inconspicuous ways. According to the Center for Food Safety, up to 92 percent of U.S. corn is GE, as are 94 percent of soybeans and cotton. While you may not be munching on straight up soy or corn, odds are you have in your home a box of crackers, bag of cereal, or bottle of soda containing one or more of these ingredients.

As I’ve stated in previous articles on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in foods, they are a risk to human health and one we have yet to fully grapple with as a society. There is some, but not nearly enough, research on the potential health effects of consuming food that has been genetically altered. One thing we do know is that the toxic pesticide Roundup is used on GE crops, and that its main chemical glyphosate has been linked to cancer, as well as allergies, antibiotic resistance, and reduced immune function.

Our kids consume GE foods because it is very hard for them not to, at least not without an extremely knowledgeable third party, often a parent, intervening. They are also drawn to fun and colorful advertisements on television or contained within online videos. It has never been more important for parents, caregivers, or whomever does the food shopping in a family to be aware of the risks posed by GE foods, many of which are processed, and to always look for the “Non-GMO Project” seal on the label. Buying organic produce and products will also help reduce your family’s exposure to GMOs, as these plants have not been treated with dangerous pesticides.

Another pressing dietary threat to our kids, but also to us all, is the ongoing prevalence of factory farms, which are large, industrial operations that raise large numbers of animals for food. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) notes on its website that more than 95 percent of farm animals in this country are raised on factory farms, which are bad for animals and bad for the humans who like to eat them.

These so-called “farms” are breeding grounds for dangerous bacteria, such as salmonella and E. coli. What’s more, factory farm animals are pumped full of antibiotics to make sure they don’t get sick from unsanitary conditions; as a result, the bacteria inside these animals may become resistant to these drugs. This dangerous practice has put countless people at risk from consuming meat, eggs, or dairy that is laden with drug-resistant bacteria.

Beyond that, factory farms wreak havoc on the environment, polluting the water, land, and air in their immediate vicinity and beyond with chemicals, feces, and other nasty substances. Their toxic legacy is shameful, and more reason than ever to buy animal products from organic, cruelty-free farms that treat animals humanely, and respect the environment and human health.

Research has shown that children’s diets and taste preferences develop in infancy. What we feed our kids when they are really little has reverberating effects, not only on their health but on the environment. When we give our kids unhealthy, processed, chemical-laden foods, we set the stage for a lifetime of potential health problems. Their vulnerable and developing immune systems are deeply influenced by the foods that enter their gut, which plays a major role in establishing their body’s microbiome, a key factor in not only physical but also psychological well-being.

Eating habits form early and persist, for better or for worse. Seize the moment, early in this year, to commit to making the positive dietary changes that will have a deep and lasting impact on your family. It is never too late to do the right thing.

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