|BEEF WITH ANTIBIOTICS: This illustration from Consumer Reports accompanied a report that only 2 out of 25 chain restaurants (Chipotle and Panera Bread) got an A for sourcing beef raised without harmful antibiotics.|
By VICTOR E. SASSON
HACKENSACK, N.J. -- When I look around at the hospital volunteers I work with every week, I see men and women in their 70s and 80s, and even one man who is a couple of years over 90. (I'll be 75 next week.)
Ours is a physical job, involving a lot of walking, pushing and carrying, and everyone appears to be in good health, even though some of those who are overweight can't stop eating cookies, candy and other sugary treats brought in by other volunteers.
At the same time, death is all around us, not to mention disease.
All too often, we're notified that a longtime volunteer has passed, we learn of the death of a volunteer's spouse or a volunteer we know has an operation.
So, I often wonder, what is killing us?
My answer: The food we eat, and the air we breathe.
No longer 'Cancer Alley'
New Jersey long ago shed the reputation of being "Cancer Alley," but our air is far from clean, and tailpipe emissions cause hundreds, if not thousands, of premature deaths in the Garden State each year.
Even though there are fewer chemical companies and refineries lining the New Jersey Turnpike today, the number of dirty, diesel-burning trucks likely has increased, worsening our infamous air pollution.
And the junction of Routes 95 and 4 at the George Washington Bridge is now recognized as the most congested in the metropolitan area, clogged by delivery trucks for Amazon, Fresh Direct and others heading for Manhattan.
Take that, Fort Lee.
It's the food, stupid
Of course, the food we eat is the major factor in causing disease and death.
In March 2009, I launched my first blog with a post on Food bargains.
I had already started buying organic spring mix, organic carrot juice and other organics free of pesticides and genetically modified ingredients.
That blog, Do You Really Know What You're Eating?, called on readers to:
"Celebrate food, life and diversity. Join me in the search for the right ingredients: Food without human antibiotics, growth hormones and other harmful additives that have become commonplace in animals raised on factory farms."
EATING CLEAN: When you prepare your own meals, you are in full control of what you eat. Here, I loaded my breakfast plate with organic eggs, organic pasta, organic baby spinach, organic squash and organic parsley. See recipes at Victor' Healthy Kitchen on YouTube
Emphasis on organics
In 2010, I stopped eating meat and poultry, even those without antibiotics and growth hormones that we were buying, and began a diet of wild-caught seafood, organic eggs, organic produce and as many other organics as we could afford.
My goal was made easier by the Amazon takeover of Whole Foods Market:
That led to lower prices on organics and wild-caught seafood at the Paramus store (where I shop weekly), including special discounts for Amazon Prime members like me, and 5% cash back when I use the Amazon Prime credit card.
ShopRite and Costco Wholesale, where we spend most of our food dollars, both have introduced more and more organics, and both offer antibiotic-free raw chicken.
At ShopRite, they are sold under the Wholesome Pantry label, and at Costco, private-label Kirkland Signature items are increasingly organic.
A glaring exception is Costco's wildly popular but low quality Kirkland Signature Seasoned Rotisserie Chicken.
My longtime subscription to Consumer Reports magazine has helped to educate me.
The non-profit, which doesn't accept advertising, is the nation's leading publication in reporting abuses on the nation's industrial farms, including a three-part series on the widespread use of antibiotics in raising animals.
"The practice of giving antibiotics to food animals to prevent, rather than treat, illnesses is a main contributor to antibiotic resistance" in humans when they are sick or become infected.
That is the message in an Oct. 31 report on ConsumerReports.org, "Most Fast-Food Chains Still Serve Beef Raised with Antibiotics."
Infected by superbugs
In 2017, Consumer Reports said:
"Overabusing antibiotics accelerates the process of antibiotic resistance. Already, more than 23,000 people die each year from antibiotic-resistant superbugs."
You won't find reporting like that in The New York Times, where the cooking editor promotes recipe after recipe for preparing mystery meat and poultry, and others filled with artery clogging butter and cream.
Nor will you find much guidance in The Record of Woodland Park and its affiliated (201) magazine, which churn out article after article on the 5, 10 or 15 "best" burgers or hot dogs, usually made with mystery meat raised on harmful antibiotics and growth hormones.
Advice for diabetics
On Oct. 23, The Record's print edition ignored all of the diabetics in its audience of older readers, urging North Jersey readers to jump into their cars and drive to a "new sweets company" in historic Mullica Hill.
There -- more than 112 miles from Hackensack on the insanely crowded New Jersey Turnpike -- you could buy as many marshmallows as your car could carry.
A second article on the Better Living front that day listed the "7 NJ places to treat yourself" to sugary s'mores, but none of them were in Bergen or Passaic counties, the heart of the circulation area.
I guess the thinking of Esther Davidowitz, the food editor of The Record, is that in consuming s'mores, diabetics can overdose on sugar with a smile on their faces.
To learn more about what we're eating and how our food is raised or grown, visit these other non-profits, and consider becoming a monthly contributor to support their work:
Environmental Defense Fund
Food and Water Watch
Institute for Responsible Technology