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Ken Beach, Germany
"We need independent, objective, reliable information"
 real 28k

Clive Beere, Manchester, UK
"The testing should be carried out at different times of the year"
 real 28k

Matthew Peradivum, India
"We must know what we are eating"
 real 28k

Jan Cleer, Quebec, Canada
"Globalisation is my problem"
 real 28k

David Edwards, UK
"Food now is safer than it was 100 years ago"
 real 28k

Dora Samuels, Germany
"Land should be used not for building but for crops"
 real 28k

Thursday, 7 September, 2000, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK
Is our food poisoning us?

Every day, it seems, there is a food scare somewhere in the world. In the last week alone:
  • Police in Japan raided the largest manufacturer of dairy products following an outbreak of milk poisoning
  • Thousands were taken ill in India after eating contaminated rice
  • There were fresh fears in the UK about the spread of the infamous BSE, or mad cow disease
As the furore over GM crops has demonstrated, the industrialisation of the food industry is moving relentlessly on, as populations grow and consumers demand better and cheaper food.

Robin Lustig took your calls for a live phone-in debate on the subject - online and on BBC World Service Radio.

Select the link below to watch Talking Point On Air

HAVE YOUR SAY

  • Read and hear a reflection of your comments during the programme
  • Read what you said before we went ON AIR
  • Read what you have said since the programme

    Your comments since the programme:

    You are what you eat. If our food is not poisoning us, I wonder what is?
    Ade Bakare, London

    All of these issues regarding food safety and disease have a common cause - we are more concerned with economics and mass production instead of considering what we actually need and what is good for us as a whole.
    Paul Frindle, Oxford, UK

    It is still quite evident that 'mad cow' disease has not been adequately or professionally dealt with. England has a problem and until that is resolved, meat is dangerous and hazardous to one's health.
    Dave Adams, St. Louis/ USA


    I'm tired of this uninformed European whining about GM food

    Anton Voyl, USA
    I'm tired of this uninformed European whining about GM food. To date GM food has caused zero fatalities, and has, in fact, saved the lives of many people in the Third World who can now afford to eat thanks to cheaper food brought about by the higher yield of GM crops.
    Anton Voyl, USA

    Of course our food is poisoning us. As a nation we accept "unacceptable" means of production, we permit additives that we haven't fully tested and we still to all intents and purposes allow one authority to regulate and at the same time promote the food industry.
    Bill Tush, UK

    A substance in tap water is referred to as "Chemicals" - therefore presumably bad. The same substance in bottled water is called a "Mineral" - by implication natural, therefore good! Maybe it is education that is the real problem here!
    Bob, UK

    We reap what we sow. Supporters of large-scale farming argue that we have been genetically modifying organisms by crossbreeding for hundreds of years. But crossbreeding has natural limits, which we have breached, to our cost. Crossbreeding never involved pumping animals full of chemicals to make them leaner or produce more milk. The current situation is of our own making and we must learn to live with the consequences.
    Annie, Reading, UK

    I believe that a lot of the current problems that occur in the kitchen are due to the fact, that we don't take the necessary time which is needed to prepare a decent meal. In general we need to be more aware of how we act in the kitchen while we're preparing our dinners and such. Use common sense while preparing the meal, and take your time whilst doing so, and a lot of "accident" and unfortunate illnesses could be avoided.
    Michael Hansen, Copenhagen, Denmark

    Governments should concentrate on banning food containing meat fed to the animals we eat. Mankind eats herbivore animals. BSE would have never existed if cows hadn't been fed with sick meat of other or the same sort of animals.
    Wim van de Vrande, Valkenswaard - The Netherlands


    Without the advances of history in food there would not be enough to eat

    MS, USA
    Ask yourself: who has benefited by obscuring issues regarding new food production technology and it will likely be the producers who did not look ahead. Remember that with such a large population, without the advances of history in food there would not be enough to eat. I prefer light bulbs to candles.
    MS, Baltimore USA, but in Italy

    There are too many people who eat too much... other that a genuine health problem most obese people do not deserve sympathy they should be fined for over eating when people are starving. One of the worse examples of people's greed can be seen at buffets, the piles of food that are left wasted ... one of my worst experiences was walking through an American supermarket and looking at the extra large quantities of food. It would put anyone off eating for good.
    An American cookie recipe has four times the amount of sugar necessary. The servings at American restaurant s are grossly excessive and they wonder why so many people are obese!!
    Pauline Loo, Singapore

    The Oxford-Cornell China study, the largest ever medical study comparing diet and disease, showed that the incidence of cancer and heart disease is massively lower in rural China, where people have a largely vegetarian diet, than it is in the West.
    In addition, approximately a third of all the grain produced in the world is fed to animals, largely in factory farms. Eliminating this waste would provide more than enough food to feed everyone in the world.
    Dr Paul Kail, Prague, Czech Republic

    Genetically engineered food is WRONG!!! It's inevitable that dabbling with nature will upset nature's balance and if we do start genetically engineering food, where will we end up - genetically engineering humans?
    Jane Moffett, Nottinghamshire, UK

    A caller mentioned chemicals that naturally occur in plants we eat. There was a very detailed study on this subject in the journal Science in 1983. The article was titled "EAT-DIE." It is the most comprehensive study on this subject I have seen. Sorry, I do not have my copy of this article with me, so I cannot give full reference. I oppose the introduction of GM foods into the food supply without very long-term testing, and without labeling of this type of food. I believe corporations have no concern for the harm they may cause by genetic modification. Their only concern is profits, and gaining control of the food supply.
    D. Littlefield, Salinas, CA, USA

    It's too dangerous to play roulette with what we eat. One of the lessons I took away from two years spent studying genetics is that the natural order is a complex and beautiful thing. It is something that has evolved, slowly and steadily over hundreds millions of years. The subtlety, intricacy and delicacy with which organisms go about the cycle of their lives is simply breathtaking. Are we humans really so arrogant that we believe that we are bigger than nature, that after just a couple of decades of tinkering around with DNA in laboratories has taught us enough to "improve" on nature? The problem is that if we get it wrong, there *is* no going back; there is no Undo in nature's Edit menu.
    Matt, London

    As many of you had already written, I am horrified by the amount of bad faith that is written against GM food. It remembers me what we used to read concerning the judgement of Galileo Galilei and the Ludites against machines. GM food is an extraordinary event that should be saluted instead of despised, it present us with the opportunity to use less herbicides and pesticides for the same amount of food, without all the hipocrisy of the "organic farming". Any one who has the slightest idea of what was life before this century knows that it was "nasty, brutish, and short" and it is hard to understand the simpathy that the press have for the people who wants to impose it to us again.
    Stéphane Mandelert, Le Vaud - Switzerland

    Return to the top of the page

    Your comments during the programme:

    Cheap food is good for your overall health. The stress and psychic trouble of coughing out malts to get your belly filled kills you much quicker than anticipated food manufacturing mistakes. The discussed foodscares are only a tiny drop in the ocean. Road fumes kill you much quicker than food poisoning. Better die happy with full stomach.
    Mikko Toivonen, Finland

    What worries me is the quality and risk associated with all meat from animals, birds and fishes. I was informed by a leading fish farmer that the taste of salmon depends on the quality/taste of the feed to raise the salmon. The ingredients from which industrial animal feed worries me enormously - this feed is converted by living creatures into meat/fish that we eat. We all know about recycling animal wastes and more recently the use of human excreta in blending industrial animal feed was exposed. In the supermarkets here, fresh roasting chickens raised on corn sell at US$ 4.50/kg and is relatively tasty. I can buy from a local shop, known for low prices, frozen chicken legs/thighs priced at US$ 1.45/kg. So the margin for growing these cheap frozen pieces is tiny, so what cheap rubbish is mixed in the animal feed? Horrifying thought. I perceive the role of industrial blenders of animal feeds in selecting ingredients needs stringent monitoring at international, national and levels as well as on-the-spot inspection at the local levels at the factories and on the farm.
    Gordon Allen, Brussels

    We are being damaged most, by our failure to eat more complex carbohydrates (green vegetables), and animal protein from seafood, for example, which is somewhat more difficult to prepare than slapping a beef patty on a grill, or a hot dog in boiling water. It is the foods we Americans are not eating - but only by their absence - that are "killing us", not so much the processed foods we eat.
    Louis Massano New Jersey, USA

    I would like to have the requirement of labelling to include the country in which the food was grown. In the US there are many pesticides (such as DDT) which are banned, but they are still used in other countries and we are still getting the residues of these pesticides in the imported foods. And, yes, there seems to be a lot of resistance by large corporate farms to having genetically altered foods identified here in the US.
    Patty, State of Oregon, USA

    Can we determine if the lobby against GM food is not being instigated by vested interests who are keen to prevent cheaper alternatives to their products? Butter mountains, wine lakes, then the famines and undernourished ... how many more must die while the well-fed rub their tummies and talk about this?
    William, Singapore

    I couldn't agree more with Mike's comments about food being too clean. My two sons were born and spent their early years in Bangkok - one of the world's dirtiest cities. Last year my seven-year-old was one of only four children in his 2nd grade class of 19 who did not have a day off due to illness. Maybe his early exposure to bacteria has given him a level of protection not available to his first world born classmates
    Jane Niven, Riga, Latvia

    One thing we never see on food labels is specific information on exposure to insecticides during growth of the food. We get no information on dioxin content, heavy metals content, and the content of other derivative chemicals from the various garbage disposal sites which may/may not be leeching into pastures and rivers. Yet trace amounts, arsenic for instance, over time can be poisonous.
    Jim Crawford, Pennsylvania, USA

    I work as a tropical agronomist, and have a particular interest in this subject. Here in developing countries food is either highly contaminated (chemicals and or bacteria) or very pure. What I am looking for is fair prices and ingenious marketing for some of the excellent natural food produced by poor rural people. Looking at some of the evidence in the UK on chemicals, I would suggest that yes there are controls, but also some of the more toxic chemicals are used ie nematicides. How are these chemicals tested over the long time, when many are so recently developed?
    Richard Viner, Vietnam

    Please not another international organisation. Let us try to solve this problem at a more local level.
    Ali Martin, Brussels, Belgium

    You are what you eat, is an old saying. We have to ask to be more informed about the inputs which are being put today in the production of food and advocate for less publicity of junk food, which is poisoning us.
    Juanita Castano, Bogota, Colombia

    The only true poison is in our own greed. A greed that demands cheap foodstuffs at the expense of quality and animal welfare. Most people are completely alienated - and disgusted - by the means of food production. People should be willing to pay more for their food and consume less!
    Buzz Burson, France

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    Your comments before we went ON AIR:


    What we eat nourishes us, or not, and how we think is based on what we digest

    Chris Connors, Palo Alto, USA
    It seems to me that we create our own world, through our positive attention, or by ignoring of what's in front of us each day--this is our life unfolding. What we eat nourishes us, or not, and how we think is based on what we digest. That which is closest to natural form, taken in a balanced diet, gives us the best chance of evolving into a collection of kind, civilized people--collectively, a world where we do our best for each other.
    Chris Connors, Palo Alto, USA

    A hundred years ago it wasn't uncommon to hear of people being poisoned by tinned meat, or some other unintentional effect of processed food. These days we hear warnings on an almost daily basis from the new media, but real problems are relatively rare. In reality, most of us are not only healthy, but overfed. If we are being poisoned by our food, it is because we eat too much of it.
    Jim Hubbell, Whitesboro, Texas

    Not a single day passes without reading the newspaper article on dangerous food in which something strange is discovered these days here in Japan. The wide range of strange substances includes germ, a cockroach, a bit of syringe-needle. These incidents were caused even at the top-ranking foodstuffs companies. People in the food business should realize that they are consumers as well as producers. We live in a time where we have to choose what is not worse than others, not what is better than others.
    Machiko, Japan


    Wouldn't you rather harvest spring onions, tomatoes, lemon, lettuce etc. from the veranda in your home?

    L Leong, Kuala Lumpur
    Wouldn't you rather harvest spring onions, tomatoes, lemon, lettuce etc. from the veranda in your home? All it takes to make this possible is to cultivate an interest in planting and all your patience to water and fertilise them. I bet you would appreciate home grown vegetables and you would like to have more. One day, you would realise it is the time to give up on meat consumption, gradually if not instantly. CJD would never bother you anymore.
    L Leong, Kuala Lumpur

    In the developed world you are far more likely to die from eating too much than you are to die from eating something that is in any way poisoned.
    D.R.Weaver, Camberley, U.K.

    Yes, our food is poisoning us, but it is a slow poison. What are we doing to the children? Quite apart from the dangers of so many additives nothing tastes as good as it used to do. Years ago there used to be a wonderfully fresh smell of apples in the greengrocers, I have not noticed it now for many years. When I pick them they are often covered in some kind of sticky, waxy substance and I know those that are stored are dipped in chemicals to prevent rotting. Eat these apples and you eat those chemicals. How can this be good for you?
    June Dunbar, Birmingham, United Kingdom

    It drives me mad to see more of this pedantic worry over food issues. If people actually took the time to prepare food from ingredients instead of living on a fast food culture, the microwave meals and bung in the oven stuff there would be fewer of the problems mentioned.Of course major outbreaks of food corruption occur but in less well developed countries where they are dependent on stock foods like rice and wheat. People should take the time to actually cook their food and be less reliant on factories to provide their diet.
    Justin Morgan, Budapest, Hungary

    There is an old saying in Tamil: Even amritham (ambrosia), taken in excess, is poisonous.
    mohansingh, india


    The only reason food is produced this way is sheer greed

    Robert Magdalen, Alcazar, Spain
    Of course it won't ruin YOUR selfish day to eat GM or non-organic food right now but the long-term consequences for the planet's societies, farmers and the whole of humanity are unknown, as they are relentlessly crushed and colonized once again by Western corporate machines; the only reason food is produced this way is sheer greed and lots of money is involved in the process, therefore the quality is not important as long as the consumer does not complain! Imagine what kind of stuff a cow is fed if it has to be sold for food/money. Controls? They can be duped so easily.
    Robert Magdalen, Alcazar, Spain

    Before we read this we were going to go food shopping, but perhaps we won't bother now! Many of the bugs that are coming to light have probably always been there, it's just that we couldn't detect them before. Trying to combat them all will only serve to weaken our immune system.
    Richard and Tanya, Barnstaple , Devon

    Farmers did not know what was being put into animal feed mixtures, the feed companies kept their mixures top secret. This was ok for farmers as Goverment Inspectors were to monitor the feed companies. This failed. As far as Organic food goes, we farmed organically 50 years ago, like every other farmer did as there was no alternative. This involved a huge labour force who were paid small wages in poor conditions, which at the time seemed ok. Do you want to leave the comfort of your town jobs and return to the hard back breaking work of 50 years ago in just the same conditions ? I do not think so...
    Andrew Cooke, uk

    Judith in the UK wrote: "We live longer now" Do we? I do not think so. I am 71. My Mother died last year at 100, Gran 92 and Great. Gran 99. They are the 'old school' who ate fresh foods etc. I know many people in the area I live, and I tell you this, many I know have died in their 40s and 50s, even 30s. and most with cancer. Yes, the older generation live far longer, but the generation coming I feel will not. There are too many chemicals in our food chain. Even fruit is tasteless, so I have planted fruit trees and am getting an organic vegie garden going. This is a must for everyone.
    Peggy Boakes, Australia


    Eat organic!

    Harry, Munich, Germany

    While we are busy spraying our crops with chemicals and feeding our livestock unnatural products I challenge any of our food producers to prove that they are not poisoning us as well as damaging our flora and fauna. If you want to eat food that is both healthier for you and the environment, eat organic!
    Harry, Munich, Germany

    I believe that GM foods have the potential to reduce the amount of herbicides that need to be used. This is of benefit to humans but may not benefit some plants and animals. However what is more important to humans - our welfare or that of other living things? I believe as a human that we should look after out own species first.
    Brian Dandy, Malvern England

    Compare the trends of heart attack and cellulite - they mirror the increase in chemical/factory farming, over the last fifty years. People from countries where the farming is 'purer' have virtually no cellulite.
    Marc, USA/UK

    Too much of any food can be bad for you and all food has the potential to do us harm. This has always been true and always will be however it is sourced. No food can be scientifically guaranteed safe (GM or coventional) as natural variability prevents us from being able to have 100% certainty of the contents anyway. This is all media driven paranoia where the over cautious are trying to brainwash us into spending more on food than we really need to.
    Iain Bark, Oban UK

    I think that at times there are exaggerations although we should have tougher standards with regard to food.
    Roberto C. Alvarez-Galloso, Miami, Florida, USA


    You folks are missin' some good feasts

    Big Bro Maki, Molokai, Hawaii

    I grub da pig, I grub da fish and all da beef jerky from da market. I'm a big moke, but people, it's so good to eat. Its worth da gamble bra - a few extra years for some irie grubs. You folks are missin' some good feasts - come on over to Hawa'ii and forget you worry.
    Big Bro Maki, Molokai, Hawaii

    All theories about food must be taken with a grain of salt. I have read that in England in 1831 the average life span was 31 years. Personally, I question modern food theories developed by the likes of the beef and dairy industries to help sell their products. At 70+ and a vegetarian I can cut my lawn when the temperature is over 90*F and rarely bother the doctor. For people who eat animals and dairy products I would advise caution. We must realise that they are the result of concentrating over time contaminants as well as nutrients. Note also that the animals with the strongest bones are generally vegetarians. History shows that pigs have not been favoured in India and the bible. Was this because they spread diseases, resulting from eating offal, such as those which are plaguing the UK beef industry today?
    Bill Hunter, Tampa, Florida

    While GM foods will probably be safe for human consumption, a more serious concern is the unforseen consequences of releasing genetically modified organisms into the environment without understanding the consequences. The death of monarch butterflies from BT corn is a good example of this and may only be the tip of the iceberg. Despite mankind's recent technological advances, we are still dependent on nature for our survival. The costs of tampering with complex systems we don't understand could far outweigh the benefits of GM crops
    David McDonald, Boulder, Colorado, USA

    I'm more worried about pesticides than GM foods. And I think it's quite strange that people seem to worry more about this GM stuff than, say, the air you are breathing all day long. I found the air in a middle-sized English town more polluted than that of Sapporo, Japan, with its 1.8 million people and tons of cars. That's quite scary.
    Aska Sugimoto, Sapporo, Japan

    Water is our most precious food. We should develop sustainable agriculture that doesn't pollute water in any way. Organic agriculture may be an answer but there should also be room for improvements in the conventional farming. Hormone disrupting chemicals are released into the water - how can anyone argue that this is NOT a risk?
    Martin Frid, Sweden


    Food in the UK has got to be some of the safest in the world

    Richard Chamberlain, Stapleford, Notts, UK

    I have been a chef for over 20 years, and in that time the amount of legislation for food premises has become overwhelming. The paper work is now a full time job. Temperature checks, fridge temp checks, delivery van checks, flow charts showing the progression of food from delivery to table plus COSHH, HACCPS, the list is endless. Go to Spain for example and their hygiene and production methods at some restaurants are very dodgy. They are in the EU so why do they get away with poorer hygiene practices? Food in the UK has got to be some of the safest in the world.
    Richard Chamberlain, Stapleford, Notts, UK

    More to the point why is food so horrendously expensive in the UK compared to almost any other country? Since going abroad to work I was shocked by the fact I can happily eat much better quality food for about half the price. People seem more likely to die of starvation or malnutrition in the UK than anything else. The price and quality of food available in many parts of the UK is ridiculous but I never realised this until I went to live overseas.
    Gordon, Singapore (ex pat)

    We are what we don't eat!
    Sofia Shums, New York, USA

    After the BSE scare, caused by feeding contaminated sheep to cows, I would like to know why we feed any animal remains - good or bad - to a herbivore, when it is obviously unnatural.
    Colin, Brighton England


    Some people still feel the need to worry about "something"

    Chris Brown, Cambridge, UK

    I think this collective hypochondira (which the media seems to take every opportunity to encourage) is probably so rampant because in our largely disease, famine and war-free modern society some people still feel the need to worry about "something." I suspect that those losing sleep over whether their food was killing them (whilst still living well past their 70th birthday) would have a better sense of proportion if they had lived 150 years ago and seen half of their brothers and sisters die of disease before reaching puberty.
    Chris Brown, Cambridge, UK

    This is a global problem that can only get worse, as populations increase. What this is not is a debate about if we are all going to die. It's about if the manufacturing standards that are increasingly cost rather than quality based are threatening our health. Yes everybody who eats food will die. But food standards should preclude the possibility of passing on/infecting the poulation with diseases.
    Jamie , London

    All food is genetically modified. It is just a matter of the time span in which the modifications have taken place. For example: cross-breeding apple species to make them crunchier over 50 years is no different to identifying the "crunchy" gene and doing it more efficiently.
    Carl Hensman, USA/UK


    The farmers in the west are simply greedy

    Geraint, Belgium

    I worked in Malawi, Africa, a couple of years ago and the experience of eating meat generally, and beef in particular was amazing. It really tasted so good. The farmers in the west are simply greedy. BSE arose from the use of foodstuffs that are not part of the natural food chain of the animals concerned. Farmers now feel they have to complain about what a bad deal they are having. But, in truth they took the profits when they could, but cried foul when their greed was found out.
    Geraint, Belgium

    Try eating organically grown potatoes, cabbage and carrots with a juicy piece of home grown Scotch beef. Mmmmm... you'll never want to eat that bland tasteless supermarket stuff ever again!
    Stuart, Aberdeen, Scotland

    Just remember that the people who come out with these health worries and alerts are paid to do so. If they never came out with any problems or scares they'd probably be out of a job. After all, why pay the rat catcher if he doesn't find any rats?
    Paul Charters, England

    I was brought up to eat fresh foods and still try to carry that on. I do believe that modern sterile, clean food is causing more problems with illness than with real fresh 'organic' food. Our children are not being fed with natural 'dirt' so their bodies are not building up immunities to even relatively trivial illnesses. It's not just food either, our appetite for anti-bacterial cleaners is making things worse. I was the worst culprit when I was a child for not washing my hands, I always bit my nails and I am sure that this and the fact that I ate 'dirty' food has the result that in 25 years working I have only had 10 - 15 days sick.
    Mike Howles, Swindon, England

    Our beef is the safest in the world so why on earth are we importing cheap beef from Europe. Any beef or pork coming from other countries must be of the same quality as ours - if not, ban it! Maybe we should take a leaf out of the French book.
    Frances Black, Fife, Scotland


    Look at how long people live now compared to 100 years ago

    Judith, England

    It's one panic after another. Look at how long people live now compared to 100 years ago. Here's another panic fact: everyone who eats food dies eventually! Oh no, what will we do about it!
    Judith, England

    There is a tendency to believe that if one eats the perfect balance of perfect food, one will attain immortality. This is plainly nonsense. Death is a fact for all and we would do better to get on with enjoying our lives instead of being obsessed with the idea that everything we place in our mouths is going to kill us. We'll die a lot faster if we eat nothing at all. Follow Grandma's advice and eat a wide range of foods in moderation, not forgetting her wisest words: a little of what you fancy does you good.
    Sarah Leighton, Buenos Aires, Argentina (UK expat)

    You are what you eat they say. I am neither for nor against GM foods . I don't know enough about them to be able to make a considered judgement My grandmother said that you had to die of something - mainly shortage of breath! If we worry too much about food scares we may as well slit our wrists now!
    Ailsa, UK

    In direct answer to your question, I would say that it may seem that our food is poisoning us. In fact, compared to heart disease and other diseases which may be affected by our diet, the development of CJD following the consumption of infected foods is relatively rare. Much of the publics fear, in my opinion, having been whipped up by the media, especially the misrepresentation of research. A research awareness course for all journalists required methinks.
    Mark F, Sheffield, England


    Let the food scientists not threaten us with their invented ideas

    Albert P'Rayan, Rwanda
    I doubt whether people in India or Rwanda eat proper or safe food. Most of the restaurants in India and in Rwanda do not provide you with safe food. This is a fast food era. We seem to believe in this: Eat something as fast as you can and go ahead. I know people who are very careful about their food get all kind of diseases and discomforts. Even drinking water is not safe in many parts of India and Rwanda. When I left for Rwanda my parents and friends told me not to eat meat for they might cause some diseases. The meat available here is much more safer than the tinned meat that is imported from the West. I do eat more meat that I used to eat in India. I'm quite healthy. Let the food scientists not threaten us with their invented ideas.
    Albert P'Rayan, Kigali, Rwanda

    I've been buying organic produce and naturally raised meats for the past year, and I have noticed a huge difference in the quality of the food. It just tastes better. Organic vegetables are more strongly flavoured, sweeter, and better textured. Meats are less fatty and taste more like meat and less like cornmeal. I've also noticed that I eat less of what I cook when I use all natural ingredients. I think it's because my taste-sense gets satisfied and I eat slower to enjoy every bite. Taste perhaps isn't everything, but it alone is worth the price and effort.
    Terri Shea, Seattle, WA USA

    The difference between commercial and organic meat, dairy and produce is easily tasted. GM cannot help but reduce nutrition and spread disease. History will record Monsanto and others as the great killers of our time.
    Carolyn, Austin, USA


    I think that all this talk of food scares is a big media circus

    Jeff, USA
    I think that all this talk of food scares is a big media circus. If most food was poisonous, then people would be dying right and left, but instead, the population continues to increase and people are living longer and longer. There will come a day when the Surgeon General determines that anything at any time and any place is bad for your health. Life is nothing but risks.
    Jeff, USA

    At no time in the history of the world have so many pesticides, preservatives and genetically altered foods been consumed. What will the ramifications be on the youngsters and unborn babies? The large companies such as Novartis are not revealing any of their studies on the scientific and genetic results of pesticides and fertilisers. What about the effects of pesticides on ground water? Even so-called "organic" foods cannot be trusted to be free of pesticides.
    Theresa Cote, USA

    The question is not is our food poisoning us? But are we poisoning our food?
    Alice, UK

    I agree with those who say these occurrences are blown out of proportion to their impact (except for the impact on those who die from them). I don't think the problem is getting worse...just the reporting of it is becoming more common. The media seize every opportunity to exploit a death, especially when they can bash an industry to boot. What is needed is more integrity, ethics and honesty in journalism.
    Phillip J Hubbell, Dallas, Texas


    Life is no fun if you will only do things that are guaranteed to be risk free!

    Stuart, UK
    Is anything we eat more dangerous to our health than crossing the road or going into a smoky bar or any number of day to day activities.
    We're all going to die someday what difference does it make how? Are the people who stop eating the source of the food scare du jour the same people who drive Volvo's at 60 mph on the motorway and don't let their children play outside and don't do anything with even a modicum of risk attached. Personally I'm going to keep eating beef/eggs/milk whatever, as part of a balanced diet which keeps me probably healthier than one with limited sources of protein or fat.
    And I will continue to try "dangerous" activities like scuba diving and mountaineering and when the time comes I will let my children climb trees and partake in activities involving risk. Life is no fun if you will only do things that are guaranteed to be risk free!
    Stuart, Edinburgh, UK

    The amount of people reaching a blessed 100 years of age is increasing every year. So how does this relate to these health scares? As our worldwide communications and laboratory methods have improved dramatically the last decades we just know far more far quicker on a global basis. In the past we often did not even know why people died. So, I think we eat much better (and cleaner) than in the past and it merely looks worse as we know more nowadays. Furthermore the press is the first to flag such news in a dramatic manner adding to mounting stress levels with consumers.
    Han de Min, Canterbury, UK

    Yes, we have compromised our food supplies, and will no doubt continue to do so. Unless, of course, we go back to letting animals eat what they are intended by their nature to eat, and stop feeding cows with chicken droppings etc. Animals are no longer living, breathing creatures to be husbanded with respect, they are referred to constantly as an 'industry'. Serves us right!
    Tricia, UK

    I never did believe the Government's claim that beef was safe in the mid-80's, and gave up eating it, hopefully early enough. Now look at what has happened, with the threatened spread of disease in the human population. We really do need an independent watchdog over food who will tell us the truth as it becomes known and not when it is too late to cover up. The price of food must never be allowed to be the early death of the human population.
    Ken Beach, Germany

    "It is not the specialist logic of technology that compel us to accept hazards, but the system of organized non-liability, which renders all resistance idle. Thus proof of the hazard becomes a proof of institutional failure. Reality, unreality and the political content of large-scale hazards condition one another" - Ulrich Beck
    Tajudeen Isiaka, Nigeria


    The trouble with these things is that the media blows them way out of proportion

    Alex S, London, UK
    The trouble with these things is that the media blows them way out of proportion. GM foods are not proven to be in the least bit poisonous, and the link between BSE and CJD has not been conclusively proven. Cases where there is a clear act of negligence causing illness and disease, such as the events in Japan and India, need to be acted upon, and lessons should be learned. The e-coli epidemic in Scotland highlighted the importance of good hygiene practices in the preparation of foods, but the whirlpool of media hype around BSE and GM foods has done nothing but harm and retard the British farming industry, scientific research, and the freedom of choice for those of us who can keep a clear head.
    Alex S, London, UK

    Our food is not killing us its the means of production that is.
    Gerry, Glasgow, Scotland

    Nonsense. Our food is not poisoning us - these outbreaks have become so rare compared to just a few years ago that they are becoming more newsworthy. To put things into perspective, over 3.000 people die in road accidents every year, whereas the UK's worst ever E-coli outbreak killed just 21. And that doesn't happen each and every year.
    Adrian, London, England

    We are living in a sterile environment and our bodies cannot cope because we have no natural immunity. A generation ago when we grew our own food we built up our immunity to these food bacteria. By eating more fresh products we will be exposed to small amounts of natural bacteria and will develop immunity to them.
    DEBORAH HAYES, ALCESTER, UK


    In Africa, where everything we eat is fresh, you do not hear much of food poisoning, even for people who eat from rubbish tips

    May Kabanda, London
    I think we should all try to eat more organically grown food. I came from Africa where everything we eat is fresh, you do not hear much of food poison, even for people who eat from rubbish tips.
    May Kabanda, London

    The amount of media time given to the latest food scare always worries me - but not as much as all the people who decree that they will never touch beef or whatever again. How many people has CJD actually killed? Compare that number to how many people have died from heart disease because they go to the chippy 3 times a week. No matter what the latest scare happens to be the best way to stay healthy is always the same: eat plenty of fruit and veg and be sure to exercise regularly.
    Steve Batham, Edinburgh, Scotland

    My family has taken to eating much more organic food, which is more expensive, so we eat less of the higher cost items. Years ago people could only afford meat 2 or 3 times a week, and we now find ourselves in that position in order to avoid the meat pumped full of antibiotics, growth hormones, preservative and colouring. But we think it is worth doing that in order to ensure our children aren't exposed to harmful substances and possibly even fatal diseases.
    Mark Dickinson, Nottingham, England


    If we all took notice of what these so called scientists say, we would all starve to death

    Gary Holcombe, Gwent, UK
    If we all took notice of what these so called scientists say, we would all starve to death. Everything we eat seems to be bad for us these days. We all might as well face it that all the food infected with BSE was eaten a long time ago. We all now have to wait and see what happens. Humanity is sitting on a potential time bomb.
    Gary Holcombe, Gwent, UK

    We don't have a better diet than at any time in history - we have a wider range of chemical concoctions than ever before. Our bodies were not designed to be pumped full of pesticides and other noxious substances. The people who expect to eat steak when their budget barely stretches to potatoes are the ones who will suffer the most, as the less ethical suppliers will happily feed their cows on sheep's brains to cash in on the undiscerning marketplace. Unfortunately even those who can afford to pay for quality end up suffering, as the suppliers see the bigger profits available by cutting corners and reducing quality.
    John B, London England

    A lot of this is press hype ... more people were getting ill/dying a hundred years ago that they are today from bad food. Also, improved monitoring systems are exposing today's problem areas more ... this whole issue is tailor-made for scary headlines to sell newspapers/TV time and I, for one, am not buying it ... it doesn't ruin my day!
    Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

    The population of the planet continues to grow, and our biological need for food, and the business of growing and supplying it will grow in proportion. The outbreaks of disease, contamination, and poisoning is inevitable, but is a small percentage problem of the overall food supply chain that is over-exposed by worldwide media looking for the next sensation.
    Miles Davies, London, UK

    I believe that the lack of social accountability of corporations as well as the speed and stress of modern life make any part of the industry easily sway into undermining safety and quality of their product or services in order to reach profit margins or just financially survive. There is an incredible consumption of junk food and I don't understand how that can be called "better diet than at any time in history", unless you compare it with starving.
    Christian Bodhi, UK

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    13 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
    Japan milk scare spreads
    24 Aug 00 | South Asia
    Thousands ill in India rice scare
    30 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
    European scrutiny of BSE research
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