Book Review: Eating Dangerously

Eating Dangerously:  Why The Government Can’t Keep Your Food Safe–And How You Can, by Michael Booth and Jennifer Brown

This book is yet another muckrucking expose about the sorry state of food within the United States, of which there are many.  And many of these books go over the same ground and discuss in detail the failures of the government to adequately protect the interests and health of the American people.  And all of that is true, although it is also equally true that it would be prohibitively expensive to attempt to inspect our way to healthy food.  Intriguingly enough, the authors point out that there is often an inverse relationship between the goodness and healthiness of a food and its safety, as foods that have been irradiated are much safer for it, but healthy foods like melons, sprouts, and raw milk come with a high degree of risk attached based on how such foods are stored and kept.  Likewise, this book (like many others of its kind) is far stronger when it comes to pointing out the dangers of many of the foods than in providing a great deal of worthwhile information when it comes to making the food we eat safer.

This book is a relatively short one of about 150 pages and it is divided into two parts, and beginning with an introduction that shows the author’s journalistic background.  The first part explores the question of whether we should be afraid of our food, answering with a resounding yes.  There are chapters on sickness from food (1), the lack of testing and inspection (2), the real life forensics behind responding to food outbreaks (3), the whole world in our kitchen (4), and what happens to companies that are responsible for the outbreaks–not much (5).   The second part of the book then at least seeks to answer the question of how to feed one’s family safely and sanely.  There are chapters about foods to handle with care (6), the most dangerous foods being sprouts and spinach (7), the authors’ praise of radiation (8), what do do when one has become sick (9), and the wide gulf between eating healthy and eating safely (10).  Those of us who have been frustrated by the struggle of finding sprouts after repeated outbreaks are aware of some of these issues.  After this comes two appendices, including resources to help one eat less dangerously (i) and some food safety quick tips (ii).  Finally, the book concludes with notes, index, and some more information about the authors.

It is rather perverse that there is such a gulf in our present evil age between eating healthy and eating safely.  Healthy foods that contain nutrients and that are nourishing in the long-term are generally also vulnerable to the conditions in which they are stored from farm to table.  In a contrary fashion, foods that have been radiated and otherwise processed to an extreme degree have little nutrients to lose and thus that which is beneficial for our lives and that which feeds bacteria can simultaneously be destroyed.  How is one to resolve this dilemma?  It would appear that if the healthiest foods are ones that are the most vulnerable to problems when sold by various agricultural businesses that the best course of action would be to seek to put as much as possible of one’s food purchases and/or growing under conditions where food growers can be held accountable for what happens, which would encourage more farming, more involvement with local farmer’s markets, and less reliance on government and companies to keep people safe when one party lacks the profit motive and the other lacks the capacity to engage in that important and necessary task.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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