The Toxic Food Environment

Carcinogenic Chemicals | Poisonous Ingredients | Toxic Pesticides | Synthetic Packaging

an image depicting the toxic food environment: a plate with a scull and cross bones floating in a bowl of soup.

The toxic food environment is a concept that carries provocative connotations. Originally coined by Kelly D. Brownell, a professor at the prestigious Stanford School of Public Policy, a toxic food environment is one devoid of nutritional, health-fortifying foods but instead is suffuse in poisonous processed plastic-wrapped products that ‘corrode’ health and promote disease and obesity.

This article will be looking at the toxic food environment through the lens of a publication dedicated to describing it and bringing the consumer’s attention to how some food manufacturers are knowingly lacing their products with poisons.

The majority of ‘food books’ – that is, books concerned with best dietary practices – provide the reader either with dietary advice, which is usually wrong, or a scientific basis as to why we should exclude certain foods from our diet while including others, which is usually quickly contradicted by contemporary scientific research. Such books abound and they more often leave the reader confused and exasperated than edified and confident.

I’ve gorged my way through a plethora of the above species of food books and have often finished the feast feeling somewhat unsatiated. For not only do they fail to satisfy but you can’t help thinking that the author is either pushing an agenda, isn’t keeping up with the research or is blinkered by their pre-conceived dietary beliefs.

For a good while now I’ve hungered for a food book that tells me in plain English just what exactly manufacturers are doing to the edible products that are coming to form an ever-greater part of the human diet. I wanted the veil of ignorance that the food industry tries so hard to hold up banished. Truly, I believed that no such book had been written.

But then I serendipitously stumbled upon Joanna Blythman’s Swallow This which more than satiated my hunger and now I know just how toxic the food industry really is. Yet though I’ve had an inkling for a long time that food manufacturers, in the main, are unscrupulous, uncaring corporations who put profit over ethical food practices, even I found some of the information served up too unpalatable to swallow. Firstly, let’s consider Blythman’s exposé on the use of sugar in foods.

Now we all know (or at least should know) that sugar – aka ‘white death’ – is highly toxic to human health. The fact that it is so is nothing new. Dr Weston A. Price, in his hugely important but sadly forgotten book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, which was published in 1939, maintained that sugar consumption is not only one of the root causes of dental carries, but also disrupts correct teeth formation, deforms the jaw bone and contributes to general physical decline. In that gentlemanly language of his Price argued that sugar ‘thwarts Nature’s orderly process of life’ on account of the fact that it confers little to no nutritional value and is completely devoid of ‘body-building and repairing materials’ (p256).

But our understanding of the detrimental and health-robbing impa