The whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead

I have a library full of books about food and nutrition. Fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, blood alkalinity and blood type – it’s all there, in great detail. I read an interview today with Michael Pollan, author “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “Food Rules”. He sums up all the advice into one beautifully succinct line.

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plant”.

There you have it. Most of what we eat now isn’t food. Our bodies go into overdrive trying, in vain, to extract some goodness out of the processed mess we stuff down our throats, designed for the tongue rather than the tummy. And it doesn’t count if it’s “derived from” a plant.

Take sugar, for example. I remember an advert from childhood saying something like “sugar is the natural one”. Well, yes, if the definition of “natural” includes bubbling sulphur dioxide through the cane juice, spinning centrifugally to remove the outer coating, then dissolving into a syrup with phosphoric acid and calcium hydroxide, skimming off a layer, decolourising with activated carbon, then concentrating and repeatedly crystallising in a vacuum, producing white sugar. For brown sugar, some of the waste washings are then added back to this to colour it.

As Pollan says, “the whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead”.

So why do we eat all this junk? Pollan blames the processed food industry, which realises that the more processed a food is, the more profitable it is. We can attest to that. Fresh food gets bumped and bruised, attracts bugs because it’s actually food, gets old quickly and never looks the same from one week to another. It annoyingly only grows part of the year. It’s much easier, and more profitable, to deal with highly processed food.

It’s just not so good for us.

A view of the oil spill
This week’s video shows some of the first video footage of the scale of the devastation in the Gulf to date. So how are you helping to reduce oil consumption?

California Dreamin
California is so often the leader in environmental initiatives. The state has proposed an aggressive climate change law, setting limits on emissions of greenhouse gasses by cars, oil refineries and other industries, and mandating targets for renewable energy use and fuel-efficient cars.

The oil industry, far from lying low in the wake of the Gulf oil disaster, is sponsoring a ballot to stop the initiative. Calling it the “let’s burn more oil” initiative wouldn’t sound too good, so the backers, which include Texas oil giants Valero Energy and Tesoro, are calling it the “California Jobs Initiative”, and paint the law as an “energy tax”. Thanks to the deep pockets of the oil industry, and the importance of the bill as what’s first applied in California is often rolled out across the rest of the US and the world, lobbying on the bill is expected to reach $150 million dollars. That’s over a billion Rand. Perhaps the oil companies spending their millions are worried about more than taxes and jobs?

California doesn’t lead the way in banning toxic chemicals though. Here Europe is at the forefront, with the result that toys and other products that are deemed toxic in Europe are dumped in the US and South Africa. California is trying to catch up though, proposing a ban on chemicals such as lead in children’s toys and jewellery, hormone-mimickers in plastic baby bottles, and toxic flame-retardants in furniture.

Yes, the proposal is also meeting vehement opposition from industry groups.

New this week
We have a few returning items this week – black kidney beans, buckwheat and soya milk return after a long absence. And we’re offering a balanced vegan dog food, from Vondis. View and order at

Have a great week,
Ian and the Ethical Co-op team