Friday, February 11, 2011

Toxic Consumption

Recently, I have become conscientious regarding the ingredients of certain consumer goods, specifically food and cosmetics. By no means am I fanatical about it, just more aware. Still, I have taken to read the labels of items more closely…discovering that curiosity truly does kill the cat. Unbelievable some of the ingredients listed in even the purportedly nutritious foods, giving credence to theories concerning links between certain products and health conditions. If it is not out of my way or perhaps a few dollars more in price, I will gladly sacrifice for the seemingly healthier choice. That said, there are limits to my quest – working within a budget so as not to spend a fortune, and not running all over town trying to find items free of these questionable ingredients.

After watching Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 documentary Super Size Me, I completely stopped eating McDonald’s®. A choice on my part, which I do not seek to instill in others. In my youth, I was able to eat it; as I have aged, not so much. The last few times eating it I had similar reactions as Spurlock when he first started his experiment:  discomfort in my stomach, and especially in my chest. While food naturally can give upset stomach and indigestion from time to time, it should not feel like a heart attack every time only minutes after consuming it. If given the choice of fast food joints, I prefer somewhere like Subway®, where I, at the very least, feel that I am getting a fresh product with nutritional value.

The two areas I have become seriously adamant about are bath products and pet food. Read the ingredients on a majority of either of these daily-use products, found in abundance at most retailers. Like millions of people, I have had sporadic skin problems (redness, dry skin, etc.) over the years, trying numerous products and altered diets in search of a permanent solution. Some worked for a time, most did not. Then, a few months ago I read about sulfates in bodywash, shampoos and other bath products; essentially, you might as well wash with sulfuric acid. Researching deeper, I found that EVERY product in the local grocery stores contained these highly toxic chemicals. Perhaps explaining how no matter what I switched to, the skin irritations continued. Currently, I am trying my hand at sulfate-free bath products, difficult as it may be to find and on a budget. (One that I am currently experimenting with is Nature’s Gate®, which I did find at a conveniently located grocer for a modest price.)

As for pet food, many brand name manufacturers should be ashamed. Brewers rice, corn gluten meal and animal digest – all non-nutrient fillers, and all common ingredients in a majority of traditional pet foods. Brewers rice, though sounding intoxicatingly delicious, is not actual rice but a byproduct of milled rice. Corn gluten meal, while a byproduct of processed corn, can also be an organic herbicide. Yes, herbicide. In pet food. It gets worse. Animal digest – sounding somewhat akin to regurgitated vomit – is a bouquet of specified OR unspecified parts of animals, with no quality control over contamination or the source. Meaning any variety of animals could comprise the contents of the “animal digest,” from euthanized shelter animals to roadkill. Yum. There are even products containing propylene glycol. Though approved as a non-toxic food additive for both animals and humans, data indicates propylene glycol can be toxic to both dogs and cats in certain doses. Any time the words “can be” is used, I simply replace it with “is.” Why? Because it is also used as a non-toxic antifreeze and coolant in industrial applications – certainly any part of a balanced diet, human or animal.

Again researching, I came across Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods®. Immediately, I became a fan. Why? Duh – Tom Bradford, Eight Is Enough…the original Dickie V! No, no, no, the ingredients. Reading the label, I am able to discern exactly what is in it without having to investigate further. Here are the first few items listed on the standard formula:  Chicken; Brown Rice; Lamb Meal; Oatmeal; Barley; Salmon Meal; Potatoes; Carrots; Chicken Fat (as opposed to the typically unspecified “animal fat”); Tomato Pomace; Natural Flavor. Hmm, natural flavor…what a novel idea. Not once did I need to question any of these ingredients, their function at once recognized and understood. Even the listing of minerals and vitamins, while a bit overwhelming, is understandable without head scratching. No brewers rice, no corn gluten, and certainly no animal digest or antifreeze…er, propylene glycol. All natural ingredients, all understandable upon first read.

Of course, it is up to every individual to choose what chemicals go in and on their body, and to become more aware of the impact. Otherwise, we might just be consuming the poison hemlock without notice.

*Disclaimer:  In no way am I affiliated with nor am I being paid by Subway®, Nature’s Gate® or Dick Van Patten. Unfortunately. Claims made are based on personal experience and preference, and should not be construed as advocating an agenda for or against their products and competitors.

 ©2011 Steve Sagarra

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