There is No Such Things as Completely Safe Food

The goal of government regulation in the area of food and agriculture, at least according to rhetoric, is to ensure that food is safe.  Complete safety is the stated top priority.  But is such a goal possible?

Yes, but only by severely compromising nutrition.

All of nature is mixture of things that are both beneficial and harmful to the human body, and this includes food.  Beneficial elements of food include things like healthy bacteria, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, proteins, fatty acids, and some carbohydrates.  Harmful elements of food obviously include harmful bacteria and pollutants.  All food possibly contains elements that are both helpful and harmful to our health.  Current means to render food safe, such as pasteurization, ultra-pasteurization, irradiation, and even simple cooking, do not distinguish between the good and any bad elements.  Any attempt to guarantee safety by destroying any possible elements of food that are unhealthy will inevitably also destroy much, if not all, of that part of food that is beneficial.

There is risk in all worthwhile activities, even getting out of bed in the morning.  Without risk, there is no reward.  Eating nutritious food is no different.  In order to obtain nutrition, one must be willing to accept some degree of risk of contamination.  Conversely, in order to obtain complete sterility and lack of contamination, he must sacrifice nutrition.  There is no other alternative.

Those who make the proper decision to accept some risk of contamination should nevertheless minimize such risk by ensuring that their food is produced in a way that protects against contamination.  The good news is that nature itself provides several layers of such protection, and methods of raising food that mimic nature will provide similar protections.  First and foremost, animals raised in their natural environment and on their natural diet will avoid much of the contamination that plagues our modern food system.  For example, cows evolved to eat grass, not grain.  Feeding cows grain and forcing them to spend their lives wallowing in mud and feces, as the meat industry does, causes harmful E. coli bacteria to accumulate in the cow’s gut, and such bacteria often finds its way into the milk and meat.  Raising cows on pasture, by contrast, is consistent with how cows would live in nature, and this practice minimizes the proliferation of harmful bacteria in the cow.  Grass-fed cows are healthy and free of contamination, and so is their milk and meat.

Furthermore, healthy animal products like milk, when raw, contain beneficial bacteria that will assist to destroy harmful bacteria within them.  Pasteurized, ultra-pasteurized and irradiated foods, in addition to having lost much of their nutrition, have also lost the ability to destroy any bacteria that may subsequently contaminate them.

Finally, naturally produced food that has avoided the sterlizing techniques like pasteurization and irradiation retains the entire wealth of health-giving nutrients with which nature has provided it.  People who consume such nutrient-dense foods are much better equipped to defend themselves against contaminants because their healthier diets ensure a much stronger immune system.  And, for those with a strong immune system, any minimal pathogenic bacteria that may still exist in their food will almost certainly not harm them but, rather, will actually benefit them by serving to exercise and further strengthen their immune system.

Consuming only conventionally “safe” food–that is, food that has been subject to pasteurization, irradiation, overcooking, and other sterilizing techniques–may indeed eliminate one’s exposure to food contamination.  However, such practice will likely also cause numerous health problems of varying degrees, including a weakened immune system, resulting from a lack of proper nutrition.

In this sense, “safe” food is actually very dangerous.

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About Patrick Crawford

Patrick Crawford was raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He attended college and law school at the University of Notre Dame, spending one year during law school studying at Notre Dame’s campus in London, England. He is now living and practicing family law in Annapolis, Maryland. When he is not practicing law, he follows the strong interest that he has acquired in the interaction between big business, government, the media, and the lives of individuals affected by these influences. He is particularly interested in the severely negative effects these forces have on nutrition, food production processes, local agriculture, and therefore, on health. He hopes that, through his articles, he will be able to educate others on the importance of traditional and sustainable foodways and agricultural practices, for the sake of both individual health and the security of local food systems. He runs his own website, called: National Fork.
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