Hands Off My Food! How Government and Industry Have Corrupted Our Food and Easy Ways to Fight Back
By Dr. Sina McCullough
Dr. McCullough’s story, told in Hands Off My Food!, resonates deeply with my own. In her twenties, she found herself waylaid by severe digestive and other health issues. This led her first to mainstream medicine, whose only solution was drugs with unknown short- and long-term consequences. A gluten-free diet had given her arsenic poisoning (something I warned about years ago in Wise Traditions). Eventually, a doctor diagnosed her with a number of problems, with a severe autoimmune condition at the core.
But what caused her body to attack itself? “My illness wasn’t instantaneous,” McCullough states. “I ate the chemicals prevalent in our food supply without any noticeable effects for half my life. . . and then I slowly became debilitatingly ill.”
The emphasis on personal responsibility for food is probably my favorite part of this book. McCullough focuses on the “root of the problem,” which is us. At the end of the day, no one forces the majority of people to eat heavily processed, additive- and chemical-laden foods. Yet not only do the majority of people eat these things, they feed them to children. She states, “Most of us unknowingly celebrate our child’s life by giving them foods that can hurt them.”
She goes further, however, pointing out that government and industry are not the solution. “[A]s we hand more responsibility and authority to the FDA and USDA, they get larger and more laws are enacted,” she states, but this doesn’t make our food better or safer. Indeed, as those agencies have ballooned in size and budget, our food supply has—by almost all metrics—declined in quality and safety. Her discussion of how government growth perpetuates industry misdeeds is spot on and includes examples from her time in the food and supplements industry.
McCullough works her way through the convoluted and broken world of food regulation, subsidies, safety testing and dietary recommendations. The book is well annotated and includes a wide swath of quotes and research to support her assertions about what is happening to the food system and what the food does to us—the eaters. The book also introduced me to pieces of FDA history that I didn’t know about. In one chapter, McCullough describes how the rich and famous (like Bon Jovi) use farming as a tax shield or, in the case of the Rockefellers, as a way to get even more money from the government. We get a first-hand look at how those who have opposed or tried to speak out about the dangers of food additives, genetic modification, chemicals and more have faced the same fate again and again—targeted campaigns by big food and big government to bury them and their work.
Some elements of Hands Off My Food! may be old hat for foodies—reminders that our food and farming systems have been mismanaged and made into something grotesque and dangerous through the collusion of government and industry—but experienced and novice readers alike are likely to learn something new. I also recommend the book for those wanting an accessible introduction to food issues and encouragement to take more responsibility for their habits and choices. If you know people interested in taking the plunge into real food and you want to give them something written in a way that almost anyone can understand and connect with, this book is a very good choice.
McCullough says, “We’ve abdicated responsibility as watchdogs over our food supply.” Her conclusion? “I am the solution. You are the solution.” Today I am detecting signs that the U.S. is experiencing a sudden increase in people caring about their food. My hope is that they will realize—through renewed local relationships and reinvigorated health—that they indeed can help reshape the future by the food choices they make today.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2020