By Fredrick J. Stare M.D., Ph.D. & Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc.D., MPH
Hunter House Publishers
The authors of this 1999 book, now out of print, get right to work establishing their extensive credentials and fact-based approach in an apparent attempt to impress the reader. Unfortunately, I suspect I’ve seen more drivel from PhDs than from others probably because the PhDs feel more entitled. They lose even more credibility when they try—immediately in the preface no less—to rationalize their way around the conflict of interest derived from their food industry funding.
Reading on, we find implications that science is up to a vote, and if you are in the minority, you are wrong. One bullet says, “Any tenet that strays too far from accepted wisdom should be suspect.” Their general attitude seems to be that one shouldn’t think outside the box, and if one remains obediently inside the box, no thinking is required. So just don’t think, period. Wonder what’s inside the box? Well, let me tell you.
There are a number of controversial items that Stare and Whelan would have us believe are really of no concern. The short list includes fluoride, Olestra, bleached flour, margarine (trans fats), pesticides, and MSG. Raw milk occupies the number one spot on the list of most dangerous foods. Saturated animal fat like butter is something you should fear inside this box, and you don’t really need it anyway if you are over the age of two.
Their reasoning with pesticides, for example, is that there are no dangerous pesticides on the market because the EPA wouldn’t allow it. In this box, the omniscience and infallibility of agencies like the EPA and FDA are beyond question. I guess DDT never happened in their little world.
I can see these authors in an episode of the Simpsons being confronted by the infamous Dalai Lama-nade with ingredients like monosodium poisonate and partially de-weaponized plutonium, shrugging their shoulders and saying, “If the FDA allows it on the market, it must be okay.”
Elsewhere in this box we learn that there is no cancer epidemic, it only appears that way because we are living longer than we did a hundred years ago. And they have no explanation for why cancer is increasing in children.
The authors assure us that there is no need to be concerned about artificial sweeteners such as sucralose or NutraSweet. Sucralose is the key ingredient in Splenda, and I hear it was originally developed as a pesticide. Since there is no such thing as a dangerous pesticide, there is no worry.
No need to be concerned about GMO foods, either, and if you nevertheless demand GMO disclosure on food labels, you should understand that protecting the sanctity of commercial interests is more important than giving you information.
There is a section at least ten pages long on why irradiation is not only harmless, but good for you. So chow down on that de-weaponized plutonium.
Stare and Whelan claim the evidence against trans fat was uncertain at the time they wrote their book. I’m very skeptical of that, but even so, the National Academy of Sciences clearly stated just a few years later that the only safe level of trans fat in the diet is zero. I believe that estimation reflects the general consensus of science today, so the trans fat fad is over. This raises an important point, namely that science seems to change its collective mind quite frequently about a lot of things.
When this book was written, the authors could and actually did say that drinking raw milk, along with other freedoms of food choice, is an inherent right of American citizens. I wonder whether their faith in the almighty FDA would be shaken now that, according to the FDA, we no longer have that right. Perhaps it was just a fad.
The point of this book is that fads come and go and they don’t work. I certainly agree that this is true with most fads. Weight-loss diets come and go and don’t work, so you should stick to the scientific paradigm, which is to eat less and exercise more. Except it looks to me like that doesn’t work either. It becomes very hard to distinguish any difference between scientific fads and any other fads. This makes me think: pot … kettle … black.
While this book gets a definitive THUMBS DOWN, it is still worth reading as an example of unabashed support for the food processing industry and dinosaur nutritional concepts on their way to extinction.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2010.