When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Time To End The Western Witch Hunt Around Food

Social media hype and the "obsessive-compulsive" tendencies of younger generations are demonizing some basic foods, like bread, that have fed humanity for some 8,000 years.

Time To End The Western Witch Hunt Around Food

Plate with bread crumbs in Colombia, December 2020.

Nano Calvo / VW Pics via ZUMA Press Wire
Julián López de Mesa Samudio


BOGOTÁ — We largely owe our triumph as a species to gluten (a composite protein found in cereals like wheat). The domestication of the big, gluten-filled, cereals, paved the way for the rise of ancient civilizations, from Mesopotamia to Iran and the Mediterranean cultures of Egypt, Greece and Rome.

Wheat, barley and rye made large-scale agriculture possible, which fueled steady population growth through better nutrition. The rise of complex agricultural systems in turn led to the division of labor, consolidation of political systems and the state concept itself. So for more than 8,000 years, a great part of humanity has grown with the help of foods that contain gluten.

Yet today, these foods have become unspeakable villains to a growing number of 'foodies,' health enthusiasts and devotees of gastro-political and spiritual causes.

These mushy fanatics will embrace any trend associated with political correctness, health and of course social acceptability. Thanks to some zealous preaching, some of the most traditional foods with gluten are facing a veritable witch hunt, with its whipped-up hysteria over the calamitous consequences of their ingestion.

Increase in food allergies

It is not just gluten. There is also, apparently, an exponential increase in food-related allergies. That is what the big pharmaceutical firms and other businesses profiting from this curious rise over two decades are telling us! The food commissars have duly fattened their list of proscribed edibles for their alleged, allergenic risks.

How many children have peanut allergies in Senegal?

You wonder: how do they cope in those parts of the world with scarce access to medicines, where people do not know that strawberries or shellfish can cause allergies? Are we in an allergy crisis now, which suddenly and incomprehensibly became worse in a few years? I doubt it.

I'd like to know how many children have peanut allergies in Senegal, which is one of the world's big producers, and compare the figures with the United States, where nuts and peanuts are banned in public schools.

The Influencer problem

In this society of risks and fears for the future, inside a world that is increasingly cautious, timorous, aseptic and prone to bouts of collective panic thanks to social media, the obsession with staying healthy can lead to massive acts of stupidity.

In other areas it might be termed fanaticism.

The rejection of gluten, overcaution over allergies and more recently the rejection of a variety of red meats or genetically modified ingredients as cancer risks are examples. Foodies spread the word on these and other causes with superficial and uncritical use of information, in spite of belonging to educated generations born and bred in a globalized environment. Often they confuse or overlook real concerns with particular foods, to spread distorted information with a big impact.

Is the obsession with becoming an influencer prompting people to follow a cause or take life decisions without consideration? In other areas it might be termed fanaticism. There, it stamps out dissenting ideas and here in gastronomy, the diversity of foods that nurtures culture itself.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

Speaker of the House KEVIN MCCARTHY, 58, R-Calif., catches his breath as he arrives to a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday
Anne-Sophie Goninet and Laure Gautherin

👋 你好*

Welcome to Wednesday, where U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is ousted, Italian authorities launch an investigation into the bus crash that killed 21 near Venice, and Sweden's Royal Academy of Sciences inadvertently releases the winners’ names of the Nobel Chemistry Prize earlier than planned. Meanwhile, ahead of the Oct. 15 Polish elections, we look at how some political parties are competing for conservative Catholic voters by promising more draconian anti-abortion laws.

[*Lí-hó - Taiwanese Hokkien]

Keep reading...Show less

The latest