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.
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.
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