Monday, July 31, 2006

Fruits and veggies not enough, Mass-production affects content

Judy Creighton CP Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Eating five to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day may not be enough if government nutrient tables can be believed.

"Almost everything in the produce fruit and vegetable section of the supermarket which we once assumed would be very healthy is anything but," claims Thomas Pawlick, author of The End of Food: How the Food Industry Is Destroying Our Food Supply - And What We Can Do About It, published by Greystone Books in Vancouver.

"For us to get the same amount of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that our grandparents or even our parents did," he says, "we would have to eat five times as much or more of some of those fruits and vegetables."

Pawlick, 64, an award-winning science writer from Kingston, Ont., says that much of his research data come from tables published by Agriculture Canada.

"Every three or four years Agri Canada does a fresh set of tables on the current nutritional value of various foods. They send people out at random to various supermarkets and they buy foods off the shelf, take them back to the lab and do analysis of their nutrient content and these are published," he says, adding that consumers can go online and look at the food tables themselves.

Pawlick says that a fresh tomato bought from the supermarket has 61 per cent less calcium than it did in the 1950s.

"Virtually across the board, some losses have been as steep as 70 per cent. And it's because of the way the crops are grown and raised."

Pawlick lays the onus directly on the large corporate farms that supply most of the grocery chains in Canada.

"They choose varieties of fruits and vegetables, and when they make that choice the question of nutrition or flavour never enters into the picture," he says.

"They select varieties of fruit for thickness so when it's in a truck going across the country it won't get smushed," he charges. "So they want hard rubbery fruit and vegetables for a longer shelf life."

Pawlick says the same corporate farms also select produce for appearance. "They have to have uniformity so that every tomato or strawberry looks like the other one, and they all have to be ripe on the same day so they can be machine-harvested."

Pawlick says that because imported produce is harvested prematurely, it is artificially ripened with ethylene gas.

"This decreases the amount of sugar and flavour in the fruit as opposed to allowing it to ripen on the vine." He cites the California strawberry as an example.

"They are beautiful, but they are selected and bred to look good - but not to give you any nourishment."

Pawlick says that where consumers can, they should buy local produce. "Usually if it is locally grown it won't be so bad because it isn't being shipped a long distance," he says. "And anything that is locally grown means you are supporting local people and family farmers and the produce is getting to the market faster to retain its nutrients. The less time there is between picking
and eating, the more nutrients will still be in the product."

Pawlick is so concerned about the decline of nutrients in our food that he urges consumers to stop supporting those at the root of the problem.

"The corporate food industry is not reformable, so go around them," he says.

"Stop buying from them or we will pay the price and so will our children."

For a revealing interview on the subject, go to:

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