Imagine the future of food.
People shop for groceries at large outlets, filled with aisles of canned and boxed and bagged meals. Each meal shows a nutritional analysis, and most are certified “nutritionally complete” by a government agency. Long gone are the frozen and fresh food sections. Oh, they exist in a few pricey boutiques, but for the most part, our meals come from bags, boxes, and cans – dumped into a bowl. Some of the meals are more tasty than others, most are pretty much the same. The labels show pretty pictures of images from the past – turkey dinners with the trimmings; chicken, vegetable, and rice casseroles; even leg of lamb with mint jelly. The contents of the packages bear some vague resemblance to these dinners of the past. Among the vast assortment of nutritionally-balanced meals are various “treats” of processed cookies, cakes, chips, and crackers.
Some people shop at the pricey boutiques, or even local farmers’ markets. They buy fresh (raw) meat and fresh produce and prepare some or all of their own meals. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) cautions against this, but that doesn’t stop everyone. The FDA requires the vendors of this raw unprocessed produce to label it with warnings:
- Raw meat can contain bacteria such as salmonella – handle carefully! wash hands! wash dishes! keep away from children!
- Raw produce, fruits and vegetables, came from the DIRT! It may be coated with bacteria, fungi, even animal feces! Use caution! Wash carefully in hot soapy water!
Despite all the government’s efforts to combat human disease, including epidemics of obesity and diabetes, and malnutrition among our population – the epidemics continue. Prescription meals are developed and prescribed by our doctors. Doctors’ offices, hospitals, and clinics are well-stocked with aisles of cans, bags, and boxes with “low-sodium” diets for people with hypertension or heart disease; “low-fat” diets for the obese; “high-fiber” diets for people with digestive issues; and the list goes on and on including even “highly palatable” and “high-calorie” diets for those with poor appetites. Food companies sponsor and fund nutritional programs in medical school – the one or two courses in nutrition the future doctors take.
Sound crazy? I honestly don’t think it’s that far-fetched. That is EXACTLY what the pet food industry has come to. The government (AAFCO and FDA), the pet food industry, and even most in the veterinary profession think we are not capable of providing healthy meals to our pets – instead, we
must purchase certified complete meals in bags and cans. Despite the vast majority feeding these “nutritionally complete” meals, our pets develop kidney disease, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, urinary tract disorders, digestive complaints, and a host of other ailments.
Personally, I think a homemade diet for pets can be done – if done intelligently and with proper caution. Dogs, as omnivores, can process plant and meat material for nutrition – and if fed a healthy diet similar to a healthy diet for humans would likely do very well! Cats, as true carnivores, can’t obtain nutrients from plant material and are a bit trickier. Still, it’s not hard as I discuss here and here.
The FDA DOES caution us on the use of raw meat for humans, and against many kinds of fresh produce! On the other hand, they promote genetically modified and irradiated foods and they are okay with preservatives known to cause cancer, as long as they are included in limited amounts. Foods known to cause disease don’t warrant any warning label whatsoever.
I know I don’t eat well myself. All my good intentions rarely last past 10:00 a.m. before I’m at a coffee shop buying some delicious beverage that’s more sugar than coffee and some scrumptious baked pastry. I don’t think a government mandate on food would help me. I know that preparing my own meals with fresh ingredients would be vastly superior to my current diet. I even started eating out *more* often – purchasing salads or sandwiches for lunch, rather than microwaving another boxed or frozen meal. Sadly, that’s a step UP for me. Providing me with only boxed or frozen meals would be highly unlikely to improve my health.
Seriously, think about what the focus of the FDA has been in regard to our food – both human and animal. Prior to the massive pet food recalls of 2007, the FDA/AAFCO had an intentional focus on raw pet foods. The biggest news recently on human food was the salmonella initially blamed on tomatoes, then peppers. Processed foods that contained toxins seemed to get very little attention, just a quiet withdrawal from the market to be replaced with another batch.
Just take a look on the FDA’s publication on food safety! What is most dangerous, in their mind? Meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables… – would that not be almost all our options for fresh healthy foods? Should we buy all highly-processed food in a bag/box to stay “safe”?
More food for thought:
- The FDA on raw pet foods - notice all the comments/data on bacteria like salmonella on raw pet food – where is the corresponding data on bacteria in commercial DRY pet food where salmonella is a relatively common occurrence?
- FDA warnings regarding alfalfa sprouts- my “favorite” comments are the warnings to avoid sprouts that are black, smelly, or slimy – like I would not do that anyway? Not like black smelly slimy sprouts are my favorite.
- FDA safety implications of “protein-rich” foods like meat, poultry, and seafood
- FDA safety implications of fruits and vegetables
- The FDA on irradiated foods
- The FDA on genetically modified or “bioengineered” foods
I see little to no warnings that a diet consisting wholly of highly-processed foods can lead to diabetes, obesity, cancer… Well, there’s this little gem:
- FDA on acrylamide - a carcinogen is formed when carbohydrate-rich foods are processed at high temperatures, so they advise a “a balanced diet, choosing a variety of foods that are low in trans fat and saturated fat, and rich in high-fiber grains, fruits, and vegetables” Well, except we have to beware of all those germs and bacteria on those fruits and vegetables, right? Note these “carbohydrate-rich foods” include not only all those potato chips for humans, but all those dry kibble foods for pets!
I hope this little science fiction tale is improbable – but I’m not counting on it.
More information on feline nutrition at Feline Outreach.