Fear & Loathing on Facebook

by Sally on May 22, 2013

Here’s what I’ve been learning lately on Facebook:

  • Packaged bread is poison so you should make your own. But wheat is also poison, so don’t bother.
  • You should never, ever, ever drink milk. Unless it’s raw, then maybe it’s okay. Never mind, it’s bad.
  • If you’re feeding your kids non-organic fruit while slathering them with drugstore sunscreen, you may as well be giving them cigarettes for dinner.

My Facebook news feed has become a very scary place, filled with dire and sometimes conflicting warnings about the poisonous food we’re feeding ourselves and our kids.

But it’s not just the usual suspects–like soda, fast food, and candy–that are being targeted. When I posted this photo of my son with a giant bag of frozen mango I got at Aldi (for the bargain-basement price of $3.29!), one reader immediately asked “Is it organic?” (No it’s not, I replied.) Another pointed out that I had just purchased a bag full of GMOs. “This isn’t nutrition, sorry,” she said. So now food doesn’t have any nutritional value unless it’s organic?

Frankly, I’m worried about the climate of fear I’m seeing on Facebook about food, a place where eating fruits and vegetables isn’t enough unless they’re local and organic–or better yet, grown in  your own backyard (because we all have the time and acreage for that). A place where food is routinely labeled as “toxic” or “poison”. A place where you can instantly feel bad about your choices because even though you’re trying really hard, it’s not hard enough. (I know that some children have serious food allergies and intolerances that make certain foods dangerous for them. I empathize with parents who have reason to fear the food their kid gets at school and camp and church. That’s not what I’m  talking about.)

I’ve long considered my eating habits and my family’s eating habits works of progress, but I generally feel pretty confident in my choices. I’m concerned about synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, and growth hormones. I’m increasingly concerned about genetically modified organisms and support labeling. I shop at the farmer’s market when I can. I buy some organics when I can–and try not to feel inferior when I can’t afford it (read “Organic Mom“). But when our budget is feeling tight, I also have to reign in some of my food spending. And I know some people just don’t have the access to or budget for local meat or organic farmer’s market fruit.

I’m also okay with my kids having processed junk food on occasion when they’re out and about (read: “My Kid Likes Junk Food and That’s Okay“). I advocate for improving the snack culture for kids because the junk food is excessive (and I don’t think it’s healthy to associate achieving in sports or gathering in a group with eating junk). But I don’t think Fruit Roll-Ups themselves are “poisonous”–otherwise, I wouldn’t let my kids have those foods occasionally at a party or a friend’s house (read: “The Mom I Can’t Be“).

These are my choices. They may not be yours. But we both love our kids and are trying. I’m continually learning–and tinkering with the way I feed myself and my kids as I learn more (read: “Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes“). But I’m tired of the one-upping. I’m tired of the fear mongering.

I just want to enjoy my toxic mango smoothie without being judged. Is that too much to ask?

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{ 106 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda June 2, 2013 at 9:43 am

Thank you for this lovely post. Coming from a farm family that is not only NOT organic, but also that plants GMO foods, I appreciate that some people are recognizing the scare tactics and dangerous rhetoric. We had a roadside stand selling fresh produce for 26 years. It was absolutely wonder to have a plentiful supply of fresh fruits and vegetables whenever I wanted them. I could literally walk into our “back yard” and eat all the tomatoes, apples, cherries, or cucumbers I wanted. I would absolutely love to talk with you regarding your concerns about pesticides (which organic farmers also use) and GM produce if you’re interested. But, again, lovely post regarding the scare tactics that are so prevalent today.

Stephanie June 2, 2013 at 9:45 am

I LOVED this! As one who was on the brink of orthorexia, this is refreshing to read. Thank you for sharing!

Michael June 2, 2013 at 9:58 pm

I’ve more concerns about certain organics and whole milk. I find it crazy that so many are concerned about the foods that have zero chance of making them sick (GMO’s, irradiated meats, “pink slime”, pasteurized milk) and promote some that are more likely to have pathogens. So many of the food deaths and severe illnesses lately have an organic source. It comes down to wash and cook it properly. The consumer has a part to play in food safety.

Susan Mac June 5, 2013 at 7:37 am

I really appreciate all this information. I have two toddlers and am very concerned with their diets. I really am not so concerned if their food is organic as I would like to find out more about GM foods. I think because I have only started hearing about it recently and I lack any education about it.

Elizabeth July 20, 2013 at 7:31 am

Hi Sally,

Thanks for having the courage to post this. While I love Facebook, it’s become the NEW National Enquirer of sensational marketing and story telling. As a registered dietitian, it overwhelms me too. Nutrition shouldn’t be so complicated. Eating a bag of chips occasionally won’t set you up for heart disease tomorrow, wheat is not your enemy, juicing is not for everyone….I could go on and on with the things I see posted that has lead to so many friends even judging my own plate when we dine out together. Moderation is what I as well as many dietitians promote. Be cautious when you are receiving advice from a “nutritionist”. Their training and background is completely different from a dietitian. Thanks for your post. Refreshing!

Cooking Hooker July 24, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Just came across this, and love it! Next time someone tells you you’re eating GMO foods remind them that the banana and potato were the original GMO foods, both being non-edible until crossed with another plant.

Then slam dunk it by telling them that frozen foods have been proven to be healthier than even some of their “fresh” counterparts.

Finally – you rock so pfft on them.

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