Scary Monsters…In Our Food?

Here’s the perfect set-up for a sci-fi thriller: Tiny invisible aliens invade our bodies and deconstruct our flesh from within. Surely, this movie came out in the 1950s. The plot sounds soooo familiar. But who knew the terrifying warmongers would ride in on a dab of peanut butter?

Or tainted hamburgers? Tomatoes? Wheat flour from China? Hot peppers from Mexico? Even Popeye’s favorite wonder chow —spinach? Red Alert: We’re being attacked by creepy creatures in our groceries!

I fell victim a week ago. One tasty snack bar and—Oof! Five days of awfulness. My snack bar contained bad peanuts. But I was lucky. At last count, nine people have died.

Now the authorities are telling us 76 million Americans get sick from compromised food every year. Why not, when even powdered baby’s milk contains melamine. Melamine! It’s the plastic in Formica kitchen counters and flame retardant. Okay, so babies who drink this milk are less subject to spontaneous combustion. That’s consoling.

You can also enjoy the crunchy taste of melamine in Ritz snacks, Dove chocolate, Kraft Oreo wafer sticks, M&Ms, and Snickers fun size, to name a few of my favorites. Some genius even mixed melamine into pet food and killed many small animals. Now, that’s just wrong.

The scariest thing about these food monsters is that they’re often unleashed by our fellow humans for profit. There’s evidence the execs at the processing plants knew about their violated victuals and shipped them anyway.

But not all contaminations result from profiteering. Some are acts of terror.

Remember the Tylenol tampering back in 1982? Seven people died when a crackpot laced Tylenol with cyanide, then replaced the innocent-looking bottles on store shelves. Who knows why. The perpetrator is still at large.

For the truly paranoid among us, there’s the specter of Gen Mod. Oooh, this might cross right over into SF horror. Tinkering with our food at the DNA level. What hideous mutants lurk in our linguini?

Tomatoes with goldfish genes? Yes. Pasta with built-in pesticides? Yes. Not long ago in Iowa, the FDA had to destroy half a million bushels of soybeans because they were tainted with corn grown to produce industrial enzymes. Can you imagine, catalytic edamame. What kind of green meanie would grow from that?

We haven’t even mentioned chemical additives, hormones, or perhaps the most dangerous food felon of all, high fructose corn syrup—the sugar molecules that ate Nebraska.

Well, relax. This is only science fiction. Dr. Stephen Sundlof, FDA food safety director, assures us, “The American food supply continues to be among the safest in the world.” Even more reassuring, he adds, “We look forward to working with the president and congress to make our food even safer.”

Right, I have no worries.


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