It was a source of great satisfaction to me to be able to wander into any food market in Italy, knowing the government, or the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), is, according to its motto, “committed to ensuring that Europe’s food is safe.” Simply put, in Europe, any substance put in food must first be proven safe, while in the U.S., any substance can be put in food until someone can prove it is not safe.
The EFSA was established in 2002 in Parma, Italy, making it a relatively young governing body, considering the plethora of threats to the global food supply that arisen in the last three decades. The EFSA is “designed to serve as an objective, independent scientific reference point and to provide scientific advice and scientific and technical support for the EU legislation and policies in all fields which have a direct or indirect impact on food and feed safety.”
For example, the EFSA recently called for new restrictions on two pesticides from the neoicotiniod family of pesticides, acetamidprid and imidaclorprid, both of which are suspected of affecting the developing human nervous system. The differences between the EFSA and the USDA are evident in this decision, in that established scientific evidence isn’t essential in the EU, only that a substance may cause damage to human health. Unless it is absolutely ruled out that these pesticides can harm development of children, they will be restricted or banned. The USDA, on the other hand, recently found, after testing, that residues of both these pesticides were found on conventional fruits and vegetables. Ken Cook, President of Environmental Working Group, states that “American parents should be outraged. For years, children in the U.S. have been eating foods contaminated with these two pesticides even though there was little or no research to prove they wouldn’t harm children’s health.” He goes on to point out, and this is critical, that “many…chemicals that were once thought to be safe turn out later to present a potential risk to people, particularly kids.”
Another example highlighting the differences between the EFSA and the USDA is the use of antibiotics on animal farms. In the U.S., 80% of all antibiotic use occurs on animal farms, which has raised significant concerns about antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The Union of Concerned Scientists, among many others, point out the salient dangers to our health should we not be able, in future, to fight bacterial infections. The EU has banned all antibiotics used in human medicine on farms, and no antibiotics can be used at all for growth promotion. The U.S., however, has stated that regulation of the industry in this regard should be voluntary. And the list goes on.
Because money speaks so forcefully in the U.S., we are all guinea pigs at the service of Big Ag. Our government does not protect us from corporate practices and experiments put into place only to enhance profit. To eat conventional and processed food is irresponsible and dangerous. Buy organic.
I made some very simple meals in Italy that simply cannot be reproduced here as the ingredients are not available. However, this simple pasta can be considered a main meal or as an accompaniment to grilled meat.
Recipe of the Week
Pasta with anchovies
1 lb of the pasta of your choice
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 tin anchovies, minced
1 cup grated pecorino or parmesan
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain but do not rinse. Heat the oil in a large cast iron frying pan with the anchovies. When the anchovies sizzle, add the garlic, cook for one minute, then add the pasta and parsley. Save a little of the pasta water to add to the pasta mixture for moisture. Turn off the heat and toss in the cheese.