Are We Eating Healthy?

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Almost all the Lebanese dairy companies were lead to bankruptcy, because of so many false accusations. Many dairy companies had their sales drop, and people no longer trusted these companies, all this because of the false accusations made by Joe Maalouf on his TV show. People want to eat healthy and try to eat as healthy as possible. The dairy companies lied to their consumers, which made people more precocious about what they should eat, and if it’s dangerous or not. The false accusations stated by Joe Maalouf say that Natamycin and Sorbic Acid are both ingredients found in Labneh and that are cancerous or even deadly. Usually people trust the media blindly, that is why the false accusation of Lebanese Labneh among so many other products spread out to all of the population and it seemed like it was the truth. Then the question that we must ask is: are we eating healthy? Are all the companies lying to us? That is why facts from the FDA, scientific proof and other credible resources will be given to explain the problem of un-healthy food and make it clear to all people. Of course, this topic doesn’t only concern Lebanon, but it’s on a much larger scale.

Lebanese dairy companies were shot down by many TV programs and news reports, one of which was Joe Maalouf’s show, aired on the LBCI channel. He stated that, in our dairy products, quantities of natamycin and sorbic acid were used. Not only does he state that the quantities used are above the international standards set by the FDA, but that these preservatives should not have been used in the first place. He proceeds to give evidence by stating quantities that he found in these products given by a well-known lab in Switzerland, named the UFAG. He then says that even the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that natamycin should not be used in the first place.
To broadcast such accusations with very little evidence on one of the most popular TV channels in Lebanon will surely have an impact on the uninformed Lebanese population. The first mistake he made was claiming that an organization as big as WHO said not to use natamycin without giving proof, or even legitimate documents. To correct Mr. Maalouf, WHO has no problem whatsoever in the use of natamycin as long as they meet the international standards, and those standards are set by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). As stated by the FDA, HHS (Health and Human Services) on 08/03/2001, “Natamycin is currently approved in § 172.155 for use as an antimycotic agent on the surface of cuts and slices of cheese(s). Under the current regulation, natamycin may be applied to the surface of cuts and slices of cheese to inhibit mold spoilage”. The FDA also stated that the standard set cannot exceed 20 parts per million (ppm) (or 20mg/kg). Thus making only one of the dairy products a “threat” while the others should be excluded of the subject (Khoury Labneh uses 54.3 mg/kg but all other three companies do not exceed these standards; on the contrary, they use such a low percentage of Natamycin (such as Taanayel or Candia) that the laboratory was unable to give a specific number). Natamycin is but a preservative that does not kill people. A test conducted by the FDA in 1960s by scientists Meier & Hespe shows that even after giving rats 50mg/kg of natamycin, “approximately 90% of the administered compound passed through the gastrointestinal tract without resorption and was eliminated in the faeces”. The same goes to sorbic acid which is a natural, organic preservative, and does not kill people.
This shows that neither natamycin nor sorbic acid is “cancerous” or “deadly”, in fact they can’t harm you. Even though these ingredients turned out to be the contrary of what we thought they were, this doesn’t mean that all ingredients used are good for us. Unfortunately Mr. Maalouf talked about the wrong ingredients while he should have stressed on the bad ingredients contained in fast food and what not. People are blinded by the media and trust everything it says. Other than the labneh scandal, the “organic” food started popping up everywhere giving people the false illusion that organic food means healthy food. As stated by Mark Bittman, in “Eating Organic Doesn’t Mean Eating Healthy”, he explains that organic doesn’t equal healthy. You could eat organic chips and that does not mean it is healthier than a homemade salad. Bittman says that “In the six-and-one-half-years since the federal government began certifying food as organic, Americans have taken to the idea with considerable enthusiasm”. (paragraph 1, line 1). This is just like the labneh case, where people hear a word and associate to it a false definition, just like when the heard “preservative” and thought it was something bad for them, they hear organic and associate to “healthy” although both don’t really much in common.
On the other hand, companies such as Haagen-Dazs, try to integrate “healthy” into their products. As found on Daily Star, Sophie Alexander explains that Haagen-Dazs Japan is introducing new flavors to their market: Tomato Cherry and Carrot Orange. These “vegetable based deserts” were made for us to still eat healthy while eating a desert. But are we really eating healthier? “Only about 8.5 percent milk fat” is used, which means that it is less fattening but doesn’t mean healthy. This is another case where people are influenced by the media, just like labneh and organic, they now assume that these Haagen-Dazs ice cream are healthier because they are “vegetable based”, whilst the main ingredients are still bad for their health.

In the end, to eat healthy is simply a way of life, but to not be fooled by what the media shows, since not everything means healthy.

Jad Tabet

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