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Monitor Board of Contributors: In my family, we really need to know what’s in our food

Last modified: 11/15/2013 12:31:07 AM
‘Mom, can we buy this?” is a common refrain in the grocery store, but my kids know that when asking the question, they must quickly produce the requested item so I can read the ingredients. Not only do I want to know what is in our food, I have to know. Both my husband and daughter have food sensitivities. Due to their issues, and other concerns about processed foods, we have slowly and steadily moved toward purchasing whole foods and preparing foods from scratch. But the more I learn about the food we eat, the more I worry, “Am I doing enough?” There is a movement under way to require food manufacturers to label foods that contain genetically modified organisms GMOs, and I am all in favor.

Maine and Connecticut have already passed GMO labeling laws, but their implementation is dependent on surrounding states passing similar laws. New Hampshire state Rep. Maureen Mann is sponsoring HB 660 to require the labeling of GMO food in New Hampshire, again dependent upon the passage of laws by other New England states. When I asked Mann about the need for dependencies on other states to pass similar laws, she said the intent is to prevent manufacturers from pulling their products from the shelves in New Hampshire.

Proponents of genetically modified foods insist the science shows GMO crops and the resulting food products are safe. Scientific studies have shown GMOs are materially the same as their organic counterparts. Here’s the thing: Scientific experimentation is based on majorities. Scientific studies show that prescription and over-the-counter medications are safe, yet there is always the fine print, the exceptions. There are side effects that may only affect a very small percentage of the population, but for those people those drugs can be life threatening.

My experience shows the same can be said for ingredients in food. What science says is safe isn’t necessarily safe for everyone.

My husband had debilitating “episodes” categorized by severe headaches accompanied by extreme light and sound sensitivity and nausea. Frequently, things would devolve and he would start vomiting and shaking, sometimes quite violently. Eventually, he received a medical diagnosis of migraine headaches. The doctor prescribed several prescription medications to deal with all of the symptoms. I wanted to find the cause of the migraines. My research showed that sometimes migraines can be caused by foods. A chance pairing of an oven-baked chicken coating and a roasted potato seasoning packet led to the identification of his migraine trigger. I compared the ingredient list for both products. Maltodextrin was the first ingredient in one product and the second in the other. Maltodextrin is a thickener and a filler used in processed foods. Scientific studies and the FDA say maltodextrin is safe to eat. It is for many, but not for my husband. Since eliminating maltodextrin from his diet, his migraines have all but disappeared.

My daughter was having abdominal pain and issues swallowing. For more than a year, she was under the care of a wonderful pediatric gastroenterologist and endured some very invasive medical testing. He was stumped, and his solution was long-term medication to treat the symptoms. We sought out other opinions. A blood test for food sensitivities ordered by a naturopath revealed that my daughter had sensitivities to gluten, dairy and eggs. Once we removed these substances from her diet (not an easy task), her problems disappeared.

There is a family history of dairy intolerance on her dad’s side, and my mom also had some minor trouble with eggs. There is no family history of trouble with gluten. It’s important to note, she doesn’t have celiac disease or a wheat allergy, both have been scientifically ruled out. My daughter is one of a growing number of people who are sensitive to gluten.

The wheat grown today is genetically modified to be faster growing and resistant to pests. According to the American Medical Association, scientific studies show genetically modified food is safe for human consumption and despite strong consumer interest in mandatory labeling, the AMA says the science does not support a need for such policies. My experience has shown me I’m not dealing with majorities, I’m dealing with minorities. This is my family, people I feed and keep healthy. I think that I have a right to know what is in my food and where it is coming from.

(Lee Laughlin of Loudon is a freelance writer, social media marketer, wife and mother of two.)


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