Mireille's Musings - July 19, 2014

We are what we eat: the French and globalization

Changes in the French diet

A recent TV show has been trying to educate French consumers about food. Yes, too many of us are still unaware of what is in the food we eat. And, no, we can’t become too obsessed, though after seeing a “60 minutes” type show last year showing what Spain does to increase fruit production/size and taste, I couldn’t help but alert a nice lady who was grabbing a basket last March in a Parisian supermarket telling her daughter they were going to splurge on those gorgeous (and expensive) berries. I usually don’t do this but couldn’t help myself when I saw that she was stretching for a splurge that was not only not worth it but was also loaded with pesticides (the reporters call it “poison” like me, maybe they read the original French Women Don’t Get Fat). Somehow I convinced her and she left without the berries.

Now more “enquêtes” (investigations) are on TV to show how we are affected by what we eat. The worst are foods that come from the global food industry (where norms are different from the French ones). But there are plenty of bad French foods (read meat and mostly pigs loaded with antibiotics to increase production, and apparently blessed by the Ministry of Health and Agriculture—greed is international).

On one show, for 12 days, Reporter X only ate the “poison” food from the food industry (read prepared food with the chemicals we know are toxic and cause cancer, allergies, asthma…and make kids hyper), Reporter Y ate only organic food, and Reporter Z didn’t change eating habits (she cooks) eating mostly fresh fruit and vegetables, some fish and meat and a couple of foods that were not homemade. The rate of chemical agents (shown in urine analysis) tripled for Reporter X within a week, went down 50% for Reporter Y and stayed the same for Reporter Z (who has a rather typical French diet—nobody is perfect). You can draw your own conclusion as to what food does to our health…and obviously Reporter X didn’t feel well (but bloated), always felt hungry, ate more (snacks), and gained weight. Reporter Y, on the other hand, lost weight, felt better, and liked the great taste of the food, though admitted it’s not easy (or cheap) to eat organic in France, but he is committed to try and incorporate some organic food in his daily diet and at least eat local, fresh and seasonal. For Reporter Z, she’ll be more aware of reading labels particularly for the fruit and veggies she consumes.