Preserve our Health, Not Our Bread

“Give me spots on my apples, but leave me the birds and the bees.”

Those words from Joni Mitchell’s 1970 song, “Big Yellow Taxi”, helped galvanize public support for the banning of the insecticide DDT in 1972.

I thought about those lyrics last week when I heard someone complaining that the loaf of organic bread they purchased seemed to go moldy sooner than the conventional variety they had previously purchased.

Yes folks, organic food won’t hang around in your pantry forever without going bad. Food products generally begin to lose quality immediately after harvesting. Refrigeration, cooking, canning and other techniques have long been used to keep those foods fresh and nutritious. But thanks to the wonders of modern chemistry, scientists have created as host of synthetic materials to preserve products; materials like butylated hydroxyanisole, sodium benzoate, sodium nitrate, and calcium propanoate.

Yes, those chemicals can keep a loaf of bread fresh until next spring, but many are also getting regularly tagged as potential carcinogens.

The regulations governing organic food prohibit these types of preservatives. While a limited number of synthetic materials are allowed for use in in organic food, one of the criteria for allowing the use of any material is that “the substance’s primary use is not as a preservative or to recreate or improve flavors, colors, textures, or nutritive value lost during processing…”

Perhaps Joni can pen a sequel…”Give me shorter shelf life in my bread, but leave me in good health.”

Okay, so I was never meant to be a songwriter.




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