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November 10, 2017
The Danger with Food Toxin Testing
There is ever increasing concern about food safety on the part of consumers, regulators, and food manufacturers.
In response, various organizations have emerged that sell to producers stamps of approval that can be placed on packages and in advertising if certain testing criteria are met. Let's examine whether such stamps of approval is the right direction to take for health and safety.
Responsible modern food producers regularly test ingredients and finished products for food toxins that have a history of real danger: mycotoxins, oxidation products, and pathogen activity. But there are many other potential toxins, in fact, toxins are quite literally everywhere in our modern society. There are thousands of them. But every morsel of food cannot possibly be tested. So some perspective is in order or people can drive themselves nuts.
On its face, it would seem that toxin testing and clearance is the best way to have confidence in a food's safety. But here are the problems (actually the danger) with that:
1. Not all toxins can be tested. Costs would be astronomical and some toxins cannot be effectively tested. In addition, a passed food for selected toxins may give confidence but still be toxic.
2. A food can be below the tolerable limit for all toxins that happen to be tested, but those same toxins may exert a synergistic effect when combined in a finished food and exert a toxic effect.
3. Most of the chemicals tested for are theoretical toxins in that toxicity levels have only been determined on laboratory rodents. Actual toxicities in pets from pesticides, antibiotics, heavy metals, etc. have not been proven to be an empirical (real and present) danger in quality pet foods.
4. Being "toxin cleared" leads consumers to believe the food is not only safe, but healthy. Nutritional considerations are minimized or ignored.
5. Toxin tests measure a food by specific thresholds, "pass/go" types of data points. This leaves the question, in a world of ever changing standards, how much of a toxin is too much? Nobody really knows. A singular focus on certain toxins and their purported (often evolving) safe/dangerous levels, in the absence of other crucial messages about toxins and how best to avoid toxicities and create health in general, is distracting.
6. Most dangerously, confidence in a cleared pet food leads people to feed the product exclusively.
(For these reasons, in addition to the testing of real dangers mentioned above, we now employ a method using in vitro cell cultures to flag whether any complete food, containing thousands of elements, is potentially toxic.)
Overt disease from toxins such as heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, and contaminants is extremely rare. In my many years of clinical practice I never saw one such case. Moreover, in feeding our products to tens of thousands of animals over their lifetimes for the past 40 years, not one report of an animal illness or death from heavy metals, pesticides, or herbicides has occurred.
That's because the first and most important principle of toxicology is: THE DOSE MAKES THE POISON. Just about anything is toxic given sufficient dose, even water.
In our world of tens of thousands of synthetic and natural toxins (yes, thousands exist even in natural, organic, non-GMO food sources), consider the wisdom of one of the world's most preeminent and experienced scientists in the field, Dr. Ames. Also note his evidence that, in contrast to toxicities, nutritional deficiencies abound that can even cause chromosome breaks leading to cancer and other disease:
While toxin disease is practically nonexistent in pets, every day veterinarians must deal with disease due to unhealthy foods and micronutrient imbalances and deficiencies.
This is further aggravated by the current trend by pet food manufacturers to model their foods after human foods. You've heard the slogans, like "human grade," "no fillers," (as if other producers actually use things like saw dust), and "no" this or that other popular boogeyman. Surely you've seen the television ads leading consumersto believe pet foods contain grilled steaks, salmon filets, lamb chops, etc.
It's true that throughout the history of the commercial pet food industry pets have fallen ill or died due to contaminated foods, or nutritional problems. Melamine contamination and taurine deficiency are examples. But these situations need not have caused the suffering and death they did if pets were fed rationally.
That's because the same rational action necessary to make the diet healthy is the same action that will diminish risk to toxins. That is, feeding in variety and rotation, never feeding one food exclusively for any extended time, incorporating home prepared fresh meals, and using intelligent supplements. Most toxic effects can be ameliorated given appropriate food variety, which helps effectively dilute toxins. On the other hand, feeding a toxin-passed food consistently under the mistaken belief it is perfectly clean as well as "complete and balanced" sets pets up for potential disaster.
Pets that died from the taurine and melamine problems mentioned above were being fed toxin tested, government approved, "100% complete and balanced" pet foods.
It is particularly imprudent to place emphasis on particular toxins while being unaware of, or unconcerned with, the more harmful feeding practice of relying on the "100% complete" claim and feeding an exclusive diet of starch-based pet foods (incidentally, "grain-free" is not Starch Free). That is the more real threat in that it leads to obesity, dental deterioration, cancer, arthritis, heart and other organ diseases, autoimmunities, type 2 diabetes and the whole range of degenerative conditions plaguing pets and their owners.
So, even if a heat processed, starch-based pet food were to be found to have negligible levels of every toxin in existence (an impossibility), would it then be the best food to feed exclusively, and a food that could not possibly create health consequences?
The Wysong Healthletter is now well into its third decade of continuous publication. It is offered free to help you make a better you and a better world.
I long ago came to realize that the most worthy role of any doctor is to teach people how not to need them. This led me away from practice where treating symptoms is the primary tool and a misinformed public has come to expect magic bullet cures. But no disease is ever caused by the lack of a drug, and no treatment—save that for trauma or defect—ever improves an organism. Medical intervention is, in fact, now the number one cause of death and suffering in our modern world.
Illness, in large part, comes from wrong thinking. Health requires an open-minded, fact-based philosophy of life and an ambition to make yourself the best you can be. Thoughtlessly following convention and laziness are irreconcilable with health.
Wellness requires a deep respect for the great unknowns of life and the power of natural healing forces. Pretending that we can command nature and that the body is a mere machine that can be manipulated with impunity by "experts" is an illusion of both professionals and the public.
So it is my hope that this newsletter will help you to take control of your own health destiny, trust the healing powers within and in nature, and understand that ultimately wellbeing is about what you do to yourself, not what someone else can do to you.
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