The Dirty Secrets of 6 Scandalous Foods - and Healthy Alternatives

Today, one of my favorite online resources for interesting and topical environmental, health, and green living news, The Daily Green, posted an interesting and enlightening story about six "scandalous" foods that are in some way bad for the environment, the world, our health, or some combination of all three. In addition to elucidating the careless and even exploitative business practices of these foods, not all hope is lost: better alternatives are given. This short list is easy to remember and certainly will factor into my decisions the next time I'm at the grocery store or at a restaurant.

While some of the "scandalous" foods and the reasons they're on this list may not surprise you (the ubiquitous presence of corn and corn products in the form of high fructose corn syrup has been widely exposed as the main culprit behind the US's obesity "epidemic," type 2 diabetes, blood pressure problems, not to mention liver and kidney problems, and even osteoarthritis), many others are eye-opening, to say the least. For example, I learned that the dominance of corn in our food products is not only dangerously threatening to our own individual health, but has resulted in massive deforestation across the world. In addition, the widespread use of chemical fertilizer on corn fields in the U.S. has created a massive "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico – a 7,900 square-mile area patch of water that is so oxygen-depleted that sea life cannot survive.

So what are the other top offenders? Click below to find out:

In no particular order:

Shrimp: Harvesting shrimp is phenomenally wasteful, and harmful to other sea creatures. Up to 10 pounds of other fish are collaterally destroyed for every pound of shrimp caught, including dolphins, who are caught in the shrimp nets. Shrimp farms outside the U.S. (notably those in Thailand) have also carelessly polluted and subsequently destroyed their mangrove forests.

Better Alternative: Instead, if you must eat shrimp (it is very high in cholesterol, so decreasing your shrimp consumption is a good thing, overall), choose U.S.-farmed shrimp or wild-caught spot prawns and pink shrimp.

Chocolate: This one surprised me. Apparently, chocolate has similar dark political underbelly-conflict roots much like conflict diamonds. A 2007 report revealed that Africa's cocoa trade was bankrolling both sides of Cote d'Ivoire's bloody civil war. In addition, the cocoa trade has also been accused of supporting forced child labor and trafficking. I don't think anyone would ever guess that their candy bar purchases would support African labor trafficking.

Better Alternative: Fair Trade chocolate. One of my favorite companies is our very own local Theo Chocolates, located in Fremont (Seattle), WA, which creates gourmet delicious and decadently pure dark chocolates and interesting blends like chocolate orange, chocolate mint, salted caramels, and so on. (and while you're at it, purchase Fair Trade coffee).

Tuna: Of all of the foods on the list, this one is the hardest for me (not) to swallow (*ahem*). There is nothing better to me than sashimi-grade tuna, sliced thin... nonetheless, tuna is one of the most well-known offending fish industries. For years, the tuna industry used the practice of "dolphin circling" to catch tuna, resulting in the deaths of more than 100,000 dolphins each year. I thought tuna was back on the "safe to eat" list, mercury levels notwithstanding, with "Dolphin-safe" labels cropping up everywhere; however, these labels conveniently ignore the fact that tuna fishing collaterally destroys thousands of other sea creatures including sea turtles, sharks, and rays. In addition, overfishing within the tuna industry is destroying itself. It's estimated that 90% of the world's tuna stock has already been harvested. At this rate, tuna will be entirely extinct within the next few years.

Better Alternative: Arctic Char, Rainbow trout, or wild Alaskan salmon

Corn: Almost everything about this food is terrible for one's personal health and the environment.

Better Alternative: Organic sweet corn, eliminating foods with high fructose corn syrup (Start reading labels; and stop drinking soda!)

Beef: Wow. I knew the cattle farming industry was environmentally offensive but had NO IDEA that this industry accounts for more greenhouse gas waste than that released from the entire auto industry. In addition, talk about waste. It takes around 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. In a world where water will become more valuable than oil (see: "Oil, Water, and Climate" published by Cambridge University Press) with respect to its growing scarcity this amount of waste cannot hold. Cattle farming is simply unsustainable.

Better Alternative: Reduce your meat consumption! And if and when you do choose beef, choose grass-fed beef, which is more nutritious, less harmful to the animal, and less wasteful to produce than factory-farmed corn-fed cows (see "Corn" above).

Bananas: Again, another huge surprise. Although the nutritional value is indisputable, the banana growing industry is responsible for deforestation in Latin America, as well as environmental and human destruction due to polluting pesticides. In addition, the simple banana is another with a long history of political conflict through supporting colonial exploitation. Recently, Chiquita apparently was found to have paid the Colombian terrorist group United Self-Defense Forces more than $1.7 million for protection between 1997 and 2004.

Better Alternative: Fair trade bananas.

For more, check out The Daily Green's original article here


  1. You're very welcome! Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment! Visit again soon! :-)