Brian Douglas: Time to put health above profit within the EU 28


Author Brian Douglas.

Yesterday I sent a strong reply to EU-Euro stat via Twitter to an article they posted which showed the huge amount of NON EU agricultural imports into the EU 28 and exports alike all worth a total of 275 billion Euro. A large amount of this included processed food. Wholesaling and retailing is to gain the maximum profit we all know and have a healthy business, but what has happened to food quality I ask?

The quality of the food we eat affects directly our health both in the short and long term and yet within EU Countries we are now eating more and more food products that are contaminated with artificial ingredients and pesticides that are known to be dangerous to human health. This is in part because retailing of food products has changed in the last 30 years and nowadays the family food purchases are often made at the hypermarket or supermarket who because of retail agreements with large producers retail foreign food imports and we do not know in what conditions they are either grown, transported or stored before being placed on the shelves for sale, where when I was a child it was at the local street market stall, family grocers shop, Family butchers & fish mongers where were only locally grown food products! The link between retailer and customer was far closer in those days and often on first name terms where now we can hardly find a store assistant that knows the products they have on sale!

Hundreds of thousands of local family businesses in the fresh food sector have closed over many years now as simply cannot compete with the large agglomerate hyper stores and their large food imports, despite the quality of food in these large stores being of a lower quality than local freshly grown food. In Romania for instance the hypermarket car parks are full especially at weekends while the traditional markets are less used and even in those are imported foods purchased in cash and carry markets for resale. The local fresh food grower simply has no chance as cannot compete on price, nor can afford transport costs from the village to town market and if they do any profit is simply wiped out, despite having healthy home grown crops!!

Imports are of value only if they are safe to eat in my opinion and the large hypermarkets should give far more space to local grown food and produce, not only to help the local community, but to also address public health of the customers who purchase their products.

Standards have fallen dangerously low in food safety in my opinion. In the UK the scandal of horsemeat found in packs of beef burgers was just one example, God knows how many families including children had eaten the product before it was discovered. Its not so much the fact it was horse meat in the burgers as the fact that the public was duped in believing it was beef and who knows in such a case if there was any kind of real quality control of the horse meat at the time.

Processed food which is food which has undergone some form of chemical processing to turn raw ingredients into a food product is also used more and more nowadays including lower cost meat products like salami, sausages, bacon, sliced meat packs as well as pate. Artificial flavors to add taste are included and coloring agents and while the producers claim that artificial ingredients are safe for consumption, research proves otherwise. Numerous artificial colors that are approved for use have been linked to health conditions such as cancer and hyperactivity. Many processed food also contain high qualitative of salt which is associated with high blood pressure, which can lead also to a heart attack or stroke when the human body has a constant excess of salt- sodium.

In the last year Tomatoes, pomegranates and other vegetables were banned from entering Romania and EU member state after they were discovered to contain dangerous levels of pesticides. Long term pesticide exposure has been linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease; asthma; depression and anxiety; cancer, including leukemia. Garlic cloves from China were also found to contain chemical substances again harmful to human health and products from Asia were likewise found to be unfit for human consumption on health grounds, but the real question is how many more imports that were not checked passed on to be sold in the retail public sector.

Children are tempted daily by unhealthy fizzy drinks high in sugar content and artificial flavorings, crisps and snacks high in salt content and aroma additives again place children at a disadvantage health wise, but are sold freely and even promoted in TV hotspots and on the websites used by young people. I was interested to read the other day that Donald Trump’s luxury golf resort in Turnberry in Scotland has banned the sale of Irn-Bru a sparkling soft drink on the premises stating the difficulty to remove stains it would cause to the golf resort house carpets if spilt as the reason, but no mention of the fact the drink contains sugar, caffeine and colorants being Sunset Yellow & Ponceau 4R that may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.

Another area of concern is food labeling because is only a bare minimum of use to the public, not least because the public at large simply do not understand the information on the small label and also because the text is so small that even with good eyesight it is difficult to read.

At the end of the day the public suffers illnesses associated with unhealthy lifestyles including the quality of food they purchase and eat from retailers within the EU and are all too often unaware of what the food they eat really contains. Its high time that public health was made a priority in the food industry all the way from the food growers to the retail sector alongside the huge profits made and more emphasis need to be placed on local grown food that can be retailed far fresher than imports which have stood for many days in transit or in holding warehouses. Why for instance import forced grown and pesticide sprayed grapes to a Country that has an abundance of home grown grapes that are without additives and are grown naturally. It simply doesn’t make sense on either health or economical grounds!

Brian Douglas is a British born Humanitarian aid worker who has over 24 years experience in Eastern Europe. Brian was awarded in 2016 a Gala Top 10 Award in Romania and in 2017 was awarded the British News Agency News247WorldPress ,,Person of the Year Award.” 

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