The latest freak-out over “chemicals” in food comes from the fever swamps of for-profit petition host Change.org. Over 50,000 people have signed a petition promoted by the “Food Babe” and another blogger against the use of two food colorings, Yellow #5 and Yellow #6. To these Holiday Inn Express-certified “scientists,” it can cause anything from cancer to hair loss in the service of supposedly evil “aesthetic reasons.” (Never mind that the Food Babe probably has had at least some chemical “aesthetic” enhancements herself.)
Of course, real scientists—like those at the Food and Drug Administration—find these food colorings perfectly safe. And periodic anti-scientific scares are as predictable as the rising sun. Just last year the nation freaked out about a perfectly safe, healthier ground beef product, causing higher prices and job losses.
This latest unscientific pressure campaign follows a trend epitomized by elite foodie Michael Pollan and articulated recently by former Times food reporter Melanie Warner. These efforts to stigmatize so-called “processed foods” are completely arbitrary and based on snobbishness and anti-scientific sentiment rather than health. To point out one of Warner’s loopholes, aged cheese is supposedly unprocessed. But there are no cheese trees. Before people, cheese did not exist. After the apocalypse, cheese will cease to exist.
Cheese is a human creation that does not exist in nature, designed (quelle horreur) to appeal to our taste buds, our senses of smell, and even our eyes (that aesthetic thing). That doesn’t make it bad, just like food dyes don’t make packaged ready meals bad.