Health & Gastronomy 13/10/2014

Food Myths Debunked: Why our food is safe

Book on "Why our food is safe" answers most questions about food rumors. The book also explains about what peer-reviewed science actually is and how it is self-correcting

“While we all enjoy reading about food,” Cooper explained, “there has been a recent trend to treat almost everything about food as somehow ‘scary.’”

In this book, Cooper takes some of the common food myths and explains them using some simple history and a bit of chemistry. Cooper, who has a Ph.D. in chemistry said that he had really been amused by some of the extravagant misinformation being spread about by people who haven’t troubled to look into the science.

In this book, he explains some of the common topics of food alarmism, such as MSG, HFCS, artificial sweeteners and biotechnology (GMOs) in plant breeding. He also spends some time on biodynamic and organic farming and how it developed. Rounding out the book are chapters on BPA, antioxidants, gluten, trans fats and bees. Most chapters begin by telling a story about how scientists made these interesting new discoveries, and go on to explain exactly what they found.

“A lot of them were made almost by accident,” he explained. For example, sucralose was discovered when the lab worker misunderstood the direction to “test” the compounds, and instead “tasted” them, rather like Ruth in the Pirates of Penzance who apprenticed Frederic to a pirate instead of a pilot.

“But when you see how much careful research and testing has gone into each of these discoveries, you realize why we have the safest food system in the world,” he said. And every chapter ends with a list of references to actual papers where that research was done. “These papers are amazingly readable,” he said, “which is usually the case with good science.”

The book also explains about what peer-reviewed science actually is and how it is self-correcting. “There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of scientists who participate in the review of papers submitted to scientific journals, and they all do this work for free! Science is really a labor of love once you see how it all works, you will be amazed at the scientists’ dedication.”

In writing this book, Cooper drew on advice from his children, both of whom are biologists, and a number of experts in the field, such as Bruce Chassy and Cami Ryan. “So many people have been so helpful,” Cooper explained, “and they helped me learn a lot.”

“Nearly all of my books could be subtitled, ‘What I learned last year,’ and this is another of them,” Cooper said.

di S. C.