Red meats, science and the citizen

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Red meats, science and the citizen

In general, the behavior of the citizen on toxicity issues is based on a simple approach: “if a substance is harmful it should not appear in my diet”.

What a media explosion has been the publication by the WHO (World Health Organization), that there is limited evidence that red meat and its products can increase the risk of colon-rectal cancer!

It is not the objective of this reflection to expose points of view on the influence of the processes, the best diet …. These subjects are widely debated, many of them with much wisdom following the approach that for these questions already correctly formulated in the 15th century by the alchemist Paracelsus: “there are no poisons but doses”, and we will refer to the behavior of the citizen in these matters.

In general, the behavior of the citizen on toxicity issues is based on a very clear simple approach: “if a substance is harmful it should not appear in my diet”, and therefore the presence of this substance disables the food. general, social truth until the middle of the last century, where the detection sensitivity (with precision) of analytical chemistry was one part per ten thousand (1 / 10,000). But research in analytical chemistry has advanced very rapidly, and today one part per trillion can be detected (1 followed by 18 zeros), and therefore it is very possible to find “everything”, anywhere.

The historical interpretation of the citizen has not changed, however the initial paradigm is no longer valid and hence the uncertainty and loss of confidence in the food system.

In this situation the scientific world has quantified and modeled the concept of Paracelsus: with the concept of ADI (Allowable Daily Intake), amount of product that a citizen can ingest throughout his life (in a normal diet) without producing no negative effect.

It is not intended that each citizen collect data and make their own calculations. The scientists, and probably some coinciding in the elaboration of the dossier of the red meats, have done it. On an average diet of a citizen calculate the safe doses throughout a lifetime, both for artificial products (understood as not directly present in nature) and natural (understood as present directly in nature or its synthesis produced in the laboratory), remember that nature is an expert in producing toxic substances, and from this they deduce the maximum doses of additive ingredients specifically for each type of food. Dose that is influenced by the characteristics of the product and by the frequency of consumption of the food, this explains that the same additive has different doses depending on the product, doses that are reviewed whenever new scientific evidence appears. The additive ingredients that have passed these controls are authorized and identified in the EU with the letter E followed by an identification number. And curious facts appear if you go deep into some of them, for example the E-102 (which is tartrazine, yellow dye that can be found in desserts and sweets, drinks, snaks, condiments) artificial product, has an ADI higher than the E- 101 (which is riboflavin, a type of water-soluble vitamin B), a natural product.

But all this mechanism, which with the help of science has been developed for our food security, and to free ourselves emotionally from knowing that in our food there is a variety of possible toxins, and that they have given rise to legislations that assure us that we can move in environments of high food security in the EU (interpreting Paracelsius), as it is widely answered curiously by sectors of society.

OMS-carne-salud-cancer_MDSIMA20151030_1308_36And here is the paradox that represents the great impact of the WHO news on the limited (scientific) evidence of the risk of cancerogenicity of red meat. As it should be, most of society has taken this news into account, because it says to believe in science. But on the other hand, much of this same society believes that science deceives or hides something, when it says that additives, genetically modified … all subject to large food safety controls, are safe foods. And it is put in some case, in the same bag the E corresponding to natural rather than artificial products, arguing that the natives who wear the E number are bad. Anyway. It is the same scientific environment with its rigor and its progress every day, today better than yesterday, and that works to solve pending or problematic issues that arise on the way to tomorrow.

Why this dichotomy in the brain of many citizens? This kind of fight Mr. Hide and Dr. Jeckyl, fatiguing and disconcerting for those who suffer it. Surely psychologists can give many explanations. But, admitting freedom of opinion, there is one thing that fails: the rational formation of our citizens of what experimental science offers and for what it serves (in good and bad) and subsequent information with the same criteria that is given to the citizens. If it is achieved, we will largely resolve the dichotomy in the opinions and generate a harmonious trust in food security, which advances globally in the hands of our scientists and that the developers of all types of products implement through the corresponding legislation and controls.

Ramón Clotet | Secretary Triptolemos Foundation

Triptolemos Foundation collaborates in the greater articulation of the global food system, so that it results in a greater availability and quality of food, in trust and dignity, in an environment of global sustainability. And with the conviction that there can not be a sustainable and socially balanced development if, at the base, the global food system does not maintain the balance among all its actors.