A Controversial Health Principle?Last week someone who had read the last Happy & Healthy newsletter said to me, “That article was worth reading. It was well explained and I’ve printed it out to read again.” Thanks, that was very encouraging. But didn't you have some questions like, “Why on earth don’t they eat pork?”
Last week I was explaining the C-U-NO set of three, very simple principles that can help us make all sorts of decisions about what food to buy from the supermarket, vege shop, farmers’ market, bakery, online and so on. Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to look at these three principles in more detail.
Just a note though, please do hold these principles lightly. They’re not to make us feel bad if we don’t keep to them every single day. C-U-NO is a set of guiding principles, not another "have-to". My intention is to gather research and give information so that you can decide what’s best.
Just to re-cap on the 3 principles/guidelines:
- "C" EAT ONLY THE FOODS THAT WERE CREATED FOR FOOD – remember this one with the letter ‘C’ for “Created for food.”
- "U" AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE EAT FOODS AS THEY WERE CREATED; BEFORE HUMANS ALTERED THEM OR CHANGED THEM INTO “SOMETHING BETTER.” Remember the letter ‘U’ for Unaltered.
- "NO" AVOID EATING TO FULFILL CRAVINGS AND ADDICTIONS. Remember, say ‘NO’ to cravings and addictions (more about this one in a couple of weeks).
The question is: are there actually any sound, scientifically backed reasons behind this principle “C”?
Lets take eating pork for example, because it’s a well-known food that some people eat and others don’t. Does pork fall into the category “Created for Food?” We don't think so.
If you’re not a kosher Jew, a strict Hindu, a practising Muslim, a vegetarian, a vegan or allergic to porcine products you are probably happy to eat pork, ham and bacon and various other meat products containing pork. Nutritionally pork fits the bill but there may be some sensible reasons to reconsider despite all the advertising to the contrary and despite the fact that pork is a well-priced meat.
- Contamination with pathogenic bacteria. According to an investigation by Consumer Reports1, 69% of all the raw pork samples tested — nearly 200 samples in total — were contaminated with the dangerous bacteria Yersinia enterocolitica, which causes fever and gastrointestinal illness with diarrhoea, vomiting, and stomach cramps. Pork mince was more likely to be contaminated than pork chops.
- It was noted that many of the bacteria found in the pork samples tested were resistant to a number of antibiotics. This is a real concern.
- Other contaminants are also found in pork. In the US study 20% of the samples taken, traces of a growth stimulant called ractopamine were found2. Ractopamine is banned in many parts of the world, including China and Europe3. However, NZ pig farmers can use ractopamine.
- Pigs are scavenger animals and will eat almost anything making them very susceptible to dangerous infections. About 70% of NZ farmed pigs are kept under cover in pens, hence the need for antibiotics.
- In the US, three of the six most common food-borne parasitic diseases of humans are associated with pork consumption. These include toxoplasmosis, taeniasis (caused by the pork tapeworm Taenia solium) and trichinellosis5 (caused by the roundworm parasite Trichinella spiralis which is transmitted between pigs, rats, cats and sometimes humans by consumption of meat from infected animals).6
- Much work has been done towards eradicating this parasite from the farmed swine population in the NZ such that the corresponding incidence of parasitic infection in humans has markedly decreased.
- The last confirmed case of trichinosis/trichinellosis in pigs in New Zealand was in 19976
These days it’s unlikely that you could become infected or die from a parasitic infection passed on via farmed pork.
- NZ farming practices for pig raising are one of the strictest in the world. However, “Each week approximately 700,000kgs of pork is imported into New Zealand – about 40% of the pork products consumed in NZ. None of the imported pork from USA, Canada, Australia, Europe or China has to meet New Zealand’s high standards – the only requirement is that imported product must be processed or at a frozen temperature that meets our food safety standards. This means that imported pork can be produced using growth hormones and/or antibiotics extensively to boost production levels.” 7
- Finally, if there are parasites in pork even cooking for long periods is not enough to kill many of the retroviruses and dormant parasites (cysts) that can be found in the fibres of the meat.
I suspect the scientific principle that underlies the fact that many people avoid eating pork is that the digestive system of the pig is a very simple, speedy, high-acid digestive system. Pigs are gluttons and will continue to eat whenever food is presented. Their stomach acids become diluted because of the amount of food they take in. This dilution allows parasites and various bacterial diseases and viruses to pass through the stomach wall straight into the flesh.
When there are obvious concerns around pork (even though the advertising says its safe), I don’t know about you, but I want to err on the side of caution especially when there are such good alternatives available in NZ when it comes to eating meat.
Therefore my “C” recommendations are:
- Prefer to eat beef, lamb, goat, venison rather than pork.
- Buy grass-fed, organically grown meat if you can. Maybe you know someone who owns a farm or even a ten acre block. Perhaps you could join with others and buy a share in a heifer, steer or lamb. Then watch it grow and share all the roasts, chops, steaks, and good quality saussies.
- Search out and enjoy fresh, unprocessed, non-packaged meats rather than processed ones (more about that in the next newsletter).
- Avoid the outer fat on your meat; that’s where toxins and chemicals tend to be stored.
Funny isn’t it; we are more aware of (and more cautious about) the plants, berries and seeds we shouldn’t eat, but we are not nearly so aware when it comes to the meats of various animals, fish and birds.
Again please, please do hold these principles lightly. They’re not to make us feel bad if we don’t keep to them every single day. C-U-NO is a set of guiding principles not another have-to. For instance, Rodney and I may go out for breakfast and have some bacon with our eggs on the odd occasion.
Healthy living seems to be an ongoing process in my experience. Three steps forward, one step back… Maintaining good health pays off.
We are so wonderfully made,