Spinach! Popeye has been talking about it (and downing it) for 100 years since 1919, but what was the issue? And why is it more important now than ever before?
Spinach began its life in Persia, and made its way to China in the early 7th century as a gift from the King of Nepal. As well as being full of great nutrients like folic acid and vitamins K, E, and C, it is also known in Ayurvedic medicine (practiced in India) to improve complexions, relieve anxiety and, even, boost libidos. Now although all of this is true, the main reason Popeye loved spinach was due to misinformation based on an 1870 study were a German chemist known as ‘Erich Von Woolf’ accidentally wrote spinach having ’35 milligrams’ of iron, instead of it’s actual ‘3.5 milligrams‘ (Popova, 2013) This major bit of misinformation wasn’t reexamined until 1937 (67 years later) and by then Popeye was recorded to have increased U.S spinach consumption by an entire 33%!
Now this may seem like a blundering mistake of the past, especially as scientific research has progressed incredibly far with findings tested rigorously, but misinformation, hiding of key information, and green-washing are all far from vintage. Think about all the products that contain sustainability-hinting buzzwords like “Natural“, “Organic“, and “Eco-friendly“, what exactly do these words mean and how can companies manipulate their meanings?
In the US, any company can use the word “Natural” according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances.” (Wayback.archive-it.org, 2019) leading companies like Ben & Jerry’s in 2010 happily claiming their ice cream was ‘All-natural’. This was despite containing factory-made “fake vanilla, alkalized cocoa, corn syrup, and partially hydrogenated soybean oil” until being faced by a potential lawsuit from the ‘Center for Science in the Public Interest‘ and dropping the title. (Cronin, 2010)
Other examples include how certain fish are advertised as healthy based on their relationship with Omega 3 oils and protein, but fish can be incredibly bad for you and is much dependent on how they are sourced . The University of New York at Albany found that dioxin (a carcinogen) levels in farm-raised salmon are 11 times higher than those in wild salmon (Axe, 2017). On top of that, even if describe as “sustainably farmed fish” it has already been proven that over 1 million fish have escaped farms in just the sea surrounding Seattle alone (Axe, 2017), leading to potential problems of biodiversity and unfair eco-competition which can horribly disrupt the natural order.
In conclusion, try your best to double-check what you put in your basket because it just might not be as good for you or the environment as you first believe. Remember to try to buy locally, and do your research on products you buy everyday!
Other posts by Ben Wallace:
Axe, J. (2017). The Dangers of Farmed Fish. [online] Dr. Axe. Available at: https://draxe.com/the-dangers-of-farmed-fish/ [Accessed 29 Apr. 2019].
Cronin, J. (2010). Most “All Natural” Ben & Jerry’s Flavors Have Unnatural Ingredients | Center for Science in the Public Interest. [online] Cspinet.org. Available at: https://cspinet.org/new/201008121.html [Accessed 27 Apr. 2019].
Popova, M. (2013). The True Science of Spinach and What the Popeye Mythology Teaches Us about How Error Spreads. [online] Brain Pickings. Available at: https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/07/02/spinach-popeye-error-half-life-of-facts/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+brainpickings%2Frss+%28Brain+Pickings%29 [Accessed 27 Apr. 2019].
Wayback.archive-it.org. (2019). “Natural” on Food Labeling. [online] Available at: https://wayback.archive-it.org/7993/20190207214109/https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm456090.htm [Accessed 28 Apr. 2019].