Book Report for the week: Be Afraid, Very Afraid, of What Passes for Food in America


Okay, the title of the amazing book I will review is actually The Unhealthy Truth: One Mother’s Shocking Investigation Into The Dangers of America’s Food Supply – And What Every Family Can Do To Protect Itself, by Robyn O’Brien, Broadway Books, 2009 (a better title to be sure). What Robyn does within 268 pages is spectacular – she provides a no-holds-barred look at the issues with our food supply AND takes individuals, corporations, government agencies and foundations to task for their roles in the dysfunction. She names names and describes what those in positions of authority have done and not done to ensure that America’s foods are full of artificial colors, flavors, additives, hormones, and genetically modified ingredients – many of which are banned in other countries like England and Australia – all the while ensuring that corporations like Monsanto achieve record profits on the backs of unsuspecting American consumers (because of a lack of GMO labeling laws – yes, we’re looking at you, WA and OR).

Robyn starts by describing the food allergies she discovered in her young children, how she received little helpful information from her doctors as to the causes and why food allergies have increased so dramatically, and how that galvanized her into conducting in-depth research into the relationship between kid’s food allergies and the substandard quality of our food supply. This led her to discover unsavory aspects of genetically modified corn, soy consumption, and recombinant bovine somatotrophine (rBST) A.K.A. recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) in milk. For example:

  • Genetically modified corn, known as Bt corn, has been scientifically altered to include the genetic code of an insecticide called Bt protein, a toxin that kills the corn rootworms that try to eat it (page 121). Recall from my previous post “GMO here, there everywhere” that 88% of corn is Bt corn, so if you have consumed anything with conventional corn in it, you have consumed a Frankenfood composed of corn proteins and an insecticide protein. This is frightening on several levels: (1) We are consuming an insecticide protein, and I don’t care if “the authorities” say it is at a safe level, I don’t believe it. (2) This combination of proteins may result in the unintended creation of new proteins, and it is proteins the body interprets as foreign and dangerous (whether they are or not) that trigger allergic reactions. As Robyn asks on page 91, “Creating new proteins was what genetic engineering was all about – and since these proteins had never before existed, how did you find out whether people might be allergic to them?”. (3) This genetic combination of a food and insecticide goes against all rules of nature and in order to make this happen, nature’s barriers against the combination of genetic materials from different species need to be overcome. Extraordinary measures that nature never intended need to be taken, and Robyn describes them beautifully in Chapter 5. This must be read to be believed.
  • A 1997 study in Britain’s prestigious medical journal The Lancet showed that infants given soy formula had in their blood stream extremely high levels of isoflavones (which help produce estrogen and might be toxic to the thyroid). In fact, they had levels from 5 – 10x that of adult women who were taking soy supplements. Note that among girls and women, high levels of estrogen have been associated with cancers, obesity and early puberty. In a warning letter to the FDA, doctors warned that soy-fed babies were taking part in “a large, uncontrolled, and basically unmonitored human infant experiment.” The United States FDA did nothing with this information, so that soy formula is still prevalent here, whereas the British consider soy formula as an absolute last resort (page 77). Was your child fed soy formula? Did you think it was perfectly safe? If so, how does this make you feel?
  • The claimed benefit of rBGH is that it increases milk production, but the cost to the dairy cows is high. The package even warns that it “may increase risk of clinical mastitis” among other things. This one is serious because it is a painful type of udder infection that causes cows to pump out bacteria and pus along with the milk, requiring treatment with antibiotics and other meds that can end up in the milk (p. 99). So a glass of conventional milk can be loaded with growth hormone, antibiotics, cow bacteria and udder pus. As if this wasn’t bad enough, there may be a correlation between rBGH and premenopausal breast cancer (p.102) which is becoming more common. Is this what you thought you were feeding your growing children? Recall also in my previous posts about Paul Pitchford’s book Healing with Whole Foods that green leafy vegetables are a better source of bone-building calcium anyway, so the whole “Got Milk” slogan is a beautiful bit of marketing, but otherwise is a scam.

Robyn also discovered that many foundations, research institutions and government agencies, like the FDA, are in deep cahoots with the likes of Monsanto and these relationships taint the advice and information they provide as they do not want to offend their Big Corporate Overlord, as this could put a lucrative job offer or grant from them in jeopardy. It’s good to hear that these people have their priorities straight – hmmm…groom myself for a big job offer or protect integrity of food supply for generations to come? What a toughie! Seriously, what kind of a cynical, self-centered person chooses the former? And do we want these people in charge of the genetic composition of our food supply?

On page 198, Robyn writes the following about genetic engineering: “The phrase that to me best sums up the problem is Michael Pollan’s evocative “playing God in the garden”, which he first used in a 1998 New York Times article, presumably to express the depth of his concern about what might happen when humans could indeed “play God”. What’s disturbing to Pollan – and to me – about genetic engineering is that not only are we manipulating the DNA of living organisms for our own purposes, but that we then take the process a step further and forcibly cross tow living species that all the laws of nature have been designed to prevent from mating.” In other words, the level of hubris we are seeing from those in charge of our food supply is simply astounding. I wonder if they think they and their families will be immune from the damage they cause to the entire planet.

Robyn covers much more ground in this book about the science behind what triggers an allergic reaction, how food allergies are likely related to additives and genetic modification, pitfalls of genetic modification, the startling increase in food allergies, how to protect your family, Monsanto’s sleazy and predatory business practices, and so on. I really encourage you to read this book because you will be changed as a result. Once you gain the knowledge about the relationship between the food you consume and your family’s health and well-being, there is no going back to the grocery store and buying the artificial junk that Monsanto and the FDA want us to believe is food.

And on a final note, Robyn took her concern a step further as she started a foundation to help allergy parents with the information she uncovered, called AllergyKids ( Check it out if you are the parent of a child with food allergies because you will get unbiased information there as she is not beholden to corporate interests.

That concludes this week’s book report! I hope it was informative and helpful. I am now reading Toxic Food – Healthy Food by Dr. Edward Aronoff and will submit a book report on that in 2 weeks. I am sure what I learn will scare the hell out of me as well!


4 thoughts on “Book Report for the week: Be Afraid, Very Afraid, of What Passes for Food in America

  1. Renee says:

    Maybe you can help us. My six week old granddaughter has been diagnosed milk protein allergy , mother is trying to breastfeed but not producing enough to feed totally breast milk . So we wanted a organic GMO free milk and soy free formula. Can’t find one?? We live in Alabama where choices are few and people uneducated about GMO , organic , ect and most think we are crazy for trying to warn them of what might be causing their babies and children to have these allergies and problems. My husbands daughter practically told me I was not a doctor and I was being judgmental for trying to guide her in the right direction with this information. Go figure:( We want help and information. I praise you for this article I came across on the Internet .
    My daughter Baby’s doctor prescribed Similac expert care Alimentum, we researched this horrible cheap grade formula and are going crazy to get her off this formula. She has to eat so help please !! She has been on this for a week now. Ugh!!! Can you help us please !!! I don’t want my granddaughter on Chemical GMO formula. Don’t we have a choice ???

    • Renee,
      I am sorry to hear about your challenges in finding a good formula, though I have to congratulate you for asking the right questions and not simply following the status quo despite how hard it is. It is unbelievable the lack of support we get from our doctors sometimes – don’t let this dissuade you. You are to be commended for standing up for your grand-daughter’s health as she will reap the rewards for the rest of her life. I don’t have children and do not have an answer right now but will spend the rest of the day researching this. I would be surprised if you can’t buy something off the internet. While I am researching, I would recommend you hit the internet as well and we can compare notes. I would start looking here:

      Based on your situation, it may be that some non-GMO organic soy-based formula may be ok if that is the ONLY option since it is a minor portion of what your grand-daughter is being fed – the majority being breast milk. This would definitely be better than the cheap formula you are not happy with which is likely GMO soy based.

      I will check back no later than tomorrow morning!


      • Renee Ledbetter says:

        Thank you 🙂 I did look on US only one and its for toddlers. There are organic but they still have synthetic Dha & Ara and hexone and was cow milk and soy based. I was hoping maybe Europe or Germany where GMO are prohibited had a product still searching . Yes it’s a big problem for all babies being feed these formulas with such ingredients. It’s my opinion that this is why we have so many children and babies with health problems. Thank you for taking the time to answer me back 🙂 god bless you

        Sent from my iPhone

      • Renee Ledbetter says:

        even organic can be deceiving by hiding these ingredients in their products:( crazy:( my daughters breast milk not producing but 3oz a day now. She eats 4oz every two hours. Compare to Other Brands Parents should be aware that other organic formulas use less desirable ingredients like organic corn syrup (also called glucose syrup), organic palm olein oil and hexane processed DHA. Rest assured that Baby’s Only Organic will never contain these ingredients. Nature’s One only uses high quality ingredients. But natures one is for toddlers one year of age only:(

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