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Eating local and organic can save your life

By Jackie Rainford Corcoran Explore Big Sky Health Columnist

In spite of endless books, articles and blogs about the unhealthy state of our food supply, I’m still alarmed and disturbed each time I read one.

This week, I read an article about food safety by Wil S. Hylton in The New Yorker magazine titled “A bug in the system. Why last night’s chicken made you sick.”

“Each year, contaminated food sickens forty-eight million Americans, of whom a hundred and twenty-eight thousand are hospitalized, and three thousand die,” Hylton writes.

Hylton goes on to explain in detail that our government is not currently protecting us from most pathogen outbreaks in our food. In fact, this year funding for several hundred federal meat inspectors will be cut from our fiscal budget, according to Hylton.

Ultimately, it doesn’t seem to matter how many meat inspectors we have because according to article, when they do find contamination they have no authority to stop production or recall tainted meat. Hylton discovered that the food-industry is left to regulate itself.

It gets more absurd. It’s legally permissible for 49.9 percent of ground turkey and 44.6 percent of ground chicken to contain salmonella. And the permissible amount of salmonella in cut-up chicken parts is 100 percent, because there is no regulation. When Hylton pressed an employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture on why this is so, he stated that cost is an obstacle.

After reading this, I opened my email. In it, a site called Organic Bytes notified me that the U.S.D.A. issued a report in December 2014 stating that the chemicals used in growing conventional – or non-organic – produce are in the “safe” range. They say this despite the fact that these chemicals are known carcinogens and toxic to the nervous system.

Clearly, they feel that a little is all right. However, I’m curious: Do they consider if a “safe” amount for a 200-pound adult is also “safe” for a 40-pound child?

Interestingly, the U.S.D.A. said it did not test the nation’s food supply this past year for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup – the world’s most widely used herbicide – in spite of growing concerns about health risks. According to the Organic Bytes email, an anonymous U.S.D.A. spokesman said that tests for glyphosate are “extremely expensive … to do on a regular basis.”

When it comes to food safety, the U.S. government is currently taking its lead from big business and their “bottom line” is repeatedly put before our health. We must take these matters into our own hands.

So, what do we eat? Buy local, organic food. Grow, hunt and gather your own food. If you don’t know where your meat came from, cook it thoroughly. Avoid processed, pre-packaged food. Avoid fast food, buy from stores and restaurants that have your health in mind, and get informed.

“Time” should no longer be an excuse for not carefully planning and preparing our food. Less time in front of the computer and more time at the cutting board will go a long way in keeping our families, our communities and ourselves healthy.

Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach, an NASM Certified Personal Trainer, a public speaker and health activist. Contact her at, or find more at

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