For more than a century now, medicine has recognised a link between this Western diet and the historically novel set of chronic diseases that now kill most of us in the west: heart disease and stroke, obesity, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Michael Pollan, Cooked a Natural History of Transformation.
Something, somewhere has gone wrong. Just as we thought that our food was as good as it was ever going to get a silent, though highly effective, killer began terrorising our food landscape. As is usual in such cases, initially no one noticed. Early victims were laid to rest without anyone believing anything was amiss. Over the years the killer became more confident, more brazen and more assertive claiming ever more victims. To such an extent that those looking out for the public good have come to accept that there is a serial killer on the loose. The killer’s modus operandi is to enter our food and inflict any form of chronic disease – hyper-tension, fatigue, diabetes, obesity, food cancers, tooth decay, supressed immune systems. We feel the killer’s presence in our kitchens, we can smell him as his shadow passes by with every sip of our soft drinks, we sense that he is watching us as we eat another mouthful of breakfast cereal, yet when we turn to look all we see is a perfectly modern kitchen – just as it should be.
To date no one – not even analytical commissions – have identified the killer that stalks our western food culture. Millions has been spent on trying to catch him yet he remains elusive.
Like Moriarty, the killer in our food, taunts the Sherlock Holmeses of our time, jumping out of reach just as they are about to grasp the killer with their elementary reasoning and bring him to justice.
The modern guardians of our food choices sitting on their pedestals have been investigating the mysterious rise in food related deaths for the past five decades. Without much success. They have delved into every root and branch of our traditional diet, plucked out a key ingredient and accused it of being the silent killer: butter, lard, coconut oil, salt, spices, meat, cured meat, grains, sugar – you name the food and they’ve all been given a trial, found guilty and hung.
And still the killer laughs at us for our ineptitude and claims ever more victims. We try and address the huge problem as best we can – we devise new medications and medical procedures but they are about as effective as a band aid trying to staunch the bleeding of a surgical cut. So long as the killer remains free to kill with impunity modern societies spend ever more on health leaving our health systems at breaking point.
So who or what exactly is the serial killer?