I was watching a news item on an Arabic channel (MBC1), which gave a startling statistic, apparently there are around 35 new cases of cancer diagnosed daily in Saudi Arabia! One of the main reasons posed was possible carcinogens found in the diet.
Now, the funny thing is my grandmother (God bless her), has always been suspicious of modern food, esp. the canned variety! She always tells me: "The food in those cans cause the "bad disease" (almrad al3afen!)", she never uses the "C" word.
Our older generation has more wisdom than us. They have their experience to tell them that there is nothing better than natural and safe organic food, preferably grown and harvested by their own humble hands.
But in our era the only harvest we seem to be getting is the harvest of lives by the over growing specter of cancer.
What causes cancer is a multi billion dollar question, it has no single answer, and many of the answers still elude us. But there is some evidence to the causes of some of the cancers we know.
There is a lot of evidence out there to show that environmental contaminants of food are linked to the increasing cancer rates. Furthermore direct food production, is also implicated, the use of chemical preservatives, artificial colouring, and poor packaging can all be risk factors for developing cancer. Another important risk factor is the method of cooking, apparently over cooking some foods can be risky, esp. overcooking meat.
In many of the Arab countries including Libya, there seems to be a lack of "food safety" awareness, at the official level, we have fancily named authorities, although I seriously doubt their credibility or resources (both in facilities or quality of staff-with due respect to the few).
In Tripoli, if you walk in to any supermarket, you will be amazed at the amount of food and variety available to you. Most is imported over hundreds and thousands of miles. If you stare at the fridge and see the cheese and yogurts (you will be lucky to find yogurt in a fridge, most of it lies out side the fridge), ask your self what is in that food, what chemicals have been used so it can withstand the environmental rigors of transport and storage?!
Last year I was talking to an acquaintance of mine, who is a food technician, I asked tons of questions regarding carcinogens in our diet and food safety in general. One particular thing I remember was asking him about the strange phenomena of finding imported yogurt in Libya, which is a very hot country, lying outside fridges in the shops, with out it going bad! He told me that this kind of yogurt is especially sterilized at the source of production to get rid of all the "good bacteria" that makes yogurt what it is, and chemical preservatives are also added, thus this yogurt can last longer for its transport. To add more insult, artificial colours/flavors are added to these preservatives and last but not least, the all magic ingredient to make this "yuck" bearable: SUGAR, and what you get finally is a plastic container full of sweet preservatives and artificial colourings with minute traces of yogurt ready to go! Would you/ should you feed this to your child?! Many of these chemicals are dangerous and may/can cause cancer. You can only guess at the nutritional value of such food.
This is a small example, so next time you are in a supermarket; think carefully before you drop something into your shopping basket, because you may be inviting a lot more than just good old weight gain!