I generally don’t give a lot of credence to people who are always talking about the “good old days,” when children were supposedly more respectful, and life in general was seen as somehow better and safer. In my experience, that kind nostalgic nonsense is usually just a mask for some sort of narrow-mindedness, or a desperate attempt to escape from reality. As an 83 year old friend of mine likes to say, the world has always been a beautiful but dangerous place.
On the other hand, there is one area in which I think things have taken a disturbing downward spiral, and that is in the integrity of our food sources. When I was a child, I really didn’t have to think too much about what I was putting in my mouth. I may not have liked the Brussels sprouts and cauliflower that my parents were putting on my plate, but I never doubted that it was nutritious and safe. These days, despite nerve-wracking news shows that have made parents increasingly (over)protective in some ways, and a higher level of environmental consciousness, we often tend to turn a blind eye to the aspects of food safety and environmental considerations that arise out of what we put in our families’ mouths. When a can of innocent-looking tuna may be laced with mercury, rain forests may be decimated so we can enjoy our morning coffee, and gigantic scale factory processing of food “product” means that a pound of ground beef purchased from the supermarket can contain the partial remains of several hundred cows, it is the responsibility of everybody who cares about themselves, their families, and the environment to put some thought and research into this matter.
I have recently become a bit more educated — thanks to my daughter’s recent school field trip to the Vancouver Aquarium — in the crucially important area of sustainable fishery. During the field trip, each of the children was given a pocket-sized laminated card listing three categories of fish products, based on research compiled by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. The “Best Choices” list contains fish that are “abundant, well managed and caught or farmed in environmentally friendly ways.” These include farmed rainbow trout, Pacific halibut, sardines, trap-caught shrimp, farmed tilapia, white sea bass, and black cod from Alaska and B.C. Although the seafood items listed under the “Proceed With Caution” category are generally considered to be reasonably good choices, there are “some concerns with the way they are caught or farmed” (Seafood Watch). Listed here are squid, U.S. swordfish, sea scallops, mahimahi, Alaskan king crab, imitation crab, and canned tuna. Finally there is the “Avoid” list, for those products that “at least for now … come from sources that are overfished or caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment” (Seafood Watch). Here we find, amongst others, Chilean sea bass, Atlantic and Icelandic cod, Lingcod, monkfish, orange roughy and, of course, all farmed salmon.
For more information and complete listing of these products, I suggest you check out http://www.seafoodwatch.org. It’s one small step in the right direction…
Seafood Watch: Regional Seafood Guides. Online at: http://www.mbayaq.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/sfw_regional.aspx