Catherine Burns

You think faeces in soda is bad?

  • Spraying vines with sunblock

Since having kids all sorts of strange things have happened to my food. I have discovered glitter in my cereal and crayons in my tea. I have rescued Strawberry Shortcake from the bottom of a bag of nuts. I will never, ever, forget the case of the exploding porridge – where a science “spexseriment” sat neglected in an airtight container, detonating four days later in the middle of the night.

So, I am used to a certain number of foreign objects and mishaps, but I will never, ever accept faeces in my soda ... wait, what? I don’t actually drink soda, but this headline still stopped me in my tracks. According to Hollins University in the US, which analysed 90 soda fountain samples from 30 different restaurants, 48 per cent contained traces of faecal matter and other harmful bacteria. The researchers theorised that this was likely due to poor personal hygiene and sanitation practices. I know. Disgusting. So, think twice before you grab a soda on your next trip. You know you should be drinking water anyway!

It goes on. The same morning I read an article about arsenic in chicken on my newsfeed. It turns out that mainstream chickens in the US have been deliberately fed inorganic arsenic as far back as 2006. This affects approximately 70 per cent of chicken in the US food supply and has been done so that these chickens gain more weight on less feed. Ironically, another objective of this strategy is to give chicken products a “healthier” colour. So, let’s not worry about the carcinogenic associations then? In the interest of fairness, I must add that some fruit, vegetables and grains can naturally harbour inorganic arsenic too and there have been some worrying reports regarding the concentrations found in rice and apple/grape juice.

However, deliberately adding arsenic to improve profits is surely deeply suspect, not to mention unethical when it comes to humane farming standards.

Finally – just before I was tempted to slam my laptop shut in exasperation – I read that some vineyards in Australia are now spraying their grapes with sunscreen. It’s not a joke, the sources were completely credible and the reason isn’t funny. At Tyrell’s Vineyard, 165km north of Sydney, vines have thrived despite difficult conditions since the late 1800s. However, soaring temperatures attributed to climate change (the region can top 113F during a heatwave) have been scorching the grapes and threatening crops.

Although vines are often covered with shaded netting in the Mediterranean, the solution here has been to spray the vines with sunblock. The most worrying thing to me was that despite reading several articles about it, there didn’t seem to be a single mention regarding the repercussions on human health. I am not sure that SPF is effective from the inside out! So along with the pesticides, we now have sunscreen residues — add that to the alcohol and your liver has quite the job to do.

So, I just want to know, how bad does it have to get before we really say enough is enough? At some point we have to stand up for the food that is supposed to sustain, nourish and protect us. Because, so far, we are dealing with mega doses of sugar, hyper-processed fats, high fructose corn syrup, petroleum based dyes, artificial sweeteners and additives, pesticides, faecal contamination, growth hormones, antibiotics, extra arsenic, genetically modified crops and now grapes with sunblock. It’s laughable. Except it’s really not. A friend of mine joked the other day that “Cheetos don’t give you cancer” … well I get the point, in isolation. But what about the accumulation of all this in our food chain — not to mention the environmental factors and stress we are exposed to?

When it comes to food, the big challenge is that to make a change it has to be everyone — not just those that have the time or the money. This means global governments saying NO to the corruption and greed that fuels Big Food and local governments establishing social strategies that help everyone gain access to better resources (no matter what their income).

It means businesses making ethical decisions about how and what they market and sell and means communities supporting local farmers. It means teaching our children to cook from scratch and to understand how their food reaches their plate. It means a whole lot of ballsy decisions and dedication and I just wonder who else is in?

The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns BA Hons, Dip ION is the Managing Director of Natural Ltd and a fully qualified Nutritional Therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. Please note that she is not a Registered Dietitian. For details, please go to or call 236-7511. Join Catherine on Facebook: fitandnaturalnutritionbermuda