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By Julene Tripp Weaver
Review of a book: Diet for a Poisoned Planet: How to Choose Safe Foods
for You and Your Family, By David Steinman
I've been reading this book since May when I first heard of it and found
it in Canada. I read it sporadically, a chapter at a time. It is educational
and a reinforcement of the strong urge I have to eat high quality healthy
food. Finding quality in today's world is the main challenge when it comes
to what we ingest in our body. The history since the late forty's with
the rapid development of pesticides, insecticides, and other toxic chemicals
that have been used freely and in large quantities has had a massive effect
on our health. Other new advances also may adversely affect our health:
irradiation, radiation fallout, genetically altered food, hormones and
antibiotics fed to animals that become our food, dioxin, chlorine bleaching
and plasticides in packaging, the list can go on.
I have long been active politically when it comes to food, Diet for a
Poisoned Planet is a book that gives a good overview of things we should
know but the government does not tell us. We need to do our own research.
I applaud David Steinman for the extensive research he has done to help
the average consumer be aware of the pitfalls that will adversely affect
our health. This book examines carefully the food we eat, the pesticides,
insecticides, and other toxic chemicals that have been detected in them,
and how this relates to our health picture, and helps us make healthy decisions
when we shop at the local grocery or eat at restaurants.
The author, David Steinman, grew up in the Los Angeles area and growing
up he sport fished and ate his catch from the local waters. In 1985 a warning
appeared at the piers and on the beaches that eating fish caught in these
waters may be harmful due to chemical contamination. He was shocked and
began to research the why, what and how's of this news. It turned out a
pesticide manufacturing plant was dumping barrels of waste into the bay,
and to keep them from floating they opened them first! DDT waste was building
up in the fish who were feeding in these waters, and people who ate the
fish were having DDT build up in their bodies. As he researched he found
that government officials who knew about the dumping for years had withheld
the information from the public. He did a study testing the blood of people
who'd been eating the fish like he had, his own serum results where extremely
A recent International News article, the June 21 to July 4, 1995
issue, covered the hazards of fishing locally here in Puget sound. "Shellfish
harvesting may be putting APIs (Asian Pacific Islanders) at risk from toxins."
The waters of our Puget Sound area are contaminated from redtide, bacteria,
chemicals, and dioxin. DDT and PCBs are toxic chemicals that act as carcinogens
and neurotoxins (meaning they impair mental ability). Both of these chemical
formulations are commonly found in seafood today. Although neither of these
chemicals are still being manufactured the effects are still present more
than 20 years later. They store in the fatty tissues of the fish and when
we ingest the fish the chemicals do their damage and store in our fatty
tissues. From there they are hard to get rid of, if we fast to release
them we become poisoned again.
Toxins cause illness. And toxin is a generic term that covers a range of
specific chemicals that are used by farms for fertilizer, insect control,
antifungals; there are fifty thousand pesticide formulations and seven hundred
chemical ingredients farmers can buy. Then there are chemical additives
used as preservatives, flavor enhancers and coloring agents.
David Steinman used the Freedom of Information Act to look at chemical
analyses of food; some sources include the Food and Drug Administration's
pesticide monitoring data (one example of their recordings indicate "that
virtually 100 percent of the cheese produced and sold in the US has detectable
pesticide residues," (pg. 122), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms (they have records of the urethane levels in whiskeys, fruit
brandies and wines), the Center for Science in the Public Interest,
the Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air and Radiation,
and the Surgeon General's Report on Nutrition and Health. This book
relays abundant information that indicates what foods are safe. He also
shares how he detoxified, reducing his levels of DDT and PCB's, and how
you can do it too.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets levels of safety in foods,
but they do not take into account that we are eating many foods that have
toxins in them, what David Steinman calls the "chemical cocktail syndrome."
We are at risk for multiple chemical exposures daily.
The chapters of the book are laid out in terms of the types of foods: plants,
vegetables and fruits, grains, meat and poultry, dairy, seafood, eggs, prepared
foods, beverages, drinking water, baby food. In the back of the book is
a glossary of pesticides and toxic chemicals that have been detected in
Each of these chapters lays out a pattern of green light, yellow light or
red light foods. Green light foods are those you can eat without too much
concern, they have little to no pesticide residue and you can eat them as
often as you like. Based on a standard government formula for cancer risk
assessment green light foods would cause up to five excess cancers in one
millions persons. Yellow light indicates caution, these foods have a fair
amount of residue and should be cut back on or organic food should be sought
to replace non-organic. These foods would cause five to ten cancers in
one million persons. Red light is clear these are dangerous foods to eat,
do not eat unless organic, or eat very seldom. These foods had cancer risks
beyond ten cancers in one million persons. Note that the government formula
used, "does not take into account the cancer burden created by the
combination of many carcinogens, or by other dietary sources of the same
The premise of this book is that there is a lot of safe, good, healthy food
and that you don't have to accumulate more poisons in your body. It enlightens
and encourages non-toxic farming and animal-raising methods. By your choices
in the food you buy you can begin to not only improve your own health but
change the food industry. He terms his diet the "low-toxin high-energy
So, lets look at a couple of areas. Plant foods include vegetables, fruits,
grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Although plants are heavily sprayed they
are the lowest on the food chain, and David calls them the cornerstone of
his low-toxin high-energy diet and suggests they make up two thirds of all
your meals. "When you eat plant foods the only toxins you'll get are
the ones that were fresh sprayed on the crop or that those plants pulled
in from the limited span of their own root networks." (pg. 13) Red
light has only two items: peanuts and raisons. These are easy to find
organic or substitute. Yellow light recommends certain "saturated"
fruits and vegetables be purchased organic, these include peaches, potatoes,
spinach and of course the red light peanuts and raisons.
There is also a warning about the waxing used on many vegetables and fruits
(some include: peppers, apples, cucumbers, eggplants, squashes, lemons).
The wax contains cancer producing fungicides and many pesticides from the
He recommends organic apples and apple juice. You probably remember the
Alar scare several years ago, although Alar has been taken off the market
many other chemicals are still used; "red apples had eighty pesticide
residues in sixteen samples." Also "chemical apples may still
have Alar traces because of this chemical's long-lasting presence after
orchards are sprayed." (pg. 35) Even when no longer used many pesticides
are then sold to other countries and make their way into our stores and
diets. In a section on radiation he points out that apple juice concentrate
from several countries in Europe being sold here today is radioactive.
A sample of the green light foods include bananas, sprouts, carrots (although
be wary of Mexican carrots that arrive in the US from Oct. through Dec.),
cranberry juice, grape juice, grapefruit, dates, lentils, onions, sunflower
seeds, lemons. Consider plant foods your safest choices but shop with caution.
Grains are part of the two thirds mix. Grains are essential to detoxify
and to prevent cancer, they provide the fiber in our colon that moves potential
carcinogenic materials out of our body quickly. At a chemical level they
attract and absorb toxic chemicals that are composed of carbon. No grains
made it on the red light list. This does not mean they are totally safe,
and he does advise to seek out organic grains because all chemically grown
grains had some pesticide traces. Under yellow light is raison bran cereal,
white bread, rye bread, whole wheat bread, muffins with fruit fillings,
dinner rolls (the soft white enriched kind). A sampling of green light
grains included biscuits, corn bread, corn flakes, crisped rice cereal,
egg noodles, farina, granola, oatmeal, grits, pancakes, popcorn, rice (he
points out that some white rice sold in Latin or Asian food stores is coated
with talc which may contain asbestos impurities, pg. 65), saltine crackers,
tortillas, shredded wheat cereal and pastas that are whole grain.
As we proceed up the food chain you consume stronger concentration of toxins.
What is the food chain? The order up the chain runs: plant and grains,
dairy and poultry, seafood and meat. Animals are higher on the food chain,
their food is laced with chemicals and it gets stored in their fat. So
when you eat meat or dairy you are getting far more toxins than you would
from the majority of plant foods.
The author has been labeled a "food terrorist and a threat to national
security" by the food industry and the government who have both tried
to suppress his book. It is an expose of information that our government
has not wanted to be as available as he has made it. Chemically grown food
is cheaper, but organic food is richer in nutrients, and it helps the body
support the body's ability to heal better. Organic foods are virtually
pesticide free, and if you are eating from less prepared foods and more
fresh vegetables and grains it really doesn't cost so much more. What I
like about this book is that it gives you the information to make healthy
decisions. When you cannot afford to shop totally organic it lets you know
what is safer and gives a plan of eating that maximizes health.
Steinman, David, Diet For A Poisoned Planet: How to Choose Safe Foods
for You and Your Family, New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 1990. (cost:
"Getting The goods: David Steinman's new book uncovers the secret
ingredients -- and dangers -- in common products," Common Ground
(Vancouver, B.C.), May - June 1995. (Review of The Safe Shopper's Bible)
P.S. David Steinman has since co-authored a new book, with Dr. Samuel Epstein,
M.D., called The Safe Shopper's Bible.