In 2006, one out of every 17 kids had a food allergy. According to CDC, there has been a 265 percent increase in the rate of hospitalization related to food allergies. These food allergy incidences serve as the canary in the coal mine for our industrial food system. Food was a hot topic at the Healthcare Experience Design Conference, which included keynote speaker Gary Hirshberg, the CE-Yo of Stonyfield, and Robyn O’Brien, the author of The Unhealthy Truth and the Founder of AllergyKids Foundation. The American health system costs $8000 per capita compared to $4000 per capita of other developed countries, and food is one of the key influencers.
In this interview, Robyn O’Brien shares her journey behind the American food system, which started when her youngest of four kids developed an egg allergy. Until that point, the former Goldman Sachs analyst and Texan, who grew up eating meat, potatoes, Twinkies, Doritos and Ding Dongs, believed that “if it was on the grocery store shelf, it was safe.” But her investigation led her to discover that her kids’ allergies were triggered by “dirty” industrial food laced with hormones and pesticides. She found out that the non-profit Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) was formerly funded by Kraft. And that rBGH, a growth hormone used to stimulate milk production in cows, was banned in almost every other developed country but the US. The hormone is now marked on milk cartons, but the battle does not end. The current battle is on the labeling of GMOs.
O’Brien’s book speaks in a friendly and motherly way about the dangers of today’s food industry. It falls in with other books and movies un-covering food industry secrets such as Fast Food Nation, Food Inc., and Forks Over Knives. Each is important in connecting with a different audience about food choices and their implications for personal health and food sustainability. Writers like O’Brien are sparking a grassroots effort across the country that will hopefully influence food producers and ultimately reverse the trend of allergies and diet-caused ailments and create a healthier and tastier future.
Connie Kwan is the CEO of RealMealz.com in Silicon Valley, CA. She holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School, and covers stories on food and health sustainability. Follow her on Twitter @RealMealz and @conniemkwan.