Read the labels, stupid
I have a vegan friend whose basic rule of life is that everything offered in supermarkets is unhealthy. I do not disagree with him. But I do not exactly agree with him, either. I agree that most of what is sold in supermarkets is probably unhealthy. But so what? Health is an individual responsibility, not a responsibility of supermarkets or the government to regulate. You might think that it is the responsibility of food companies to provide healthy food. But maybe not. The business of capitalist entities is to make profits, then reinvest capital to maximize further profitability. So my greatest concern is whether or not supermarket produce will sustain us and not kill us. It is the job of government food and drug inspectors and standards to ensure that goods are not falsely advertised, that their production and sale conforms to the law, and that they not only do not kill us, but that a universal, minimum level of health and safely are maintained.
Grade A Beef does not mean that beef is healthy for us. It is common knowledge that red meat is definitely unhealthy. Sure, it tastes good, but ...
Important note here: it does not mean that government must oversee the maintenance of health, because that kind of oversight and regulation robs us of the personal liberty to exercise Free Will that we take for granted in liberal democracies.
It does not mean that supermarket produce is healthy. "Grade A Beef" does not mean that beef is healthy for us. Instead, it is common knowledge that red meat is definitely unhealthy. Sure, it tastes good, but I know that it is not healthy. Likewise, "100% Pure Butter" does not mean that butter is good for us. It isn't. “Enriched white bread” is truly worse than it sounds, but “whole wheat bread” is probably not much better. “100% pure concentrated orange juice” does not mean that the juice in the container is only the juice of an orange and nothing but orange juice. That’s not possible. The beneficent sounding “All natural ingredients” depends entirely on what one thinks of the meaning of “natural.” And, lastly, diet foods, “0 Calorie” foods and drinks containing artificial sweeteners (Aspartame being the most successful), do not at all deserve to be immediately embraced by a population suffering high rates of obesity.
But it still does not mean that supermarket food is outrightly poisonous, because lethal amounts of toxins in processed food require years of exposure or consumption, or unimaginably large, sustained, doses - like what scientists administer to laboratory animals to artificially induce illness for the purpose of studying its pathology. (The case of Red Dye Number 8 comes to mind.) By and large, I think it fair to say that there is nothing wrong with supermarket produce. I’m sure my vegan friend would say that, without having specific and accurate information immediately to hand, that it certainly is unfair to say that the produce is by and large harmless.
Frankly, anything in excess is bad for you - and I don’t say that as a moral so much as a mere physical fact. Too much water consumption and you’ll drown in your own tissue without ever putting your body in the water. Too much air and you will become disoriented and faint. Too many vegetables and you risk mineral deficiencies, etc. (Too many vegetables means your body will be awash in vitamins. But not enough protein means you will be deficient in minerals. Of course, there are many kinds of proteins, and more ways to acquire them than just by eating animal meat. But animal meat has certainly been the most efficacious over the centuries.) For the most part, it is a trade off: accept small amounts of questionable ingredients or questionable food production protocols for the short-term benefits they provide - and the short-term benefits are considerable indeed - like preventing spoilage and increasing shelf longevity, and thereby feeding the hungry masses. (Hurray for chemical fertilizers! Hooray for artificial growth hormones!) For example, for all the negative things that can be/are said about homogenized milk, the fact is that homogenizing milk is a sterling example of a right decision, a virtuous use of science, and a major public health improvement. The same is true of food preservatives and fluoridation of public water supplies. To object to water fluoridation or diary product homogenization, even in the knowledge of negative side effects, is just stupid. I have not made a decision about industrialized animal farming. I know it is horrible, but ...
Genetically Modified food? No problem. First, because there is no such thing as a food that is not “genetically modified,” so dissenters’ position is compromised from the start. Second, because tests confirm - confirm - it’s safety. I think that objections to GM foods are fueled mostly by esthetics. I mean, people - farmers, traditional gourmands - object to the idea of laboratory manipulation of a plant’s genome. They are all in favor of plant genome manipulation in the muddy fields but not in the sterile laboratory - and that is how we establish their hypocrisy. As a civilization we have been manipulating domesticated plant and animal species’ genomes for millennia and for the benefit of all, so objections now are a bit late as well as suspect. I fancy that dissenters are either stupid, or they are hypocrites.
I suggest that consumers must habitually read labels as a starting point for intelligent decisions about food - but I could be expecting too much. Of course, I could be wrong.