Still Life with Cheeses, Artichoke, and Cherries

Squabbling About Dietary Virtue and a Cheesy Lawsuit

We Believe

Garden Flag, photo by Ted Kyle

We are in a season where identity is right out front. Everywhere you turn, people are declaring what they stand for and who they’ll vote for. We see banners, little garden flags, even a pickup-sized flag tacked on to a bike by a scrappy old man pedaling furiously down the street. We humans seem driven to tell others who we are. One way to do it is with our dietary virtue.

Writing in the Washington Post, Tamar Haspel describes how people are dividing up and proclaiming the virtue of their dietary identities:

“Spend some time on diet-related social media and you’ll see what he [Dr. Yarrow Dunham] means. It’s very dispiriting when people call each other vile names because they disagree about meat’s impact on LDL cholesterol. Or some other one thing.”

A Cheesy Lawsuit

Once something is essential to your identity, you must do everything to defend it. You can decide that people who drink milk are racists. Anything goes. PCRM brands itself as a physicians group, but it puts much of its energy into fighting for the virtue of vegan dietary principles. Cheese is bad because it comes from animals. So it’s OK to cherry pick the research and demand FDA warn everyone that cheese will give you cancer.

FDA was not impressed – apparently the agency is working on stuff for the coronavirus. So PCRM is suing. They will not be ignored. They want a warning on all cheese that it will put people in danger of dying from breast cancer. But PCRM supports its demands with selected studies that show an association. The studies they like show more risk. Other studies, like this one, show less risk.

Identity and Civility

We humans will never stop defining ourselves. Perhaps we will always attach our identities to our food preferences. But it would be nice to inject a bit more civility. And a bit less certainty about the virtue of our own dietary habits. There are many good and healthful ways to eat.

Click here for Haspel’s essay in the Washington Post.

Still Life with Cheeses, Artichoke, and Cherries, painting by Clara Peeters / WikiArt

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September 26, 2020