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Food Politics

Omega, Oh My!


My sister, who was visiting me in New York from North Carolina, had only taken one bite of cereal when she put down her spoon and hastily got up from the table. "I need an allergy pill right now," she said. "I forgot to read the label on the milk." Sure enough, when we checked a few minutes later, the carton contained the words, "Omega-3 Added." I had not noticed this when I bought the milk, and I admit that I wouldn't have paid much attention to it, anyway, since I'm basically a fan of Omega-3. For my sister, though, it was a disaster lying in wait; turns out that one of the primary sources for commercially-produced omega-3 is fish oil, to which she is allergic. A possible emergency room visit was avoided only because she quickly recognized the symptoms of incipient reaction. Now, because I still remember my parents talking about the fact that adding fluoride to the nation's water supply (which has resulted only in a dramatic reduction in cavities) was widely considered a Communist plot when it was first proposed, I have more tolerance than most of my friends to the idea of across-the-board additives. But as omega-3 finds its way into everything from cereal to orange juice (it appeared on about 250 food products in 2006), our grocery shelves are becoming potential mine fields for some folks. And who knows what other stuff that's "good for you" is going into our foods as we speak?