[VIEWPOINT]Can’t we have cheap, safe food?

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[VIEWPOINT]Can’t we have cheap, safe food?

I try to buy organic vegetables today. Determinedly, I enter a supermarket, but the effort is in vain again. Although the organic spinach is the same as the standard kind, the price difference is too great. The price of organic spinach is not just double, but more than five times higher.
It is not that I am unable to afford organic spinach, but I can’t buy it willingly. I have eaten standard spinach for decades and I am still alive. Why not just live consistently? My body is already adjusted to chemically contaminated food, and if I change now it may be surprised.
It is not only spinach. I keep worrying while buying tofu, bean sprouts, pork and eggs. I hesitate for a while, but then I pick up the cheapest products.
But rather than being satisfied with my thrifty shopping, I feel ill at ease with the idea that I didn’t do the right thing as a housewife. Isn’t it a serious offense to buy food that may harm the health of family members just because it is cheap?
I think numerous housewives in this country probably have the same concerns. And they will be plagued with the same guilty conscience and eventually have the same indignation as I do. The indignation is not a complaint about the expensiveness of organic vegetables. Neither is it a “sense of relative deprivation” over who eats expensive food and who consumes less costly produce.
We are angry about the situation where we must be worried that the basic food we buy in our country may fatally harm our health. Spinach, lettuce, bean sprouts and tofu are indispensable foods that we cannot skip. If we can’t eat them safely, isn’t something very wrong with this society?
What housewives want is that even the cheapest food should not have a negative impact on health. If we dare not hope to enjoy well-being, we simply wish that at least we should not suffer from “ill-being.” In other words, if we cannot avoid eating chemicals we will have them, but we’d like to have less than the level the government sets.
To do so, the regulation and supervision of food should become even stricter. The government should crack down on those who try to manipulate food prices to gain a profit. But the government always makes excuses about lacking the necessary manpower and budget. It is usually the last to know what everyone else in the world knows.
In the meantime, unfortunately, the nightmares of tofu made by lime powder and bean sprouts contaminated by mercury―which have a long history―are being repeated even today. Yesterday, I heard news that industrial salt was used in salted fish and today I heard about the overuse of antibiotics in pig fodder. As far as food is concerned, no other news seems more terrible than this. There are a staggering number of people who do not see human beings as human beings but as the source of money. Will their goals in life be well-being too?
As the demand for well-being foodstuffs grows stronger, housewives become more stressed. For the health of our families, we housewives should use good ingredients and prepare food well, but it is not easy to do so. Not only time matters, but we are too concerned about living expenses with tight budgets to buy expensive food, and too concerned about our health to buy cheap food.
To buy inexpensive and wholesome food, we must shop around a lot. The life of a housewife becomes all the more tiring because we cannot trust in the government.

* The writer is a scholar in women’s studies. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Park Hye-ran
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