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are you a victim of well-informed futility syndrome, too?
July 08, 2011

I try hard to keep my newsletters positive because bad news is abundant these days. The last one was an exception because I felt obliged to warn you about Staph contamination of meat. We hear bad news like this increasingly more often. Think about people in Germany dying from E.coli outbreak in the past months...

I thank all of you who responded. It means a lot to me.

Especially because that newsletter generated the highest unsubscribe rate ever.

My guess is, it happened because the issue of meat is dividing and polarizing. Meat is a favourite food for the majority of people. And the thought of reducing it, leave alone giving it up, generates strong emotion of rejection.

Did you know that this reaction is deeply rooted in human psychology?

In fact, there is a name for this self-defense mechanism: "Well informed futility syndrome."

In a nutshell, this is about dealing with knowledge that is too much to bear. Say, you learned about something that affects your life profoundly and negatively. If you donít have control over this event, and there seem to be no way to escape, chances are you will try one of the following tactics to save your sanity:

  • Persuade yourself the danger is smaller than it really is
  • Push it out of your mind and forget about it
  • Use your logic to persuade yourself that this is not true. Ridicule it.

This way you can continue to function.

I was thinking about my newsletter when I heard about this syndrome on the radio. Sandra STEINGRABER, an ecologist, author, and cancer survivor was talking about difficulty raising children in our polluted world and explained it in great detail.

I confess that I am a victim of this syndrome. I reduce the danger in my mind when I cannot deal with the reality.

For example, I read a lot of research about healthy food. I know about dangers of fluoride in our water, pesticides in our fruit and veggies, antibiotics in out meat and farm-raised fish. Yet, I continue eating non-organic food, occasionally eat meat and fish, and drink water from municipal water supply.

Because I feel that otherwise I have to dedicate my life to finding the right food and earning enough to pay for it. Instead of rejecting it all together, I try to minimize the impact. I deal with this by creating quick healthy recipes made of the super foods, avoiding meat, and buying organic as much as I can.

Here is another example. Say you use plastic bottles to feed your baby and learn about BPA leaking into the baby food and affecting your childís brain. You will likely switch to glass bottles, won't you? If you have no money to do that, you will likely justify it for yourself and continue using the bottles you already have.

As easy as that.

What I want to say is I really understand those people who donít want to hear bad news about meat.

But, unfortunately, the issue is becoming too hard to ignore, and we are pressed to take sides.

We could buy organic or naturally raised meat, we could eat less of it or stop eating it all together. We could choose to learn where it comes from and refuse to support un-ethical operations. There are still ways to minimize the impact and even to do something to improve the situation.

ÖWhen we lived in the post-Chernobyl Ukraine, we tried not to think about radiation in our food. There was nothing we could do about it, it seemed. Until one day our cat refused to eat perfectly fresh fish from the market. He shook his head and backed off from the bowl. We measured radiation and that fish contained 10 times the allowable limit!

So we started taking dosimeter to the fish and farmerís markets. We discovered that some produce was better than the other. This was one way to deal with difficult reality that we have faced.

What food safety related issues worry you? How do you deal with them? Do you believe in well-informed futility syndrome?

Share your thoughts here: Food Health And Safety Ideas and letís come up with clever strategies to protect ourselves and our families.

P.S. here is a link to Sandra's new book, Raising Elijah: and her website:

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