Commercial Tortillas

Reader Contribution by Sue Van Slooten
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Several blogs ago, I wrote how our resident Royal Swans refused to eat commercially made doughnuts, and for that matter, so also the resident squirrels, birds and chipmunks. This is not necessarily a litmus paper test for the wholesomeness of commercially prepared foods, but…it is, in my opinion, an indicator. Royal aloofness aside, we have another suspect: Tortillas. Some of you emailed me at the time, telling me the same for commercially prepared cookies. After a week of -20 C temperatures at night, parts are still sitting there. They have been moved around; perhaps they are not seen as edible? For the record, I have never had homemade anything, be it cookies, biscuits, or bread, be refused by the local critter crew. 

In this instance I am not going to attempt homemade tortillas in another experiment, but it does lead me to a number of thoughts. First, what chemicals/additives/preservatives could be present that animals detect, and we generally do not? I do admit, the tortillas in this case did have a certain chemical odor to them, not bad, but not good either. They came in one of those dinner kits, the ones with the hard and soft tortilla together, the ones in question being the soft. The list of chemicals contained in a simple tortilla is astounding.

A second thought enters my mind, and that is genetically modified organisms, or GMOs for short. There are a lot of suspicions about GMOs, and I myself do not trust them. Corn today is almost all GMO unfortunately, and many tortillas and taco shells are made of GMO corn unless otherwise labeled. You can’t even trust an innocent looking tortilla. Perhaps they are not all that innocent. The recent controversy over GMO labeling is most concerning, and the threat of lawsuits against those who would like to see all foods containing them so labeled, is appalling.

A third concern I have, is that while I am very much into food, generally the less processed the better (I admit for having fallen for the dinner kit, I should know better), there is a matter of cooking skill levels and access to better ingredients that can be challenging for a number of folks. The food deserts that have come to our attention these last several years are still there in quite a lot of places, and people just do not have the ability, for a number of reasons, to be able to purchase fresh, healthy food. Not wishing to sound like a broken record, the loss of cooking skills on a fairly large scale in Western societies only aggravates an already serious problem. Big Ag has pretty much succeeded in making a large majority of our populations dependent on their pre-fab, convenience style foods, not to mention huge quantities of consumers who eat at fast food style restaurants.

The truly frightening overall picture one sees in North America and Europe is two populations on either side of the Pond dependent, not knowing how to cook, not having healthy food to cook in the first place, or the necessary appliances, etc. to cook (I am thinking here of people with no access to kitchens). Europe has fought this battle better than most, banning GMOs in a lot of cases, but they are still under threat by lawsuit. Certain social justice/awareness groups have sprung up to try and bridge this gap, for example Slow Food [No. 1, No. 2. See References below]. Importantly, a lot of very local community and church groups have started community kitchens, among other programs. One of my mottos has always been, if you can’t get the government to do its proper job (not caving to pressure from Big Ag), then, you have no choice but to go around them. In short, if you can’t beat them, go around them, which is what a lot of groups have done, and are doing. Great progress has been made at an incredible cost in terms of time, money, and expertise. A large battle still looms, for example in the area of seed saving, where in some jurisdictions, it is illegal.

Let me illustrate. A number of years ago, it was more or less quietly (unofficially as far as I know) mandated by the province in which I live, that the government should do away with family farms as much as possible, and make it as difficult as possible for farmer’s markets or social events serving food. No home prepared food to be bought, consumed, or sold. Markets came under strict scrutiny by the local Health Units, until a landmark situation took place. The health inspectors went to an art show where the local ladies’ auxiliary prepared sandwiches. They poured bottles of bleach over the plates [No. 3, see References below]. Welcome to the Food Police, as they became known by some. There was instant outrage in the media, ministers claimed having no knowledge, or condoning of this act, etc., etc. After that governmental faux pas, farmer’s markets started popping up everywhere, literally. Some towns now had several. There were way too many for the inspectors to inspect, and as long as certain basics are maintained, they continue to sell their products.


1. Slow Food International, last accessed March 8, 2015.
2. Slowfood Wikipedia Page, last accessed March 8, 2015.
3. Egg salad runs afoul of law, last accessed March 8, 2015.

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