What the Funk am I Eating?!

“In fact, if you were to purchase identical brands of foods in the U.S. and the U.K., most of you would be alarmed by how many more inches of unpronounceable ingredients are listed on our American versions.”

By Rhiannon Marie Bowlin

I want to alarm you. I, and many others, long for you to be scarlet with anger by the time you finish reading. I need you to be pissed off because we as a species need everyone reading this to take action.

The United States. Those three words invoke many synonymous ideals — Freedom. Bravery. Innovation. Yet, when you break down individual and fundamental needs that we as humans have, you’ll likely find all of those ideals are dwindling in American culture.

One of the most prevalent examples of America’s dwindling values: our dwindling health. USA Today reported in January 2013 that U.S. citizens had the “poorest health” among all rich nations in the world, and this mainly stems from the food we eat.

In fact, if you were to purchase identical brands of foods in the U.S. and the U.K., most of you would be alarmed by how many more inches of unpronounceable ingredients are listed on our American versions.

Then, if you were to highlight ingredients on the “Land of the Free’s” boxes that are deemed not safe for human consumption in our European counterpart, you would need to shield your eyes from the brightness — even in fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Subway.

Now, most people think that as far as fast food goes, Subway is likely the healthiest choice. I suppose that is correct if you compare their food to the deep fried offerings you would find on most fast food menus.

But, on the front of every sneeze guard glass there is a list of “heart healthy” choices that are endorsed by the American Heart Association. Even if you order a 6-inch Black Forest Ham sub, you would think you’re getting simply Black Forest Ham, right? Ummm….kind of? Take a moment to guess how many ingredients are in that “Black Forest Ham” along with every other “meat” choice Subway offers? What did you come up with? 1? 5? 25? Keep climbing. There are OVER 50 ingredients in each of the meat offerings that the sandwich chain offers you in the United States. Angry yet?

Several of those ingredients contain MSG and nitrates. Nitrates are generally used for fertilizers, metal hardening and the oxidation properties make it great for producing gun powders. Now, why would we consume something like that? More importantly, why would the AHA urge us to?

Especially knowing that the latest research conducted by the World Cancer Research Fund found that it only takes 1.8 ounces of processed meat a day to increase the plausibility of a person acquiring cancer by 50 percent, heart disease by 42 percent and diabetes by 1 percent. According to them, “Processed meat is too dangerous for human consumption.” Yet Americans are eating it every day.

Angry now? What about the fact that the same Black Forest Ham in European countries is just that — ham. And McDonald’s fries in London are a cut-up potato fried in vegetable oil with a little salt and sugar added, while the McDonald’s fries in Fayetteville on College Avenue are a cut-up potato with wheat, milk, sodium aluminum sulfate, dough softeners and dimethylpolysiloxane, which is added as an anti-foaming agent. Whatever that means.

And the situation doesn’t look much better in our grocery stores. If you dig deep into the ingredients listed on almost all products from breakfast cereals to shredded cheese, you will discover that these so-called “foods” contain chemicals, genetically modified organisms, additives, artificial ingredients, carcinogens … the list goes on and on.

To combat this issue, some might argue a person can just not purchase foods with these added ingredients. This is where another gargantuan difference between the good old U.S. of A and our friends across the ocean jumps out — labeling laws. In America, they’re almost nonexistent. Big players in the food game here like Monsanto, Kraft, Kellogg’s, Coca Cola and Betty Crocker (to name a minimal few) spend millions of dollars on campaigning and lobbying to keep it that way. They are allowed to get away with practices such as performing their own safety testing (often without even having to provide detailed results to any agency) and renaming ingredients.

For instance, instead of calling it Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) they list it as yeast extract or natural flavor. Agriculture kingpins can label their ground beef as U.S.D.A. 100 percent Angus, when it could be cut from the rectal area of the cow, then soaked in ammonia to kill e. coli, that is likely to be thriving in it because it has a high probability of containing feces. But, they don’t have to tell you that in America, and they don’t want to because let’s face it, who would buy that product if it was properly labeled?

They also don’t tell you that antibiotics put in animal feed are still present when we Americans consume the meat, which is only making bacteria grow stronger and more resistant to our modern medicine. They are allowed to use words like “all natural” and “green” without their products being either.

In many other countries, there are strict laws concerning labeling. The people that reside there get to choose whether or not to consume products right there in the grocery store by simply reading the ingredients list on the package. Where we live, if you want to be informed about what you are eating or feeding your family, or about the definitions of those long words that take a Science and English degree to decipher and pronounce, you have to dig and research for hours to come up with a proper, educated decision.

Our friends across the sea have found ways to naturally color foods, to not use genetically modified organisms and make a profit while keeping their occupants safe. Which brings up the million-dollar question, “why can’t we?”

The obvious answer? Money. Our nation’s food suppliers have lost empathy toward human beings’ health and consider nothing more than profit margins and numbers. Cutting every corner possible is the new norm, with no regard for the long-term health effects. It seems that the difference between our country’s profits and others is that we have a yearning desire to always have more. There is no limit.

U.S. Government agencies that are supposed to protect us are puppets to the corporations. The health industry is an extremely profitable business. Some of the richest companies in the world are the ones who make cancer treatment medications. So, why would they want us to be healthy? Many, many companies would have red in their ledger if American’s chose to eat only local, organic, nonmodified, chemical free food.

Angry yet? I am. I am angered that the cafeterias in the White House, government offices and corporate buildings serve natural, organic foods while they serve cheap and overly processed foods in our children’s school cafeterias. Just last year Congress voted to classify pizza as a vegetable to meet health requirements. I highly doubt they serve it to their children at home as a veggie side dish.

Hopefully, you are pissed off. But more importantly, hopefully you are ready to do something about it. Having been a food activist for quite some time, I must warn you that it is a painful, arduous, uphill battle. A good majority of the people that live in this country would rather ignore the facts and hope for the best. So, be subtle, but be vigilant. Tell your neighbors. Tell your children. Inform whomever you can because we need them on our side to fight the giant corporations.

It is possible. We the people have more power than we know. Boycott these trickster companies. Grow your own food. Start a petition. Sign a petition. Stay informed. Write your mayor, your congressmen, your senators, even the president, and remember that they work for you. It’s time to take back control of what we put in our bodies. No, it’s way past time.

Categories: Food