Pink Slime in your burger, chicken laced with caffeine and Prozac, antibiotic laden pork and dead bug juice in your Starbucks Frappuccino… that is just a sampling of last week’s media headlines regarding the foods we eat.
As tantalizingly delicious as the aforementioned examples sound, given a choice… I would prefer to pass, which I contest is precisely the point: Consumers have a right to know what we are eating and make conscious educated decisions whether or not we want to eat something.
Judging by the unappetizing headlines it appears obvious that industry would prefer consumers not know what is in their food or how it is produced, so many companies stick to a game plan of deception and patronization, either omitting the truth or twisting it with healthy sounding adjectives.
Case and point: What Beef Products Inc. called ‘lean fine textured beef trimmings’ (LFBT) paid handsomely until they got caught. Once the press got wind of the stench of ammonia treated previously destined for dog food scraps being added to fresh ground beef to increase yield and profit, Beef Products Inc. soon learnt that (pink) slime doesn’t pay as consumers rebelled.
The name game is common marketing ploy manufacturers resort to trick consumers into buying products using words, images or phrases that either seems healthy or inert. The most common manipulation involves ‘good for you’ sounding words like “natural” and “real” often coupled with cartoon images, like smiling hearts or spacious green landscapes spotted with happy cows on milk cartons. Do they really think anyone actually believes that idyllic setting is where milk comes from?
While I personally don’t recommend milk other than what mamma use to make to anyone past the age of suckling, admittedly the milk carton image is far more palatable than the realty of an overcrowded factory farm of hormone and antibiotic riddled cows connected to incessant mechanical milking machines filling liquid trailer loads of milk brimming with “acceptable” levels of blood and pus from over-milking being trucked off to be heat treated (pasteurized) to kill pathogens.
Factory farming techniques to maximize profits are greatly reducing the quality of food. Livestock and poultry producers use excessive amounts of antibiotics to accelerate growth that may adversely affect humans and spawn evolving super strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
There is also cause for alarm regarding other drugs in the meats we consume, like caffeine and Prozac being fed to factory farmed chickens crammed and stacked in steel cages, the caffeine keeps them awake and eating along with Prozac to reduce the stress.
Of all the last few days headlines, while sensational sounding, the least offensive is a few squirts of dead beetle juice in your frappuccino is a common food coloring concealed under the clever pseudonym “cochineal extract”, “carmine”, “natural red 4”, even “natural coloring” or “natural flavoring”.
Dead beetle juice is certainly not exclusive to Starbucks, the red insect based dye is harvested from the dried bodies of cochineal beetles and commonly used in fruit juices, ice cream, candies, yogurt and smeared over millions of lips and cheeks in cosmetics (see my blog beetlejuice beetlejuice beetlejuice from last year) to name a few.
The “natural coloring or flavoring” cochineal (Beetle) extract in Starbucks frappuccino caught the attention and ire of vegans, which has caused Starbucks to announce that it is looking at alternatives to create the strawberry coloring… because apparently it would be absurd to actually use strawberries?
The sad truth is our fruits and vegetables are no less clandestine since both the US and Canada refuse to label genetically engineered foods.
Between no information and the name game it is a “real” crap shoot to make healthful food and beverage choices. Consider the simple misleading use of the word “energy” in place of “sugar”. Numerous products use the term “energy” to make you feel like you are doing yourself a favor, when the truth is, if they didn’t use the word energy, who would pay three bucks for something called sugar-drink or sugar-bar?
Another strategy to be wary of… when products / questionable ingredients receive bad press for their wrong doings and deceptive tactics, it is common practice for the manufacturers to seek permission from the USDA or FDA to change the name for only one conceivable reason, to confuse and defraud consumers, for example:
Aspartame: The public concern over the dangers of the artificial sweetener aspartame led the manufacturer Ajinomoto (the maker of other fine chemicals like monosodium glutamate -MSG) last year to apply and receive approval from the FDA to change the name of the artificial sweetener aspartame to “Amino Sweet” and to further allow the company to inexplicably now call it a “natural” sweetener.
Currently, High Fructose Corn Syrup in applying for similar aiding and abetting from the FDA, despite being sued for its sugar is sugar campaign, high fructose corn syrup has applied to the FDA to change the name to “corn sugar”.
I realize this blog does not contain a great deal of good news, however I am inspired that the public is becoming more and more aware of some of the despicable tactics in the name of profit.
The pink slime fiasco which led to the closure of Beef Products Inc. plants is a fine example of the power of the consumer in a concerted effort.
The way I see it… we have two choices – (1) eat copious amounts of prozac infused chicken to combat the depression over the current and diminishing quality of our food… or (2) join me in the fight to change food labeling.
© 2012 – Copyrights Grant Roberts, All Rights Reserved