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“Lunchtime Is All Yours” – Michael Moss

In Michael Moss’s Salt, Sugar, Fat he goes in depth about the creation of the infamous Lunchables which our nation has grown to know and love. I can remember being a kid and loving lunchables. I think it started when I saw kids at school who had them, and then of course I was pleading my mom to buy me and my brother some to take for lunch. They are the perfect packed lunch. A colorful box with crackers and cheese, nachos with cheese and salsa, or my personal favorite the make-your-own pizza. A kid’s dream lunch topped off with a capri-sun and m&ms for dessert. Easy enough for a parent to pick up from the store and easy enough to stop kids’ crying that they don’t want another PB&J for lunch! What is disguised as the next best thing, is probably the worst thing you could be feeding your growing children. Lunchables is nothing but high in salt, sugar, and fat, and according to Moss tricking people into consuming the hell out of them is just what the Oscar Meyer product line did.

I think what is most disgusting about Lunchables, is not the plastic cheese that is sold in every box, but the fact that its target consumer is children. Oscar Meyer’s marketing team were really scraping at the bottom of the barrel if they had to pick at the weak. A kid has a one-track mind, and that’s having the coolest thing at the moment. Oscar Meyer saw an opportunity and took it without thinking of the consequences. After the launch of Lunchables, the young generation’s health took a turn for the worst. Obesity was at an all time high. Not that you can put total blame on the Lunchable brand, but its the idea of food it’s representing.

Michael Pollan – Chapter 7: The Meal

Notes:

– 1 in 3 Americans eat fast food every single day
– “Denying the denier” – marketing term for what a salad/veggie burger does for a fast food chain
– 19% of American meals are eaten in the car
– Leavening Agents – sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, sodium acid pyrophosphate, calcium lactate
– Chicken Nugget – 38 ingredients, 3 contain corn, dimethylpolysiloxene (carcinogen, flammable, established mutagen, reproductive effector), butylhydroquinone (TBHQ, antioxidant derived from petroleum – “helps preserve freshness”)
– TBHQ – one gram can cause nausea, vomiting, delirium, collapse – five grams can kill


Response:

What started out as a cow eating corn in a crowed feedlot, will have an end result of a family picking up dinner through the McDonald’s drive-thru, chowing down big-macs on their way home from a long day. America has gained the reputation of surviving off industrial meals. As Michael Pollan described his experience eating at McDonald’s with his family, it sounded all too familiar. I found it interesting that as he was talking about eating their meal in their convertible, top down, it was ironic that the car would be eating the same thing…corn! He made the point that food like nuggets, for example, cannot be compared to chicken because they have become a food genre of their own. He directed a pamphlet he had picked up which listed the ingredients of a McNugget, a lot of which seemed to be synthetic. Fake chicken is what they should call them!

The process of industrial food is so complex, yet is it worth the trouble. Is putting all of these chemicals in our food really worth the damage it causes, just so it can taste okay and fill our stomachs. After reading several of Pollan’s chapters form his book, I’m wondering if we really know what we’re eating. Apparently not if we’re still consuming McNuggets that are purely synthetic. We’ve come such a long way with food. But have we gone too far? Or maybe we took a wrong turn along the way? What will it take to regroup and find our way back?

 

Fast Food Journey

Krispy Kreme Doughnut

Ingredients:

Enriched bleached wheat flour - white flour. The bran and the germ portion of the whole wheat, rich in vitamins and minerals, are refined out. Bleaching is usually done with chlorine which destroys more of the vitamins and must be added back artificially. To compensate for refining out around 20 nutrients, 4 synthetic nutrients are added, niacin (vitamin B3), reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate (synthetic vitamin B1), and riboflavin (vitamin B2). Can lead to nutritional imbalances,

Bleached Wheat Flour,

Niacin – a B vitamin made from water, air and petroleum,
reduced iron Generally recognised as safe,
Thiamine – a B vitamin, made from coal tar,
mononitrate,
Riboflavin – a B vitamin commonly made from candida yeasts or other bacteria,
Folic Acid – vitamin made from petroleum (mostly from china),
Dextrose- Carrier, Disintegrating Agent, Dispersing Agent, Formulation Aid, Humectant, Moisture-Retaining Agent, Nutritive Sweetener, Tableting Aid, Texture-Modifying Agent, Texturizer

Vegetable Shortening (partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil) associated with heart disease, breast and colon cancer, atherosclerosis and elevated cholesterol, and obesity. Trans fat is known to increase the “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and decrease the “good” cholesterol (HDL). It can clog your arteries and cause Type 2 Diabetes, as well as other serious health problems. They disrupt nerve cell intercommunication – associated with ADHD and ADHD like symptoms. May contain undeclared synthetic antioxidants (310-312, 319-321), most likely BHA 320 or TBHQ 319, which affect children’s health, behavior and learning.

Water,

Sugar – mostly from sugar beets. Refined sugars can promote obesity, tooth decay, and heart disease,

Soy Flour,

Egg Yolks,

Vital Wheat Gluten,

Yeast,

Nonfat Milk,

Yeast Nutrients

Calcium Sulfate – Dietary Supplement, Dough Conditioner, Firming Agent, Nutrient, Sequestrant, Yeast Food,
Ammonium Sulfate – may cause mouth ulcers, nausea, kidney and liver problems,
dough conditioners

Calcium Dioxide - irritating to the skin,
Monocalcium and Dicalcium Phosphate – skin and eye irritant,
Diammonium Phosphate – also used as a fertilizer, fire retardant, used in animal feed as a source of non-protein nitrogen and phosphorous,
Sodium Stearoyl-2-lacrylate – emulsifier, plasticizer, surfactant,
Whey,
Starch,
Ascorbic Acid – Antioxidant, Dietary Supplement, Nutrient, Preservative
Sodium Bicarbonate – Alkali, Leavening Agent
Calcium Carbonate – in general can cause mineral deficiencies,
salt,

Mono-and-Diglycerides – Emulsifier, Foaming Agent, Stabilizer, Suspending Agent, Whipping Agent,

Ethoxylated Mono- and Diglycerides – dough conditioners used to increase volume, emulsifier – may be soy, corn, peanut or fat based. They may cause genetic changes, cancer, birth defects, and allergic reactions,

Lecithin – emulsifier,

Calcium Propionate – (to retain freshness) mold inhibitor,

Cellulose Gum – made from cotton byproducts, used as a stabilizer shown to cause cancer in animals,

Natural and Artificial Flavors – A single natural or artificial flavor can contain many ingredients; for example the artificial “strawberry” flavor contains 49 ingredients or chemical compounds. Companies keep the identity of artificial (and natural) flavorings secret. Flavorings may include substances to which some people are sensitive, such as MSG or HVP, another way to avoid declaring them on the label – associated with allergies, asthma, hyperactivity, possible carcinogen, allergic or behavioral reactions,

Fungal Alpha Amylase – enzyme secreted by many fungi,

Amylase – enzymes from various fungi used as antibacterial additives, imparts flavor, causes the bread to rise. Workers in factories that work with amylase are at increased risk of occupational asthma,

Maltogenic Amylase – an enzyme preparation produced by recombinant DNA techniques,

Pantosenase – information not found,

Protease Enzymes,

Sodium Caseinate – casein texturizer, chemically produced milk powder,

Corn Maltodextrin – starch used as a texturizer and flavor enhancer. Produced by the chemical or enzyme breakdown of corn starch,

Corn Syrup Solids – produced by the chemical or enzyme breakdown of corn starch, corn sugar may cause allergic reactions,

BHT – (to help protect flavor) retards rancidity in oils, can cause liver and kidney damage, allergic reactions, hyperactivity and behavioral problems, infertility, weakened immune system, birth defects, cancer; should be avoided by infants, young children, pregnant women and those sensitive to aspirin, may be toxic to the nervous system, (BHT – banned in England),

Glaze also may contain:

Calcium Carbonate – chalk, used as an emulsifier, may cause constipation, occurs naturally in limestone,

Agar- stabilizer and thickener obtained from various seaweed,

Locust Bean Gum – a thickener and stabilizer in cosmetics and food extracted from the seeds of the carob tree,

Disodium Phosphate – used commercially as an anti-caking additive in powdered products. May cause mild irritation to the skin and mucus membranes,

and Sorbitan Monostearate – referred to as a synthetic wax, emulsifier, defoamer, and flavor dispersing additive.

Michael Pollan – Chapter 6: The Consumer

Notes:

– Corn Whiskey – superabundant, cheap, drink of choice, in the 1820s the typical American was drinking half a pint a day (more than five gallons a year)
– The Elevenses – “modern coffee break” — late-morning whiskey break
– Effects of the consumption – rise of public drunkenness, violence, family abandonment, increase in alcohol-related diseases
– Over production of corn lead to manufacturing whiskey
– Obesity – most pressing health issue, costing the health care system approximately $90 billion per year
– 3 of every 5 Americans are overweight
– 1 of every 5 Americans is obese
– Explanation – changes in lifestyle, poverty, affluence, technology, marketing, changes in diet
– Corn accounts for most of the surplus calories we are eating
– 530 million bushels of corn harvested each year — 17.5 billion pounds of high fructose corn syrup
– Thrifty Gene – hunter/gatherer ancestors to feast whenever they were able to, allowed them to build up reserves of fats against future famine
– Type II Diabetes – occurs when the body’s mechanism for managing glucose simply wears out from overuse


Response:

In the 1820’s corn whiskey became every American’s drink of choice. There was an extreme surplus of corn that caused farmers no choice but to distill it into alcohol. This made for ton of cheap whiskey! These days our high alcohol consumption back then has turned into high fat consumption. Obesity is at an all time high because food has become abundant and cheap all due to corn. According to Pollan, corn accounts for most of the surplus calories we’re growing and most of the surplus calories we are eating. Back then really the only thing you could turn corn into was whiskey. Now, corn can be made into hundreds of things, and consumers will mainly buy sweet foods. It is in oft drinks where we consume most of the calories from corn process fructose-corn syrup.The stuff is addicting and the consumption is outrageous. Everyone is super-sizing their soft drinks and I myself will sit at a restaurant and gulp down 3 sprites before my food has even come.

Processing food has become such a great strategy for consumers to eat more, and buy more! Science over the years has broken down corn and then engineered it in news ways that tug at the evolution of our appetite. Adding sugar and fat to anything will make us want more of it because it’s energy-dense and it’s what we think our body needs. I see it as such a mind-game, and it’s almost like we’re beating ourselves. What good is money if we’re all too fat and dead to use it.

Michael Pollan – Chapter 5: The Processing Plant

Notes:

– 10 billion bushels of corn harvested each year
– Corn is processed in meats, soft drinks, breakfast cereals, snacks
– Corn – yellow skin will be processed into various vitamins/nutritional supplements, tiny germ (dark part near the cob, holds the embryo of the potential future corn plant) will be crushed for its oil, the endosperm will be plundered for is rich cache of complex carbs
– Companies to wet mill most of America’s corn – Cargill and ADM
– Wet Mill – industrial version of digestion, food is broken down through multiple steps (physical pressure, acids, enzymes)
– Mill Starch – what is left after the germ has been removed and the kernels crushed
– High Fructose Cory Syrup – 55% fructose, 45% glucose


Response:

Everyone is personally responsible for consuming a ton of corn each year, yet only a bushel of it comes from eating actual corn. The rest of what we don’t eat as pure corn is consumed after being processed and reassembled as beef, chicken, cereal, soft drinks, and snacks. Science has figured out a million and one ways fro kernels of corns to become what we eat everyday. “Wet mills” break corn down into smaller building blocks for companies like General Mills and McDonald’s to manufacture selling products. The wet milling process is simply a complex food being reduced to simple molecules, mostly sugars. Pollen goes through the deconstruction of corn, right down to its chemical parts. The whole breakdown at this point of the article was very scientific, but personally gave me the heeby-jeebys! To think that all of these oils, acids, etc. can come from a tiny kernel of corn.

It’s amazing all the things science has developed from corn, and what’s more amazing is the failed attempts it’s made getting to where we are today. Scientists are constantly coming up with new innovation from this boring crop. Corn is taking over and is impossible to avoid. After hearing about every component of corn that is used to make the things we eat, I’m convinced nothing is real anymore!

 

Michael Pollan – Chapter 4: The Feedlot

Notes:

– Corn – found in the American Middle West
– Corn has colonized some 125,000 square miles of the American continent (area twice the size of NY State)
– Poky Feeders, population of 37,000
– Pollan purchased an eight-month-old calf from the Blair Ranch for $598 – Paying Poky Feeders $1.60 a day for his room and board
– Pollan wanted to learn how the industrial food chain transforms bushels of corn into steaks
– 60% of corn goes to feeding livestock, also goes to feeding America’s 100 million beef cattle
– CAFO – Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation
– The urbanization of America’s animal population would not have taken place if it weren’t for the federally subsidized corn
– Corn was sold for less than it cost to grow
– “Cow-Calf” Operation – first stage in the production of a hamburger and the state least changed by the modern industrialization of meat
– Four Meatpacking Companies – Tysons subsidiary, IBP, Cargill subsidiary Excel, Swift & Company, National
– Rumen – organ, 20 gallon fermentation tank in which a resident population of bacteria dines on grass
– Cows raised on grass take longer to reach slaughter weight than cows raised on a richer diet
– Corn is the cheapest, most convenient source of calories on the market
– Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) – mad cow disease
– Result of highly based corn diet – bloat, impairs the liver’s function
– Slaughter 400 cows per hour


Response:

It took bravery and a strong stomach for Pollan to go on the journey he did. Michael Pollan wanted to learn how the industrial food chain transforms bushels of corn into steaks. Corn can practically be found in everything we eat and used for practically everything, including the main source of feed for cattle. There is so much of it, that the surplus is given to whatever source can dispose of it. Pollan walked his audience through the evolution of corn and how the urbanization of America’s animal population has catapulted with the help from the advent of cheap, federally subsidized corn.

Michael Pollan examines how having cows feed on grass makes complete ecological sense. Yet, cows these days are living on the feedlot of only ever tasting corn. The reasoning is, that cows fed on grass take longer to slaughter and it is more efficient to feed them a diet of corn, protein and fat supplements, and arsenal drugs. Pollan started his journey after purchasing a calf. His idea was to follow the life cycle of a steer. Pollen met his calf and went with him on his first day to the feedlot. Pollen described the feedlot like going to the big city, built upon America’s surplus of corn. I found it surprising that cows must be fed pharmaceuticals so that their digestive systems can even tolerate corn. Why feed the animal something it’s body rejects? Pollan describes the thousand pounds of corn, plus liquified fat, vitamins, protein supplements, etc. that is prepared to be fed to the cows each day. It seems unjust and like they’re eating fake food! Health problems have also been researched to have come from corn-fed beef. Producing cheap will only produce consequences!

“How Do You Get People to Crave” – Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan’s article starts with discussing Dr. Peppers and its effort to compete with other high-in-sugar soft drinks. The company had a few failures and struggles meeting the customers needs. A line extension, a flavor called Red Fusion, fell short when it came to taste requirements. Pollan then discusses Dr. Pepper’s marketing techniques as well as every other products’ you can find in a grocery store. There are line extensions which is adding new flavors and colors to create products that get there own space alongside the household brands such as, Coke and Pepsi. There is also intense target marketing of shoppers. Companies are constantly varying their mainline products with changes of packaging, size, color, and endorsements by celebrities. Another marketing strategy of the food industry is altering the salt, sugar, and fat of the product.

Dr. Pepper’s lead consultant, Moskowitz , claims to search for just the right amount of certain ingredients to generate the greatest appeal among customers. Using high math and computations, he engineers them with one goal in mind: to create the biggest crave. Moskowitz uses a statistical method called conjoint analysis when collectively identifying what variation of taste, smell, texture, etc. in a product will be most attractive to consumers. So essentially, what we are eating is carefully designed to be made of things our bodily chemically likes. This is crazy to think about. To know that the reason a bag of chips is the color it is and the amount of salt in them will excite my tastebuds just the right amount so I will buy the product is creepy and seems like a trick.

 

“Our National Eating Disorder” – Michael Pollan

In this article Michael Pollan discusses the main problems with American food fads. Pollan out lies just how the power of a new diet affects Americans’ lives. New research is introduced that challenges what we know about nutrition, a nutrient we have consumed for ages is now labeled lethal, another nutrient is suggested as the solution, the industry markets the hell out of this new diet, and in a flash American diets are given a makeover.

We Americans have an obsession with eating healthy, yet we have one of the unhealthiest diets compared to other countries like France, who has exceptionally less diet-rleated health problems. The struggle of deciding what to eat plays a big role in Americans’ lives, such as the big question as to ‘What is for dinner?’. Scientists give reason to this as the ‘omnivore dilemma’. During evolution our human brains got bigger in size to deal with this omnivore dilemma, whereas animals like Koalas whom eat a restricted type of food now have shrunken brains. Our omnivore brains allows for variety in foods we eat but also brings stress in distinguishing the good and bad things to eat.

In an experiment about different nation’s feelings on food, Americans associated food with health the most and pleasure the least. The researchers found that Americans worry more about food and derive less pleasure from eating than people in any other nation they surveyed. Unlike us, the French were more likely to choose food based on pleasure, and are yet the thinner country. The French eat all sorts of ”unhealthy” foods, but they do it according to a strict and stable set of rules: they eat small portions and don’t go back for seconds; they don’t snack; they seldom eat alone, and communal meals are long, leisurely affairs. Worrying about food is not good for your health, and diet fads are proof of this. A more relaxed and social approach toward eating could go a long way toward breaking our unhealthy habit of bingeing and fad-dieting. The psychological component that comes with how we see food will not be easy to adjust, but it’s a start in improving our country’s health.

“What are we Feeding Food Animals?”

What are we feeding food animals?

  • Antimicrobials/antibiotics and synthetic hormones
  • By-products of slaughtered animals and “rendered” animals
  • Animal waste
  • Waste from industrial processes

Waste

Human Waste

  • Generated per year – 6.9 million dry tons
  • Applied to land per year – 3.9 million dry tons

Animal Waste

  • Generated per year – 287 million dry tons
  • Applied to land per year – >270 million dry tons

*Approximately one dry ton of animal waste generated for every US citizen

Whats in Animal Waste?

  • Bacteria
  • Protozoa
  • Viruses
  • Animal dander
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Heavy metals
  • Hormones
  • Nutrients

From Waste to Water, Air, and Soil

  • Land application of waste
  • Failed storage systems
  • Waste incineration
  • Animal-house ventilation
  • Direct (illegal) releases into surface waters

* Groundwater constitutes 40% of public water supplies and 97% of rural water supplies

Occupational Exposures

  • 5,00,000 workers
  • No federal oversight
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Decontamination facilities
  • Workers and families

Air Quality Concerns

  • Releases of airborne contamination from production sites
  • Gases – Ammonia, hydrogen sulfide & volatile organic compounds (poultry houses – 60 unique VOCs and swine production facilities – 330 unique VOCs)
  • Particulates
  • Microorganisms
  • Endotoxins
  • Animal dander

Heath relevance of some is established – less clear for others

Single pollutant exposure versus mixtures

Community Exposures and Effects

Increased exposure to IFAP operation-borne contaminants

  • Asthma prevalence, hospitalizations
  • Allergy and eye, nose, and throat irritation
  • Mental health endpoints

Odors

  • Compromised quality of life

Economic effects

  • Direct property damage
  • Housing values

Challenges in Characterizing PH Impact

Characterization of cumulative effects of stressors

  • Chemical, microbial, social, economic

Multiple, diverse exposed populations

  • Workers, fence line and surrounding communities, consumers
  • Relating adverse effects to exposures

Integrated nature of animal production

  • Gaps in current state of knowledge are extremely difficult to fill

No clear answers!

  • Though burden is borne by the public-externalities to production process
  • Disproportionate burden on rural communities

Try Again — “You Will Eat All of That!”: A retrospective analysis of forced consumption episodes

I would not consider myself a picky eater. In fact, I love trying new and different types of foods. I find it fascinating being able to immerse myself in a different culture through food.

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 10.14.18 PM

I would like to say that the reason why I am so open to trying different cuisines is due to the way my parents raised me when it came to food. My parents are always trying new foods and my dad is always open to incorporating new dishes into his menu.

I have never really been forced to eat something I did not want. My parents have always encouraged my sister and I to try new foods but never have forced. They have also said to try something at least once or even try at a different time. For me, I have to be “in the mood” to want to eat a specific food, it also depends on the time of day, and how the food is prepared. There are many food alternatives and various preparation methods used in the kitchen. Maybe one day I would rather have grilled chicken instead of baked? Or maybe I would like to eat a different veggie other than broccoli.

images           Grilled Chicken with Pasta Aglio E Olio October 31st, 2011

As stated in the article, one would continue to have a negative connotation about a food that he or she was previously forced to eat. I think it is completely unnecessary to force someone into eating something that he or she does not want. Everyone is different and each have their own personal preferences in regards to food.