Wednesday, September 9, 2015

CHEATS. Oh how American Business Rulers love those cheats. Better living through the Chemical Feast

Cheating, It's not just Tom Brady and a little gas, or the incredibly slow and seemingly stupid lineman back in high school biology copying answers from you so he could pass and go on to make 3 mil a year in the NFL; it's pretty much the American way of life. Cheating encompasses just about every aspect of our existence and is widely accepted by our political leaders, CEO's of every major (and even most of the minor) producers of foods and drugs, and yes, even every single individual consumer. Yeah, it's true, our government has legitimized cheating. And we as consumers, for the majority anyway, don't care. It's all right there, all you have to do is be aware of what you buy and eat, read the ingredients. You'll see it. Most of the processed foods on the shelves will tell you that they are cheats. And most of America, don't care. 

Cheats come in a number of categories. I know this sounds weird, but a lot of foods that we consume as traditional staples in our diets, contain large amounts of added salt, sugar, or fat. These are natural cheats. The addition of these into any recipe by the manufacturer are for the purpose of increasing mouthfeel and taste perception. Yikes, that's a tough one. They don't always increase taste, they increase the perception of flavor. And there is a difference there. Adding larger amounts of these (what are perceived as natural) ingredients increases that perception of flavor. And as we all know, flavor actually is about 80% sensed within our sense of smell. Food processing pretty much
removes most of the natural scents intrinsic within the foods we eat so the addition of basic sensory flavors salt and sweet have a greater perception for consumers. And of course some of the big agrigiants take that concept to the extreme. Here we see the ingredients to peanut butter Cap'n Crunch. If you look at the first line, we see that the amount of sodium is actually above the amount of 2300 mg that the USDA recommends daily. And there is a significant amount of sugar. Over 30% of the cereal by weight, is sugar. But that much sugar is needed to mask the huge amount of salt. And let's not forget that these figures are for a standard serving size of three quarters of a cup of cereal. When I was a kid, I filled a cereal bowl with stuff like this, it wasn't any three quarters of a cup. 

Well, let's get past that, and go on to other flavor cheats. Flavor enhancers. Simple ones we have known about for a long time now are MSG and it's family of derivatives. There is a lot of controversy about MSG, scientists all over the world are publishing findings that show it to destroy nerve cells and interfere with normal brain function. And the manufacturers of the stuff and those agrigiants that use the stuff to enhance whatever flavor is left after processing, cite the US FDA (that does ABSOLUTELY no testing itself on ingredient safety) states that MSG and any product made with concentrated glutamate compounds, is safe to use. (Okay, a side note, the FDA approves the use of azodicarbonamide for food use. The EPA declares it too toxic for use in food. ((FDA and poison)) and only to be used in the US for industrial purposes.) I know, just because the feds say it's safe, I personally don't believe them. Science, being the highly subjective discipline it is and dependent on funding from manufacturers for the most part really will never have any specific definitive opinion on anything. 

But then there are a whole family of other flavor enhancers that are coming into vogue. I've talked about them before, back when I did the "What's in your food" series a few months ago. But they are related, some bad, some not so bad, like the Disodium twins - guanylate and inosinate. Which are not specifically seen to be mutagenic or carcinogenic. At least there haven't been any research done yet on the stuff. Inosinic acid, a whole family of ribonucleotides and the most expensive (therefore rarely used) but probably the safest, Guanylic Acid. And lesser known and used because it is less effective are the Maltol and Ethyl Maltol, which comes from larch tree bark or pine needles. All these compounds and additives are available to food manufacturers and are known collectively by the title of this article, cheats. They have one function, to alter the perceived flavor profile of the manufactured food product in which they are added. Cheats. Cheating. Prestidigitation. Sleight of hand, or perhaps, your food dollars.

Sometimes I think that I'm the only person in America that believes this is wrong.

Depending on your point of view, whether it be that of one of those placing their faith on evolution, or of one that believes that we, the planet and all living things on it were created in one swift wave of the hand, or command of the almighty; none of the cheats were included as standard fare for consumption by humans in any scenario. They all are, created by men specifically for one purpose, to make dull crappy foods bright and vibrant tasting. With as little cost as possible and with few detectable side effects. And of course, to be able to achieve regulatory approval easily. In today's world, that's a big one. The FDA right now has a three year backlog for reviewing new applications for NEW food additives. The EAFUS right now has over 10,000 entries in it. However the scary part is that only 3,500 of those are considered GRAS (EAFUS Everything Added to Food in the US and GRAS Generally Recognized as Safe) So, even the FDA is confused about GRAS, you can go here, and go to item 16 and see how the CFR is disjointed and does not contain a complete list of GRAS ingredients as they just are unable to maintain the database (FDA on GRAS) And the companion piece (EAFUS)

Now I'm all about science, for the most part science gives us a very reasonable view of the universe we live in. Food science though is a bit different, especially the parts about adulterating the food products presented to Americans, and the world, so that they give the APPEARANCE of being wholesome healthy and wondrous. Now I understand the constraints of the socioeconomic system that we live under that forces most families to work more than would be possible for them to be at home and cook healthy food items for themselves and families. I understand that. We've allowed that to happen to us, and this piece isn't about any sort of revolution or anything, it's about trying to torture you with the concept that the food presented to you isn't healthy and in fact, may be damaging to your health over time. Let me see if I can explain that.

Back some time ago, businesses learned of a new process for rice called polishing. They took brown rice and polished it to make it white. The new product was pretty cool. It was easier to cook, it had greater texture appeal, it could be warehoused for years instead of the normal 10 to 12 months that plain brown rice suffered, and of course, it was absolutely lacking in most nutrients. If you ate it, it didn't hurt you. You could eat it for years, and you and your kids would grow to have spindly bones and rotting teeth. But it didn't kill you when you ate it. A little after that some scientists built this really cool high speed roller mill that could take wheat and grind it into very very fine flour and at the same time, remove the bran and the germ. The resulting white flour was a miracle to bakers and business men. It could store for years, it could make incredible products and of course, it made everyone money. It was of course, denuded of all the nutritive value and those that ate it as a steady diet got sick. Well scientists are a willing lot. What they destroy they are willing to fiddle with and find a fix to the problem. Which they did, enhancements of vitamins and minerals helped. And yes, I understand that this was a long time ago, and it isn't the exact same thing as adding chemicals to foods today, but the principal is nearly the same, business leaders and their paid minions, scientists, tell us things are safe without really doing long term testing or as so often has happened, even thinking about the consequences of what they have done.

Now we come to the cheating part. Scientists have created all of these wondrous cheats, flavor enhancers, fillers, emulsifiers, and on and on, chemicals to do so many things. And they test them, and find them to be wondrously safe and proficient at making money for their users. And we get to consume them. Now comes the hard part. Just as in the past, it might take decades to harm us. We all know that apples contain arsenic. At small amounts, it won't kill you. It builds up in your kidneys, liver and brain, but a major part of the stuff you ingest in the form of apple juice or almonds, is excreted in your urine. But we all know that if you concentrate arsenic, and put a small amount in your rich husband's coffee everyday, he will die. The thing is, we don't really and truly know what will happen to people that consume these chemicals on a daily basis after ten, twenty, thirty years. Scientists say they know. 

They are paid to say that.

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