What You Don’t Get with Organic Food
Eating organic food gives you some profound plusses, one of which is what you don’t get.
There is a specialty, taught at major universities, called Food Science. The food scientists have been hard at work, bringing you the wonders of processed foods, genetically modified food, and food that turns out not to be food at all. And they usually call it “natural.” Not that that word is required by law to have any meaning.
For actual meaning as set by law, you need to see the word “organic.” There’s a whole rule book that says precisely what that word means, from how the dairy cows must be fed to how the farmer is allowed to control weeds. Very, very little of what the food scientists do passes organic muster. Let’s look at a few for instances.
Let’s take orange juice. The package may say pure and natural, and not from concentrate, and may show an orange with a straw stuck in it. Gotta be juice straight from the orange, right?
Not so fast.
Here’s how it really goes: when the oranges come from the groves to the processing plant, they’re squeezed and the fresh juice is heated to near boiling to pasteurize it. The juice is filtered and the resulting liquid is kept in aseptic storage, which involves stripping the juice of dissolved oxygen (which also strips the juice of all flavor). It’s kept in million-gallon tanks for a year or two.
Meanwhile, the orange peels, rinds, and the scrapings from the filter pads are mixed with scientifically measured amounts of orange flavorings and aroma chemicals—the same kind used in perfumes, bath products, chewing gums, and candies—and formed into “flavor packs.” When the food processors, such as Tropicana, Minute Maid, and others, are ready to sell, flavor packs are added back to the flavorless liquid in amounts determined by the company’s scientists to result in the house style—consistent from place to place and year to year. Tropicana will taste the same in New York as it does in Seattle, and will taste the same in 2012 as it did in 2002. Same thing with any other “pure and natural” juice that’s “not from concentrate.”
Tropicana is now being sued for false advertising. The lawsuit alleges that one of the chemicals found in flavor packs in the United States is ethyl butyrate, which it says further reveals “that [the juice] is not pure and natural.”
If these shenanigans are going on with a product like orange juice, what else are food processors doing to hoodwink consumers?
Processed foods often promise the purchaser one thing but deliver something else altogether.
One clue that a food is heavily processed and not what it claims to be is the use of the word “product” after the name of the food. Let’s stroll down the frozen food aisle. Here are some frozen dinners, ready for heating and—gulp!—eating. Take, as a for instance, “Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine, Café Classics, Beef Pot Roast with Whipped Potatoes.” It’s a dinner fallen pretty far down the slippery slope of modern food science.
Mmmm. Beef pot roast. What could they do to that? Well, if you read the ingredients, you don’t get beef, you get “beef product.” It consists of beef, water, dextrose, soybean oil, modified cornstarch, potassium chloride, salt, potassium and sodium phosphates, caramel color, and natural flavors. Remember “pink slime” that the USDA was feeding to schoolkids? Same kind of processed stuff. By the way, “caramel color” sounds natural. You make caramel simply by heating sugar, right? Well, you don’t know American food processing. It’s actually made with sugar, ammonia, and sulfites and contains 2-methylimidizole and 4-methylimidizole—both recognized carcinogens.
Among the delicious ingredients is modified cornstarch. How bad could that be? It’s just the starchy part of corn, one assumes. But on closer investigation, it turns out that it’s not only used in hundreds of processed foods as a thickener, emulsifier, and stabilizer, but as a binder in coated paper, and as wallpaper paste, as textile printing ink thickener, and as a sizing agent in paper production.
How do you get modified starch from regular cornstarch? Well, you can treat it with hydrochloric acid, with lye, with hydrogen peroxide, with sodium hypochlorite (better known as bleach), with propylene oxide or ethylene oxide, or a host of other chemicals. If you degrade corn starch with amylase enzyme, you make a sweetener better known as high fructose corn syrup, a substance so loathed by the public that the food industry is trying to change its name to “corn sugar.” Oh—if the starch is from genetically altered corn (and 90 percent of the corn grown in the United States these days is GMO), it might make novel modified carbohydrates never found before in nature. I wonder what novel effects it’ll have as it enters the food chain?
Finally, the “gravy” for your faux pot roast includes “rendered beef fat.” I know why this is called lean cuisine—one bite and you’ve had enough.
It’s important for parents to understand what they’re feeding their kids when they buy things like “Kid Cuisine Corn Dog with Apples and Blue Watermelon Flavored Sauce, Corn, French Fries, and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.” This is a kid’s meal from the folks at agribusiness conglomerate ConAgra. Read the ingredients before serving it to children, and hope the sodium nitrite, calcium stearate, sodium erythorbate, disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate, polyglycerol polyricinoleate, and such will calm junior’s jitters.
“Michelina’s Signature Chicken Marsala with Garlic Mashed Potatoes” ostensibly contains just a few ingredients (chicken, marsala wine, potatoes, garlic, and gravy), but the box lists 139 ingredients. Yes, 139. And among the chemicals you’ll actually find some food.
Any trip down the supermarket aisles will be revelatory because food processors are required to list their ingredients. In order to soften the blow, they often resort to euphemism, like calling high fructose corn syrup “corn sugar,” or listing bouillon but not revealing that it’s made by boiling vegetables or meat in acid, skimming off the scum that rises to the top, drying the scum, and turning it into a powder that’s added to food. And they don’t mention that this innocent-sounding bouillon powder is an excitotoxin that causes the nervous system to go haywire.
Modern food science is tricky and complicated stuff, but easily understandable when you pull back the curtain to reveal the great and terrible Oz turning the cranks. If you need proof of the effect of these unnatural foods on the human organism, just look around you at your fellow citizens.
The way to avoid all this junk food is to eat organically-grown fresh fruits, vegetables, and animal products. They’re not allowed to contain any of this nonsense—by law.