Category Archives: Food Industry

Blinders and Distractions – September 22, 2014

nature02Ultimately, I want to save the world, but who doesn’t? The bewildering array of problems that need fixing would make Gandhi throwing up his arms in disgust. Where does one begin? In the early 2000s, my initial focus took on global warming as it was called in a lost age. Now monikered climate change, a more all-embracing expression, it looms over us like a snake on a hypnotized hamster.

What are we to do? Distract ourselves with some talent shows and YouTube videos? My studies indicate that this is the main source of our psychic problem. This instrument infests the mind with commercial drivel, surrounds us with archaic Madison Avenue graffiti, and wears down our sense of self-worth with unobtainable values. This blend brews a whole lot of discontent, making these people targets to even more invasive material.

How does this relate to climate change? Consumerism. The amount of energy that we waste, namely petroleum, to buy items with tyrannosaurus-sized carbon footprints that are designed to break down or go out of style in a month or two is choking us out. I’m talking about pollution. Not only in the waste which we toss into the landfill, but the resources required to gather and process the materials. Followed by the most-likely overseas transport before trucking it inland, the tally refuses to end. All of it is driven by the commercial detritus that leads us to forsake our character for our appearance.

There’s a purpose to all this. The economy must grow no matter what stands in its way, behaving much like a tumor. The rules are written so that every incorporated industry must grow larger every year. If not, they are fined because pissing off the investors is a no-no. How does it grow? By decreasing the consumer’s willpower, tickling their emotions, and instilling a sense of ‘MUST HAVE.’ This is where the corporate heads turn to Mr./Ms. Madison Ave to create the right lure to pull in the greatest amount of fish. While this once was the basic television commercial, they now have more covert methods to delivering their virus.

Commercial culture has ransacked our values, having us believe that we need to be driving near-illegal sport cars and wearing jewellery that could budget a small village’s needs for a year. The need for bling erodes not only our values, but our bank accounts. Now let’s be clear. Our money is our lifeblood, what we toil our time and lives over. In olden days, our earnings were meant to reflect our legacy. Something to pass on to the children. Now we have let our cars, accessories, and property define us. Are we seeing the problem here?

We’re ensnared in a trap, and it does all it can to keep us from reaching fulfillment. Have you ever felt buyer’s regret? You get home and within a couple of hours or days you’re feeling like maybe it wasn’t the best idea. Then something better comes up and we pounce on it like it was something precious.

In this age of self-gratification, where is there room for community? You know, taking part in activities that are outside of your circle of close associations? There are parts of the world out there that require your participation. The world isn’t going to run itself.

What if, when people thought of you, images of something you’ve done and stood up for come to mind rather than what model of car you have? Half of us can’t be bothered to vote. When’s the last time you volunteered? Offered help? Even something as simple as making someone smile can make a difference.? I’ll let you in on a secret: The more you put into it, the more you get out of it.

As I dug deeper into the marketing operations, I found that they were targeting our kids and building up a ‘pester power’ for everything from toys up to vehicles. They corralled in psychologists to determine the best way to push the ‘consumer’ button, and the economy blossomed like a nuclear mushroom cloud. The effects were quite similar.

To make all the consumables, resources must be dug up from somewhere. To put those things together and sell so cheaply, the labor must be even cheaper. Their ‘cost-effective’ manufacturing is often environmentally frowned upon in ‘developed’ countries, but ‘developing’ countries are more than willing to take part in the corporate plunder. Oddly, this is also happening in Canada, and we’re ‘developed’.

While these practices take their toll on the environment, the effects ripple to consequences on our health. We have particulates in our air and water, and chemicals subtly destroying the life below our feet. When these end up on our bodies, either through direct exposure or in our food, the results are dismal. And that’s only from the produce.

Our meat and poultry live lives of misery to appease our palettes. Antibiotics have become a precautionary measure, becoming a part of the animal’s nutritious breakfast (lunch, and dinner.) They still get sick, and that spreads fast when you spend day-to-day shoulder-to-shoulder with your neighbour. The feed is literally garbage, and this practice extends to what we feed our pets. None is properly regulated. Our institutes have failed us.

All of these chemicals and drugs filter to our food, and there is no way to extract it before it sizzles on our grills. Add a side of chemically-drenched vegetables, smothered in chemical concoctions from a bottle. In between, we nibble on artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners that tax the body even further. What does this do to our minds? It’s not pretty.

There has been a movement towards limiting these chemical supplies in our food. I tried some of the improved formulas and they ruined my childhood. When I studied into where these amazing tastes came from, I gagged. Our minds may be saying strawberry, but the internal organs are saying WTF? Why would we have a problem with eating these items? It involves evolution. Our bodies were built up and nourished by natural foods, whereas these chemical additives began the invasion in the early 1900s, starting with refined sugar.

Coinciding with our chemical intake were rising disease statistics. Much of what sickens us comes from our body’s inability to properly synthesize what we eat. Some get stored, and some get excreted, but the whole time our body is confused by this alien entity.

When it gets stored in our bodies, it goes to the liver or fat cells, which itself should be harmless. All these chemicals have been proven safe in a human environment. The problems arise when these chemicals cross each other in the storage units. Chemicals have ways of reacting with each other, let alone that some metabolize into carcinogens when they first take a seat. From this, obesity and disease result.

We’ve been getting sicker from our food and medical miracles, aside from many other lifesaving technologies that have undoubtedly helped. Fortunately, another arm to this chemical culture has come to the rescue. For a price. For every illness, Big Pharma has a fix. They can control everything from our cholesterol to our thoughts. Have you ever wondered what got us to this place? Perhaps we’re taking better pre-emptive care of our vehicles than of our bodies. Why do we so devalue ourselves? Who feeds these standards into our minds?

A large part of the problem begins when those food chemicals scoot past the blood-brain barrier. That barrier’s in place to keep poison from entering our brain, yet our confused body has let some pass. As a worrying aside, other chemicals are out there wreaking havoc on our hormones, and they control almost all of the body’s processes. As for those renegade brain invaders, there are a whole slew of different chemical concoctions to soothe those mental ills. The overall understanding of how the brain operates is incomplete, but Big Pharma feels what they offer is…good enough? I questioned if they really wanted us to get well.

The financial reality told me no. To truly cure the patient is to put a bullet to the head of the consumer. If sales ended because the cure was no longer needed, the whole system would crash. So, what about the institutions that are supposed to be protecting us? These government-funded agencies are like beaver dams trying to stop a glacier.

They were put in place to stop the snake-oil salesmen. They successfully kept their reign on the drug industry. Then the profit motive stepped in. Soon there weren’t enough funds to oversee the thousands of chemicals produced each year. The tables soon turned, and funds were needed from the developers; a fee that soon became the agency’s budget. When you become reliant on your funders, you tend to let certain rules bend. All of this done to the appeasement of the almighty stock holders. Now we have puppet regulations, put together in cooperation with the industries. These rules are supposed to protect the public’s health and well-being, yet the profit motive conflicts with this ideology.

These same industries make billions of dollars by making us sick and then treating us for it. The only time the public becomes aware of a problem is when the media issues a recall. Food tampering, explosive motors, and food-borne bacteria make for painful headlines. Deadly drug side effects, even worse. Sometimes.

Before the public is acknowledged, the accused is obscured behind some public relations fluff, softening the blow to the industry. This fluff is then provided for free to the media, and they swallow it up and spit it back at the public in an either light-hearted or panic-inducing way. The number of deaths matter. Panic is really a big part of the media backbone.

Fear creates doubt, it perpetuates a false sense of urgency, it makes us tuck our heads in our shells, it focuses our hopes on the storm blowing over. There is no plan on what to do after the storm passes. Fear prevents us from taking part in the real world, as our personal hopes for our world are constantly placed in jeopardy and require our constant surveillance. Fear prevents us from stepping beyond our self-contained world, from reaching out and giving what we have as gifts. Rather, we take and hoard our possessions, ‘the meaning of me’, and cage it up in case someone comes and takes it. Call it another symptom of consumerism, I call it paranoid narcissism.

Sorry, that’s getting bitter. What I’m getting at is that this isn’t us. This isn’t the behaviour of a superior civilization. I started off talking about saving the world and climate change. Somehow I’ve gone into the psychological effects of commercialism. How to reconcile this? To start, climate change is the resulting accumulation of each and every one of our actions, and there are seven-plus billion of us inhabiting this planet.

We are wasteful. A light left on by one is hardly considered a waste, but when one percent of seven billion do this, that’s still 70 million lights left burning. And how likely is it that only one percent has this habit? Granted, not all seven billion have electricity and that’s not a good thing either. How grateful should we be for this electric culture we’re in? Sadly, it is nothing more than background noise; a part of modern life. These engrained habits, this loss of wonder, has left us in a state of hyperstimulated burnout. It’s no wonder so many of us flock to the flatscreen. We need the distraction.

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s not your fault. The food’s been playing tricks on your brain, the drugs to treat that are adding icing to the glazed problem. And the media that we’ve been depending on is in cahoots with the industries that are poisoning us. It’s a tough prison to break free from. You may notice I didn’t speak about politics. I hoped to keep this brief.

So how do I save a world in such dire straits? For one, I stay open to chance meetings out in the real world. I went out and started a group called Community Minds. It didn’t accomplish much, but I haven’t counted it out. Everything’s a process for me.

That’s the second part: Always be open to whatever’s presented to you. Within limits, of course. I’m not talking about anything extreme, but of those moments that peak your curiousity. If your first thought is, I haven’t don’t that before, then try it. On the other end of the spectrum, when you’re worried about something that might be, ask yourself: Is there anything I can do about it right now? If yes, do something. If no, drop it for the time. Don’t waste your energy.

I suppose if I wanted to save the world, I’d would get everyone to eat better. Take back your health. Treat your body with the same reverence you do your car engine. You don’t wait for it to break down before taking it in to the garage. We get tune-ups and oil changes. Our bodies are no different. Clear out the toxins, go on a fast food fast. Drop processed foods from your menu and see if it makes a difference. I’m not saying go cold turkey, because I sure didn’t. But I don’t eat junk food like I used to and I feel great.

So turn off the computer, go outside and find someone to have a conversation with. Help mow someone’s lawn, move furniture. Be a Boy (or Girl) Scout. Eat right. Read good books. Gaze at nature’s beauty. Regain a sense of wonder and the bling will lose its appeal. Life is too short to worry about the future or fret about the past when there’s so much change going on around you. Expose your spirit through the vehicle you’re given, connect with others and build that network of change. Perhaps someday it will intersect with mine.

Zombie Fruit and Undead Veggies – March 19, 2014

food04One day I woke up to find out that … I was eating Zombie Food. It tasted like food, but that was just a chemical slight-of-hand played on my brain. It looked edible but they can reproduce any colour of the spectrum, including Nature’s hues. It even smelled good, but I used to think the smell of a fresh shower curtain was nice. The look, taste and texture were all the workings of amazing chemical formulas! So what was I eating if it wasn’t food?

For starters, the food companies take their food and wring out as much product and profit as efficiently possible. Nutrition takes a seat as the active ingredients in whole food are also the main cause of decay. The remedy is to kill off the life support that can potentially spoil their profit margin. These obstructions are the whole reason behind why I eat. The nutrients which cause rot are the nutrients we need. So why are they destroying the healthiness? The short answer is: To extend its shelf life. Convenience is a process for marketing the product, not the wellbeing of the consumer.

And yet, the food industry must appease and convince us to buy their affordable product. Welcome to the world of synthetic enrichment. All those benefits they leached from the whole food have a chemical formula. I was fortifying my health with their made-up vitamins, omega-3s and other such enhancements.

Like Frankenstein’s laboratory, the undead components of food are re-invigorated with an electric jolt of imitation fortification, giving processed food the illusion of benefits. Did I truly benefit? I can’t see how. With the whole food beaten to within a gasp of its life, dismantled, and then reassembled to act like food, I remembered something about being what I eat.

Industry standards demand, unlike Nature, that all their junk look alike. They demand consistent products from our toys to our food, and then trained us to expect it back from them. Food scientists delved into chemicals like a spice rack to accomplish this. One layer must stay in place; this colour has the best test market; taste, look, smell and texture had to be identical from one shipment to the next. Artificial colours, flavours, preservatives, emulsifiers, and an endless array of laboratory leftovers are another multibillion dollar industry layered atop the food companies. As my food lunged for longevity, the implications to my health became questionable.

I figured that there were authorities who protected my health. The United States has the Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture, while we have the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada to regulate what gets sold as food and pharmaceuticals. However, the funding for these agencies is a mere pebble compared to the food industry’s avalanche of lawyers and lobbyists. How safe is our food when the claims on the labels are lobbied and bought off by the corporations?

As they weakened the standards, my safety became but a thin veil protecting me from the tempestuous assault of Capitalist growth. A side effect being the risk this diet exposes to our health. This well-calculated economic benefit tethers the ever-growing food industry to Big Pharma. The latter has a fix to help us remain functional throughout all the self-inflicted damage we do.

If these two industries ever stopped growing, it could have disastrous implications on the global economy. Our best chance to stay healthy is to grow our own food; an act that goes against economics on par with a lack of patriotism. These industries’ greatest fear is that we stop buying their products and start getting healthy. How concerned should we be for an economy that is dependent on our illness and disease?

The benefits drained from our food cannot be equally synthesized in the laboratory. They can’t reproduce life in the fashion that Nature can. Our bodies require bionutrients, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins from whole food. The body and mind require protein, cholesterol, fiber, carbohydrates and fat to function. The only proper access to these, in a way that the body understands, is to consume organic produce and grass-fed meat.

True food equals true health, and no chemical crutch can improve this function. Our health should not be something that we pursue (and is always just beyond our reach), it is something we should embrace and nurture. In return, our health rewards us.

Kamikaze Cuisine – July 21, 2006

I remember when the more food my money would buy, the more “value” I thought I was getting. Surviving for years on instant meals and junk food, I figured that a calorie was a calorie; as long as I ate, I had enough energy to fulfill my day.  If this food was my fuel, my engine was running on filthy diesel; while my energy was sufficient, my health was not.

The media reports how we are wiping ourselves out with violent crime, intolerable cruelty, and blind rampages. Deflecting our attention like masterful illusionists, they dish out stories of physical abuse and disaster, applying a slight-of-hand that diverts our attention away from the real killers: diet and disease.

We have allowed our insides to be pierced by the corporate blade sponsoring and serving up our favourite shows. When we eat garbage, we feel like garbage; when we eat well, we live well. Yet, that last commercial has me craving a candy bar.

Industries, using their chemical mastery and mass production, have conjured up an endless market of new, novel, and untested chemicals to put in our food and disposable products. In Affluenza, John DeGraaf states, “There are over 75,500 synthetic chemicals used in consumer products, agriculture and industry; 8,000 more in both cosmetic and food additives; plus a total of 25,000 in cosmetics, where less than 4% have been tested for safety in humans[1].”

Choosing the convenience factor over nutrition sacrifices our health, typically in response to living on tighter schedules. Convenience stores shorten the wait between meals, extending the health care wait-lists as our waistlines expand. The “7-11 diet”, made mostly of sugar, salt, fat, preservatives and additives, provides cheap and quick satisfaction. The cost of convenience is paid with our health, our children, and our future.

Even some of our “healthy” food and produce contains toxins that leach into it through industrial fertilizers and environmental pollutants. Stain-repellents, plastics and Teflon particles move from our food wrappers and cooking utensils into our microwaved or fried food…all toxic and persisting in our bodies. In fact, the packaging that protects our food from spoiling has sabotaged our health; something the petrochemical industry would like to keep hush-hush, succeeding thanks to some powerful lobbying.

How much effect do these toxins have on our bodies? How are the fortified nutrients measuring up with our health? These chemicals, not properly processed, and are usually stored elsewhere in the body, typically our liver or our fat cells. Like a computer virus, these chemicals invisibly chip away at our health while providing the illusion that our bodies are holding together. A deadly cocktail brews inside.

These biological and chemical concoctions scatter through our body and create unexpected ‘synergistic’ reactions within. Our mutated diets deteriorate our wellbeing as the chemical buildup approaches our body’s maximum tolerable toxic level, or chemical body burden. Frighteningly, our children’s still-developing systems are bombarded with these unnatural chemicals, stunting their hormonal, physical and mental development. When our children are educated about nicotine and alcohol, the health authorities should also discuss the risks involved in the choices of food they eat. This nutrient deficiency makes them predisposed to developing ADHD, asthma, overactivated hormones (reaching puberty by age eight), childhood diabetes and cancer[2].

 If we don’t change our dietary habits, we are priming our children to develop neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and ALS; diabetes and cancer never leave the list.

While our health is consumed with pseudo-food, billions of dollars in medical expenses and medication attempt to balance it out. The Canadian Institute for Health Information estimates that, in current dollars, our total health care expenditure was $131.4 billion in 2004, $139.8 billion in 2005, and $148 billion in 2006[3].

Our diet burdens our health care system as disease statistics climb and our livers crash. The statistics and the dollars confirm it: We can either continue this cultural hara-kiri or move towards a healthier and more ingredient-aware society. Our health is organic, and how we behave will either support or destroy us.

Surviving on a nutrient-deficient diet shows a need to re-evaluate our time; stepping away from the instant meals is recognizing the body’s importance. Turning your back on processed and fast food benefits your health immediately. With the proper fuel, your body becomes healthier, more energetic, and creates a fitter mind.

If you are what you eat, you probably don’t want to be a ‘pentathenol’. If you reconsider the products labeled with unpronounceable ingredients and multi-syllable concoctions and, instead look for items that your grandmother cooked with, you will take a big step towards reversing the damage inflicted by the Western diet. The example that you set for you children is the example they will set for your grandchildren.

What if you turned your back to the marketing lures and supported a healthy lifestyle instead? Living in a capitalist society, your only affirmative action is to spend our money wisely. Following the law of supply-and-demand, when you demand more of the ‘expensive’ items, and as the supply meets the demand, the higher production lowers the cost and increases its availability and affordability. When demand falls for the cheaper goods, their price eventually climbs back up to their unsubsidized price. What you bring to the checkout lane is currently your only voice in this lopsided ‘democracy of economics’; in that sense, you hold more power than the corporations are comfortable with. The healthy food needn’t cost more; you just have to want it more.

Tougher government regulations and standards cannot impact your health as much as how you choose to live. Regardless of what policies are created, no law will make you live longer; that is your decision.

What option do you have instead of accepting whatever the market supplies? To regain your vitality, start respecting your inner body rather than decorating the outer. Begin with what you eat. Start by supporting products that promote health and longevity rather than those siphoning nutrition from your food and deconstructing your well-being. As a consumer in the supply-and-demand chain, the time has come to demand: “Detoxify what we eat!”

Buying local produce introduces riper and cleaner fruit and vegetables with a higher nutrient content into our diets; when the body receives the proper nutrients, it craves less food. Planting a garden rewards you with the purest and freshest food, as well as building a connection to your plants and land.

The example is anchored in the home, where healthy eating habits should be introduced. How your family lives should include your children’s input, so include them in defining your healthy lifestyle and help reinforce their choices to eat well. Food eaten together also strengthens your sense of community; a tradition lost to the drive-thru lane that originated with the TV dinner.

Gathering around the table and enjoying a meal with each other, once as common as a coffee break, has become more of an occasion than a habit. Sharing food connects you with those you share the meal with, as a symphony connects the audience to auditory unity. Anything of value must be shared, and once the joy of sharing with your neighbours and friends is experienced, it’s hard to resist doing it again. By building this appreciation of your food and community, you are setting an example benefiting your health, family and wellbeing.

 


[1] DeGraaf, John; Wann, David; Naylor, Thomas H., Affluenza (San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2005) 101

 

[2] Fitzgerald, Randall, The Hundred-Year Lie: How Food and Medicine are Destroying Your Health (New York, Dutton, 2006) 78

 

[3] Hurtig, Mel, The Truth About Canada (Toronto, Emblem, 2009) 10