I was thinking about starting a blog where I just talk about the food that we, as Americans, stuff our faces with everyday without really knowing what it is. I've seen some troubling trends popping up in the food industry (and in the corporate world in general) that lead me to believe that the companies that make food are more interested in profits than our collective health.
Hmm. OK, perhaps I didn't phrase that quite strongly enough...they could not give TWO SHITS about you or your health. They SIMPLY DO NOT CARE. Not one little bit. They know that you are taste and price driven, but that you do care about the health profile of the food you eat. You think with your buds and your wallet, but you check-check for certain things on the label. So they know they have to assuage your fears by covering off on some of the hot button issues (Low Sodium! Reduced Fat!) without really changing anything at all - particularly not the flavor. Because they are heavily invested in the chemical engineering of their food products' flavors. Ho boy.
And while it is quite yummy indeed, the bottom line is that we're buying and eating platefuls of nutrient-laced poison without really knowing it. Over time, this will contribute to, if not directly lead to obesity, diabetes, high-blood pressure, high-cholesterol and eventually an early death.
So to demonstrate this suspicion, I just went to my cupboard and grabbed the first can of food that I saw. Right there in front, next to the Amy's Tomato Soup (you're next Amy), is Rosarita No Fat Zesty Salsa Flavored Refried Beans. Wow, the name itself is mouthful enough. But let's take a look at all the yummy ingredients.
Seems innocuous enough: Cooked beans (thank god) is the first ingredient. Then we have water, red bell peppers, tomato puree, and green bell peppers. All good stuff. Then it says, "Less than 2% of: salt, distilled vinegar, jalepenos, chile pepper, dehydrated onions, spices, tomatoes, green chilies, garlic powder. Then it closes with, "May contain soy."
None of these things concern me, except perhaps for their inability to pinpoint exactly how soy is getting into their airtight little cans of beans and then keep that from happening. Let's skip over that for the moment.
It says, "Less than 2%," and then lists salt. As you may know, salt, even in very small amounts, can be quite bad for you. In the case of Rosarita's frijoles, we have about eleven pinches of salt in every can (2100mg/can, 150mg/pinch). Now, yes, while we do need salt in our diet to help us transport nutrients and transmit nerve impulses etc, we really only need 2-3 pinches worth per day (250-500mg/day). And yet, Rosarita wants to give you much more than that with ONE LITTLE SIDE-DISH WORTH of her product. If everything you ate for the day had that much sodium (which, let's face it, too much of it does), you will regularly be getting something like TEN TIMES the amount of sodium that your body requires.
Okay, so Rosarita = cardio vascular disease? Not exactly. But it could be a contributing factor.
Now let's say that Rosarita decides that too many people get wise and start looking at the sodium levels on the nutrition facts section of their lovely can of beans. This might tend to retard sales a bit. But it's an easy fix. You roll out the Low Sodium version of your product that only has 1800 miligrams of sodium per can. Oh, my, yes. That's SOOOOOOO much better for you. Yes, thank you Dr. Death. We're all breathing (and farting) a huge sigh of relief. The shopper sees the "NEW! LOW SALT!" snipe on the can and they think everything's copescetic. But it's not. It's pretty nearly just as bad for you.
My point (and the point of The Center For Science In The Public Interest) is that all of the packaged goods companies are doing this in some way or other. They don't think about whether they're really asking you to eat your entire daily allotment of sodium and more in one side-dish at lunch. It doesn't even register. They just know it needs to taste good, needs to be priced right, and needs to be at eye-level in all the stores. That's the extent of their thought process. And we, as consumers, are not thinking much more about it than they are. And the combination of these two things is killing us sooner than old age.
Okay, I'll shut up now.