What’s For Dinner? The Food Companies Don’t Want You To Know:

Don’t eat anything your great-great grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food”. This is the advice offered by Michael Pollan, an American journalist, activist and author who has critically analysed the connection between the industrial food chains and what we put on our plates at meal-times. Among his many books are “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. In the opinion of Sarah Boseley, the Guardian’s health correspondent, it’s not even necessary to go back four generations. As she pointed out in the newspaper on 12th April, half the food we take home “is made in factories from a long list of ingredients and additives, most of which never found a place in any grand-parents’ kitchen cupboard”.

We have, Boseley observed, become “ a nation of ultra-processed food eaters”, a fact she had already highlighted in a previous article in February when she cited the results of a survey conducted by the Public Health Nutrition journal. This showed that families in Britain eat more ready meals, biscuits and snacks than any of the other 19 European countries investigated, amounting to 50.7% of the diet. Germany is second on 46.2% and Ireland on 45.9%. According to data the Guardian has obtained from the market research organisation Euromonitor, the brands that profit most from this trend are Premier Foods (Mr Kipling cakes, Batchelors super noodles and soups), McVities (sweet biscuits) & Walkers (crisps) – both of which are “designed to make us want more” – Kellogg’s (breakfast cereals), Cadbury’s (chocolate), Wrigley’s (chewing-gum) and Haribo (sweets).

As Carlos Monteiro, a Professor with the Department of Nutrition at the University of Sao Paolo, Brazil, told Boselely, all of these are invariably made from cheap ingredients and produced on a huge scale: For instance, “Some instant noodles are not real noodles and it’s the same with chicken nuggets – you’re not getting real chicken”. Boselely also referred to the belief of Professor Corinna Hawkes, Director of the Centre for Food Policy, City, University of London, that “We need a change in our eating culture and children need to learn to like the taste of real foods. The solution is to make vegetables, fruits and whole grains more available, affordable, acceptable and appealing to all people and the excessive consumption of energy, saturated fats, sugar and salt more expensive and less available”.

The big food companies have responded to these criticisms by insisting that their commodities “can be consumed as part of a healthy, balanced diet” and that they are implementing changes which will enable customers to make healthier choices”. They also protect both their brand reputations and their profits (as the Sunday Times journalist, Kate Mansey, has reported), by funding scientific research, carried out mainly by university academics, in order to obtain favourable reviews of their products. The fact that, as Mansey has noted, “the food industry is bankrolling the building of laboratories and handing grants to universities across Britain”, has raised concerns about its influence on scientific integrity.

Among the examples provided by Mansey is research subsidised by Nestle which has claimed that “ a daily bar of chocolate could reduce stress for women”, studies part-funded by the French food giant, Danone, suggesting its yoghurt could reduce the risk of heart disease and increase brain function and an investigation financed by the Austrian company Red Bull which concluded that its energy drink “significantly improves driving performance” – a contention later challenged by the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Kate Bratskeir, a contributor to the “Mic Network” has objected indignantly to the sponsorship arrangements the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) allows for companies such as PepsiCo, Nestle, Coca-Cola and McDonalds. She considers these amount to serious conflicts of interest: “The food brands get what they want (their products sold), scientists get what they’re after (funding to perform research) and the public is left with misinformation” – such as that Ocean Spray cranberry juice reduces urinary tract infection (UTI) symptoms, M&M, Snickers, Twix & Dove chocolates (all manufactured by Mars) are “miracle foods” and that Danone Activia yoghurt helps prevent colds and flu and is good for your intestine.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of “Authority Nutrition”, Kris Gunnars, declared in his column for Healthline.com on February 20th that “There’s no decency in the way junk food companies do their marketing. All they care about is profit.” Included in the list of his alleged “eleven biggest lies” are that most products with labels saying “low fat”,”reduced fat” or “fat free” are not healthy at all as they invariably contain extra sugar and other additives. Also, that most processed food products containing whole grains aren’t really “whole”, so-called “gluten-free” products are often loaded with unhealthy ingredients, and many food manufacturers use the word “organic” to mislead consumers: “Just because something is organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy”. Furthermore, the flavour in many processed foods may sound natural, but isn’t: “Orange-flavoured Vitamin Water tastes like oranges but there are no actual oranges in there: The sweet taste is derived from sugar and the orange flavour from artificial chemicals”.

Bon Apetit!

Filed under: Healthcare | Posted on October 2nd, 2018 by Colin D Gordon

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