Manipulation of Children, and Exploitation of the Poor.

Behind the Big Food Curtain: How Big Food Uses Science, Manipulation of Children, and Exploitation of the Poor to Maximize Profit With No Regard for Public Health Cormac Nolan January 2, 2021 3:17 am To show the contrast between what Big Food forces us into and the health we can achieve 95,000,000,000,000. Ninety-five trillion is an incomprehensible number. Yet, this is the estimated cost of chronic disease on our economy over the next thirty-five years (Hyman, 11). What’s more, eleven million people die from a bad diet every year and sixty percent of our diets come from processed foods (Hyman, 12). Strikingly, for every ten percent increase in processed food consumption your risk of mortality rises fourteen percent (Schnabel, et al.). These dire statistics also affect children as one in four teenagers now suffer from diabetes or pre-diabetes (Schmidt, 7:54) while the younger generation’s future is in danger due to the inability to learn on a diet of processed food served in schools (Hyman, 5). All the while, those on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have no choice but to buy the cheap, processed foods that cause further income and health inequality. All of these issues are united under a common thread: the combination of science and Big Food that targets children and forces families into a dreadful cycle of disease, poverty, and inequality. However, all hope is not lost. While many scholars illuminate the negative effects of Big Food on society providing several possible fixes to the problem, the most effective way to halt the damages of Big Food is a multifaceted approach centered around school lunches, advertising to children, government subsidies, and SNAP reform. How Big Food Uses Food Science Against Us In her TED talk, “Why We Can’t Stop Eating Unhealthy Foods”, Dr. Laura Schmidt paints a bleak picture of our modern food system where companies compete to get us hooked on their foods with no regard for the susceptibility of children or the detrimental effects on our health. To open, Schmidt remarks that companies compete to create the most addictive products, and she laments that food corporations are no exception, as they “hire scientists to create the most irresistible, habit-forming foods” (2:27). Moreover, Schmidt highlights the sad reality that the same MRI machines used to help fight addiction are also used by food scientists and Big Food companies to engineer their products to be ever more addictive (2:48). This creates an uphill battle for the consumer, as the same science and technology that is used to make society healthier and live longer are the same science and technology used to make society addicted, unhealthy, and die prematurely. It raises the question, do consumers really have the freedom of choice? While Schmidt highlights the modern use of food science to create addictive foods, Nadia Berenstein demonstrates in her paper “Designing Foods for Mass Consumption” the origins and impetus for flavor enhancement. Not surprisingly, Berenstein illuminates the original impetus for food science in flavor enhancement came in the post-World War II era as food manufacturers “battled each other in a marketplace constrained by the limits of human appetite” (19). Due to this competition, Berenstein notes that chemists at Arthur D. Little, Inc. (ADL) developed a “flavor profile” which began the application of science to food flavor (20). In theory, competition creating better tasting foods should be good for the consumer; however, no attention was paid to the harmful effects of these additives as Berenstein remarks, “flavor sensation could be choreographed to encourage continued consumption, the ultimate proof of good flavor” (32). “Continued consumption” was the hallmark of a successful product demonstrating that success had everything to do with profit and nothing to do with consumer benefit. The goal was not to make better products for the consumer; the goal was to make products that people were more likely to consume. To illustrate the effects of the “flavor profile” Berenstein analyzes the case of monosodium glutamate (MSG) as a food additive. This additive mimics the umami flavor, and Berenstein notes that it was touted for its “quality, shelf-life, and appeal of many different kinds of foods-attracting repeat buyers and increasing profit” (34). Quickly, it became one of the most widespread additives for processed food, and it was even promoted as healthy. However, this bespeaks the dangers of the “innocent until proven guilty” model of the FDA that allows for these harmful additives to be added to our foods. MSG has been strongly linked to food addiction, obesity, nervous system disruption, and reproductive harm (Niaz et al.). This case is one of many that elucidates the early movements of Big Food’s focus on flavor and profit over public health which have paved the way for their insertion into the government, targeting of children, and capitalizing on those who have no other options. While many praise capitalism for its creation of competition which results in the best and cheapest product for the consumer, they fail to realize the lengths that companies will go to hook consumers on their product. Schmidt illuminates that Big Food turns harmless substances into lethal ones; for example, "heroine comes from poppy seeds, cocaine from the coco plant [not to be confused with cacao], and alcohol from fruits and grains" (3:29). What’s more, coco leaves have been eaten by farmers in the Andes for centuries as it helps them work longer hours and deal with the altitude. The worst effect of lifelong consumption of coco leaves is bad teeth. However, Schmidt highlights that “when we learned how to refine the coco plant down into its most concentrated form, a little rock of white powder. That's when the humble coco leaf becomes the lethally addictive drug we know as crack" (4:19). While everyone understands the dangers of crack today, it was not until 1903 that Coca Cola removed crack from its recipe. Even still, they simply replaced it with another harmful little white rock: sugar. And while many would not place sugar and crack on the same level it’s important to recognize their striking similarity when it comes to addiction. In one study, researchers found that 94% of rats chose a sweetened calorie-free drink over intravenous cocaine (Lenoir et al.). Not surprisingly, sugar is one of the most widely used food additives and as Schmidt emphasizes, it is no wonder how Big Food is able to hook so many consumers. Sugar's Addictiveness and Widespread Use


Popular posts from this blog