The Food on Your Plate

gbh007/iStock/Thinkstock

The Food on Your Plate

Ninety percent of American food is processed. Do you really know what’s in your next meal?
From the June 2001 Trumpet Print Edition

More has been done in the past 40 years to change people’s eating habits and the way food is produced than in thousands of years of recorded history!

Is the average American conscious of what goes on behind closed doors in the modern food industry?

Many will find the facts staggering!

Ninety percent of all food now consumed in the U.S. is processed. That means much of the natural flavor is lost and has to be reinvented.

The marketability of a food product depends on its taste. Thus, top-secret industrial complexes are scattered across the country, with refineries and chemical plants dedicated to re-creating or inventing new flavors—to assure a standardized taste for all their products. It is a multi-billion dollar industry. The consumer is steadily being separated from “real flavors.”

Eric Schlosser pinpoints the profit-and-power motive driving the food processing industry in his book Fast Food Nation: “The centralized purchasing decisions of the large restaurant chains and their demand for standardized products have given a handful of corporations an unprecedented degree of power over the nation’s food supply” (p. 5; emphasis mine).

One quarter of the adult population in America buys food in a fast food restaurant every day, seemingly without giving it so much as a thought!

We need to wake up to the reality of what processed food is all about!

Fast food is at present fully entrenched in American culture, to the extent that it forms one of America’s major exports. Fast food fits neatly into the average American family’s lifestyle—especially for Mom, who hardly cooks anymore.

Mr. and Mrs. America leave their fridge full of a week’s supply of ready-prepared, pre-cooked snacks and meals to heat up in the microwave. If they arrive home early enough from work, they may order a quick pizza to share in front of the television with the kids, or stock up at the drive-through of a local hamburger joint.

In the land of plenty and easily disposable, if perchance there is time for the family to spend together on Sunday and the sun is shining, they may go out for a buffet-style meal at a restaurant and get their fill of a broad selection of food. The restaurant chain’s sales pitch is, “Eat as much as you like!”—for an accessible price.

Mr. and Mrs. America and their two children, Amanda and Adam, find themselves in just such a buffet-style restaurant. As they take their place in the line, this is what they choose:

French Fries for All!

As french fries are so cheap to produce, there’s a fortune to be made out of them if you get the taste right. McDonald’s, the biggest retail company in the world, has its artificial flavoring down to a fine art; it now makes more money from its fries than from its burgers!

The oil in the fries, and the secret artificial flavor added to them—a hint of beefy flavor conjured up in a test tube—awaits the family’s taste buds. Cost is the decisive factor. The cheapest oil mix on the market, regardless of its health effects, is generally what gets used. In addition, repeated use of the same oil for frying can be seriously detrimental to the customer’s health.

One step backwards in the process and we find the soybeans, the cottonseed and the potatoes themselves have been genetically modified—engineered so as to produce their own insecticide and to tolerate exposure to potent weed-killers. The ground they were planted in has now been rendered useless for many other types of crop. Half of the soybeans and potatoes in the U.S. have been so modified.

What is the latest news in the world of potatoes? Last December a British company developed potatoes whose leaves have been implanted by a fluorescent gene from a jellyfish. The jellyfish gene, triggered by a protein that forms, glows when the plant is thirsty (Daily Mail, London, Dec. 18, 2000). Sound like science fiction? No, not in the 21st century.

Clearly, worldwide there is growing opposition towards genetically engineered plants, because of the unknown health and environmental risks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (fda) is under pressure from health-watch groups for refusing to label genetically engineered products.

Drinks: Soda-Pop for All

Top soda-pop companies guard the secret way they mix chemicals with water, more than gold. Last year, a major shareholder protest resolution asking Coca Cola to stop using genetically engineered products failed to pass. Coke buys genetically engineered corn syrup by the tanker-full! Similar resolutions were filed with McDonald’s, General Mills, PepsiCo, Quaker Oats, Sara Lee and Procter and Gamble.

Mom: Chicken Nuggets

Anyone in Grannie’s day knew that giving someone sick meat meant endangering their health—perhaps their life! It seems the creators of modern processed food, as they drive the gravy train, have forgotten this simple fact.

The restaurant the America family is visiting is part of a multi-national chain which buys thousands of tons of broiler chickens every week. Broiler chickens are reared especially for their meat. They are housed in over-crowded sheds with up to 20 birds per square meter.

In the interest of profit, selective breeding, combined with 23-hour artificial lighting (which encourages constant eating) results in the species reaching its slaughter weight in only 38-40 days.

Nevertheless, the bird’s skeleton grows at a more natural rate. Consequently, the birds may not be able to support their body weight, causing tens of millions to suffer from painful leg disorders and lameness every year. By the time they reach slaughter weight they may have difficulty walking or reaching food and water. Millions die prematurely due to heart or lung failure or other causes.

The litter the birds stand on is usually not cleaned throughout the birds’ lives. As it becomes increasingly contaminated with poultry manure, corrosive ammonia is often produced; and because they have to spend so much of their time squatting on the ground, blisters often appear on their breasts. Ulcerated feet and burns on their lower legs are also common.

The health implications for consumers are irrefutable. Compassion in World Farming (cifw), a leading animal protection group, stated, “In 1996 a report by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food reported that one in three fresh chickens on sale are infected with salmonella and 44 percent with campylobacter (although some supermarkets now say that they have reduced this contamination rate)” (www.ciwf.co.uk).

Here is the other side of the sword: Antibiotics are often routinely fed to broilers as growth promoters and as a preventative medicine against the infections resulting from overcrowding. The antibiotics help to kill the bacteria that live in the gut of the broiler, but there is a growing concern that resistance to antibiotics is building in bacteria that infect both the broilers and the humans that consume them.

More than 19 million pounds of antibiotics are fed to cattle, pigs and chickens each year as they amble toward the dinner table.

Amanda: “Just an Omelet”

The milk in her omelet, like most on the U.S. market, contains a whitener to make it look more appealing. In this case, titanium dioxide was used—the same chemical component used to whiten paint; but as the fda does not require companies to disclose the ingredients of their color or flavor additives as long as all the chemicals in them are considered by the agency to be gras (“generally recognized as safe”), food processing companies maintain the secrecy of their formulas.

Frank Spivey, a retired research scientist who worked as a technician in both the pesticide and paint industries, and as a designer of flavors in the food industry, says that some of the chemicals used in the pesticide, paint and food industries are the same—it is just that the proportions and amounts used are different!

It is rare that anything is wasted in food-processing. Milk on the supermarket shelves that passes its expiration date is often sent back to the factory where it is turned into cottage cheese, yogurt or sour cream.

The cows that produced the milk in Amanda’s omelet, like so many now in the U.S., receive a fortnightly injection of a genetically engineered growth hormone called bovine somatropin (bst) which boosts milk production by 25 percent. Milk produced by cows injected by bst shows boosted levels of the growth hormone igf-1 (insulin-like growth factor one). This hormone is also a suspected carcinogen. In addition, some research claims the hormone has been blamed for wiping out almost 20 percent of some herds. The cows’ immune systems become impaired, increasing their vulnerability to severe bladder and udder infections. Bst also weakens the poor beasts’ skeletons by draining calcium from their bones, resulting in the many cows that survive being unable to stand because their bones are too weak.

Then there are the eggs in Amanda’s omelet, which were battery-produced, processed and turned into egg powder. The hens that lay the eggs are imprisoned for life in cages where each bird’s living space is less than the size of this page. Such extreme confinement denies a hen most of its natural behavior, such as walking, stretching its wings, pecking, scratching or dust bathing. The hen is forced to stand on a sloping wire floor which causes considerable discomfort and often leads to foot injuries, feather loss and skin damage due to constant rubbing against other birds and the wires of its cage.

Thanks to selective breeding, hens now lay around 300 eggs per year, rather than the normal 12 that their wild ancestor would lay. As eggshells are made of calcium, this abnormally high number of eggs severely depletes the bird’s calcium levels, which, combined with the inability to exercise, can lead to osteoporosis and the hen’s bones snapping under her.

Ciwf has found hens in cages with their wings, legs or heads trapped in the door, and dead birds left rotting in cages for days. Hardly ideal conditions for the production of healthful eggs.

Parents, Amanda: Veggies

A British report by nutritionist David Thomas and backed by leading scientists has demonstrated that, thanks to modern farming methods, vegetables are not as good for us as they were 50 years ago.

“There is up to 75 percent less calcium and 93 percent less copper in fruit and vegetables, the study says. Runner beans which used to contain a significant amount of sodium vital for the working of the nerves and muscles now have almost no traces of it at all” (Daily Mail, March 5). According to Mr. Thomas’s report, “The levels of other important minerals such as iron, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium have also plummeted.”

By comparing figures over a 50-year period, his recent report was able to plot trends that clearly demonstrate how vegetables are being consistently sapped of the nutrients so important to human physiology.

At a time when experts are telling us to cut down on fat and eat more fruit and vegetables, surreptitiously the nutritional content of what we are eating is being depleted for simple gain!

Research has shown that spinach, famous as a good source of iron, was found to have 60 percent less iron than it did 50 years ago; broccoli has 75 percent less calcium, which is essential for building healthy bones and teeth; carrots have 75 percent less magnesium, which protects against heart attacks, asthma and kidney stones.

Nutritionists are also concerned about fertilizers, which encourage plant growth at the expense of the minerals important for good health. Excessive use of fertilizers also leads to residues of nitrates in produce and contamination of water supplies.

In addition, pesticides are now found deep within fruit and vegetables, not just on the skin. They can impair the human immune system and lower resistance to cancer.

Adam: A Regular Beef Burger

The tried and tested choice! Adam adds a thin slice of laboratory-designed, easy-to-melt, plasticky cheese and some company-designed sauce to the fluffy, bleached-white bun. Ingredients of the bread: “Enriched wheat flour (flour, barley malt, ferrous sulfate, niacin, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, high fructose corn syrup, yeast, wheat gluten, soybean oil, salt, soy flour, monocalcium phosphate, ammonium sulfate, calcium carbonate, mono and diglycerides, ethoxylated mono and diglycerides, calcium sulphate, datem, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl, lactylate, calcium dioxide, calcium iodate, diammonium phosphate), dicalcium phosphate, vinegar, enzymes, calcium propionate and sorbic acid (to retain freshness).” The list is almost as long as Adam’s arm!

The beef in beef burgers is often stored in gigantic aluminum vats which store meat from the far-flung corners of the world, and from which the contents are ground and mixed with a predetermined proportion of fat. A single fast food hamburger now contains meat from dozens or even hundreds of different cattle.

Obviously, this practice helps spread infections and harmful bacteria, especially, of late, the potentially deadly E. coli virus. “A modern processing plant can produce 800,000 pounds of hamburger a day; meat that will be shipped throughout the United States. A single animal infected with E. coli 0157:H7 can contaminate 32,000 pounds of that ground beef” (Schlosser, op. cit., p. 204).

Although according to official sources an effective sanitary control system would only cost about one percent of present cost, there seems to be a general lack of will to employ even precautionary measures.

“Instead of focusing on the primary causes of meat contamination—the feed being given to cattle, the overcrowding of feedlots, the poor sanitation at slaughterhouses, excessive line speeds, poorly trained workers, the lack of stringent government oversight—the meatpacking industry and the usda [United States Department of Agriculture] are now advocating an exotic technological solution to the problem…. They want to irradiate the nation’s meat. Irradiation is a form of bacterial birth control, pioneered in the 1960s by the U.S. Army and by nasa. When microorganisms are zapped with low levels of gamma rays or x-rays, they are not killed, but their dna is disrupted, and they cannot reproduce. Irradiation has been used for years on some imported spices and domestic poultry” (ibid., p. 217).

Although the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization would have one believe that irradiated foods are safe to eat, most consumers are still reluctant to eat things that have been exposed to radiation. So, rather than treating the problem at its roots, the meatpacking industry is working hard to get rid of the unpopular word “irradiation” to replace it with the innocuous phrase “cold pasteurization.”

With the relaxing of health control standards in the 1990s, more meat splattered with hair, feces or pus is getting through. Some, like Steven Bjerklie, former editor of Meat and Poultry, believe that the widespread use of irradiation might encourage meat packers to speed up the kill floor and spray dung everywhere. Mr. Bjerklie thinks that reducing pressure on the meatpacking industry to make basic and essential changes in their production methods will permit their unsanitary methods to continue. “I don’t want to be served irradiated feces along with my meat,” he says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc) points to the seriousness of the problem. According to their statistics, if we use gastrointestinal illness as a common gauge of food poisoning, as we entered the 21st century food poisoning was 34 percent above what it was in 1948! The cdc says that every year, 5,000 deaths, 325,000 hospitalizations and 76 million illnesses are caused by food poisoning.

Dad: Traditional Steak

Chemically tenderized so that his knife will cut through it more easily, Mr. America’s steak was grown on a cattle ranch in the far north of Montana.

After visiting such a farm, Ian Cobain, New York correspondent for London’s Daily Mail, in a June 12, 1999, article titled “The Inside Scoop on American Feedlot Beef,” described his experiences. In his opinion, what British farmers did to cause bse (mad cow disease) pales beside the horrors of American farmers’ pursuit of profit.

“On this particular ranch,” he wrote, “thousands of cattle had been corralled into a series of steel pens, called feedlots, around 200 to each. There was no shade, no shelter and no grass on the ground, only dust. On each side of each feedlot was a trough containing herbicide-soaked grain.

“All of the cattle were enormous—the result of the grain diet and a series of steroid hormone implants inserted under the skin behind their ears….

“Because the cattle were carrying so much weight, and because their digestive systems are designed for grass not grain, some of the cattle’s internal organs had fallen out. And because it would be too expensive to call a vet out to treat these problems, a couple of sweating, panting farm hands in cowboy hats were going from cow to cow prising their organs back inside and stitching up the cows.”

Around 90 percent of the 29 billion pounds of beef consumed by Americans each year comes from cattle that have been fattened by hormone implants! American farmers have been merrily feeding an array of pharmaceuticals to their cattle since the 1950s. Today they routinely use six types. Three are “natural” sex hormones: testosterone, progesterone and oestradiol-17 beta; three are synthetic sex hormones. Like the steroids used by a bodybuilder, these substances increase both muscle and fat growth, making each cow heavier and increasing its weight by around 50 pounds. They also make the animals grow faster, so the farmer can take them to market far more quickly.

When the EU’s Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures published the results of its study on the use of hormones, it concluded that at least one, called oestradiol, is a “complete carcinogen,” because it can trigger tumors and promote their growth. The committee also called for further studies on the other five hormones.

Samuel Epstein, professor of environmental and occupational medicine at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago, warned that confidential 1998 farming industry reports to the fda revealed high residues of hormones in American beef.

“According to some estimates, an 8-year-old boy who ate two hamburgers made from this meat would, following the meal, have increased his levels of the female sex hormone by 10 percent. According to Dr. Epstein, lifelong exposure to high residues of natural and synthetic sex hormones in meat poses serious risk of breast and reproductive cancers, which have increased sharply in the U.S. since 1950” (ibid.).

The EU was particularly concerned by reports about cases of boys growing breasts and girls developing them early after eating contaminated food.

To reinforce its decision to ban U.S. beef, the EU published the results of tests on the small amount of supposedly hormone-free U.S. beef which was allowed in. When it discovered traces of hormones in 12 percent—including one substance which is illegal in the U.S.—it announced a ban on all American beef.

“There are around 42,000 feedlots in the major cattle-growing states, and around half the country’s 100 million cattle are confined within them. Some farmers using feedlots have begun research trials adding cardboard, newspaper and sawdust to the feeding programs to reduce costs. Other factory farms add manure from the chicken houses and pigpens, making the United States the only Western nation where it is legal to feed raw manure to cattle.

“Farmers are even reported to have experimented with cement dust, which is said to have produced a 30 percent faster weight gain” (ibid.).

Parents: Dessert—Strawberries

They look so big and red. Little does the family know that they are genetically engineered strawberries impregnated with fish genes to harden the crop against cold, frosty weather.

Children: Strawberry-Flavor Mousse

These are the ingredients of the artificial flavoring: amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone (10 percent solution in alcohol), a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, g-undecalactone, vanillin and solvent. Sounds tasty!

Scratching the Surface

Feeling they had eaten better than normal, the America family went home content. They enjoyed the tastes and textures, and ended up feeling full.

Artful creators of illusion in the artificial food industry and marketing moguls slap each other on the back with glee for achieving this type of reaction in the public.

This article just scratches the surface. Much more information about the murky goings-on and practices of those making the furtive changes—in many cases under the blind eye of the U.S. government—is out there for the reader to discover.

If permitted, greed will take these food industry powers further. Some are considering the use of by-products and offal meats, which up to this time have only been used to make pet food, as ingredients in processed food products—with their own invented, market-studied flavors prettied up, packaged and marketed for human consumption! (Antioxidative Processing for Animal By-Products, Dr. Youling Xiong).

Just how far will they go, if the government doesn’t implement stricter controls?

Alarming reports are beginning to surface. According to the Washington d.c. Environmental Working Group, every day, nine out of ten American children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years are exposed to combinations of 13 different neurotoxic insecticides in the food they eat. “While the amounts consumed rarely cause acute illness, these ‘organophosphate’ insecticides (OPs) have the potential to cause long-term damage to the brain and the nervous system, which are rapidly growing and extremely vulnerable to injury during fetal development, infancy and early childhood” (www.ewg.org).

A March 23 International Herald Tribune article announced that “Most Americans carry detectable amounts of plastics, pesticides and heavy metals in their blood and urine, a government survey has shown for the first time. The substances include many that cause brain damage, reproductive problems, cancer and other toxic effects in animals.”

The impact of fast food and food processing industries on modern North Americans is hard to overstate. It’s all about power and making more money. That’s the bottom line! Governments have been wholehearted in supporting “advances” in this industry. Their modus operandi seems to be to generally allow a product’s viability to be tested on the market until it is conclusively proved to be detrimental to people’s health! In doing so they are playing with lives—and not those of a far-off enemy nation, but of their very own people.

Broken Law

Is what is happening on American farms, coupled with an ever-present, ever-bolder, national food processing industry, a time bomb waiting to explode? How far can America continue in breaking God’s health laws and not expect to pay some terrible consequences?

What has happened in Britain with mad cow and foot-and-mouth diseases is horrendous. It has practically destroyed the British meat industry—once a world leader. Many are calling it a plague—saying that Britain is cursed!

So far the U.S. has escaped that plague. Until recently, America, having much more space for its cattle, never felt as inclined to dabble with modern intensive farming methods as the small, sea-encircled United Kingdom and Western European nations did. But now the United States has moved out leagues ahead in fiddling with the rules of nature established by the great Creator God!

Ironically enough, of the tribes of Israel, God promised to bless Ephraim (Great Britain) and Manasseh (U.S.), because of the obedience of Abraham, more than any nations on the face of the Earth! Now Britain and the U.S. are turning those immense blessings into curses, fast.

If we disobey God and follow our own ways—the way of get—here is a clear prophecy: “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store. Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine [cattle], and the flocks of thy sheep” (Deut. 28:15-18).

Herbert W. Armstrong accused mankind of wanting to play God, rather than to prove Him and really submit to Him. In his booklet Does God Exist, he mentions how man can’t even create the food he needs to survive—not even a single grain of wheat!

Now, not content with the immense blessings God has poured on the U.S. and Britain, their peoples greedily want even more. Trying to re-create food for their own further gain, they are in the process of creating a nightmare!

The United Kingdom has already been cursed in the field. Watch out for the time bomb of America’s own making—of similar, and perhaps worse, plagues and curses—to be unleashed in the land of the star-spangled banner soon!