Top Ten ways Corporate Food is Making us Fat and threatening our Food Supplies

While it is much better than the fascisms of the Right and the Left, one of the big drawbacks of corporate democracy is that the people are often outgunned. Large corporations account for half of the national economy and pay more for lobbyists to write and pass laws in Congress favorable to themselves than they do in Federal taxes. The way in which the Congressional committees that are supposed to watch certain industries actually become beholden to them is called ‘legislative capture.’

For this reason, I don’t entirely trust the US government any more to look out for our health. We are increasingly exposed to thousands of chemicals that haven’t really been tested (plastics are full of them). We’re not even given the courtesy of knowing which foods are genetically modified so we can make a market choice for the natural ones.

Here are the top ten disturbing news stories about our food that have come across my screen in recent days, and which inspire a certain amount of alarm in me.

1. Sugary, i.e. non-diet soft drinks make you fat, especially if you are genetically at greater risk of being fat. According to a study about to appear in the New England Journal of Medicine, teens who had genes that disposed them to put on weight easily were twice as likely to be obese if they drank a lot of soda pop. Pre-modern human beings who lived in conditions of food scarcity probably tried to bulk up when they saw a drought becoming prolonged, and there would have been a survival advantage to being able to put on weight quickly when you were trying. So likely those teens’ bodies thought all the sugar they were being fed was a sign of famine coming, and obliged by storing a lot of fat to get through it. For a certain percentage of the population, extra calories are actually subject to a multiplier effect inside their own bodies. (It can even happen to Lady Gaga.)

Soft drinks have like 160- 180 calories per can and nobody can afford all that in their diet even once daily.

In other words, not only is Mayor Bloomberg’s policy of banning supersized soft drinks in New York justified, actually people should just never drink sugary soft drinks.

2. Here’s the kicker. It isn’t just the sugar that puts some people at risk of obesity. It is bisphenol A or BPA, a chemical used to coat the aluminum cans in which soft drinks come (as well as soup and other cans) so as to prevent them from rusting. A recent study in JAMA found that the one fourth of the thousands of children and adolescents in their study that had the most BPA in their urine were twice as likely to be obese as those in the one fourth that had the least BPA. So I guess if they were drinking sugary sodas out of cans, they were really doomed to be obese. BPA has been implicated in other studies in “diabetes, cardiovascular disease, reproductive disorders, and obesity in adults.”

Think you can get away from BPA by avoiding cans and going to plastic bottles instead? Think again. It is widely used in the making of clear plastics, and there is evidence that it seeps into us from them.

Glass is better.

When exactly will the US government have enough evidence to ban BPA? When we’re all 400 pounds?

3. The Consumer Union has found concerning levels of arsenic in American-grown rice. Apparently much rice in the US is grown in the Southwest and West on land that used to be used for cotton, on which arsenic-laden pesticides were used for decades. Arsenic can cause cancer. Me, I never like to hear the phrases “arsenic” and “in your food” in the same sentence.

4. Over-use of antibiotics may be making us fat. There is now scientific evidence that the antibiotics activate bacteria that are good at turning carbohydrates into fat. That is, the Atkins and Manhattan diets may work mainly because a lot of people’s gut microbe population had already been messed with by the antibiotics. People are always trying to get antibiotics for their children with viruses, which can’t anyway be treated that way. Ironically, they may not only be giving them medicine inappropriate to their malady but may be priming them for diabetes and heart disease later in life.

5. Speaking of antibiotics, 150 scientists and physicians are calling for the end of non-medical antibiotics being routinely administered to livestock All that is happening is that we are evolving bacteria to be resistant to antibiotics, and are already killing 100,000 Americans a year that way (more than die of AIDS). This baneful practice, they warn, has to stop.

6. Genetically modified corn, treated with the pesticide Roundup, were found by a French team of scientists to cause more frequent and more rapidly growing tumors in rats than ordinary corn. The study has been criticized and it is based on a small N. But, I’ll tell you what. Let us decide. Could we please have the genetically modified vegetables marked as such, Congress? I know we ordinary folk don’t pay you the way the corporations pay you, but you are supposed to be representing us lab rats too.

7. The global collapse of bee colonies, a severe threat to the world food supply, according to three new studies, is likely being in some part caused by a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. France and Germany have already banned them. But Corporatocracy America has not. Are there other factors involved in the great bee die-off? Sure, but why not remove a major factor when we can? Oh, and by the way, see 4 above, because another cause may be genetically modified plants that have absorbed pesticides into their genetic structure.

8. It is not just what corporations put in our food. It is also how they produce it that endangers us. Industrialized, often state-subsidized fishing is rapidly depleting world fish stocks. I’ve heard David Suzuki worry that half of all marine species could be extinct in 50 years at this rate, between overfishing and ocean acidification (caused by all the extra carbon we are pumping into the air at the Koch brothers’ behest).

9. Blooms and dead zones in coastal waters from the run-off from corporate farming of massive amounts of nitrogen fertilizer are threatening the health of our seas.

10. 40% of US corn production goes to making ethanol, and at a time of drought and high food prices, this policy is indefensible. The US has to relax the laws mandating ethanol. Although ethanol claims to be carbon-neutral because the corn takes carbon dioxide out of the air when it is growing, processing it into ethanol releases a lot of greenhouse gases. Moreover the policy of burning it in cars is apparently on the verge of causing malnutrition.

23 Responses

  1. You can’t really find any food that is free of toxins. Just choose your poison and stop worrying. Just imagine how hard it would be to eat healthy if you were on a tight budget, had bad teeth, and were too tired to cook.

    • My diet costs now 4,8 euros per day. That’s calculated from average monthly grocery expenses since December 2011. The diet is mostly vegan/vegetarian: soy, lentils, rise, potatoes, whole grain pasta, various seeds and nuts, whole grain (rye) bread, vegetables, fruits, cheese etc (spices and such) + fish, eggs and sweets now and then. This is what I can get from the local general corner grocery shop in Helsinki. I’ve carefully analyzed and calculated that I get everything I need, so basically this is as healthy as I can currently make it. Cooking of the day takes on average 30-45 minutes total. I realize that if you have a family the situation would be different.

      One gets to do interesting choices – do I want to spend 5 euros on “fast food” or buy 5 euros worth peanuts for example and have more energy (many days worth actually)/money in less time. Anything in excess is poison however, and diversity is good…

  2. How many legislators in the USA will take up this issue?

    The same trends of exploitation of the environment extends everywhere.

    Exploit the economy.

    Exploit the people.

    Change must come from the people since the political factions serve the corporations and banks.

    Proposition 37 in California this election in November – the first paragraph of the article.

    “Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, Pepsi and Coke are scared. They’re afraid that California’s proposition 37 to make labeling of genetically engineered foods mandatory will end their unchecked, unquestioned power to hide GE ingredients in the majority processed foods without their customers’ knowledge. Which is why they’ve poured millions into an anti-Prop 37 propaganda campaign they’re calling “Stop the Deceptive Food Labeling Scheme.” But who’s deceiving who?”

    Title of the article is:

    Who’s Deceiving Whom? Push to Label GMO Foods Frightens Big Ag Interests

    Link to article
    link to commondreams.org

  3. Prince Edward Island potato farmers use lots of chemicals on their fields. Reports of river fish kills are a regular feature of the news on PEI.

    link to cbc.ca

  4. As aluminum doesn’t rust, I don’t see why BPA would be used on the inside of soda cans to keep them from rusting!

  5. My own beef is with those Nutrition Facts boxes, whose integrity is clearly being eroded by the lawyers/lobbyists of food mfgs. The most obvious is when they lie (fudge?) on what constitutes a serving. What is certain is that some of our best and brightest law school grades are now engaging in getting rid of those boxes, which infringe on your “freedom of choice.”

    How the program ever got implemented is beyond me, but whatever its administrative costs this is one of the best things that (I suppose) the FDA has done in terms of something tangible consumers can see and use effectively.

    • If the K Streeters don’t succeed in just having their pet rats in Congress just change the law so what these folks are doing is “not illegal,” you can bet that a poopload of money will be spent on doing what the tobacco people have done to vitiate the effects of those box labels on packages of cancer sticks. It’s proven so easy to get humans to walk right around big old tumors right in the middle of the sidewalk, thanks to the addictions they have picked up because of advertising and movies and all the rest that convince them that “smoking is very glamorous.” link to encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com

  6. The Monsanto creature is pretty much pure evil,
    and has been since before my generation, working in Carter’s Environmental Protection Agency until the Reaganauts came in and told us that “industry is our new customer, and we are supposed to be all about ‘customer service’,” did what we could to rein in their rain of toxins at and from plants like the one in Sauget, Illinois.

    Others tell the current story better than I ever could: Froom Mother Jones, vetted and reprinted all over the place, there’s “How Mitt Romney Helped Monsanto Take Over the World,” link to motherjones.com And from Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism (a national treasure she is, in my book) we have a Wall Street skeptic’s take on the French study, link to nakedcapitalism.com . Smith links to the published study here: link to scribd.com As she says, be sure to look at the pictures. (Cue the apologists and contra-scientists and trolls in 3, 2, 1…)

    The parts I like, though, are the ones about Monstinko buying up and destroying all the seed banks that might provide eventual recovery from the addiction to Roundup and the triumph of Roundup-immune weeds and other pests, and the 200,000 Indian farmers who have committed suicide in the face of M-imposed dependence on M’s hybridized, engineer-neutered, toxin-manufacturing “seeds” and herbicides.

    • We must ask ourselves, what’s in it for Monsanto, that is the destruction of especially the American food supply? Read the UN Agenda 21 document and see that Monsanto does the bidding of the New One World Government who plans on reducing world population by 85%. Don’t believe me? Check it out. It’s way more ugly than naked capitalism. You will love capitalism when the New World Order gets done with you.

  7. Amazing blog, but referencing fascism as existing on both right and left is problematic. Fascism is complicated, but is a product of excessive ideological movement to the right of the political spectrum. Perhaps we need to formulate a specific term for similar thinking as practiced by authoritarian regimes on the left. And can anyone remind me the name of the blitherer

    • “but referencing fascism as existing on both right and left is problematic.”

      I think the term “Fascism,” as it was understood in the 1920s through the 1960s (Italy, Germany, Japan, Spain, etc.), like the terms “Communism” and “Command Socialism” (Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Cuba, etc.) has lost its usefulness. The Right and the Left often do share certain characteristics that are hard to pigeonhole as one or the other: authoritarian government; a highly-developed nationalism; state-controlled media; and a command, or at least a “directed,” economy. Perhaps better terms would be “Right Authoritarianism” and “Left Authoritarianism.”

    • Not to get into hair-splitting when the far-left and far-right tend to meet up on the far side of the moon, but…..

      Facism, as described by wikipedia link to en.wikipedia.org

      would tend toward state-worship. Such as The 1000 Year Reich, whereas Communism would be, at least ostensible, the exact opposite, where the people own the means of production and its all about them. link to en.wikipedia.org

      Point made by some (good) teacher back in fifth grade was that the Soviet Union was not truly communistic, and that the theory was that after a period of consolidation, the structure would fall off, yielding the Real Deal.

      But until then, not much difference between one top-down Command Society and another, except for the deftness with which it’s administered, or the relative crudeness thereof.

  8. Am I the only it has occurred to, that corporate power and values (sic), in their various manifestations, are behind pretty much everything that threatens the world.

  9. …blitherer who assailed us with the hopeless neologism “liberal fascism”?

  10. Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me” is at its best when it looks at the social engineering that corporations carried out to take control of our idea of food. He points out that under the old nuclear family model of his childhood, women had a lot of power over what their families ate. Everything was bought at markets, and what was bought at markets was regulated by the FDA. The foods themselves were ancient and well-recognized. When everyone started demanding “convenience” foods, not only did highly processed foods invade the home, but the convenience of eating out meant that poorly-regulated restaurant chains could sell food that was not what it seemed, engineered for maximum profitability and addictability.

    Can this genie be put back into the bottle? In the special features of the movie’s DVD, an interview with Eric Schlosser complimented Subway for selling more transparent food, and much of the dialogue about food among the affluent since then has pointed in that direction. But that does nothing about the cycle of degradation faced by the working class, pushed into two-income families with males unwilling to assume any homemaking duties, finding the path of least resistance is fast food (supermarkets hate inner cities), which then drains their disposable income so that they must hold onto those jobs, which themselves are increasingly only in the fast food industry.

    My idea would be for inner-city neighborhoods to reorganize around community greenhouses, using modern aeroponic technology among other things. Food trucks staffed by student apprentices would carry those staples which can’t be grown locally (grains & meat), and stop in these neighborhood centers to both sell items for home preparation and to combine with local crops to produce simple meals. Especially important: ice tea, not soda. The trade of goods and reduction of waste is what makes it work economically. If good food is closer and cheaper than bad food, it will win even if the bad food is engineered to be addictive.

    I expect such measures would only be carried out in an all-out global food and energy emergency, which we’re not ready to acknowledge yet.

    • Within the last few weeks McDonald’s has begun to publicly post nutrition data. Seems like they had been doing it in a limited way for some time. I’ve wondered how much of what they’re doing has been forced on them, directly or indirectly, or whether at some level they see it in their enlightened best interest.

      McDonald’s is nothing if not professional and predictable, and there are a handful of things they serve which will suffice in a pinch, at least to my standards. As far as corporate behavior, It comes down to a matter of market positioning, such as maybe deciding to focus on serving people who care what they eat.

      But the poor and ignorant also need to be fed, and stand to be fed on, and that’s where the better margins will remain. So don’t expect the Invisible Hand to change its overall behavior anytime soon.

  11. Any discussion of the top 10 ways corporate food is making us fat should mention animal foods. One of the most consistent nutritional patterns scientists have observed is that vegans (and to a lesser extent vegetarians) suffer much less from obesity than do meat-eaters.

    In fact, vegans weigh less even AFTER adjusting for caloric intake (!). Check out Dr. Michael Greger’s video “Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death” here (start at 28:55 for a five-minute discussion of obesity and meat-eating):

    link to youtube.com

  12. Speaking of plastics, there is plenty of that floating about in our oceans, killing marine life. Micro-particles of plastic are being consumed by fish, causing these fish to become toxic to anything, including us, that eats them.

  13. Here might well be an eleventh way that certain modern foods or modern methods of eating them are specifically making us fat. It is in an article called Is Sugar Toxic?
    and is about the possibility that one particular sugar in particular, called fructose; is uniquely obesogenic. Fructose comes from HiFructose Corn Syrup and ALSO from SUCROSE which is also called “cane sugar”. Every sucrose molecule divides in the intestine into a glucose molecule and a fructose molecule, and the fructose molecules from “cane sugar” are just as obesogenic as the fructose molecules from HiFructose Corn Syrup. Here is the link:
    link to nytimes.com

  14. What you refer to as corporate democracy was called corporate fascism by my Econ 201 TA in the early 1970s.

    Maybe food would have been on the political agenda if Bloomberg had decided to spend one of his billions on a run at the presidency.

  15. “What you refer to as corporate democracy was called corporate fascism by my Econ 201 TA in the early 1970s.”

    Typical of a 1970s TA to mis-use the term “Fascism” to describe something he did not like. Fascism, then and now, has lost any meaning it may have had. For many, it has become the all-purpose epithet to throw at anything with which they disagree.

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