Statistics show that processed foods make up about 70 percent of the typical American’s diet – a truly frightening majority. So, what exactly ARE processed foods? It is accurate to say that they can barely be called foods at all.
According to Dr. David Ludwig, director of the Optimal Weight for Life Program in Boston, processed foods are, “fake foods made in factories, loaded with artificial ingredients and calories.” Dr. Ludwig frequently visits schools to educate kids on ‘Food Label Literacy,’ and points to processed foods as the primary reason that so many of us are unhealthy and overweight. He constantly reminds kids that, “real foods come from nature.”
Just because something is able to be eaten, chewed and digested does NOT make it an actual food. So many chemical processes and additives are used in manufacturing nowadays that even foods that start out natural end up in an unrecognizable, artificial state.
Melanie Warner, author of the book Pandora’s Lunchbox, points out that approximately 5,000 different additives are allowed in our food – that we know of. She writes, “the FDA doesn’t actually know how many additives are going into our food. This is in part because regulations are not only self-regulatory — so the food industry is doing the testing — but it’s also voluntary. The ingredient companies don’t actually have to tell the FDA about a new ingredient. If they choose to, they can simply just launch it into the market. The FDA doesn’t know about them, and nobody else really knows about them.”
Two of the most disturbing examples of the way once-real ingredients are being processed into potentially dangerous shadows of their former selves are boneless chicken and bioengineered hamburgers.
Boneless Chicken and Chicken Nuggets
KFC has recently announced that it will now feature their ‘Original Recipe’ chicken in boneless form in all 4,500 of its U.S. locations. The company also stated that they are considering making all of their chicken boneless, with bone-in options no longer available.
Internal KFC surveys show that nearly four out of five servings of chicken in the United States are now boneless; the complete reverse of 30 years ago, when 80 to 85 percent of chicken was unprocessed.
The downside to the convenience of boneless chicken? It is only approximately 50 percent meat, according to studies. The other half of the mixture is made up of sugars, corn derivatives, leavening agents and other synthetic ingredients.
Studies show that many brands of chicken nuggets, the pioneer in the ‘boneless chicken’ playing field, contain Tert-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ) and dimethyl polysiloxane. These are added to the oils the nuggets are cooked in as stabilizers. TBHQ has been found to cause bodily toxicity in large quantities, with resulting symptoms such as vomiting and delirium.
Some researchers argue that the levels of TBHQ in chicken nuggets are too low to cause these symptoms, but every little bit of poison adds up. Dimethyl polysiloxane is a silicone-based polymer that cannot be broken down by the human body.
It is also used in cosmetics. While some say it is harmless, why would you want plastics substituting as foods swimming through your system? This is not even mentioning the GMO corn used as filler in most of these products, and the resulting health risks of this practice.
A 2011 article featured in the Huffington Post shed light on a bioengineering project that scientists worldwide have been working on for the past decade: growing meat “cultures” in laboratories. Researchers at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands have claimed to be about one year away from presenting their prototype of the world’s first bioengineered, synthetic hamburger.
A 2012 article in The Economist, describing related research led by Dr. Mark Post at Eindhoven University, details how this works: “(the) cultures, grown from stem cells, are sheets 3 cm long, 1.5 cm wide and half a millimeter deep… the stem cells themselves are extracted from cattle muscle and then multiplied a millionfold before they are put in Petri dishes and allowed to turn into muscle cells… The fatty cells of adipose tissue, needed for juiciness, are grown separately and then combined with the muscle cells before the whole thing is cooked.”
Sounds like science fiction, right? That may not be far from the reality of the situation. These ‘meats’ are completely experimental; there is no way to determine what health effects they will have on humans.
Such bioengineered meats could very possibly begin replacing the already-processed meat products used today. Furthermore, the packaging paper being designed for these new ‘burgers’ is a prototype made of silver nanoparticles, added to the paper by an ultrasound-like process, and designed to fight food-borne bacteria such as E. coli.
This packaging choice could very well have its own unpredicted side effects. When these ‘meats’ are released into the food industry, our generation will be the human test subjects, and will suffer any side effects that follow.
Nicholas Genovese, a worker in a meat-growing lab, told Reuters, “there are a lot of products that we eat today that are considered natural that are produced in a similar manner… society has accepted these products.” His observation is all too true.