Saturday, 24 November 2012

5 Things I Learned from watching Food Inc

Food, Inc is easily one of the most successful food documentaries in recent times. The film looks at all aspects of industrial farming including commercial meat processing, genetically modified foods, pollution, and genetically modified foods. It's like Industrial Farming 101 and I learned a lot.

1. McDs is the US's largest purchaser of beef in the US

Those golden arches get a lot of bad press. Supersize Me, Fast Food Nation and McLibel all spend lots of time talking about the food effects your health and how voracious the company is about defending it's reputation. After watching these films many people talked about boycotting the franchise. But bearing in mind the fact that McDonald's is the single top purchaser of beef in the US - almost 1 Billion lbs per year - is that enough? Should we not be pushing more at the other end? If McD's are the single biggest purchaser, than doesn't that mean that their buying meat on behalf of a bunch of other people that are too busy or lazy to buy it themselves? Should we also be looking to change ourselves?

2. Salmonella is not just for meat eaters

Consideration for the environment was one of the reasons that I became vegetarian. I am concerned about climate change and I'm not a big fan of the methane from cow manure or the pollution from the meat industry as a whole, so I've decided to take myself out of the loop and disengage from the whole thing. But that doesn't mean that I'm immune to the goings on of the slaughterhouse floor. In industrialised farming areas like The Grapevine in central California, massive dairy and meat farms are locate directly beside even larger tracts of arable land used for growing things like spinach, cabbage and bell peppers. When the run off from industrialised slaughter houses mixes with the water supply for growing these vegetables we end up which a situation that is ripe for cross contamination.  Maybe there's a reason why some vegetarians are preachy?

3. Diabetes is not a joke.

The film highlights an Hispanic family who have to make the decision between the money the have available and the food that they should feed their children. They are on a tight income and so they eat a lot of fast food full of fat, sugar and carbohydrates. As a result, the father and has Type II diabetes and the youngest of their two children is well on the way. And they're not the only ones. According to the film, '1 in 3 Americans born after 2000 will contract early onset diabetes...among minorities the rate will be 1 in 2'. Children should not be dealing with these things and parents should not me have to make these decisions.

4. Angry Vegans are illegal?

One of the most interesting segments in the film is when they talk about 'Veggie Libel Laws', that is, laws put in place to protect the meat industry from people saying mean things about them that they don't like. It might sound silly but it's very serious. Back in 1996, Oprah Winfrey was taken to court by Texas cattlemen for saying on one her her shows that, information about Mad Cow disease made her “Stopped (her) cold from eating another burger.” While they were not successful in their suit, they are able to tie up vital resources and discourage people from speaking out under food disparagement laws that operate in 13 states in the US.

5. Corn is insane

I knew all about High Fructose Corn Syrup and Ethynol, but I had know idea that corn was the source of all those chemically sounding ingredients that you see on the backs of most pre-packaged food. Food Inc mentions 30 corn derived chemicals including technical sounding things like xantham gum, inosital, and di-glyceride, ethyl lactate and xylitol. These things seemed vaguely familiar to me, and I was sort of expecting to see a few chemical compounds, but the list also included counter intuitive corn products like Citric Acid which I always though came from citrus fruit....Vanilla Extract which I assumed was extracted from vanilla...and baking powder, which I'm not sure I ever though about the origins of but I never would have guessed corn!

Food Inc's full list of Corn derived food additives and chemicals is as follows:
Citrus Cloud Emulsion
Sorbic Acid
Vanilla Extract
Calcium Stearate
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Citric Acid
Alpha Tocopherol
Ethyl Lactate
Xantham Gum
White Vinegar
Ethel Acetate
Fumaric Acid
Ascorbic Acid
Baking Powder

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