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6 Startling Secrets from a Food Industry Insider (Rodale.com)

Food additives and other nasty tricks worry this former food executive the most.
BY LEAH ZERBE

Unappetizing Secrets

Bruce Bradley knows all of the food industry’s dirty little secrets. In fact, he used to help hide them from the public as a food marketer for some of the world’s largest companies promoting everything from gum and candy to cereal, boxed dinners, and pizza. Today, he’s coming clean and wants to warn you about the most worrisome food-system threats. His newly published book, Fat Profits (Howling Hound Press, 2012), may be a fictional account of food executives and the tricks they play, but he goes on the record with Rodale.com to talk about the unappetizing truths of the food system. The main message? Your supermarket’s becoming a science lab, and you and your family are the guinea pigs. “Food companies like to pretend they are your friend and partner in healthy eating, but this couldn’t be further from the truth,” says Bradley. “The reality is most food companies are first and foremost concerned with profits. Misleading advertising, deceptive labeling, cheap ingredients, and government lobbying are the tools that they use to drive increased consumption of their processed foods and grow corporate profits.”

Read on to learn the 7 dirty secrets of the food industry that you need to know about.

1.) Big Ag’s Treatment of Animals

Freak-out factor: If you saw how most supermarket meats and eggs are produced, you’d be fighting a gag reflex. Most livestock animals in this country live in crowded, dirty conditions. For instance, a typical laying hen’s living space during her two- to three-year lifespan is limited to the size of a letter-size piece of paper. As if the cruelty factor isn’t enough, lab studies also consistently show that grocery store meats are tainted with deworming medication, antibiotics, heavy metals, and even potentially fatal superbug germs like MRSA. “The industrial food system creates what I call polluted proteins,” Bradley says.

The fix: At the supermarket, look for organic meats and eggs. Locally, seek out farms where animals are raised out on pasture, including those certified by Animal Welfare Approved, one of the leading advocates for humane livestock treatment.

2.) Artificial Sweeteners

Freak-out factor: That diet soda could be doing way more harm than good. Fake sweeteners have been shown to actually make you gain weight, and combining the popular sweetener aspartame with a common food-coloring agent is toxic to brain cells.

The fix: Limit sweetener intake in general, but when you do need a little sweet fix, choose natural sweeteners like magnesium-rich blackstrap molasses (unless you have type 2 diabetes, of course), stevia, or unprocessed honey. 

3.) Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

Freak-out factor: Genetically modified organisms are the one thing that keep this former food executive up at night. Upwards of 80 percent of nonorganic, processed grocery store food contains GMOs, and that genetically manipulated material has never been tested for long-term health effects in humans. In fact, independent studies have linked GMOs to the spike in food allergies, digestive diseases, obesity, and even accelerated aging we’re seeing today!

Currently, food companies are spending millions to fight a California initiative that would require foods containing GMOs to be labeled. 

The fix: Like chemical pesticides, GMOs are banned in organic agriculture. The “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal also ensures that a food is not contaminated with GMOs, but non-GMO foods are not necessarily grown without pesticides.

4.) Trans Fats

Freak-out factor: Looking for an example of science revolutionizing a food ingredient that later backfires and creates a public health menace? Look no further than trans fats. Introduced in the early 1900s, trans fats enabled the creation of margarines and shortenings that cost less, didn’t require refrigeration, and improved the texture of baked goods. But what did the experts miss? Trans fats are now a known health risk, especially for coronary heart disease. “What’s the lesson we should have learned? If you’re introducing new food ingredients, long-term studies must be conducted to understand their safety,” Bradley says. 

The fix: Don’t completely trust labels claiming “No Trans Fats.” “They’re still there; Big Food is just doing a better job hiding them,” says Bradley. Nutrition panels are only required to list trans fats if they total more than 0.49 grams per serving. After lobbying for this loophole, Bradley says Big Food manufacturers worked hard to reformulate their coffee creamers, cookies, crackers, and other packaged foods to just slip under this hurdle. Avoid processed products listing “partially hydrogenated oils” on the ingredients list—that’s code for trans fats. 

5.) Fake Food Dyes

The freak-out factor: “Creating appetizing food from unappetizing processed ingredients isn’t easy,” Bradley explains. “But with the help of food dyes and coloring, even the most bland-looking food can take on a vibrant appearance and seem much more appealing.” 

Food dyes are also used to attract kids, but the popular petroleum-derived food-coloring agents are linked to kid-unfriendly conditions like ADHD, food allergies, and brain cell damage. Plus, the dyes are deceitful! “Do you think your kids would be interested in Froot Loops if they weren’t made so colorful by red 40, blue 2, yellow 6, and blue 1?” Bradley points out. “From my 15-plus years of analyzing product testing results, I can promise you the answer is ‘no.'”

The fix: Fake food dyes are banned in organic foods, so opt for delicious organic cereals that will satisfy your kids without the fake food flair, including brands like Nature’s Path and Cascadian Farms. 

6.) Fake Fat

Freak-out factor: Remember Olestra, the fat replacement used in chips and other foods? Its unappetizing warning of abdominal cramping and loose stools scared off many customers, but there are other industrialized fats you need to avoid, too. Although Americans tend to be fearful of any fat, what you really should avoid are industrialized fats, ones so processed that your body doesn’t even know how to deal with them. Food manufacturers like to manipulate omega-6-rich oils from corn, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, and soy oils to create unhealthy convenience foods. The omega-6 overload leads to brain inflammation, bad moods, and blood clots.

The fix: Avoid industrial fats in margarine and processed foods, but don’t be afraid of beneficial fats like olive oil, coconut oil, and butter from grass-fed cows. Grass-fed animals create food products with a much healthier fat profile and much richer in brain- and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. 

 

 

 

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