You know those ads and commercials that show how much the food industry cares about your well being? The ones where happy and healthy families are laughing and having a good time while consuming generous quantities of the company’s latest junk? Pure propaganda. We know it, and yet we still devour. Why? Because they’ve got us hooked! They know that like any junkie, we can’t resist getting our preferred fix.
The agriculture, dairy, food processing and grocery industries spend millions advertising how much they care about the public welfare. In truth, profit is the number one concern – at the expense of the public’s physical and mental health. Manipulating the facts and hiding the truth is just part of doing business. Our health and happiness are the least of their concern, despite all those feel-good images of vibrant consumers.
The public makes two incorrect assumptions regarding Big Food. The first has to do with contamination. We see warnings in the press about mercury in tuna, wood pulp in Parmesan cheese, ground beef treated with ammonia to retard E. coli. These are examples of how some of the dangerous and deceptive practices of Big Food are exposed. The public assumes that corrective measures will be taken once an issue is uncovered – and that’s just fine with Big Food. Truth is, too often nothing changes. That means an uninformed customer is their best customer.
Another incorrect assumption is that the US Department of Agriculture exists to protect the consumer. But in fact, the original role of the USDA was to promote the products of the animal agriculture industry. For example: over fifty years ago, the USDA began promoting the so-called four basic food groups, with meat and dairy products in the number one and two spots on the list. Financed by the meat and dairy industry and backed by nutritional scientists on the payroll of the meat and dairy industry, this promotion ignored real science.
Then there’s the issue with food manufacturers who make extravagant claims about supporting healthy eating, while in truth, they conspire against it. Here’s where the treachery becomes criminal. Like the tobacco cartel, food makers have found ways to fill their products with ingredients (sugar, sugar substitutes, synthetic fats) that increase the desire to consume. There is now scientific proof that sugar has a greater addictive effect on brain chemistry than cocaine.
Some producers even go so far as to package many concoctions in the guise of health food. They may less harmful, but in most cases are far from healthy. It may not be as blatant as when I was growing up and Wonder Bread claimed to “Build strong bodies 12 ways”, but it is an effective marketing strategy.
The bad news: the food industry has incrementally taken over our brains, both figuratively and literally. The good news: the damage can be reversed. We can reclaim the brain and learn to make nutritional decisions based on what is truly best for our health, rather than the influence of propaganda or brain chemistry.