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Forum Post: Five Messed-Up Things That Are in Your Food

Posted 5 years ago on Feb. 14, 2014, 2:51 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Five Messed-Up Things That Are in Your Food

Friday, 14 February 2014 11:00 By Martha Rosenberg, AlterNet | Report


Many of these ingredients are banned in Europe, but here in the good old USA you'll find them on your dinner plate.

Two years ago, the nation's collective stomach churned when people learned they were eating a meat product called "pink slime." Lean, finely textured beef as the industry wanted to call it, was meat scraps that were once earmarked for pet food repurposed for the human dinner table, especially the National School Lunch Program. While the product looked like human intestines, what caused the national revulsion was that pink slime was treated with puffs of ammonia to kill the bacterium E. coli. Yum.

Soon after the hoopla began, the main supplier of pink slime, Beef Products, Inc., announced it was closing its production facilities. But since then, other products the public doesn't know it's consuming or want to consume have surfaced, and the manufacturers have not necessarily been as forthcoming. There's a good chance you are eating some of the following products and byproducts.

  1. Azodicarbonamide in Bread

Until a month ago, few had heard of this "dough conditioner," intended to provide strength and improve elasticity. Like pink slime, it was azodicarbonamide's industrial overtones that drove indignation—it's "the same chemical used to make yoga mats, shoe soles, and other rubbery objects," wrote food blogger Vani Hari in a successful petition to get Subway to remove the substance from its baked products.

While World Health Organization tests found azodicarbonamide risks "uncertain," it has been linked to deaths in animals and allergic reactions in humans. Azodicarbonamide is banned in Europe and Australia and its use carries a prison sentence in Singapore, writes Hari. The Center for Science in the Public Interest warns that when azodicarbonamide is baked in bread, it produces the carcinogen urethane. While Subway announced it is "in the process of removing azodicarbonamide as part of our bread improvement efforts," the dough conditioner is also used in food at McDonald's, Burger King, Starbucks, Arby's, Wendy's, Jack in the Box and Chick-fil-A. It is also in grocery store and restaurant breads, CNN says.

  1. Plastic Microbeads in Fish and Waterways

For years, the consumer products industry has given us plastic microbeads in toothpaste, liquid hand soaps, skin exfoliators, other personal care products and industrial cleaners. Products like Olay's body wash, Dove Gentle Exfoliating Foaming Facial Cleanser and Clean & Clear Daily Pore Cleanser increase the plastic clogging the planet's seas, "killing millions of sea creatures every year when they swallow it, choke on it, or get tangled in it and drown," according to Slate. It was widely believed, however, that human health was spared. "Our assessment is that they will largely be removed during sewage treatment," Jay Gooch, associate director of external relations in beauty care at Procter & Gamble, reassured Slate.

But last year the microbeads were found in water samples in three of the Great Lakes, implying that wastewater treatment is not removing them. The remaining Great Lakes have yet to be tested. The beads, which work their way up the marine food chain, "absorb and retain chemical contaminants," says the Chicago Tribune. Some manufacturers are phasing out the beads but consumers should avoid any products that list the ingredient polyethylene.

  1. Brominated Vegetable Oil in Soft Drinks and Beverages

Like pink slime and azodicarbonamide, few had heard of brominated vegetable oil (BVO) or believed they were consuming it until recently. And like pink slime and azodicarbonamide, it is brominated vegetable oil's (BVO) connection to industrial products that sparked outrage—the oil, from corn or soy, is bonded with the element bromine which is used in couches and carpets as a flame retardant. Bromide is an endocrine disruptor and part of the halide family which includes fluorine, chlorine and iodine. It competes for the same receptors in the body as iodine and can cause iodine deficiency.

Brominated flame retardants build up in people's bodies, including breast milk and animal and human research have linked them to early puberty and hormone and neurological problems. Excess consumption of drinks with BVO, used to keep flavoring dispersed in a beverage, have been linked to headaches, fatigue, ataxia (loss of muscle coordination), memory loss and swollen hands with ulcers.

In late 2012, 15-year-old Sarah Kavanagh of Hattiesburg, MS began a petition on Change.org for PepsiCo to remove BVO from Gatorade. Within a month, PepsiCo announced it planned to remove BVO from Gatorade and replace it with sucrose acetate isobutyrate, but six months later, PepsiCo said it would keep BVO in Mountain Dew sold in the Americas. BVO is still reportedly in Squirt, Fanta Orange, Sunkist Pineapple and some flavors of Fresca and Poweraide.

  1. High Fructose Corn Syrup and Artificial Sweeteners in Soft Drinks

Scientists and health professionals cannot decide which is worse—high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or artificial sweeteners in soft drinks. HFCS, which is cheaper for soft drink makers to use and store than "real sugar," has been linked to liver damage, diabetes, heart problems, obesity and even mercury consumption. Yet, aspartame, saccharin and acesulfame potassium, three leading artificial sweeteners, have all been linked to cancer.

A 2011 study by the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine found that people who drank one diet soda every day had a 61 percent higher chance of having a heart attack or stroke. Questions also persist about artificial sweeteners’ links to Alzheimer’s disease, autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. (Nor do artificial sweeteners necessarily help people lose weight, some studies suggest.)

The plot thickened in 2012, when a Harvard study indicted both sugar and HFCS-sweetened beverages. Men who drank one soft drink a day had a 20 percent increased risk of heart disease regardless of their age, diet, family history or alcohol/tobacco use. The Harvard study was announced one month after doctors published an editorial in the journal Nature calling for all types of sugar and HFCS to be regulated the way alcohol or tobacco are.

  1. Transglutaminase Also Known as "Meat Glue"

Around the same time rumors of pink slime and BVO in the US food supply began to surface, the term "meat glue" also debuted. Meat glue is transglutaminase, an adhesive powder originally obtained from animal blood, but lately more likely to come from fermented bacteria which is cheaper. Meat glue lets chefs cobble together disparate and low-quality scraps of meat, put it in the refrigerator overnight and produce "filet mignon," a deception that is the basis of many consumers' objections.

Up to 35 percent of food products contain meat glue, including tofu, milk, yogurt and even cereal according to industry accounts. Animal versions of meat glue in which the coagulation animal protein thrombin is combined with fibrin have affected blood clotting time in humans because bovine thrombin can cross-react with human factors. Studies showed that repeat clinical applications of topical bovine thrombin increase human risk. Another risk of meat glue is bacterial growth: scraps that were outside pieces but are now glued together inside a "formed meat" are hard to cook, says microbiologist Glenn Pener. “The amount of bacteria on a steak that’s been put together with meat glue is hundreds of times higher.”

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.



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[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 5 years ago

Why Cupid Seems to Be Missing More Often

Friday, 14 February 2014 10:57 By Sam Pizzigati, Too Much | News Analysis


Those arrows aren’t hitting their lovelorn targets the way they once did. The reason? New research points to our growing economic divide.

Finding true love, philosophers have always understood, can get complicated in deeply unequal places. Grand fortunes tend to give Cupid a hard time, on Valentine’s Day and every other.

“If you gain fame, power, or wealth, you won’t have any trouble finding lovers,” as social critic Philip Slater noted years ago in The Pursuit of Loneliness, “but they will be people who love fame, power, or wealth.”

But philosophers no longer have a corner on the love-and-inequality connection. All sorts of social scientists are now working that intersection where wealth and romance meet — and they’re uncovering an assortment of troubling trends.

Researchers are finding, for instance, that Cupid’s arrows fall less randomly than they did back in the middle of the 20th century. Americans today have become distinctly less likely to marry someone outside their income bracket.

Social scientists have a label for this phenomenon. They call it “assortative mating.” Since 1960, shows new research from the University of Pennsylvania’s Jeremy Greenwood and colleagues, this assortative mating has contributed significantly to how unequal we’ve become.

“The rich marry rich and get richer,” notes Andrea Garcia-Vargas, one commentator on the research, “the poor marry poor and get poorer.”

But the cause and effect here goes both ways. Assortative mating widens the income gaps that divide us. Wider income gaps nurture assortative mating.

Back in the 1960s, a much more equal time in America, millions of men with just high school diplomas could count on good union-wage jobs and make nearly as much, or even more at times, than someone with a college degree.

In that more equal nation, most Americans lived within income hailing distance of most other Americans. They interacted socially with a fairly large cross-section of the nation’s overall population.

Today, with Americans much more divided by income, those social interactions across income levels have become considerably rarer. People increasingly marry in their own income bracket — if they marry at all.

And that brings us to another mating consequence of growing inequality: the ongoing slide in the share of American adults married.

In 1960, 72 percent of Americans over 18 lived the married life. The 2010 share: just 51 percent. Among younger Americans, an even steeper tumble. Three-fifths of 18- to 29-year-olds had spouses in 1960, only one-fifth today.

How to explain this trend? One major factor: the economic squeeze on working Americans. A half-century ago, a single wage earner could support a family. No longer. Two earners have become a necessity for maintaining anything close to a comfortable middle class status.

But keeping two people together has never been harder. In our ever more unequal America, jobs have become less secure, workplaces more stressful. At every turn, the strains on married life multiply.

Affluent couples can more easily overcome this strain, note sociologists Sarah Corse and Jennifer Silva. Their survey research paper, “Intimate Inequalities: Love and Work in a Post-Industrial Landscape,” appeared last year.

Affluents, Corse and Silva show, can afford the investments necessary to keep their marriages healthy. They can spend on everything from therapists to “date nights” and get-away-from-it-all vacations. Couples working at low-paid labor find such therapy, formal and informal, simply unaffordable.

America’s top-heavy distribution of income and wealth, the Corse and Silva research details, has left many economically insecure Americans “unable to imagine being able to provide materially and emotionally for others.”

Amid this high-stress reality, adds Atlantic commentator Nancy Cook, marriage “is fast becoming a luxury good.” People who can’t afford the investments that help keep marriages together split and sink from the middle class. The nation becomes a more unequal — and lonelier — place.

For that loneliness, we pay a heavy price.

“Air pollution increases your chances of dying early by 5 percent, obesity by 20 percent,” as Aditya Chakrabortty observed last fall in the British Guardian. “Excessive loneliness pushes up your odds of an early death by 45 percent.”

Those figures come from neuroscientist John Cacioppo, a veteran researcher on social seclusion. We have, he writes, created "a culture of social isolates, atomized by social and economic upheaval and separated by vast inequalities."

If we want to find love, in sum, we need to go looking in more equal places.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.