Things you should know 6 – Scary food facts (part I)

Firstly, happy Labor Day! I hope everyone gets the day off to relax and hang out with friends and family!

I saw this article on Men’s Health Sunday afternoon. It’s scary to think that these things aren’t readily broadcast. That is, it’s scary to think that people are hiding what’s in our food.

1. Your food can legally contain maggots, rodent hair, and insect eggs.

The FDA allows certain “defects” to slide by. Have a look at what your food can carry:

  • Canned pineapple can pack in up to 20% moldy fruit.
  • Berries can harbor up to 4 larvae per 100 grams.
  • Oregano can legally contain up to 1,250 insect fragments per 10 grams.
  • Cinnamon can carry up to 1 milligram of animal excrement per pound.
  • Ocean perch can harbor small numbers of copepods, parasites that create pus pockets.


2. Nutritious food costs 10 times as much as junk food.

University of Washington researchers calculated the cost discrepancy between healthy food and junk foods and found that 2,000 calories of junk food rings up at a measly $3.52 a day. Yet for 2,000 calories of nutritious grub, the researchers plunked down $36. To add insult to fiscal injury, out of every dollar you spend on food, only 19 cents goes toward the stuff you eat. The other 81 percent goes toward marketing, manufacturing, and packaging. Think about that the next time your grocery bill jumps into triple-digit dollars.


3. Grocers don’t have to tell you where your produce comes from.

With meat, supermarkets must tell you the country of origin, but produce law isn’t as strict. Consider this: In a recent E. Coli outbreak, German bean sprouts were implicated as the source of the bacteria, but that didn’t prevent thousands of people from being infected. Many of those people were Americans, and they were clueless as to where their sprouts came from.


4. Fruits and vegetables are losing their nutrients.

According to the USDA, the fruits and vegetables we eat today may contain significantly fewer nutrients than those our grandparents ate. Researchers looked at 43 produce items and discovered drops in protein (6 percent), calcium (16 percent), iron (15 percent), riboflavin (38 percent), and vitamin C (20 percent). Your move: Eat more fruits and vegetables.


5. Calorie counts on nutrition fact labels aren’t accurate.

Researchers at Tufts University recently analyzed 269 food items from 42 national sit-down and fast-food restaurant chains, and they found that nearly 20 percent of samples contained 100 or more calories than reported by the restaurants. Think about it like this: If every meal you eat has 100 more calories than you need, you’ll gain more than 30 pounds this year.


6. Chicken today contains 266 percent more fat than it did 40 years ago.

What’s more, today’s chicken also has 33 percent less protein, according to a study from the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition at London Metropolitan University. The problem is modern farming practices. Cramped environments and unnatural diets produce birds that have the same weight problems as the humans who eat them.


7. Milk contains hormones that may cause cancer.

In 1970, a typical dairy cow could produce about 10,000 pounds of milk per year. Today, that same cow produces roughly 20,000 pounds. So did cows change? Nope. It’s their feed that’s different. Today’s cows are routinely fed a hormone called recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rBST. Problem is, studies have linked rBST to a multitude of cancers, including those of the prostate, breast, and colon. And while milk from rBST-treated cows is ubiquitous in America’s supermarkets, some of the biggest players are getting wise. Stores like Whole Foods, Wal-Mart, and Kroger only carry rBST-free dairy.


8. Conventional supermarket peaches can be coated with as many as nine different pesticides.

Because peaches are prone to bruising, blemishing, and insect takeover, they’re routinely soaked in chemicals in the weeks before being shipped off to the supermarket. That’s why the Environmental Working Group rates peaches among the dirtiest conventional fruits in America. Also on that list: apples, celery, strawberries, and spinach. As a general rule, unless the produce has a thick, impermeable skin, assume it’s soaked in pesticides. Now wash it with water and mild soap before you eat it.


9. You’re probably eating trans fat without knowing it.

Slack FDA regulations allow food processors to claim zero trans fats even if the food contains .49 grams. To be clear, that’s .49 grams per serving. That means by the time you finish, say, an entire bag of Cheetos, you might be ingesting nearly 5 grams of trans fat. Sure the bag says “0 GRAMS TRANS FAT” right on the front, but if you look at the ingredient statement, you’ll see partially hydrogenated oil, the primary source of trans fat.


10. The number of daily calories available to each American has increased by 500 over the last 40 years.

USDA data shows that the food industry supplies 2,700 calories to every man, woman and child in America. In 1970, that number was 2,200. That increase translates into 52 extra pounds of fat per person, per year.


Stay tuned for more information tomorrow!


3 thoughts on “Things you should know 6 – Scary food facts (part I)

  1. I actually knew all of those things, and No. 2 through the end do rather piss me off, especially healthy food costing more (often costing more for less volume of food). What I don’t get is why people get so upset over number 1.

    Counterpoint 1: For much longer than there’ve been super markets, food’s contained stuff like that and we never keeled over as a species. It’s trite, but if you ask me, it’s relevant.
    CP2: Realistically, your choices are “sprayed with pesticides and fungicides and shot up with antibiotics” or “probably has some bug bits in it somewhere.”
    CP3: There are wild apple trees on my property. I eat these apples (strange spots and probable bug bits and all) pretty frequently when they’re in season, often straight from the tree. (Drive by the tree while mowing the yard and grab a few to munch on while mowing, for instance). I have yet to drop dead from it.


    1. Tom,

      I think it’s more about the FDA not being transparent. Check out the documentary “Tapped” where they talk about FDA regulation of bottled water. In essence, tap water is tested and regulated more than the expensive bottled water people waste plastic to drink from because it’s “better.”

      1. Ah, ok. I misunderstood your concern. Apologies. I think I’ve seen Tapped (or at least something similar), but it was several years ago now.

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