What have we done to our food?
By Teresa Williams – London
Nutrition in this country has been slowly changing for the last thirty years. In this time diabetes and obesity have become an increasing problem for the health authorities and the government. There have been major studies into this field and millions of pounds spent on education and advertising campaigns.
Before we talk about the solutions, it is best to take a look at the assumptions that have been made. All the government assumptions assume that a family will cook for themselves the majority of the week only going out or ordering in one or twice a week. This might very well be the case. The problem occurs when the government thinks that a family are going into their kitchens and preparing a meal from scratch. When what they are doing is simply tearing a plastic film of a product and putting it into the microwave or oven. This is not food. As the statistics will show later they are a combination of many chemicals that have been mixed together to give the illusions of real food.
Taste buds have been changed to such an extent that for some it is very difficult to distinguish between a item that has been processed to taste like food and what real food should actually taste like. The government guide lines are to eat ready meals only once a week. This is an guideline that is rarely discussed.
The ready meal started to infiltrate our food chain around the mid eighties. Since then it has grown exponentially. What started off as a night off for the cook of the household has become a complete alternative to preparing food from scratch in the home. It is no coincidence that our health has deteriorated the same rate that sales in these products have grown. Type 2 diabetes and obesity are at the highest ever. Cancer is on the increase and bowel disorders common place. In the same period there have been many different changes to the way we live our lives that could effect our health. a lot of these issues are being addressed. We are told to exercise more, cut down on salt and saturated fats. Limit alcohol consumption and do not smoke. These are all effective ways to look after yourself. The question we should be addressing is, children do not drink or smoke and are generally more active than adults but still they are having these health problems. This begs the question what are we missing?
The ready meal really started to take off in the eighties in this country. They were aimed at the so called Yuppie culture. At that particular time women were fighting for equality. They started to realize that if they did the same job, they should demand the same wage. It was a fantastic time of growth for the modern women. They were told that not only was it possible to have career and family it was their right to demand it.
In the background the food manufacturers were working quietly to help women reach their potential. Women felt empowered and had strong voices. They did not want to spend time in the kitchen like their mothers used to, they were more liberated than that. This new attitude to cooking was helped along by the emergence of products that replicated “what mother used to make”. Women began to feel proud that they did not know how to cook as this went to prove how liberated they were. The art of cooking started to die.
At the same time another part of modern life had started to break down. Divorce was on the increase, this gave the food manufactures another way to sneak into our lives. The divorced man at that time did not usually know how to cook. So again, meals like they had at home were ways to comfort these single men.
I have based my research around the amount of additives that are consumed within a day. This has been carried out through a very basic menu. In reality the menu is very conservative with many people consuming more than that has been researched. Alcohol has not been added, as the most startling factor is, that this is what the average child could be consuming. In the interest of fairness the items have been taken from many manufacturers and supermarkets.
It has been assumed that the person eating the menu will have five portions of fruit and veg a day, therefore, they have been added as well. On the topic of vitamins, it has been noted that some of the additives in the foods are manufactured vitamins. This is a very difficult topic to address as these seem to have been added to give an illusion of rounded food. It is difficult to assess whether these items should be in our foods.
The fortification of our flour and cereals in the 1940,s stopped the occurrence of Rickets in this country. This is a very topical debate as now the government looks to fortify flour with folic acid. The way to look at vitamin additives is simple. When a government decides to fortify foods, long term research is undertaken with no commercial gain. The only reason these items have been added is because food processing has allowed the natural vitamins to leach out, and they have to be replaced. So in this respect they should not be in the food chain and are, therefore, for the purpose of this study, classed as unnecessary additives.
The second point to make is that portion control has been set at the manufacturers recommendations. The fact is that consumers tend to eat larger portions than is recommended. The classic example is the pizza, many people will eat a whole pizza when the manufacturer recommendations are for half that amount.
The daily menu is (Appendix A)
Yogurt, Toast, butter or spread, marmalade, Banana
Crisps, Victoria sandwich (Slice), Diet coke – Water, Cheese pasty, Grapes
Chilli con carne with rice, Orange juice, Apple
This is not what we would normally call a healthy menu but when it is dissected it is within all the government guidelines for a diet of moderation. It has been assumed that there is the same amount of vegetables in the Chilli as there are in the home made version. I would doubt this to be the case, as the additives are more about extracts than real food.
The startling facts are that in regards to the daily limits for the shop bought products, they are below the daily guideline for calories, fat and salt. According to government guidelines the food value amounts below constitute a healthy diet for one day.
Kcal 1868 Daily limit 2000
Fat 50.8 65g
Salt 5.58 6g
The daily limit is based on an average woman.
According to diet facts a women eating this amount of food in one day should lose about 1lb a week.
However, the list of individual ingredients are very different
Ready meals 178 different ingredients
Home made 36 different ingredients
Most of the ready meals that people are consuming are less in calories compared to the home made versions, so why are people getting bigger?
One of the biggest causes of health complications in the processed foods we eat today is MSG. Many people are aware of the effects that this additive can have on some people, and will look out for it and avoid it. The problem we face is that in the European Union and USA it does not have to be listed as MSG if it is less than 99% MSG.
There are many products that are in the food chain that contain less than this. These products have different names and are not easy to recognize. This makes it very difficult for the consumer to know exactly what is in the food they are eating.
E635 (Di sodium 5′ ribonucleotides) is made up of E631 (Di sodium Insoinate ) and E627 (Di sodium Guanylate) these two mixed together make MSG in a concentrate of 98%. It is not by law required to be named as MSG but as far as our own bodies are concerned it does not distinguish between 98% and 99%. When this chemical is used it is often used alongside MSG, therefore, making the food twice as toxic. Other forms of MSG are Hydrolyzed Protein, Hydrolyzed Veg Protein, Glutamic Acid and Autolyzed Yeast. These are the main culprits containing up to 40% MSG. There are many more additives that contain MSG but the amount of MSG cannot be ascertained. These include Flavourings, Yeast, Malt extract and many, many more.
These additives are used to make food palatable and are used to make diet food edible. Dieters and people with health problems are the most vulnerable, as losing weight or gaining good health is their biggest concern, and will blame themselves for not losing weight, when it could be what they are consuming.
MSG is also proven to be a neurotoxin when the blood brain barrier is impaired. A side effect to this is the brain being unable to turn off the hunger switch. Again the additive will prey on the most vulnerable. Children who are given crisps are ingesting between three or four different types of MSG. A child who is given a packet of crisps to pacify them after an injection (MSG is used as a stabilizer) could be given five forms of MSG in a very short space of time. This is when their blood brain barrier is not mature enough to deal with this massive influx of the additive.
COT (Committee on Toxicity) states that more research is needed on neurotoxins and the blood brain barrier. Many different diseases effect the blood brain barrier making more and more people susceptible. The European Union and the Food Standards Agency are asking for reviews of the amount of processed food that is consumed. It is now felt that the general public eat more processed food than the figures that were used to evaluate safety. The government guide lines on ready meals, is one meal per week. The view of the NHS is “ to exceed this could interfere with the natural balance of your body”
Under the banner of Flavourings there are over 2600 different ingredients alone, all with different chemical compositions. These are under review and due to be regulated soon. Without these regulations we have no idea of the chemicals that are in our food.
It is time we started to question all the different additives in our diet.
I started to study nutrition because of ill health. I was diagnosed with ME/CFS and IBS. I could go into the facts surrounding my recovery but the point is it took me five years to realize that my problems stemmed from ingestion of MSG in all manufactured forms.
Now that I no longer have these in my diet I have lost 1 ½ stone without dieting. I now eat what I want providing I prepare it myself. This is not for everyone, but if you have an illness like ME/CFS or IBS it can be all consuming and any information that might help is useful.
How many times have you heard that a person found good health by starting to cook for themselves and cutting out processed foods? I would like you to think of the fact that low fat and sugar free products only arrived in our food chain in the mid eighties.
After twenty years of use I do find it strange that we have the biggest diabetes and obesity problem that we have ever known, even though these products were
supposed to eradicate them. If the last twenty years were a medical study we would conclude that these products do not work. The dream would be for the general population the realize that some of these additives are as bad for the body as smoking.
To understand the full effect that these ingredients can have on a populations nutrition I have listed below a very simple days diet.
Processed Food Menu
modified maize starch-stabiliser
citric acid aspartame
reconstituted butter milk
hydrogenated vegetable oil
mono and diglycerides of fatty acids
vitamin A & D
glucose fructose syrup
hydrogenated vegtable oil-margarine
mono and diglycerides of fatty acids
cheese whey powder-cheese spread
milk protien-cheese spread
red and white cheddar
vegtable and hydrogenated vegetable oil
pasteurised liquid hen egg
modified maize starch
cheese powder-cheese stock
vegetable oil-cheese stock
yeast extract-cheese stock
Cheese flavoured crisps
whole maize corn
tangy cheese flavour
citric acid aspartame
glucose fructose syrup-jam
citic acid -jam
reconstituted egg white
reconstituted egg white
disodium diphosphate-raising agent
sodium bicarbonate-raising agent
polyglycerol ester of fatty acids
smono- and diglyerides of fatty acids
dried egg white
Chilli con Carne
long grain rice
minced aberdeen angus beef
concentrated beef broth-beef stock
yeast extract-beef stock
glucose syrup-beef stock
herb extract-beef stock
spice extract palm fat-beef stock
rapeseed oil -margarine
hydrogenated palm oil-margarine
hydrogenated rape seed oil-margarine
wheat flour -margarine
modified maize starch-margarine
dextrose -vegetable stock
potato starch-vegetable stock
yeast extract-vegetable stock
sugar -vegetable stock
hydrogenated rape seed oil -vegetable stock
onion powder-vegetable stock
citirc acid-vegetable stock
parsely dehydrated celery-vegetable stock
malt extract-vegetable stock
tumeric extract-vegetable stock
Organic Coconut milk
Cheese and Onion Pasty
Chilli con Carne
Committe on toxicity of chemicals in food, consumer products and the environment – Statement on food additives and developmental neurotoxicty
Brain lesions in an infant Rhesus monkey treated with Monosodium glutamate – John W. Olney and Lawrence G Sharpe.
ILSI (International life sciences Institute) Risk assesment of genotoxic carcinogens in foods – Task force
ILSI Threshold of toxicological concern – Task force
Russel L blaylock MD – The taste that Kills
NHS Choices www.nhs.uk
Food Standard Agency . www.food.gov.uk