It has become glaringly obvious that the post-modern industrial diet is killing us in large numbers; and that the nine multinational food corporations which dominate the global food space (Associated British Foods, CocaCola, Danone, General Mills, Kelloggs, Mars, Mondelez, Nestle, PepsiCo and Unilever), are doing more damage to world health than the tobacco industry (1-12).
Like the tobacco companies, Big Phood sells products which are both toxic and addictive (14-23); but where the tobacco companies have been legally restricted from selling to vulnerable groups such as children and forced to attach warnings to their harmful products, the food companies have been given free rein to poison us and our kids.
Why is this?
Government recommendations don’t work. Health policies targetting schools, communities, the food industry and society in general have all failed (13). The money spent by government on preventative health is dwarfed by food advertising budgets, and the government messages get drowned out.
In any case people eat what is available, what is cheap, what tastes good, what is convenient, what is addictive .. and although the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition does not yet include a standalone category for diagnosing food addiction, the evidence from the labs (14-17) and on the ground (18-22) is that Big Phood has honed Bliss Point technology to the point where many of today’s ultraprocessed foods are at least behaviourally addictive.
Regulatory agencies such as the FDA, EFSA, TGA etc look the other way. The bean-counters issue legislation that makes it unlawful to describe water as ‘hydrating’, and makes it impossible for reputable companies to say – for example – that yeast-derived beta glucans increase resistance to infection, a fact widely accepted in the scientific community; yet they do nothing to protect us from Big Phood’s predations.
Why is this?
Not long ago, we had politicians and regulators who actually gave a damn. In 1964 the US Surgeon General Luther Terry released his ground-breaking report on the dangers of tobacco and in 1982 his successor C Everett Koop published an up-dated and extended version. The combined efforts of these two great public servants lead to restrictions on tobacco sales and dramatic improvements in US and global world health. Both experienced political resistance from individual senators who were in tobacco’s pockets, but there were enough good men and women in both houses to support a push for better public health and improved legislation.
If you’re waiting for a report on the dangers of ultraprocessed foods, however, don’t hold your breath. Politics has changed since 1982, and one of the most significant changes is the shift of power from politics to finance.
The age of representative democracy is largely over. Politicians no longer represent us; their old catchment areas (labour, the aspiring middle class) are dying, replaced by technology and outsourced to more cost-effective countries. Democracy, represented however poorly by party politics, is being replaced by corporatism; and the people who pose as politicians today are well aware of this. Mostly untrained and unsuited for other work they cling to their political posts, posing for the public but doing their masters’ bidding. They know that most laws today are not initiated by the people or even by ‘politicians’, but by the corporations (23). They see increasing numbers of their constituents sliding into poverty, and are desperate to remain in that small part of the boat which is not yet underwater. Ideology has been replaced by frantic scrabbling for seats on the board, bustarella crumbs from the top table or the more substantial sums to be made from insider trading.
Dr Margaret Chan was Director General of the W.H.O. before the current incompetent took over. She said ‘Efforts to prevent non-communicable diseases go against the business interests of powerful economic operators. This is one of the biggest challenges facing health promotion…it is not just Big Tobacco anymore. Public health must also contend with Big Food, Big Soda and Big Alcohol. All of these industries fear regulation, and protect themselves using the same tactics.’
Many of these tactics are operated by International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). Originally spun off from CocaCola, this American organization has been quietly infiltrating government health and nutrition bodies around the world since the 70’s. A highly effective front for Big Phood and Big Pharma, ILSI is nothing if not versatile. They championed tobacco interests during the 1980s and 1990s, and since then have consistently shielded the food and drug industries from consumer-safety legislation.
Coming back to tobacco. In 2006, Judge Gladys Kessler issued a 1,600-page civil racketeering judgment against the tobacco industry (24) that stated: “Over the course of more than 50 years defendants lied, misrepresented and deceived the American public, including smokers and the young people they avidly sought as ‘replacement’ smokers about the devastating health effects of smoking and environmental tobacco smoke. The defendants marketed and sold their lethal products with zeal, with deception, with a single-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted.”
Thanks in no small measure to ILSI, the same is true for Big Phood (ie 25). They have consumers in a simultaneous gridlock and headlock. They own enough politicians and legislators to get away with murder, on a tobacco-like scale. Their products cause chronic inflammation, dysbiosis and malnutrition. These in turn cause chronic degenerative disease, pain, depression, stress, demotivation, sleep problems – and cravings for more ultraprocessed food (25).
Don’t wait for the system to reform, because that will not happen. Cultivate your own garden, boycott ultraprocessed fodder and start to enjoy better health.
A Fast Guide to Ultraprocessed Food
- Examples of ultraprocessed foods
Sodas, ice creams and lollies (aka popsicles), candies, sweet or savoury packaged snacks, breakfast cereals, instant noodles, reconstituted meat products, industrial bread, pre-packaged meals, any food containing more than 5 ingredients.
- Ingredients only found in ultraprocessed foods
Colours, colour stabilizers, flavours, flavour enhancers, sweeteners, carbonating agents, firming agents, bulking agents, anti-bulking agents, de-foaming agents, anti-caking agents, glazing agents, emulsifiers, sequestrants, humectants, casein, lactose, whey, hydrogenated oil, hydrolysed proteins, mechanically separated meat, maltodextrin, invert sugar, high fructose corn syrup
- GBD 2015 Risk Factors Collaborators. Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 79 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks, 1990-2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. Lancet. 2016 Oct 8;388(10053):1659-1724.
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- Schnabel L, Kesse-Guyot E, Allès B, Touvier M, Srour B, Hercberg S, Buscail C, Julia C. Association Between Ultraprocessed Food Consumption and Risk of Mortality Among Middle-aged Adults in France. JAMA Intern Med. 2019 Apr 1;179(4):490-498.
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- Romer AL, Kang MS, Nikolova YS, Gearhardt AN, Hariri AR. Dopamine genetic risk is related to food addiction and body mass through reduced reward-related ventral striatum activity. Appetite. 2019 Feb 1; 133: 24–31.
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