Do you realize how much and how often we put our faith and trust in other people? You trust that the car coming the other way won’t cross into your lane, and that the waiter washed his hands at least once before coming to your table. And you trust that your food is clean, whether from the supermarket, the butcher or the waiter.
When you bite into a crisp Delicious or Macintosh apple, you have the right to expect nothing more than apple skin, quercetin, some pectin, and vitamins and minerals. Do you know that apples are among the “dirty dozen” foods that are heavily sprayed with biocides? Yep, right up there with celery, grapes, peppers, strawberries and some greens, among others. Why do they have to do this to us? By our age, we’re expected to know the bottom line—money. With fruits and vegetables we have the advantage (If you can call it that) of being able to wash most of the junk off before we eat them. There’s a monumental difference, though, between what’s on a food and what’s in it. We can’t wash out whatever is inside a processed or prepared food…like some chicken nuggets.
The two best-known poultry purveyors in the United States have initials that rhyme with each other. One of them was a tad short of the truth when it announced several years ago that its product was antibiotic-free, only to announce later that it would stop using antibiotics in its chickens. The other company didn’t have to make such a declaration. Discounting husbandry practices and getting right to food preparation, we find that both of these companies have a comparatively pristine list of ingredients in their nuggets. The only question would be the definition of “natural flavor.” The FDA publishes a Code of Federal Regulations, which we presume is what it says, but which we know is probably ignored to a hair’s breadth of compliance. We realize that, for some of us, a speed limit is merely a suggestion.
The “Code” says: “The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. “
Unless a company has specified, you can’t tell what the natural flavor is. If you call a company, it is not obligated to disclose industrial secrets. See? Trust. With these two companies, the odds are in the consumer’s favor. A dyed-in-the-wool skeptic will know that a natural flavor can be duplicated in a lab because it’s the flavor that’s natural, not necessarily the ingredients that make it. Is anything straight anymore? Fast food nuggets are another story. (Wait until we get to the antibiotics part.)
Even the fast food monger that deals only in chicken uses an anti-foaming agent in its offerings. Dimethylpolysiloxane, used to make Silly Putty, is a vinegary-smelling silicone used to make caulk, certain adhesives and aquarium sealant…even silicone implants. It’s used in fast foods, including the fries, to keep the rancid, oxidized frying oil from bubbling over the pot. They call it preventing effervescence, which is the escape of gases from a solution. It prevents the embarrassing passage of gases through the gut, as well. If you forget the Beano, try a squeeze of Dap silicone. Next, tert-Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) is added as an antioxidant to your happy meal, which makes the purveyor happy all the way to the bank because it enhances storage life. Forget that it’s used to stabilize diesel fuel (Almeide, 2011). If it makes you feel any better, the European Panel on Food Additives found no adverse effects of TBHQ in dogs (http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/publications/efsajournal.htm). In humans, though, chronic exposure, as would be the case for people who eat fast foods every day, may induce carcinogenicity (Gharavi, 2005( (Hirose, 1993). Oh, well, as long as the FDA says it’s O.K. (Code of Federal Reg. 21(3). 2013).
Never let it be said that the fast food industry doesn’t keep up with the times. A relative rookie in the cast of nugget ingredients is sodium aluminum phosphate, a leavening agent (baking powder) that is new to the baking industry. It has a different performance profile from other leaveners, with a preferred buffering action for flour mixes (breading), where it works slowly outside the cooker, but hastens once heated. Funny, but it’s used to make explosives, porcelain, cement, and leather tanning. Yep. There’s no worry about the sodium part and, as long as you don’t overdo it, the phosphate part isn’t too bad, either. But the aluminum fraction…not so good. Food contributes more aluminum to the body than water, and this leavening agent plays a part (Yokel, 2008, 2006). It might be naturally abundant, the third most abundant element after O2 and Si, and the most abundant metal in Earth’s crust, but Al has no place in human biology. Aluminum has been implicated in the etiology of Alzheimer’s disease (Ferriera, 2008) because of its neurotoxic character, wherein it alters the function of the blood-brain barrier (Savory, 2006). The use of aluminum adjuvants in pediatric vaccines is suspected of increasing the rate of autistic spectrum disorders (Shaw, 2013). Whether these adversities come from autoimmune reactions remains to be discovered, but that’s little consolation to anyone.
A recent analysis of chicken nuggets found them to contain ingredients besides meat. Fat, skin, bone, nerve and connective tissue comprised a substantial mass of the finished product (Deshazo, 2013). This aroused a response from the industry, which decried the inspection of only two samples. Gosh, how could the researchers have taken the wrong two out of the thousands of samples available? Nonetheless, fast food has been labeled as unfriendly and unhealthy in more countries than we might have thought, especially since energy density varies from culture to culture (Stender, April 2007) and the fat profile leaves much to be desired (Stender, May 2007).
Antibiotics have been used in poultry farming since the 1940’s when it was accidentally learned that the drugs produced increased growth in the birds. What happens is that the bad intestinal flora are sequestered to such a degree that the good can prevent the inflammation that interferes with nutrient absorption and availability. Thus, the birds grow. There was a time when any and all antibiotics were permitted in poultry, but when it became evident that human pathogens became resistant to antibiotic treatment, the list of drugs approved for farm use shrank to those that demonstrated effectiveness only in animals. Because antibiotics within their own groups share a similarity, micro-organisms that have developed immunity to one will eventually develop immunity to the others (Aarestrup, 1998, 2000).
After animals have been fed antibiotics over a period of time, they hold onto strains of bacteria that are resistant to the drugs. After proliferating in the animal, they can be transferred to others, thus forming a colony of resistant micro-organisms, spawned by spontaneous genetic mutations within a gene sequence. Now the drug can kill only the non-resistant bacteria, allowing the resistant ones to thrive. Next, through cell-to-cell contact, some germs can pass resistance to others by swapping DNA or by dispersing DNA throughout the environment after cell death, allowing it to be absorbed by a different strain. Antibiotics, effective or not, are supposed to be withheld a few weeks before a chicken meets its maker. The USDA says that compliance is good, but keep in mind that this agency exists to help farmers, not necessarily the consumer (http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/poultry-preparation/chicken-from-farm-to-table/CT_Index).
Regardless of what is done to protect the customer, chicken is still a breeding ground for pathogens. The drug-resistant Heidelberg strain of Salmonella recently sickened more than 300 people in twenty states since March, 2013. Foster Farms was reluctant to issue a recall. The USDA is not required to force the issue, since recalls for meat and poultry are voluntary (http://consumersunion.org/news/consumer-groups-urge-usda-to-strengthen-oversight-of-poultry/). Strains of Salmonella isolated from feed had been found to be the same as those isolated from packaged raw frozen nuggets and strips, but this still does not identify the ultimate source (Bucher, 2007, 2008). And now the CDC says that we’ve reached the end of the line on antibiotics, and that the superbugs have won. There’s no weapon left to defeat them. We’ve become overmedicated. Our foods have become overmedicated. After passing the buck to heretofore trustworthy bodies, we find it’s nobody’s fault. And nobody has cared until today.
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.