You Are What You Eat

12/08/2010 05:15:00 PM / Posted by Iron Lung /

            For years the American food giants have had the nation’s diet in a strangle hold. It is a handful of companies that truly govern what goes into our bodies (Food). This is not just something that affects a few of us; this will affect us all, and even our children and future generations to come. The food industry has been manipulating the nation’s dietary lifestyle through misleading marketing, monopolization of the industry, and having the law on their side thanks to high-powered attorneys and implicated legislators. Fighting such a monstrous machine can seem like a daunting task, and often we may find ourselves asking, “How can I actually make a difference?” If we shift our focus from the national picture and start small, we can make the biggest impact. By educating ourselves on what goes into our bodies and what’s in our food, as well as using the legislative system to our advantage, we can start to change the industry that is plaguing our nation and how we live. By implementing these steps we can then start to counter the industry with our own alternatives, such as buying local goods, learning about sustainable farming, and getting involved with our legislators.
            Education is the first step. We have to remove the proverbial blinders that we have grown accustomed to. The entire industry as a whole has removed us from the connection we once shared with our food. It has become desensitized. The end result, we no longer pay attention to what goes into our bodies, and if we do, we don’t know what has gone into our food. “The old saying “you are what you eat,” also applies to the animals we consume (Bongiorno).” Chicken, for example, is one of the most consumed meats on the planet. Chickens are farmed together in these cramped spaces to be able to maximize profits (Food). The animals are inhumanely de-beaked so they don’t kill each other, and they are slowly fed low doses of arsenic and antibiotics in an effort to help keep them disease free since they end up walking on their own feces (Bongiorno). This is the best instance to illustrate how the wool is being pulled over our eyes. Especially now with a quasi-uprising against the food industry, they are fooling us into thinking they are complying. They accomplish this through misleading packaging and loosely adapted words. “Natural”. You see this word everywhere now, but just because it says natural, does not assure it is. USDA Certified Organic is the most natural regulated food you can buy short of growing your own or visiting a farmers market. In this case, our chickens would be fed 100% vegetarian organic feed (Bongiorno). The most misleading package would be the one that says “Natural” chicken. According to the USDA, the word “Natural” signifies that the product is minimally processed, has no artificial flavoring, coloring, chemical preservatives or artificial or synthetic ingredients (NOP). This is actually the minimum requirement for all processed chicken, and it makes no statements about genetically altered products. To make matters worse, currently there is no third party system in place to verify these requirements are being met. To be green in our households, we can make sure we have a clean surface to prepare and cook, this will help eliminate illness. We can also remove all the skin from the chicken, and try and buy organic whenever possible (Bongiorno). To eradicate the problem, we must eliminate or cut down on our dairy, meat, and poultry consumption.
            We are being misled in several ways by packaging alone. We are lead to believe that products with the words “natural” and “healthy” really are just that, and we indulge. The biggest mistake people make is eating the entire package contents. A good majority of consumers are not aware of the serving sizes for the snacks and meals they are eating. Marketing plays a huge role in this. “Buy more, save more. 20% more free! 0%Trans Fat, One can, one serving.” These are all things we are enticed to consider. So we drink that can, that was actually two servings, and save another for lunch since they were “buy one, get one free”. The marketing and labels are fooling us all. Dr. David Ludwig of Children’s Hospital Boston researched this very epidemic and its links to childhood obesity. About the marketing ploys used, Dr. Ludwig says, “…there are the commercials that promote consumption of the highest calorie, poorest quality foods imaginable. A child today sees an estimated 10,000 food commercials a year, mostly for junk food. And of course junk foods have invaded every walk of life, including school vending machines.” (Gillham).
            Through these marketing tactics, the food industry has become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. They have taken over the mainstream media and made it nearly impossible for the smaller independent farmers to compete. They have also managed to become influential in departments that would cause a conflict of interest, such as the FDA. “In 1972, the FDA conducted approximately 50,000 food safety inspections. In 2006, the FDA conducted 9,164 (Food). ” This shows over an 80% drop in safety inspections of food processing plants, a number that is still steadily on the decline. Unfortunately, due to how our economy is brainwashed to think, the motto of cheaper is always better reigns supreme. This would explain why genetically altered products, pesticides, and factory farming are still accepted the norm.
            It is lax thinking like this that leads to the death of 5,000 Americans each year from foodborne illness (Food). E.coli poisoning and salmonella are the two major threats to our health posed from factory-farmed produce.  In fact, “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 76 million Americans are sickened, 325,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die each year from foodborne illnesses (Food).” Being followed closely only by cancer, the number 1 killer in the United States according to the CDC is heart disease (Fast). Our vast consumption of meat, cheese, milk and eggs, is slowly digging our graves. We need to learn from the example presented in Kevin’s Law and demand a shift in national food safety (Food).
            There are several different ways we can attack this beast of an issue on a smaller scale to be able to make a significant difference in the long run. By educating ourselves on what goes into our bodies and what’s in our food, as well as using the legislative system to our advantage, we can start to change the industry that is plaguing our nation and how we live. By implementing these steps we can then start to counter the industry with our own alternatives, such as buying local goods, learning about sustainable farming, and getting involved with our legislators.
The first step of being informed is by far the biggest. The removing of the blinders and coming to terms with what is the current situation of our national food system will help us break the cycle we are stuck in. By understanding nutrition and how our bodies work, we will be much more knowledgeable and thus not easily fooled when it comes to clever marketing ploys or misleading package info. We can help break the domination they maintain on the industry by buying from local farmers. “…The average food product travels about 1,500 miles to get to your grocery store” and this is not even taking into consideration the greenhouse gasses emitted from transportation needed to move it (Food).
As consumers, we need to make it a point to be informed. We should know what is in our food and where it is coming from. Pesticides are linked to autism and other neurological disorders (CDC). We should also look into sustainable farming. Even the smallest garden planted makes a huge difference. But to truly change the way the industry is manipulating how we eat, we need to take it to the top. Congress has to hear our voice in order to enact changes to how the food industry runs. Kevin’s Law has been proposed several times, but it always gets vetoed before becoming a law. Kevin’s Law would in fact allow the USDA the ability to enforce its own regulations but being able to shut down plants that continually breach basic health standards (Revive). We need to take the power back from the food industry. Through understanding our bodies and principles of human nutrition, we can break the cycle and start a new paradigm. Also, by using the legislature to our advantage and staying informed, we can shape the future of the industry, along with applying healthier alternatives like, buying from local farmers markets, looking into small personal sustainable gardens, and reviving Kevin’s Law and other such laws that would shift the balance back our way (Revive). Stay smart, stay informed and stay green, since we are what we eat.


Bongiorno, Lori. Green, Greener, Greenest: a Practical Guide to Making Eco-smart Choices a
Part of Your Life. New York: Perigee Book, 2008. Print.

FASTSTATS - Leading Causes of Death." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 31
Dec. 2009. Web. .

Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Perf. Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser and Gary Hirshberg.
Magnolia, 2008. DVD.

Gillham, Peter. "The Childhood Obesity Epidemic: How to End It." Dr. David S. Ludwig, MD,
PhD: The Childhood Obesity Epidemic: How to End It. Http://, 06
July 2010. Web.

"NOP Regulations." Agricultural Marketing Service - NOP Regulations. USDA, 21 Oct. 2010.
Web. .

"Revive Kevin's Law | Petition2Congress." Petition2Congress : Take Action and Contact
Congress | Petition2Congress. 20 May 2010. Web. .

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