How do humans know what’s edible? Nature or nuture? Pink Slime vs GMOs

Is fellatio by nature homoerotic?SO I am going to brave the hypothesis that you can write about Twinkies without having to eat one. Actually I discovered Twinkie image aversion easily overcomes Twinkie the concept, and I don’t just mean examples like the phallic Strangelove Slim Pickens hat tip at right, excuse me? Even to look at the dubiously baked confections is unappetizing, so why do we think they’re edible? This might be a recurring quandary of mine to which short term memory blinds me. Why don’t we try to eat dirt? (Easy for a well fed person to ask.) Where do we get a hunger for breakfast cereals, but not processed pet food? Why do humans stop consuming a fruit at the seed or rind, yet question why those discards fail to interest animal life too? Taste? We grasp that fire consumes nutrients, a toaster sometimes terminally, but how do industrial processes blur how we discern between live food and dead? Is it box art? Which grocery aisle? Sugar and butter are both edible and inedible, with flour it’s the reverse –never mind, that’s not what I meant to write about, I wanted to address the sudden Soylent Greening of PINK SLIME.
I know that vegetarians deride animal flesh for being inhumanely unsavory, but since when have “food activists” been motivated by what’s “gross”? Exactly. Gross has yet to stop sausage makers, and obviously the “Pink Slime” assault on ground beef production is food industry astrotruf. It’s a PR back-burn against the real public outcry, the wildfire of resistance to Genetically Modified GMO Frankenfoods.

US press protecting corporate identity of Melamine-poisoned milk recidivist

Melamine is back in the Chinese food chain, coming from milk product supposed to have been destroyed after the food industry scandal which killed six Chinese infants and left the health of thousands permanently debilitated. International conglomerate Danone was named then among the villains, but at that time, many of those implicated could claim to have been unknowing accomplices. What excuse could there be today for the resurfacing of the tainted stock, sold to Ningxia Tiantian Dairy by “an unnamed company as a debt payment”? International readers have nothing to fear from Ningxia products, but what of the culprit in this transaction? Why is that identity being concealed?

Just as when the poisoned food products were discovered in 2008, Western consumers were not exposed to the baby formulas which hit Hong Kong, or the Oreos, M&Ms, or Snickers which reached Indonesia. The melamine infused large western conglomerates Kraft and Mars, but endangered only their “loyal customers” in the East. Which didn’t mean that US consumers couldn’t affect their buying habits to punish Danone, Kraft and Mars.

The consumer goods Killer App -KILLED

A consumer goods bar code scannerFinally a real KILLER APP. A free iPhone application called the Good Guide lets you scan the barcodes of (eventually) every consumer good to learn immediately its goodness rating on a scale of 0-10. No more Consumer Report printouts, mental notes or improvisational evaluation. The Good Guide score is the synthesis of three criteria, the ratings for which are also shown: health, environment and social. How healthy is this item? How environmentally friendly? And how socially-responsible is the producer? Notably missing is a ranking for price, sidestepping the inescapable real world cost vs. benefit compromise.

UPDATE: FALSE HOPE ALARM. So far the products itemized by the GoodGuide are the General Mills variety, all of them rank highly. There’s a sugared cinnamon cereal that gets a 10 for health. Hoho.

According to an article in Grist, GoodGuide emerged from a project called TAO IT, created by Dara O’Rourke, associate professor at UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Management and Policy. Goodguide’s aim sounds like a watchdog function better administrated by a regulatory agency. I can already see industry lobbyists setting up offices to influence the GoodGuide analysts.

A lot will depend on the transparency of the GoodGuide benchmarks and the objective distance they can keep from market interests. For example, the PR budget of one conglomerate alone could create a faux ratings mechanism to usurp GoogGuide as consumers-aid du jour. A recent processed food industry Smart Choices badge comes to mind.

The GoodGuide evaluation policies do give a good impression.

GoodGuide aggregates and analyzes data on both product and company performance. We employ a range of scientific methods – health hazard assessment, environmental impact assessment, and social impact assessment – to identify major impacts to human health, the environment, and society. Each of these categories is then further analyzed within specific issue areas, such as climate change policies, labor concerns, and product toxicity. Currently, GoodGuide’s database has over 600 base criteria by which we evaluate products and companies.

Health Performance
As an example, for health performance, GoodGuide’s system takes into account both the impacts of a company’s operations on its workers and local communities, and the impacts of using a specific product on your health. Our team has gathered data on important health hazards such as:

• Cancer risks
• Reproductive health hazards
• Mutagenicity
• Endocrine disruption
• Respiratory hazards
• Skin and eye irritation

Our research currently uses a simplified health hazard assessment process that allows us to rate thousands of products along standard criteria. It should be noted that while these ratings are not risk assessments of products or chemicals, they do highlight potential hazards associated with the use of these products.

Environmental Performance
For environmental performance, GoodGuide is aggregating data on the life-cycle impacts of products, from manufacturing to transportation to use to final disposal. For companies, impact categories include:

• Environmental emissions and their impacts on air, water, land, and climate
• Natural resource impacts
• Environmental management programs

GoodGuide uses these categories to generate overall environmental performance ratings for companies.

Social Performance
For social issues, GoodGuide aggregates data on the social impacts companies have on their employees:

• Compensation
• Labor and human rights practices
• Diversity policies
• Working conditions

In addition to impacts on employees, Social Performance ratings consider impact on consumers and communities. The social scoring system also brings together information on corporate governance, disclosure policies, and overall practices.


Types of Information
Different types of information flow into GoodGuide’s system: absolute measures, relative measures, and binary measures. Absolute measures describe measurable activities of a company or product. For example, the pounds of toxic air emissions released per year, the CEO’s salary, or the amount of money a company donated to charity. Relative measures are scores, such as a numerical grade of “6.5 out of 10” or a textual grade of “bad” to “excellent.” Binary (or Yes/No) measures indicate whether a product or company does or does not have specific characteristics. For example, a product may or may not have earned an environmental certification, or a company may or may not test its products on animals.

The GoodGuide Rating
These measures are then used to create GoodGuide’s ratings. To calculate a single rating for a product or company, we convert all of the existing measures into a 0 to 10 score. In GoodGuide’s system, a score of 10 is the best and a score of 0 is the worst. Products and companies are rated relative to the performance of similar products or companies in the same industry.

The initial ratings are based on a set of selected criteria from a broad pool of data available within the GoodGuide database. We think these criteria are some of the most representative and understandable. As this is the first time all of this data has ever been aggregated in the same place, we are currently working to assess the consistency and comparability of measures across our many data sources. We would love to hear your suggestions on the relative importance of these various measures of product and company performance.

GoodGuide recognizes that even the most quantitative assessment of environmental, health, or social issues requires value judgments about the relative importance of various issues. For example, rational people can disagree over the relative importance of animal testing in evaluating a product or company. We have used our best scientific judgment in building our current ratings, and in future versions we will flag issues where personal values and preferences are particularly relevant. We will then enable people to create personalized ratings based on their own concerns.

In order to facilitate your ability to assess the data, we will also be providing an assessment of data uncertainty, completeness, and quality. These assessments can be used to weight the existing data within the GoodGuide database.

Incomplete Data
In some cases data is unavailable for a company or a product. This may be because we have not yet identified a credible data source for a given issue or topic. It may also be that the data is not publicly available because companies have not disclosed critical information. One goal of this project is to work collaboratively with key stakeholders around the world, including government agencies, non-profit organizations, private research firms, and companies to promote the quantity and quality of disclosure of important data to the public.

Learn more about GoodGuide’s methodology.

Michael Moore CAPITALISM postscript

From Michael Moore: “15 Things Every American Can Do Right Now:”
> Friends, It’s the #1 question I’m constantly asked after people see my movie: “OK — so NOW what can I DO?!” You want something to do? Well, you’ve come to the right place! ‘Cause I got 15 things you and I can do right now to fight back and try to fix this very broken system. Here they are:


1. Declare a moratorium on all home evictions. Not one more family should be thrown out of their home. The banks must adjust their monthly mortgage payments to be in line with what people’s homes are now truly worth — and what they can afford. Also, it must be stated by law: If you lose your job, you cannot be tossed out of your home.

2. Congress must join the civilized world and expand Medicare For All Americans. A single, nonprofit source must run a universal health care system that covers everyone. Medical bills are now the #1 cause of bankruptcies and evictions in this country. Medicare For All will end this misery. The bill to make this happen is called H.R. 3200. You must call AND write your members of Congress and demand its passage, no compromises allowed.

3. Demand publicly-funded elections and a prohibition on elected officials leaving office and becoming lobbyists. Yes, those very members of Congress who solicit and receive millions of dollars from wealthy interests must vote to remove ALL money from our electoral and legislative process. Tell your members of Congress they must support campaign finance bill H.R.1826.

4. Each of the 50 states must create a state-owned public bank like they have in North Dakota. Then congress MUST reinstate all the strict pre-Reagan regulations on all commercial banks, investment firms, insurance companies — and all the other industries that have been savaged by deregulation: Airlines, the food industry, pharmaceutical companies — you name it. If a company’s primary motive to exist is to make a profit, then it needs a set of stringent rules to live by — and the first rule is “Do no harm.” The second rule: The question must always be asked — “Is this for the common good?” (Click here for some info about the state-owned Bank of North Dakota.)

5. Save this fragile planet and declare that all the energy resources above and beneath the ground are owned collectively by all of us. Just like they do it in Sarah Palin’s socialist Alaska. We only have a few decades of oil left. The public must be the owners and landlords of the natural resources and energy that exists within our borders or we will descend further into corporate anarchy. And when it comes to burning fossil fuels to transport ourselves, we must cease using the internal combustion engine and instruct our auto/transportation companies to rehire our skilled workforce and build mass transit (clean buses, light rail, subways, bullet trains, etc.) and new cars that don’t contribute to climate change. (For more on this, here’s a proposal I wrote in December.) Demand that General Motors’ de facto chairman, Barack Obama, issue a JFK man-on-the-moon-style challenge to turn our country into a nation of trains and buses and subways. For Pete’s sake, people, we were the ones who invented (or perfected) these damn things in the first place!!


1. Each of us must get into the daily habit of taking 5 minutes to make four brief calls: One to the President (202-456-1414), one to your Congressperson (202-224-3121) and one to each of your two Senators (202-224-3121). To find out who represents you, click here. Take just one minute on each of these calls to let them know how you expect them to vote on a particular issue. Let them know you will have no hesitation voting for a primary opponent — or even a candidate from another party — if they don’t do our bidding. Trust me, they will listen. If you have another five minutes, click here to send them each an email. And if you really want to drop an anvil on them, send them a snail mail letter!

2. Take over your local Democratic Party. Remember how much fun you had with all those friends and neighbors working together to get Barack Obama elected? YOU DID THE IMPOSSIBLE. It’s time to re-up! Get everyone back together and go to the monthly meeting of your town or county Democratic Party — and become the majority that runs it! There will not be many in attendance and they will either be happy or in shock that you and the Obama Revolution have entered the room looking like you mean business. President Obama’s agenda will never happen without mass grass roots action — and he won’t feel encouraged to do the right thing if no one has his back, whether it’s to stand with him, or push him in the right direction. When you all become the local Democratic Party, send me a photo of the group and I’ll post it on my website.

3. Recruit someone to run for office who can win in your local elections next year — or, better yet, consider running for office yourself! You don’t have to settle for the incumbent who always expects to win. You can be our next representative! Don’t believe it can happen? Check out these examples of regular citizens who got elected: State Senator Deb Simpson, California State Assemblyman Isadore Hall, Tempe, Arizona City Councilman Corey Woods, Wisconsin State Assemblyman Chris Danou, and Washington State Representative Larry Seaquist. The list goes on and on — and you should be on it!

4. Show up. Picket the local branch of a big bank that took the bailout money. Hold vigils and marches. Consider civil disobedience. Those town hall meetings are open to you, too (and there’s more of us than there are of them!). Make some noise, have some fun, get on the local news. Place “Capitalism Did This” signs on empty foreclosed homes, closed down businesses, crumbling schools and infrastructure. (You can download them from my website.)

5. Start your own media. You. Just you (or you and a couple friends). The mainstream media is owned by corporate America and, with few exceptions, it will never tell the whole truth — so you have to do it! Start a blog! Start a website of real local news (here’s an example: The Michigan Messenger). Tweet your friends and use Facebook to let them know what they need to do politically. The daily papers are dying. If you don’t fill that void, who will?


1. Take your money out of your bank if it took bailout money and place it in a locally-owned bank or, preferably, a credit union.

2. Get rid of all your credit cards but one — the kind where you have to pay up at the end of the month or you lose your card.

3. Do not invest in the stock market. If you have any extra cash, put it away in a savings account or, if you can, pay down on your mortgage so you can own your home as soon as possible. You can also buy very safe government savings bonds or T-bills. Or just buy your mother some flowers.

4. Unionize your workplace so that you and your coworkers have a say in how your business is run. Here’s how to do it (more info here). Nothing is more American than democracy, and democracy shouldn’t be checked at the door when you enter your workplace. Another way to Americanize your workplace is to turn your business into a worker-owned cooperative. You are not a wage slave. You are a free person, and you giving up eight hours of your life every day to someone else is to be properly compensated and respected.

5. Take care of yourself and your family. Sorry to go all Oprah on you, but she’s right: Find a place of peace in your life and make the choice to be around people who are not full of negativity and cynicism. Look for those who nurture and love. Turn off the TV and the Blackberry and go for a 30-minute walk every day. Eat fruits and vegetables and cut down on anything that has sugar, high fructose corn syrup, white flour or too much sodium (salt) in it (and, as Michael Pollan says, “Eat (real) food, not too much, mostly plants”). Get seven hours of sleep each night and take the time to read a book a month. I know this sounds like I’ve turned into your grandma, but, dammit, take a good hard look at Granny — she’s fit, she’s rested and she knows the names of both of her U.S. Senators without having to Google them. We might do well to listen to her. If we don’t put our own “oxygen mask” on first (as they say on the airplane), we will be of no use to the rest of the nation in enacting any of this action plan!

I’m sure there are many other ideas you can come up with on how we can build this movement. Get creative. Think outside the politics-as-usual box. BE SUBVERSIVE! Think of that local action no one else has tried. Behave as if your life depended on it. Be bold! Try doing something with reckless abandon. It may just liberate you and your community and your nation.

What was with that thick catsup?

Heinz ketchupRemember the catsup commercials played to the tune of Carly Simon’s “Anticipation,” about the tomato- based condiment emerging from its bottle with the reluctance of molasses? Remember too the regulatory attemt to categorize catsup as a vegetable? Which was it? Why were we impressed that a brand name ketchup would bottleneck like glue instead of flow out with the juiciness of ripe tomatoes? That uniform viscosity bore another similarity to sweet and sticky: High Fructose Corn Syrup!

Remember too the test of a proper spaghetti sauce being its resistance to leaking through a filter? TV audiences were shown that inferior sauces dripped, while the thicker, richer brand clung. That was probably the sweeter brand too. Thanks to High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Now hold on a minute. What’s wrong with HFCS? After all, the corn refinery industry assures us that HFCS is like anything, perfectly fine, in moderation.

But how do you consume HFCS in moderation, when the muck is IN everything?

The old catsup commercial’s subversion of our concept of what constitutes good food, didn’t occur to me until I pondered the uniform syrupy essence of nearly all processed food products today. When you look upon today’s supermarket aisles, colored by their uniformly bright products, you can practically choke on your anticipation of corn syrup congealing at the back of your throat.

I swear the otherwise transparent corn syrup has become aesthetic too. HFCS is present in the visual design of the cardboard cases of soda. It’s in the same triple stroke typefaces of pop and candy bars.

HFCS became so popular because unlike many natural foods, it didn’t have an aftertaste. The sweetness lingered, because it sticks.

What were we thinking was taking so long up inside that bottle, for which we were salivating with such eager anticipation? I’d like to think the hesitation was the food industry’s unconscious reluctance to reveal its poisonous mendacity.

Killing people with the $1 menu

double cheeseburgerThe US ‘recession diet’ highlights the dollar menu of McDonalds, but the whole problem of how the capitalist economy kills the poor with a crappy food supply is international in scope and encompasses much more than one food outlet and one consumer habit. Much of our over-consumption and poor dietary habits is actually related to bargain hunting and as a result, huge quantities of food are actually thrown away spoiled from American refrigerators.

What to do with the 10 lbs of potatoes bought for $1.99 because the price per lb, was actually 69 cents at the local Wall Soupers? You ate 5 lbs of them instead of three, threw out 5 lbs that went bad, and came out with a savings in what you paid out! But did world society as a whole? It is quite doubtful, but this is the game we all have to play on the capitalist market daily. It’s a mess!

The same thing happens when health regulations are tied to the needs of greater sales by companies rather than to the actual public health. Millions of tons of food are discarded because institutions are mandated by regulations geared to helping the even bigger guys out. Public schools alone discard humongous amounts of just milk from these sort of government enforced con games they play with the public to assist the profiteering by the US dairy industry.

And back to McDonalds, most cities are totally hampered by ‘health laws’ that keep McDonalds from having street stand competition to their $1 menu. The public health suffers as an actual result, and is not being protected by these laws despite the constant propaganda that that is what these ‘health regulations’ are all about. In the US, it is a giant conspiracy by the big companies to kill people off with the $1 menu. Monopolies in the food industry destroy all public health.

Irradiate the liars at the FDA

tomato berryMost of the food in the American diet is approved by the FDA for irradiation and chemotherapy treatments. Our fresh produce and meat are subjected to these invasive procedures 1) to kill microorganisms and other pathogens 2) to arrest or delay the ripening process 3) to act as a pesticide 4) to prevent spoilage or sprouting. Although they don’t say it explicitly, irradiation also masks serious sanitation problems in both farming and meat processing and provides greater immunity to the food industry executives who can claim that their products were “clean” when they left the facility.

The FDA has assured us over and over that the process of irradiation is completely safe. So safe, in fact, that consumers don’t even need to know which foods are exposed to ionizing radiation.

I think the FDA should define its terms. What do they mean by safe? Irradiation works by breaking down molecules and creating free radicals. Sure, the free radicals kill some bacteria, but they also damage vitamins and fragile enzymes. The free radicals can combine with existing chemicals in the food, like pesticides, to form new chemicals, called unique radiolytic products (URPs). Some of these URPs are known toxins like benzene and formaldehyde, and others are unique to the irradiated foods. Since they are unique, I guess we can assume they are safe.

After the anthrax scare a few years back, the US Postal Service began irradiating our mail. Because there is no danger in irradiating anything, least of all the mail, they were surprised when postal employees began to experience headaches, nausea, eye irritation, lightheadedness, nose irritation, and chest or throat tightness when processing irradiated mail. The USPS hired an industrial hygiene consultant who found elevated levels of carbon monoxide, ozone, chlorine, and other volatile organic chemicals in the work area. The USPS called OSHA.

Long and short of it, OSHA came in and did a bunch of tests. They found the same URPs that the consultant had identified, and quite a few more. But instead of addressing the dangers of mail irradiation, OSHA made the following recommendations:
1) “Air out” the mail before processing.
2) Monitor facilities for high concentrations of toxic chemicals/gases and, if found, try a change in handling methods or provide additional ventilation.
3) Keep a log to track health problems related to handling or being exposed to irradiated mail. Have the log reviewed periodically by an occupational medicine physician to look for trends or areas requiring further evaluation. (like maybe increased cancer rates or other pesky statistics)
4) Recommend that employees experiencing eye irritation use over-the-counter eye drops as often as necessary to relieve symptoms.

Can you believe it? OSHA sold the postal employees down the river so they could keep the irradiation-is-perfectly-safe lie going. I’m sure they weren’t given much leeway by the unscrupulous ignorant bastards at the FDA.

Scientists have known for years that irradiation causes food to become vitamin deficient which leaves well-fed bodies starved for nutrition. Irradiation deactivates food enzymes which affects the digestion process, which affects absorption of nutrients, which affects every cell in the human body. Irradiation damages the very DNA of not only the food, but also the bacteria it’s supposed to kill. This, in turn, leads to irradiation-resistant super germs that are far more dangerous to us than the original pathogens. Irradiated food contains toxic radiolytic products, aka poisons, which are ingested by you and me and everyone we know. Irradiation creates free radicals which are known to cause cell damage. The cell damage can manifest in innumerable ways, from premature aging to cancer to blindness.

radura logoThe process of irradiation is safe? It’s certainly not free of harm. I guess the FDA means that irradiation is safe from public scrutiny, safe from government accountability, safe from ethical study, safe from its own sad truth.


No more reporting on the beef recall?

Suspect beef product ON HOLD on school shelvesThe largest beef recall in history has taught us what, so far? That 37 million pounds went to the USDA school lunch program, which was distributed to schools unknown. We quietly presume the USDA had been pawning off the questionable product to the poor and dismissible among our population. But why won’t they release the names of the schools? In whispered tones with food program insiders, you learn why. Because the USDA product goes to ALL schools. (NOTE: Corpus Christi School found the recalled meat on their shelves and made the switch to a safer supplier, shouldn’t your school do the same?)

While all or any of the Colorado schools may have taken delivery of the Hallmark suspect product, the USDA school food program in Colorado gets the bulk of its meat from Advanced Meatpacking out of Oklahoma. Advanced is regarded by industry watchers as likely worse than Hallmark. We’re not talking about the tip of an iceberg, we’re [not] talking about the as yet largely unexposed large underbelly of American factory farming.

What’s so bad about US meat that foreign markets won’t buy it? Our government regulators won’t test it adequately. Individual meatpackers who want to submit their product for voluntary testing are prevented by the USDA, for fear of creating a stigma around non-tested meat.

Other countries test their 100% of their herd animals for BSE. They also prohibit the feeding of rendered animals to other animals. This is the process by which BSE spreads. The US does not prohibit the use of rendered feed. US calves are raised on a diet of milk and blood: milk fortified with the blood of their predecessors. It redefines “adulterated” I think.

US methods to prevent mad cow disease resemble more the measures necessary not to see it. The official word is that the USA doesn’t have mad cow disease. Cattle which display the traits resembling mad cow disease in Europe, here are called “downer cows.” Our safety guidelines are thus: keep those cows from reaching the meat packers. Easy enough, unless you run across slaughterhouse workers with the initiate to use forklifts and chains to harvest downed cows like any other. Then you need video cameras to catch them.

But video cameras cannot catch the biggest flaw in this screening process. Most cattle infected with BSE do not begin to show symptoms until after they are two years old. Most cattle in the US reach the slaughterhouse before they are two.

Even with a breach of our paltry preventive procedures, the USDA is still unwilling to say their prescribed screening is insufficient.

Perhaps the USDA fears that implementing European testing standards would reveal a huge chunk of US beef to be tainted with mad cow. This would profoundly impact the food industry and our economy as a whole. Perhaps a few thousand CJD fatalities five years from now is a small price to pay for stability now. Besides, those in the know have money to buy organic beef from verifiable sources. The prosperity of the market has always been borne on the backs and at the expense of the common mortal. CJD means fewer to reach retirement.

Newspapers don’t want to touch this subject, many of their advertisers are restaurants which can’t afford to deal in the more expensive meats. Alternative news-weeklies rely on supermarkets for their distribution sites.

(NOTE: Except Ralph Routon and the Independent, March 6)

No one wants to shake consumer confidence in the food supply. The problem extends beyond beef, beyond poultry, beyond farmed fish, beyond ocean fisheries, beyond imported produce, beyond domestic agribusiness, beyond pesticides, irradiation and biogenetics. So the media is not going to start with any of it. As it is with the American health care system, your health is up to you.

By the way, most of the meat being recalled has already been consumed. Of what’s left, the USDA is only asking schools to set it aside for the time being. It is being neither recalled, nor destroyed. Probably it would be too alarming to ask cafeteria workers to destroy what only a day before they had been serving up for their kids for years.

This is good news for you, if you want to find out which schools were serving the bad meat. You still have a chance to call those responsible for the food service at your child’s school. Public or private, I assure you the probability is similar. Ask them if they’ve got the recalled Hallmark stock on hold.

A kernel of un-truth

food industry fascists
If you’ve met me, even for five minutes, you know that I hate the US food industry with great gusto. Every single day, though I try very hard not to, I read something about the obesity epidemic and the alarming rates of depression, anxiety, ADHD, heart disease, diabetes, cancer. The list of woes goes on ad fricking infinitum.

Before I rip on the government, who should be watching over the food industry to ensure that our food supply is safe and nutritious, but most assuredly isn’t, not only because they are fascist bastards who love corporate goodies, but also because they are fucking idiots who know absolutely nothing about health or nutrition…. breathe….. before I rip on them, let me say that the joke known as the food pyramid has actually, finally, been revised a tiny bit in the right direction. Still, the pyramid only addresses the quantities of food that should be consumed and doesn’t speak a word about nutrition, so it’s still pretty worthless.

What do you think of when you hear the word enrich? Does it conjure up images of a living thing, mangled and dissected until nothing of value remains? Do you picture its skeletal carcass, picked clean by vultures and bleached in the desert sun until it is devoid of not only life, but color as well? If somehow it fell upon you to enrich the poor dead thing, what would you do? Dress it up in fancy clothes? A nice hat? Maybe even googly eyes?

Do you know why the food industry is so good as to enrich wheat flour after they’ve milled it, discarded the nutritious parts, and bleached any remaining life out of it? Why they then throw worthless synthetic vitamins in the coffin? A guilt offering perhaps. But more likely its because they have to for their bleached white flour to be considered, get this, FOOD.

I’ll cut right to my point. A kernel of wheat, or a wheat berry, is a living thing, a seed. It consists of three separate parts: the bran, the germ and the inner core, the endosperm. A kernel of wheat contains over 30 different nutrients, dispersed throughout the component parts, and is the primary food source for most of the world. In the US, instead of acting as our nutritional savior, as the good Lord intended, most wheat isn’t even food.

But I don’t buy bleached flour! I buy stone ground whole wheat products! Sorry to tell you but once a kernel of wheat has been milled, even if it is not subjected to the atrocities committed on its less fortunate counterparts, it is still nearly worthless, possessing only 10% of all vitamins, minerals and trace elements found in a wheat berry. As soon as wheat is ground into flour it begins to oxidize. Within 24 hours, most nutrients have dissipated into the atmosphere, and spoilage sets in soon after. Freshly-milled, highly-nutritious whole wheat flour has almost NO shelf life. Which is why the food industry spends so much time and money on our eventual enrichment.

My poor kids have suffered for years under my ruthless hatred of American flour. They are the physically fit, calm and well-behaved little souls who forlornly peel their Clementines while cruel classmates taunt them with flour-y treats. They are the oddballs, the misfits, the outcasts. At least they were.

Now I buy hard red wheat kernels at Mountain Mamas for $.67/lb. I grind the flour in my handy Nutri-mill (For purposes of full disclosure, this runs about $250. I’ve had mine for 10 years, no trouble). Within minutes I use the freshly ground flour to make cinnamon rolls, muffins, cookies, waffles and other delicacies. My kids are popular again and, almost more importantly, stuffed full of 30 vital nutrients. They have good physical health and energy, good mental health, stable moods. It’s a happy place, this home.

If you do one thing this year to improve your life, grind your own flour and learn to bake a few things. And never ever ever believe that the US food suppliers, or the US government, cares one iota about your health and well-being.

We’ve fallen! And we won’t get up!

There’s been much hand-wringing over the news that the United States lags behind 41 other nations with regard to life expectancy. Oh my, they say. How could the richest nation in the world be surpassed by lesser mortals? We’re #1! We’re #1!

We’re #1 alright. Thanks to our gluttony and laziness (with kudos to the food industry and the government), we have the highest rate of obesity on the planet. A third of adults over 20 are considered obese. Two thirds are overweight. We gorge ourselves on fast food. Know nothing about nutrition. Refuse to exercise. So, duh, we’ve got heart disease. High cholesterol. High stress. Depression. Anxiety. Addiction.

Thanks to our avarice, we also have record foreclosure rates. A negative savings rate. High expectations for our personal prosperity but an unwillingness to work for its attainment. Or, conversely, we are workaholics who spend our lives like rodents in a wheel, running to pointless exhaustion. The rest of the time we sit, slack-jawed in front of the TV or the computer, passively enjoying life from our Lay-Z-Boy deluxe armchairs. Not exactly Heidi in the Alps.

Many of the nation’s problems are tied to our lack of self-care and low standards for our own health and well-being. Quick to place blame, we are rarely the culprit. We rely heavily on others to slap expensive Band-Aids on the woes we’ve created for ourselves. We are Americans. We are entitled. To whatever we want. From whatever pocket.

What do we want? Whatever we want! When do we want it? NOW!

It’s a twisted existence we’re living. We are ruining ourselves. We are ruining the rest of the world. I’m overjoyed that our life expectancy isn’t the highest. I’ve already had enough and I’m only halfway there.

Getting beyond TOO FAR

PetaI was very heartened to catch sight in the Indy of a local protest against KFC Kentucky Fried Cruelty, organized by PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I didn’t know there was an active chapter in Colorado Springs. I’ll try to be in contact.
Another friend wasn’t so excited. “Sometimes, he told me, I think PETA goes too far.” I had to agree.

But I’m convinced that sometimes you have to go TOO FAR. In fact I’m not sure we don’t ALWAYS have to go that far. And looking at our own efficacy, including that of PETA’s, perhaps we are not going FAR ENOUGH!

PETA is being maligned with the same character assassination used to sideline America’s unions. Labor too greedy, the corporate press told us. Fat cats and layabouts, wanting high wages for nothing, going TOO FAR. Never mind that the unions gave us every work regulation we enjoy today, the public believed the media slander. The multinationals and their media broke the power we had to bargain collectively. Globalization will finish the job. TOO FAR my foot.

Might I ask: what about the systemic dehumanization being pushed on us? When will you decide that what they’re doing goes TOO FAR? I’d love to see somebody watch a video capturing the mistreatment of animals by our food industry –brought to us through the great efforts of PETA– and recoil in horror at what they see. Let them decry THAT’S GOING TOO FAR!

Got health insurance?

Universal healthcare you say? Every civilized nation on earth has it except us? Well, take a look at the average American when compared to a French or Canadian counterpart. Fat, dumb and happy. Chubby hand reaching out….trying to find a Hot Pocket, or an open pocket. Gimme more, gimme more. Fill my yap. I deserve it. Don’t expect me to care for myself, or my family.

We can thank the government and the educational system for creating a nation of uninformed cretins. We can thank the food industry for lining their pockets at the expense of good nutrition and health. We can thank the legal system for stealing Hansel and Gretel’s crumbs….leaving doctors to take the safest path. We can thank the pharmaceutical companies for corrupting our well-meaning doctors and putting profiteering ahead of health.

The truth is that most doctors are saps who care about the average American. I was married to one for many years. Never once did I see him hesitate to help an uninsured individual. He’s a fantastic surgeon who knows little about wellness. You’ve gotta cut to cure. You’ve got pain? Here is Vicodin. You’ve got inflammation? Let me give you a cortisone shot. Depression or anxiety? Zoloft and Paxil. Exercise? Massage? Acupuncture? Herbs? Good nutrition? Safety? Self discipline? Not on the radar. Medical education is driven by those that stand to gain. If there isn’t profit in a particular course of treatment, it is not part of the curriculum. The powers that be do not make money from whole grains, whole foods, supplements, Eastern medicine, helmets, exercise. Thus, our poor students learn nothing about wellness. And they are unaware of their lack.

Enter the greediest of parasites–attorneys. When managed care first came to the fore, every doc I know was willing to forego unnecessary tests, to save healthcare dollars. Dave had great confidence in his diagnostic powers. He knew what his patient needed and had the balls to refuse unneeded and expensive tests. In one year, when the average surgeon ordered several hundred MRIs, Dave ordered 11. Alas, it took only one lawsuit by a fat, diabetic smoker to change his opinion. “Did you order an MRI?” “No, it was unnecessary.” “Isn’t that the standard of care in the community?” “Yes, but it was unnecessary in this case.” Nevermind that an MRI would tell him nothing that he didn’t know. It was an Achille’s heel with a jury of uneducated peers. Now, my idealistic and caring husband has become jaded. Why on earth would he put himself, his family and his reputation on the line to save a few bucks for Centura? Especially when they are taking the “savings” to line the pockets of their top executives.

Let’s also talk about end-of-life issues. Many healthcare dollars are spent in the last two weeks of a terminal patient’s life. To say euthanasia is to belie one’s atheistic nature and to bring brimstone down upon one’s head. To suggest withholding care is to betray an uncaring attitude. Bullshit! Who wants to spend his last days unconscious, hooked up to IVs, soiling the sheets and dragging out the grieving process for loved ones? No one I know. But what doctor is brave enough to make the suggestion? Jack Kevorkian was imprisioned for honoring the requests of the dying. He was a revolutionary. He paid a great price. I won’t encourage Dave to take the same path, although I think it is a noble one.

Until the American public is willing and able to start looking out for their own health and well-being, until they are willing and able to educate themselves and their children, until people are willing to forego expensive testing, until they are willing to see a nurse, a midwife, a physical therapist or a physician’s assistant for their primary care, there will be no moving forward. Any presidential candidate promoting a universal healthcare plan best be prepared to confront not only the corporations who control our food supply and our education, but also the Unhealthy American and his cousin, the Greedy American. I will not support a candidate who doesn’t have the knowledge and integrity to speak truth.

Brand name taste is an abstraction

A friend of mine is a restauranteur who by his own admission doesn’t know much about wine. Never the less his wine rep was bringing over a bottle of Chateau d’Yquem for some occasion. I asked my friend if he’d read up on Sauterne vintages, the better to appreciate it. He looked at me quizzically. I persisted, thinking something along the lines of Tom Wolfe’s Painted Word, that you had to know about the theory of abstract art to appreciate what you saw. I didn’t get far because my friend was attuned to the un-abstract measure of his customer’s palate. Did they taste a distinctive quality? That was enough. You don’t need a text to appreciate pre-abstract art. Epicure likewise is not abstract.

Many aspects of our lives have become experiences of abstract quality. We may not prefer a fashion, but are happy enough with it so long as we believe others like it. A designer label says what we want about us, regardless whether we have a say about it. Marketing goes a long way to produce our appreciation. When we use the product we feel ourselves in the commercial. For some beverages, I’m certain the commercial has become the product. We begin enjoying the Coke from the first cold beads of condensation on the can, through the Shtffk of cracking the pop tab, until it’s down our throat. Right then we all know Coke doesn’t satisfy our thirst, because we already want more. It satisfies our craving to inhabit the Coke world.

Sugar is not an acquired taste, but wanting to be a Pepper is. Breakfast cereal feeds a pathetic sweet tooth. Cheap beer and the new soft-liquors feed conditioned desires.

Not only is the processed food industry relying on its talent to taylor our appetite, it undermines our reliance on our own senses. If something is not advertised, can it be of value? Ice cream flavored of cookies ‘n cream isn’t good enough unless they are Oreo brand cookies. Toffee must be Heath Bars, peanut butter must be Reeses. Except for regional salsas or steak marinades, products fade from the supermarket shelves if nt cross branded with a national identity. This has become an easier feat for the big guys because they’ve conglomerated so many diverse products, from babies diapers to tobacco.

The brand name is now the critical ingredient which we all taste with our imagination, crafted by ceaseless ad campaigns. A product’s advertising is itself a stipend paid to the media companies to ensure a brand stays on the public palate. Remember Oh Henry? Somebody lapsed in their payment.

Now the powerhouse food corps are using the same manipulative method to plant doubt in the consumer’s mind about their own ability to judge taste. (I remember an subscription tag line for GQ magazine to this effect: You don’t know fashion, let GQ tell you.) How could what you think tastes good, have any bearing on what they tell you tastes good?

With health food the fearful conglomerates caution, how do you know it’s really organic? But isn’t that the same assumption I threw at my friend? It’s true with processed food, we can’t taste BGH or Mad Cow spinal matter, or protein additives necessarily. But other factors like refined sugars, fats, or chemical pesticides we can detect. In the produce department, it’s not just a matter of stickers that say “organic” or higher prices or more easily blemished fruit, it’s the taste. Organic produce tastes fuller, richer, more pleasing, more satisfying.

Our own natural sense of taste tells us whether we are enjoying it or not. No textbook, afficionado’s article, or 30 second commercial need tell us what we think of that apple. Or what we think of the non-stickered apple which tastes like the floor cleaner we thought they used in the supermarket. That isn’t the floor we were smelling, it was the apples. If it weren’t for the antiseptic packaging, the inert food content and the slick marketing directing our taste buds, we’d realize the whole supermarket smelled of Union Carbide and Monsanto.

Life in the fast lane

Have you ever fasted? We all have heard about people who do, but why do they fast? Why on earth would they fast? Self deprivation and delayed gratification have no place in the American way of life. Growing up Catholic we always tried to give something up for Lent. Usually it was something that we didn’t much care for to begin with, like black-eyed peas. But to truly take oneself out of a state of constant satiation seems unnecessary, if not downright crazy.

I’ll tell you something unbelievable. Fasting is fantastic. It is healthy. It is powerful. Physically, the process of digestion consumes more energy than nearly anything we human beings do. It is nonstop and tiring to the body. The garbage we put into ourselves on a daily basis overwhelms our systems…thanks in part to gluttony but with big kudos to the food industry who has meddled with the food supply to the point of absurdity.

The absolute best way to fast requires copious amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables, an expensive juicer, lots of time. A simpler fast that I’ve discovered has been around for 50 years or so. 3 ounces of fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice, 3 ounces of Grade B maple syrup (this is not the syrup you buy at the local supermarket….look at a health food store or buy it via the internet). 2 or 3 capsules of cayenne pepper. 24 ounces of distilled water. Drink this all day long.

Day one is the most difficult. The body begins to release toxins. You may feel sluggish. You’ll certainly feel your addictions to various foods. Day two is a bit easier. By day three or four you’ll begin to feel powerful…akin to runners’ euphoria. Your body is free, your mind is unencumbered, you are living life on a higher plane.

Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days. Do you think that this was a sacrificial act? If so, it certainly pales in comparison to death on a cross. No, I believe Jesus fasted to release himself from the bonds of human frailty….to put himself in contact with the divine. That’s why yogis fast, why Muslims and Christians fast. Why I fast. Try it. It will certainly change your body. Perhaps it will change your life.

Chemistry in the food supply

Ask any veterinarian what you’re supposed to be feeding your dog or cat, they’ll tell you dry food only, and water. So perhaps people poisoning their pets with wet canned meals have achieved their result, more recently accelerated by the accidental Melamine additive in wheat gluten imported from China.

The FDA has been reluctant to reveal the companies behind the wayward toxin, even as the public grapples with the possibility that the plastic derivative may have reached the human food supply. Naming names reveals not just the corporate logos but also the extended interweaving of chemical companies in the food industry.

Did you have any idea the can of Alpo held by Mr. Publishers Clearinghouse contained Wheat Gluten from Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. or partner Suzhou Textile Import and Export Co. of Jiangsu, China; imported by ChemNutra Inc. of Las Vegas, Nevada; sold to pet food giants Nestle Purina, Del Monte, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, and behind-the scenes giant Menu Foods Inc. of Canada which makes 100 of the different smaller pet food brands? Whatever are you deliberating in the pet food isle, which TV commercial will best please your domestic companion?

You knew pet food wasn’t made by Keebler Elves or the Jolly Green Giant, but did you suspect the truth was so sordidly mundane? Nearly all people food passes through the chemical fingers of Archer Daniels Midland or Monsanto or both. Wait until the FDA tries to keep their names out of the spotlight.

The ecology of America’s rotting food

A lot has been written about the ecology of America’s rotten food. The book and movie, Food Nation, for example centers in on this American phenomena of bad factory food, leading to bad American taste, leading to bad American health. Fat city. If we keep gaining weight at the present rate our country’s population is doing, one perhaps can figure that the per capita weight per American will be about 10,000 tons apiece in the year 10,000. Holy hippopotamus! But what about the ecology of America’s rotting food? Just how much food does get thrown out? Here is what the food industry itself has to say. Half of US food never gets eaten.

If one looks closely at these statistics, we can see that the majority of the food waste does not come at the family table. According to this study, only 14% of what is bought gets wasted here. A family of 4 spends over $4,000 a year, and could save almost $600 in food costs, if only none of it went to waste. But since the supermarket actually passes much of its waste to the family home, really 14% is not that bad to throw out. Don’t blame the consumer then.

So how does the supermarket force waste on the consumer? Answer; by its constant promotions. For example, why buy 3 lbs of potatos at $0.59/ lb, if the grocer is pushing for you to buy 10 lbs for $1.29? What often happens, is that the consumer buys 10 lbs, then overeats to keep from throwing the food out. So he eats 5 lbs, and then tosses the other half of the then rotting remainder of potatos into the trash. Do we call all this efficiency of the capitalist system, liberty ,and democracy? Or do we call it a big rotten, rotting shame?

So where is all the other waste happening? When I lived in Oregon, I was amazed at how much rotten fruit was hanging in so many trees. At one time, the small family farm had produced orchads all over the state. But all those farmers got driven bankrupt, so their trees still produced fruit, but nobody was around still to pick it. Even the highways had both sides filled with ripe blackberries when in season. The bears were all bankrupt, too, so these delicious berries everywhere just rotted in the sun. All throughout the countryside, food is left to rot.

And look at our public schools. The kids get served about 3 times they could possibly consume, so that food gets thrown out in bushels. All under the guise of making sure nobody goes hungry. Yeah, but then again, all the kids grow fat. And they grow wasteful and slovenly, too.

Have you ever looked at the grocers themselves. High prices everywhere, but is it because what you consume is expensive? It’s more like what they throw away is what costs. You pay for the grocers’ inability to manage the transport of decent food at a decent price. Ever gone into Whole Foods on Academy Blvd.? Look at how many shopping carts are mostly empty. Why? Simply because the prices are too damn high. What do you think happens to all that unsold, high priced ‘organic’ food then? It just gets tossed into the garbage can. You pay for that with their higher prices. It’s all organic, though.

What a disaster all this is ecologically. The liberal sites were all carrying an article last week about the problems that high tech waste was causing ecologically. Computers, cell phones, compact discs, sex toys, tvs, etc. True enough. But to not eat half of the food produced in America is quite an ecological tragedy, too. The soils get worn down, blown away, and the rivers fill up with pig poop. And as grandma used to say,

“Eat all the food on your plate. There is a kid in India that is starving.”

I care, but I don’t think your average American business man gives a damn. He’s proud thinking about how efficient ‘free enterprise’ is in America, for making all of us grow so fat and growing mountains of food in double quantities we don’t really need.