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Alyssa Gurklis Professor Babcock Rhetoric and Civic Life 31 Oct. 2013 The Degradation of the American Diet

Food processing, it its most basic form, began far from the factories described in Upton

Sinclairs The Jungle. In a broad understanding of the idea, primitive forms of food processing evolved from preserving foods with salts and spices to canning and other storage mechanisms. After many technological advances, the process left the home, grew in size, and moved to largescale operations in slaughterhouses and factories. In pork processing, one of the earlier large scale processing efforts, carcasses were hung on a moving belt and were systematically disassembled by a series of workers, each worker performing a specic part of the process. Inspired by the pork model, Henry Ford, maker of the Model-T automobile, would later apply the same systematic process to his automotive factories (Food-Processing Industries, 320). Both the food processing industry and the automotive industry continued to grow from humble beginnings as their respective technologies evolved; the factory system made successful advances in terms of efciency. For the automotive industry, as well as for the many industries to evolve before it, the advent of technology lead to an impersonalization in production. For the food industry, conceptually parallel effects can be observed, but the implications for the consumer differ. Both industries improved in terms of their abilities to meet the rising demands of the growing population while simultaneously reducing production costs. However, for the food industry, the reduction in cost lead to a reduction in quality and to a darkening veil

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developing between products and their customers that has been shown to directly effect its consumers health. ! In the case of the food industry, factors such as technology, economics, and politics have

thus far lead to a course of history that has diverged from good intentions towards actions that knowingly produce negative consequences. In this way, the modern food industry echos the developmental path of the long-vilied tobacco industry. Tobacco itself has deep historical roots in the Americas, but its popularity increased when cigarettes were made available and cheap (Benowitz). By the 1950s and 60s, tobacco was wildly popular and practically ubiquitous amongst both men and women (Benowitz). However, knowledge of tobaccos adverse effects soon spread. When knowledge of the deceptive tactics used by the tobacco industry was made available, the public became emboldened. Eventually, through the publics demands for change, the tobacco industry was forced to make serious reformations, leading to its decline. Currently, those who are conscientious about the deception surrounding the modern food industry advocate for the same pattern of events. Advocates argue that in order to make a positive transformation in the American diet, the public must rst be made aware of the issues surrounding the food industry, which directly affect their health. Consumers must be presented with viable alternatives. The downward shift of the quality of the American diet was initiated by the rapidly compounding advancements made by the food processing industry and by the dissemination of synthetic ingredients and additives into the majority of products available to consumers. Experts argue that without change, the quality of the American diet will continue to decline and Americans will continue to be negatively affected.! ! The increased demand for food to feed American troops and to mitigate food shortages

during times of war, beginning in the Civil War era, initially stimulated the growth of the food

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processing industry (Food-Processing Industries, 320). By the First World War, food processing had become more systematic and more scientic, incorporating synthetic chemicals and preservatives (Food-Processing Industries, 321). Processes such as rendering, which turned animal waste products into sellable products, as well as processes for freezing and packaging foods and improved canning techniques took mass-production and mass-distribution to new levels (Food-Processing Industries, 320). Not only were processed foods easy to transport to soldiers, but they were also convenient, and much cheaper than raw foods for families at home. ! As the food industry continued to grow, the process moved from the home to large

factories. Around the turn of the century, factories started to attract attention, notably from the likes of Upton Sinclair. As a partial response to his expos, lawmakers passed the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which created the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) (Food-Processing Industries, 321). The governments involvement in agriculture increased profoundly during the 1930s, mostly in response to the Depression-era economic crisis. The 1933 farm bill created a New Deal agency that oversaw agricultural subsidies and introduced the idea of paying farmers not to grow crops. This type of regulatory measure was enacted to raise the value of crops and allow farmers to stay in business (Kte'pi, 160). However, the beneciaries proved to be large farms because, unlike smaller farms, they could afford to make reductions and still be able to make signicant earnings. As a result, many bankrupt farmers were forced to sell their land to the already-large farms (Kte'pi, 161). Unfortunately for smaller farmers, the end of the Second World War ushered in a Consumer Revolution and the shift from food production on small farms and in the home to large-scale factory operations intensied (Food-Processing Industries, 322). Family dinners of the forties and fties consisting of precooked, canned, and ready-mixed foods

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had begun to eclipse the traditional American home-cooked supper. American consumers craved the new forms of convenient and low-cost options, thus growing the industry. ! The 1950s introduced the fast food restaurants and their sudden success afrmed the

popularity of food produced by large-scale operations and the industry again boomed. Like the workers in the pork factories and in Fords factories, fast food workers each completed one task and passed the to-be meal to the next worker in line. The assembly line process, rst applied to the prepared foods industry by Ray Kroc and his McDonalds chain, ensured consistent quality, Speedee Service, and a low cost that consumers could not resist ("McDonalds Restaurants, 527; "Franchising."). Industrial food manufacturers responded to the demands for convenience and low cost with yet another set of expansions. Increasingly, the majority of food in America seemed to be made systematically by a system consisting of cog-like workers and machines. Unfortunately for consumers, in its expansion, corners were cut and the quality of food was further compromised. ! Today, a small handful of giant enterprises control the entire commercial food market.

Because of the privileges granted by the government, often in the form of farm bills, many large companies such as Tyson, Swift, Cargill, National Beef, Smitheld, and Monsanto are able to maintain a monopoly on their industry and thus, feed the majority of Americans (Food, Inc.). Though supermarket walls are covered with more choices than ever before, the sources of food products are actually far and few between (Food, Inc.). The goal of these companies is to produce as much food as possible, in as short an amount of time as possible, for as little cost as possible, using as little land as possible (King Corn). In the 1950s, it took seventy days to raise a chicken for slaughter. In 2008, a chicken twice as large could be grown and slaughtered in a mere forty-eight days (Food, Inc.). Chicken grown in this way never see the sunlight and they are

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unable to walk because of the small, cramped, and unsanitary conditions in which they are produced. Most animals produced by commercial farming are fed with a cheap diet of corn laced with antibiotics and growth hormones. Such conditions are unnatural for livestock and most animals are sick or near-death by the point when it is time for slaughter (King Corn.). Current farming practices are not only arguably inhumane, but they also endanger the millions of Americans who consume animal products each day. For example, cattle have not evolved to eat a diet of antibiotic-laced corn. Corn is too acidic for their stomachs, and as a result, they produce high quantities of manure containing acid-resistant strains of the E. coli bacteria (King Corn.; Food, Inc.). In 2007, around 73,000 Americans were documented as being sickened by E. coli bacteria (Freeman). Because of the small growing spaces and the fast pace of slaughtering, manure that hangs from cows coats often contaminates the meat that is processed and turned into food for consumers. However, corn is a cheap and readily available source of feed, so its prevalence remains. Instead of switching to more natural forms of feed, the industry turns instead to using even more chemicals that are not healthy for human consumption, such as ammonia, as an attempt to remedy the threat of bacteria (Food, Inc.). Because of the waste made by the haste of the modern food industry, the quality of food has declined, and American consumers pay with compromises to their health. Of course, the industry does not want the public to know what goes on behind the darkening veil, and thus far, the industry has been overwhelmingly successful. ! By wielding debt and the threat of bankruptcy over smaller farmers, large companies are

able to control all aspects of the farming process, including the type of information that is revealed to the public. Another way that the industrial food market keeps consumers in the dark is through labeling. Companies have been known to use marketing to stealthily hide or detract focus from the truth about the substances that foods actually contain by using small text and

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alternative names for various ingredients (Food, Inc.). Nowhere is deceptive identication more prevalent than with the labeling of high fructose corn syrup. For example, the sugar-look-a-like can be legally labeled as maltodextrin, citric acid, xanthan gum, starch and, margarine, just to name a few (Food, Inc.). Despite being named differently, all of the ingredients are produced using a technique that separates fructose from corn, thus creating a highly concentrated and chemically altered form of corn-based sugar (Hungry for Change). ! In 1957, high fructose corn syrup, a highly rened articial sweetener made from corn,

was rst invented (Clemmitt; Ten Bosch). However, the lack of a method for mass production stalled the concoction from immediately entering into the consumer market and the American diet (Clemmitt). Before the 1970s no one ate high fructose corn syrup because it was too expensive (King Corn.). When Japanese scientists developed a technique of separating fructose from corn, the cost of producing high fructose corn syrup was reduced dramatically in comparison to the cost of traditional forms of sugar, thus allowing its future dominance (Hungry for Change). In 1973, shifts in the regulation of the agricultural sector were made to ensure an abundant supply of cheap corn (Clemmitt). Agricultural Secretary Earl Butz introduced corn subsides and other deregulatory practices, such as unrestrained fencerow-to-fencerow planting methods (Farm Crisis). As with the livestock produced through commercial farming measures, corn produced for the manufacture of high fructose corn syrup is not of high quality. It is an industrial crop engineered for high yield and for high tolerance for being grown in cramped quarters. Iowa alone could produce enough food to feed America, but none of the commodity corn can be eaten straight from the cob; it must rst be processed (KingCorn). New technology and the excesses of corn the resulted from reduced government regulation in the 1970s led to an investment in corn sweetener. By the late 1980s high fructose corn syrup was cheap, and it was

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in almost everything (King Corn.). The advent of high fructose corn syrup signaled a decrease in the use of table sugar and an increase in the consumption of other sweetening products, most of which were derivates of high fructose corn syrup disguised under different names. High fructose corn syrup is used as a sweetener in candy, soda, avored yogurts, and cereals. Because of the various form the chemical substance can take, it is also added to other products as well. High fructose corn syrup can be found as an ingredient in most processed foods, breads, salad dressings, sauces, and canned vegetables (Ten Bosch). With high fructose corn syrup and other chemical additives present in most processed foods, and with the vast majority of foods consumed by Americans being processed along some point of their production, the increasingly American large diet is primarily comprised by unhealthy substances. ! Considering the human path of evolution, it makes sense that modern-day descendants of

ancient human beings crave sweet and fatty foods (Hungry for Change). Early hunter-gathers who were able to nd sources of good fats and sugars were able to store fat, to survive the winter, and to pass on their genes to the next generation. As a result, the humans of the present era are prewired to search for salts, fats, and sugars (Food, Inc.). However, in the huntergathering era, such foods were not readily available. Today, there is an overabundance of sweet and fatty foods. The average American consumes over 200 pounds of meat per year and around 150 to 180 pounds of sugars and sweeteners per year (Freeman, Hungry for Change). About 79 pounds of the average 150 pounds is thought to be high fructose corn syrup. Another way to present the data is to say that the average American of today consumes about 22 teaspoons, our one half of a pound, of sugar each day (Hungry for Change; Floyd). In the 1700s, when sugar was still a rare commodity, about four pounds were consumed annually per person. By the 1900s, the number had increased to around 90 pounds per year, still 60 to 90 pounds fewer than what is

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consumed by modern Americans (Floyd). The exponentially growing rate of food consumption has thus far been matched by an exponentially increasing frequency of obesity, diabetes, and other dietary-related diseases. However, it is not only the quantity of the food that is consumed that poses a serious threat to the health of millions of Americans, but also the quality of the food. Advocates of natural food options have begun to call the food the is readily available as a result of the modern food industry food-like products. In an effort for the industry to make money, foods are articially made to look better, smell better, taste better, and last longer, and, as a result, quality and authenticity are the rst factors to be degraded (Food, Inc.). ! When consumers bite into a fast food restaurant hamburger or take a sip of a large soda,

or any other food-like product, a series of chemical reactions occur in the brain. Carbohydrates and articial sweetening agents are easily converted to sugar. When digested, sugars spike bodily levels of beta-endorphins in the brain, making the consumer feel happy. In this way, the human brain can become addicted to foods high in sugar, or to highly processed foods that will quickly be converted to sugar (Hungry for Change). Rened carbohydrates and high fructose corn syrup also elevate insulin levels, gradually wearing down the system by which the body effectively metabolizes sugar (Food, Inc.). Consistently high levels of insulin, one of the major fat storage hormones, has adverse metabolic effects, such as increases in appetite, weight gain, and increased risk for diabetes and heart disease (Hyman). Because of the high volumes of sugars to be processed by the liver, many Americans also suffer from liver damage (Hyman). Just one bite of foods containing the addictive substances put into most foods on the market today can make the consumer want more. Even worse for the health of consumers is that fact the empty calories found in most processed foods and foods containing high fructose corn syrup do not trigger a stop eating signal in the brain (King Corn.). The American diet does not lack in calories; it

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lacks in nutrients. Without proper nutrients, hunger, or a desire to eat food, is never truly satiated. Consumers of products sold by the industrial food market are staving on a nutritional basis. The body stays hungry, and meanwhile, it bioaccumulates fat and pollutants found in processed foods (Hungry for Change). It is estimated that one in three Americans born after 2000 will develop early onset diabetes. Among minorities, who live in higher rates of poverty and thus purchase a larger amount of low cost, low quality foods, the rate for developing diabetes is estimated to be one in every two (Food, Inc.). Obesity rates have also been on the rise for the past twenty years, not coincidentally, considering the boom in processed foods in the 1990s. Currently 35.7% of all adults and 17%, or 12.5 million, of all children and adolescents aged two to nineteen are obese ("Obesity and Overweight: Facts."). ! Such unhealthy and unfullling processed foods are cheap to produce, and they are cheap

for consumers to buy. Unhealthy and unfullling food products are they types of foods that are marketed to children (Hungry for Change). These are also the same type of calories that are being subsidized by the government, and this, say experts, is a major contributor to the current health crisis in America. One expert, Jason Vale, says that food is killing consumers because they do not know the nature of the trap (Hungry for Change). Unhealthy foods are subsidized by the government, and thus more prevalent and more available to consumers, especially those of lower income levels (Food, Inc.). Deceptive labeling and hidden facts about ingredients and production methods also keep consumers in the dark. The vast majority of consumers are currently disconnected from the processes that their food undergo before it reaches their plates. ! Advocates for large scale changes to the American diet use modern day equivalents of

Sinclair-esque tactics to draw attention from the public. These crusaders, both professionals and concerned everyday consumers, stress that in order for change to be made, consumers need to

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rst become aware of practices such as large-scale food processing systems and of the types of substances that are used in the production of their food. By analyzing the evolution of the food processing industry and the addition of highly rened forms of sweeteners, just two examples of the way that the modern diet has been degraded, consumers can see that the food that they eat is truly jeopardizing their health. Taking inspiration from the anti-tobacco movement, advocates hope that upon hearing the complaints of the people, legislators will be forced to take action. Collective action of an emboldened people has shaped America into what it is today. With adequate knowledge and American-spirited passion, consumers can harness their power to reshape their diets.

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Works Cited Benowitz, Neil L., Alice B. Fredericks, and Andrew J. Homburg. "Tobacco: History of." ! ! ! Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol & Addictive Behavior. Ed. Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2001. 1090-1092. Gale !Virtual Reference Library. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.

Clemmitt, Melissa. Sugar Controversies. CQ Researcher 30 Nov. 2012: 1013-1036. "Farm Crisis." American Decades. Ed. Judith S. Baughman, et al. Vol. 9: 1980-1989. Detroit: ! Gale, 2001. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.

Food, Inc.. Dir. Robert Kenner. Perf. Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser. Magnolia Pictures. ! 2008. Film.

"Food-Processing Industries." Historical Encyclopedia of American Business. Ed. Richard L. ! ! Wilson. Vol. 1. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 2009. 319-323. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.

"Franchising." American Decades. Ed. Judith S. Baughman, et al. Vol. 7: 1960-1969. Detroit: ! Gale, 2001. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.

Freeman, Andrew, and Christina Kharbertyan. "18 'Food, Inc.' Facts Everyone Should Know." ! TakePart. TakePart, 24 Oct. 2012. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.

Hungry for Change. Dir. James Colquhoun, Laurentine Ten Bosch, and Carlo Ledesma. Perf. ! ! Kris Carr, Alejandro Junger, Christiane Northrup, Jason Vale, and David Wolfe. Permacology Productions. 2011. Film.

King Corn. Dir. Aaron Woolf. Perf. Ian Cheney, Curtis Ellis, and Michael Pollan. Balcony ! Releasing. 2007. Film

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Kte'pi, Bill. "Farm Bill." Green Food: An A-to-Z Guide. Ed. Dustin Mulvaney and Paul Robbins. ! ! ! Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Reference, 2011. 160-164. The SAGE Reference Series on Green Society: Toward a Sustainable Future. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.

"McDonalds Restaurants." Historical Encyclopedia of American Business. Ed. Richard L. ! ! Wilson. Vol. 2. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 2009. [526]-527. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.

"Obesity and Overweight: Facts." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for ! Disease Control and Prevention, 27 Apr. 2012. Web. 31 Oct. 2013.

Ten Bosch, Laurentine. "Top 10 Food Additives to Avoid." Weblog post. Hungry For Change. ! Food Matters, n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2013.