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Why do people accept chemical cocktails as food?

When did our culinary atmosphere here in the United States start accepting chemical cocktails AKA faux foods - foodstuffs -inferior food as staples of everyday life? Go into any convenience store and you can get chips. What does one expect? Some fried potatoes with salt? Oh no, they have to have at least twenty ingredients. Go to the nearest fast food "restaurant" (which are everywhere) and order some "chicken" - if it has under thirty ingredients and is at least 70 % actual chicken, we'll... give the person who found that some sort of award! The chains add what they want to whatever it seems, as long as they can decrease the time from "kitchen" to patron, increase mouth-feel or "addictiveness" - sweets/fats.

I'm bothered by the cornucopia of chemical cocktails that surround us here in America. They're found everywhere. I'm talking about the ones that are labeled as "food." We are surrounded by fast "food" restaurants. Also, supermarkets are overflowing with boxed this and that. You want something freshly made? Why not head over to the deli counter? There, they will have salads and dishes full of every possible chemical preservative and "taste enhancer" possible. Around Christmas time I was trying to find some licorice candy for my dad. A lady wouldn't buy some certain candy because it was manufactured in China. I have no bias against the country - I've even been there and eat Asian market foods imported from there too. I wondered, though, if she's aware that many of the preservatives/chemicals found throughout the grocery store/convenience store/wherever are manufactured over there? Those chemicals/derived substances are put in thousands upon thousands of products that are the "food" here in the USA. That same "food" is fed/administered to us, human beings.

What ever happened to simple, honest, whole foods? Did they even exist in wide spread society? I'm 21. I think they were supposed to have existed in my great-grandmother's days. Is this true, or just a chimera?

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  1. Because they think it tastes good and it sells:


    "In 1910, the average American ate 5 lb of cheese per year, but that had grown to 28 lb per year by 1998. Process cheeses, around for more than 50 years, have had a great impact on this growth spurt."

    2 Replies
    1. re: mojoeater

      Convenience and lemmings to the bombardment by TV marketing. I for one do not understand it, being a foodie and all, I prefer quality and flavor over just plain sustenance...

      1. re: mojoeater

        Though, you'd have to admit that the lack of fridges might have something to do with it. Ice boxes were used through most of the 1910s and only in areas with ice delivery.

      2. i agree, and that's why i do my best to avoid it all for myself and my family. you have to think that eventually, all these chemicals will pose health problems so... survival of the fittest. ;)

        1. < "Go to the nearest fast food "restaurant" (which are everywhere) and order some "chicken" - if it has under thirty ingredients and is at least 70 % actual chicken, we'll... give the person who found that some sort of award!">

          NOT true. Anybody could get your award at most of the major chains today because they have all added healthy economical items to their menus including grilled chicken breast or lightly breaded versions. This is due to consumer pressure.
          You may be working from old prejudices or trying to be funny, but more and more people are depending on inexpensive food options and should know that they can get healthy foods at McDonald's, Subway, etc. if they are aware of what the choices are and watch portion sizes.
          Nutritional informational is easily available on websites so consumers can study up in advance. http://cep.mcdonalds.com/qualityfood/...

          21 Replies
          1. re: MakingSense

            I also don't know what he means. If you go to KFC (which I don't) and order a chicken breast, only 70% of it is chicken? Even a McDonald Chicken Nugget is almost 98% chicken. Now is it good for you--probably not. But there's no point starting a discussion with exageration.

            1. re: The Old Man

              I'm not exaggerating. Well, here's what's in the McDonald's Chicken Nugget. Also, make sure you check out what's in the KFC Sweet + Spicy Boneless Wings.

              " Chicken McNuggets®:
              White boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, chicken flavor (autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid, rosemary), sodium phosphates, seasoning (canola oil, mono- and diglycerides, natural extractives of rosemary). Battered and breaded with: water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, whey, corn starch. Prepared in vegetable oil ((may contain one of the following: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated corn oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness), dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent). CONTAINS: WHEAT AND MILK"

              SOURCE: http://www.mcdonalds.com/app_controll...

              KFC Sweet & Spicy Boneless Wings:

              "Chicken: Wing Shaped White Chicken Fritter Pieces Containing: Up to 31% of a Solution of Water,
              Seasoning (Salt, Monosodium Glutamate, Garlic Powder, Spice Extractives, and Onion Powder), Soy Protein
              Concentrate, Rice Starch, Sodium Phosphates. Battered with: Water, Wheat Flour, Leavening (Sodium
              Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Salt, Dextrose, and Monosodium
              Glutamate. Breaded With: Wheat Flour, Salt, Soy Flour, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate and
              Sodium Bicarbonate), Monosodium Glutamate, Nonfat Dry Milk, Dextrose, Extractives of Tumeric and
              Extractives of Annatto. Predusted With: Wheat Flour, Wheat Gluten, Salt, Dried Egg Whites, Leavening
              (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, and Sodium Bicarbonate), Monosodium Glutamate and Spice, Breading set in
              Vegetable Oil. Sauce: Sugar, Maltodextrin, Brown Sugar, Honey Solids, Salt, Modified Corn Starch, Malic
              Acid, Sodium Acetate, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Less than 2% Calcium Silicate
              Added (as Anti-Caking Agent), Natural and Artificial Flavors, Beet Powder, Spices, Caramel Color, Vinegar
              Solids, Extractives pf Paprika, Green Pepper Juice Solids, and FD&C Red No. 40.
              Contains Egg, Milk, Wheat and Soy."

              Source: KFC's Web Site.

              1. re: soleado123

                Counting the number of ingredients in a list and determining a percentage content based on that is misleading. It's like working off a recipe with no measurements.

                Chicken might be one of 30-some odd ingredients in a Chicken McNugget, but those ingredients aren't added in a 1:1 ratio. If there was as much iron, vitamin B-complex and autolyzed yeast extract as there was chicken in a McNugget, you'd end up with a leaden mass of chicken-flavored Marmite posing a risk of metabolic acidosis. Arguably an improvement on a Chicken McNugget, but either way discounting this method of determining a <70% content of meat in a given portion.

                1. re: JungMann

                  I was thinking of the Spicy + Sweet Boneless Chicken wings from KFC. There are many more examples of chicken with solutions (injected)?. I wasn't speaking of the Chicken McNugget, which is perverted as well with unnecessary ingredients. Let us not forget factory farming, which these companies have been accused of by animal rights groups, backed up by actual footage.

                2. re: soleado123

                  natural flavoring (botanical source)

                  i want to know what botanical source tastes like chicken! :)

                  1. re: soleado123


                    The more of your posts that I read, the more I think you don't know much about medicine, nutrition, and biochemistry.

                    Which of the McNugget or KFC wing ingredients concern you? If so, why?

                    IIRC, smoke (that is used to preserve food and was lauded by you in the now purged Amish tangent to this thread) contains benzopyrene. Would that scare you if it was on a food label? Would it be part of the "chemical cocktail" that you are impugning?

                3. re: MakingSense

                  I'm so glad you chose to mention McDonald's and Subway, as these two companies have ingredient statements. Let's say I'm the ignorant consumer and decide I want to eat "healthily" (LOL - wait, it's totally not funny) and waltz into the nearest McDonald's and order a grilled chicken sandwich. What should I expect? A bun made of wheat, yeast, salt, water... chicken - grilled, maybe with a marinade or a few spices, huh? Maybe some toppings - mayo - which should be oil, eggs, lemon juice, spices, etc... Well, it's totally not that way at McDonald's. Here's what you get, and I'm quoting this from their website for educational reasons.

                  " Honey Wheat Roll:
                  Enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, whole wheat flour, dry honey blend (honey, high fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, corn syrup, wheat starch), sugar, yeast, contains 2% or less of the following: soybean oil, canola oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, wheat gluten, calcium sulfate, potassium iodate, l. cysteine, monocalcium phosphate, dough conditioners (may contain one or more of the following: sodium stearoyl lactylate, DATEM, ascorbic acid, calcium peroxide, enzymes, azodicarbonamide, distilled monoglycerides, mono- and diglycerides), calcium propionate (preservative), soy lecithin. CONTAINS: WHEAT AND SOY"

                  " Chicken breast filets with rib meat, water, seasoning (salt, sugar, food starch-modified, maltodextrin, spices, dextrose, autolyzed yeast extract, hydrolyzed [corn gluten, soy, wheat gluten] proteins, garlic powder, paprika, chicken fat, chicken broth, natural flavors (plant and animal source), caramel color, polysorbate 80, xanthan gum, onion powder, extractives of paprika), modified potato starch, and sodium phosphates. CONTAINS: SOY AND WHEAT. Prepared with Liquid Margarine: Liquid soybean oil, water, partially hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oils, salt, hydrogenated cottonseed oil, soy lecithin, mono- and diglycerides, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (preservative), artificial flavor, citric acid, vitamin A palmitate, beta carotene (color). CONTAINS: SOY LECITHIN"

                  " Mayonnaise Dressing:
                  Water, soybean oil, maltodextrin, distilled vinegar, egg yolks, modified tapioca starch, modified egg yolks, salt, sugar, food starch-modified, xanthan gum, spice, potassium sorbate (preservative), lemon juice concentrate, polysorbate 80, calcium disodium EDTA, natural flavor (animal source), beta carotene (color). CONTAINS: EGG"

                  SOURCE: http://www.mcdonalds.com/app_controll...

                  It's absurd. Oh, and Subway has interesting things in their bread. Just look up their ingredient statement as well.

                  1. re: soleado123

                    What's your point? Is this different than if someone buys a loaf of bread and a jar of mayo at the store and makes a sandwich at home? They're going to add sauces to the chicken they cook unless they're salt and pepper people. (I am.)
                    Almost nobody is so back-to-nature that they're making they're own bread and mayo, and doing absolutely everything from complete scratch.
                    Even plain mustard and things like that that have additives to preserve quality and color.

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      No, it's no different if... the bread is something like Wonder Bread/Bimbo bread - the table bread of the USA, which have lots of preservatives and dough conditioners. In France, one can go and buy a baguette with ease, right? Bread and it's ingredients are respected. With mechanization creeping in, the government even passed law saying that a place couldn't call itself a boulangerie without doing bread the right way. There's nothing wrong with sauces (one of my favorite things to try to fix) as long as they aren't filled with unnecessary taste enhancers and chemicals. There are more whole convenience foods out there. Most of what's at the typical supermarket though is adulterated. Being surrounded by it is annoying.

                      1. re: soleado123

                        No, you can't easily buy a baguette in France as you once could. Par-baking has taken over there just as it has in the US and other countries.
                        The second most popular bread in France, Pain de Campaign, is the par-baked loaf sold at all the Monoprix chain stores where enormous numbers of French shop.
                        It's only been since the government redefined the laws in 1993 that artisanal breads have started their comeback but they're twice as expensive as the par-baked versions.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          what is *your* point? maybe you didn't mean to come across as such, but your statements imply that someone at home who buys their bread or makes a sauce for their chicken is going to end up with pretty much the same crap as at McD's. you may be a s&p person, but don't think that because i have au jus on my roast beef, i may as well be eating a big mac.

                          not sure where you live, but here in lil' ol' milwaukee, even our big chain grocery stores have bakery departments baking their own breads. they may get the mixes in from the main store/warehouse/whatever, but it is NOT full of garbage - just your regular old flour, salt, water, etc. so it's pretty easy to get this stuff without having to make it on your own. no calcium sulfate, potassium iodate, l. cysteine, monocalcium phosphate, sodium stearoyl lactylate, DATEM, ascorbic acid, calcium peroxide, enzymes, azodicarbonamide, distilled monoglycerides, mono- and diglycerides), calcium propionate (preservative), and soy lecithin. and i will pay more for an artisanal bread. or make my own.

                          and i do make my own sauces for my chicken (or protein of choice) but they don't contain food starch-modified, maltodextrin, dextrose, autolyzed yeast extract, hydrolyzed [corn gluten, soy, wheat gluten] proteins, caramel color, polysorbate 80, xanthan gum, modified potato starch, sodium phosphates, or Liquid Margarine.

                          also, when i do make my own mayo (not 100% of the time but certain occasions call for it), it does not contain maltodextrin, modified tapioca starch, modified egg yolks, sugar, food starch-modified, xanthan gum, potassium sorbate (preservative), polysorbate 80, calcium disodium EDTA, natural flavor (animal source), or beta carotene (color).

                          and believe, me, i'm hardly "back to nature." camping for me involves a camper, showers, real toilets, and an outlet for my hair dryer. ;)

                          1. re: mrsjenpeters

                            It sounds like you cook about the same way I do. I call them "primary" foods. Not a lot of store-bought sauces, salsas, marinades, etc. but just reading CH, we may be a dying breed.

                            But even people cooking at home are making use of things like teriyaki, soy, Worcertershire and BBQ sauces, marinades, salad dressings, ketchup, mustard, relish, etc. that they buy which contain many of the same ingredients that they'd find if they ate at the standard fast food joints. Add a pickle and you get all the ingredients from the pickle jar - even if you make your own, there's some "chemicals" involved.

                            The bread from the in-store bakeries is a lot better than the packaged stuff but it's usually par-baked and, if there are labels on it, they list far more than flour/water/salt/yeast. Add olives, and the list will include all the ingredients that were in the olives, some of which will sound pretty scary. Same for the breakdown on cheeses, which the in-store bakery breaks down into minute detail. It sounds scarier than it is, but allergy sufferers are happy for the heads-up.

                            I agree that it's better to make things from scratch if you're so inclined but realistically most people don't.
                            Scaring people half to death over the harmless contents of a jar of Hellmann's makes no sense in the real world. Sooner or later, Michael Pollan begins to seem like an alarmist and an elitist.

                            1. re: MakingSense

                              i see your point now, and i definitely agree. one of my main goals is to eat FOOD (and only food). i'm kinda big on my food being food. :)

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                Of your list, I use soy sauce and mustard(s), as well as fish sauce and some other stuff. But not the rest.

                    2. re: MakingSense

                      The "healthy foods" you tout at chains are a joke: You get a huge piece of industrially-farmed chicken, loaded with anit-biotics and growth hormones, salads awash in highly-processed, chemically-enhanced salad dressings. Have you ever actually tasted a piece of chicken or beef at a place like Applebee's?

                      Do an experiment: cook a piece of meat or fish of any kind at home. Enjoy your delicious home-cooked meal. Then, spend the rest of the week eating out at chains, trying to find anything that comes close to tasting like the real thing. What you are likely to find is a tasteless, mushy piece of protein, swimming an an overly-salty sauce designed to hide the horror of what you're eating.

                      As to Subway (if you can stand the smell of the place) one look at their meats reveals that quality is not high on their list. Even for processed luncheon meat, this stuff is dreck. Just because a certain sandwich may be low in calories, doesn't means it's a healthy choice.

                      1. re: pikawicca

                        It sounds like you have a great deal more experience eating at fast food chains than I do. I occasionally eat at McDonald's but so did Julia Child. I never said all the food that they serve is healthy or a steady diet of it is a good idea. I said that there are acceptable choices and that the OP was overreacting. You are too.

                        No one would argue that the food in these places is the equal of good home cooked food, although good home cooking is getting harder to find, and I'm sure there is some terrible stuff. But no chicken in the US or the EU has hormones in it because it's illegal to use them. Period. That's a common misconception among people who have blanket objections to classes of food businesses based on how they want the agricultural process and food delivery systems to be. Many people would disagree with you about chicken from Tysons or Perdue, including some food media that have done taste tests. A lot of prepared salad dressings are pretty good.

                        You have a perfect right to dislike the sandwich you ate at Subway if the quality was not up to your standards. You get what you pay for. I found something more than acceptable when I ate there a few weeks ago with some workmen who really like Subway. I'm not going to insult the taste of ordinary working Americans who can't afford a lot and can get value for their money there. The meats will never make it onto a charcuterie platter at a chichi brasserie, but who said they have to. It's just quick inexpensive lunch on the go.

                        This is all about choices for a wide range of Americans with different tastes and different opinions. It's possible to get a decent meal with some healthy enough options.
                        You don't ever have to eat at chains but there's nothing wrong with them for those who enjoy them if they make wise choices.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          "No one would argue that the food in these places is the equal of good home cooked food, although good home cooking is getting harder to find, and I'm sure there is some terrible stuff."

                          well put. on another board i am on, there is a recipe thread and someone had the gall to post "chicken dorito casserole." gag!! how the !*)#! can you call this a nutritious family dinner? the same user also posted a "bean burrito casserole" recipe. you start with 6 frozen bean and cheese burritos, to which you add 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup...

                          there is no mystery as to why america is fat.

                          1. re: mrsjenpeters

                            The appreciation for simple home-cooked meals has been lost. Somehow everything has to be exotic and exciting to be worthwhile.
                            You posted elsewhere about simple beef au jus. How many people would consider that boooorrrring? My family loves a supper like that.
                            We'll go out to eat for Indian or Chinese food but have well-cooked, fairly simple, daily fare. That's easy to do from scratch every day with fresh, mostly local ingredients. A decent salad. Fruit or easy homemade desserts.
                            It is so easy to avoid highly processed foods if you don't buy prepared or exotic stuff.
                            The KISS rule - Keep It Simple, Stupid. Not so stupid.

                            1. re: MakingSense

                              The recipes you've posted in other boards have been hardly boring or bland. And as someone who grew up more on roghan josh than beef au jus, your comforting, true-blue American cookery even has a touch of the exotic.

                              As someone who cooks most of what he eats from scratch, whether it be chicken makhani, gumbo or relleno, I can tell you that fresh, seasonal and homemade need not be synonymous with boring and exotic need not be carcinogenic. Whatever comes from your own hearth is the food that's best for your own heart.

                        2. re: pikawicca

                          Just re that experiment you mention: I can make all the cheeseburgers I want at home, but if what I want is a McDonald's cheeseburger, nothing else will do. I guess all I'm saying is that it's not a crime to like both.

                          And just so we're clear: I happen to be one of those cooks who makes almost everything from scratch. Mayo, sauces, bread, chicken stock, etc. If I had the means, I'd grow my own vegetables, but I don't. And I haven't had said McD's cheeseburger in years. But the next time I do, I'll enjoy it immensely.

                      2. "What ever happened to simple, honest, whole foods? Did they even exist in wide spread society? I'm 21. I think they were supposed to have existed in my great-grandmother's days. Is this true, or just a chimera?"

                        Go to the grocery store. Buy: fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, greens, lettuce, rice, dry beans and other legumes, flour, oil, vinegar, raisins, meat (beef, chicken, liver, gizzards...), milk, cheese, bread & pasta (if you don't make your own), and some herbs & spices. Go home and cook and you'll win your prize. You can make 200 different dishes with the food you bought. No chemical cocktail. Easy.

                        22 Replies
                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          I almost always have to agree with Sam. In the summer I find myself at the local farmstand and butcher more often than the local grocery store. I guess I learned alot from my wife who is from Germany, and there they buy basically what they need for the day or the next and that is it. Most of the chemicals we add to our foods today is for preservative reasons. If we weren't in the "FAST" food mode all the time we may not have as many of these options that as someone else had mentioned as "consumer demand".

                          On a funny note to add, it would cost you $ 0.35 Euro per package of ketchup at McDonald's in Munich, Germany, now see what we take for granted !! ;-)

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            This is exactly what I try to do. However, I have friends and family I visit and I also get together with them for dinner/tete a tetes/parties/eating out. I find I constantly have to explain my reasoning for not wanting to eat something. Ninety percent of the things served are laced with silly chemist lab concoctions. Anytime I go with a friend to the grocer I have to explain to them that I'm not going to eat a certain product because it's just not genuine. The foods are just so offensive and perverted. Now, I know that Italians/Indians/the French do eat junk foods sometimes, depending upon the individual person and everything, but usually when I buy something imported from those places the ingredients are much more whole - without artificial ingredients, taste enhancers, gums/gels, and preservatives. If I'm gonna eat some bread, I want bread, not a chemical slurry. If I want to order a salad in a restaurant, I want a little dressing to go with it that isn't laced with High Fructose Corn Syrup or multiple preservatives. I live in the suburban/rural South. The nearest Trader Joes/Whole Foods is more than an hour away. The farmer's market where the ingredients are of better quality is about an hour and a half. We have mass hypermarket and smaller grocery chains, chain restaurants and little else. It's even hard to get any fresh produce. Weird huh? - With us being rural and all. There are lots of farms, but they're all mostly obese cows and chickens (enclosed). I'm trying to plant a garden this year. I think I'll start a little web site talking about whole foods and giving out cards to friends who wonder why I don't want to eat something. For some reason it seems to confuse people. We are so lucky here to have lots of the ingredients in products listed on the back of them.

                            1. re: soleado123

                              Sorry to hear that you live where shopping for you may be difficult. I can understand. I once spent a couple of weeks in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia near a fishing village. Do you know how shocked I was do find out that I couldn't get any fresh fish? And there were no supermarkets in that vicinity at all -- just very small stores where everything was full of preservatives because we were a bit isolated from the rest of Nova Scotia. It was culinary hell for me.

                              I can understand how you don't want to eat any processed foods when you're with you friends and family. But sometimes eating those things in moderation (especially if they had made it themselves) is less harmful than potentially damaging relationships. My father is a health nut and I find it torturous eating with him. I have to hear him lecture me throughout my meal. And I'm one who eats generally healthy -- my dad is just a very extreme person. And while I try to be patient with him, it does get on my nerves. And even if he's not lecturing me for eating whatever, he'll go off on how he refuses to eat this and that because it's poison, etc. It can be quite off-putting at times.

                              I think you'll be a lot happier if you moved to an area with more people who share the same philosophies as you do. I know a lot of people like you who are actually from the South. One of the reasons they moved to NYC was that they said they didn't click with the general Southern mentality and needed to be in a place where they felt more accepted. The great thing about NYC is that no matter how "different and alternative" one's views are, you'll always find a group here to keep you company.

                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                < "the general southern mentality">
                                Nice slam at entire region of the United States that takes its local and regional food seriously.
                                Happy people are happy wherever they are. The others are always unsatisfied anywhere.

                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  That's funny, I'm in Cape Breton right now and I work with cooks and chefs who are dedicated to serving good food made well, fresh and with good ingredients. Yes, the owner has to go to Halifax to pick some more obscure foreign ingredients but the people here are no different than those in any other part of Canada with regards to eating what is good and right. Lobster catching, squid fishing, etc. is an important part of people peoples' lives here. Lobster season's coming around in a month or so... they will eat well.

                                  1. re: Blueicus

                                    I went to Cape Breton perhaps like 10 years ago for a few years. I've noticed that year after year, it kept changing very rapidly. When I first started going, you don't know how many stares I received -- and I'm not exaggerating. It's like I was blue or something. I'm thinking it was because they rarely have seen Asian people. Then a few years later, I didn't receive those same stares -- and saw a couple of Asian people there as well. So it's probably really different now from when I was there initially. I think the proliferation of the Net may have something to do with it -- because the fashion of a lot of people who lived there changed considerably as well.

                                    Oh, and every time I was there (around end of August/beginning of September), it would be the end of fishing season. So unfortunately there was no fish or lobster for me, even at the shops. Later, I learned to stock up at Truro before heading out to the island.

                                2. re: soleado123

                                  I can't testify to Italian and French products, but what Indians actually purchase and consume is not the same as what is marketed as "authentic" to the Whole Foods crowd excited for a taste of exotic rusticity. My upbringing was rich in homemade curries and fresh vegetables, but the larder also held Bird's custard (potassium phosphate and Tartrazine), acchar (preservatives and enough salt to dry up a lake), Vimto (HFS), citric acid and bottled chutney (preservatives). As more Indians move into the middle class, the demand for high-preservative convenience foods also increases.

                                3. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  Sam, almost every one of the "plain" foods you list has some "additive" in it that the OP objects to.
                                  Fresh fruits and veggies in stores have been washed in the fields with mild chlorine solutions, rice and legumes have often had anti-fungal agents used on them, flours are enriched with minerals, oils have been clarified, vinegars have been filtered, raisins are treated to prevent mold, milk has vitamins added, cheese is made with rennet (not always vegetarian,) breads and pasta are usually enriched and bread can have long lists of additives including non-vegan ingredients and allergens (few are kosher, little bread is simple water/flour/yeast/salt,) and most commercial herbs and spices contain anti-caking agents.
                                  Even when the ingredients aren't listed, it's because they're allowed under FDA rules and not required to be listed and/or in small enough quantities that they can be omitted or called "other ingredients.

                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    Thanks, MS, I take your point that the OP may have a point.

                                    In my case, however, I soak my veggies for pesticide residues. They're not washed in clorinated water in Colombia. Much of my fruit comes from friends' farms. Rice and legumes in Colombia are untreated. The sulfur used on raisins is long gone. One would have to stop eating if they didn't want modern vinegars, cheeses, milk, and flour. I make my own bread and pasta--which the OP surly must be doing as well (?!). My herbs are fresh, my spices from India, Kenya, Ethiopia and elsewhere. I catch my own fish. I know my butcher, who provides me with cuts of our all range/grasss fed beef. I make yogurt and bring back good cheeses from around the globe.

                                    soleado123, you're just going to have to invest a bit more time, bother, and money to obtain relatively unadulterated foods and cook for yourself and friends.

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      I think sometimes when you post, Sam, people new to CH may not realize you aren't shopping in the US.
                                      For the vast majority of us in the US and most cities even in Europe, food in stores has had something done to it to kill something bad that might hitch a ride from the farm, processing plants, or warehouses.
                                      If the stores don't use mold/fungus inhibitors, they get complaints about mold and fungus on the peanuts and raisins. The dried spices cake without the anti-caking agents. Making skin milk removes vitamins so we put them back in.
                                      Many of the scary-sounding chemicals that the OP is complaining about are necessary if we're going to make food available to urban populations. Not to say that stuff has to have HFCS or a lot of unnecessary crap, but everything with a chemical name isn't bad.

                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                        MS, I agree fully. I started out majoring in bio-chemistry way back when. The only thing I'm relatively careful about are pesticide residues because the vegetables I've consumed in the developing world over these past many years are more likely to have residues of pesticides more toxic than you would now ever get in North America or Europe.

                                        So, in a way, I agree that the OP has a point. Perhaps even basic foodstuffs can be considered chemically polluted in the US. But I agree with you completely--for the most part the use of "chemicals" in basic foods in the US is benign.

                                        As to Colombia, food production and distribution systems are quite good. Consumption is such that you do not see that much obesity. Our medical system is among the best in the world. People tend to sit down and eat meals made from scratch, talk with one another, have a bit of wine. Peope don't eat while walking or driving. There is a McDonalds or two in the city, but I've never been there (I have my BigMac in the Bogota airport). Cheap food in the markets and small nameless lunch places is healthy--usually with beans, rice, bit of meat or a nice stew or soup.

                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                          Perhaps the problem stems from too much broad-brushing of "chemicals," "preservatives," etc. and not enough science being taught.
                                          As you say, there are "benign" chemicals and the USDA, FDA, EPA and other gov't agencies are pretty strict about what can and can't be used in foods. Much of the alarm may be due to misunderstanding of what things are and their purpose.
                                          Sodium chloride sounds much more frightening than salt. Citric acid can be lemon juice. Maltodextrin is hydrolyzed starch from rice, corn, potato or wheat which might be a problem for celiacs but not for others. Yet so many people think that these things amount to a horror list of "chemical" additives.

                                          It would be great if everybody could buy primary foods from fresh markets and cook from scratch. That's unlikely to happen in the US. Convenience foods are here to stay for most people.
                                          I think the solution is for people to learn what the scary sounding things really are. The vast, vast majority are perfectly safe.

                                          1. re: MakingSense

                                            This is exactly what I find frustrating about the hysteria surrounding the "science" around needlessly controversial subjects like food additives. I remember summarizing a journal article for a science course (radiology or clinical psych, don't remember) and having our professor present the completely alternative conclusions media or other people otherwise unfamiliar with academic writing would get by just scanning the abstract and misinterpreting the results to get a good storyline. There is no distinction between correlation and causation, no understanding of statistics and before you know it, the misinformation is fed down the chain until it becomes a cause célèbre on Fox 5 at 10.

                                            The OP starts out by attacking the meat content in chicken mcnuggets; then no, it's actually the injectable solution in KFC that is the problem: a "chemical" solution of water and seasonings; so no, it's actually chemicals in general, the chemo-pharmaco-industrial complex and did you see that factory farming video on YouTube? As to what these corporate-produced chemicals actually are and their alleged effects on health, we're still waiting to hear.

                                            I have long felt that American eating habits would benefit greatly from a return to natural, homemade products and a greater appreciation of food and its origins. It's a tragedy how divorced Americans have become from traditional, more naturalistic foodways. But that tragedy really is drowned out by the glaring crisis in science education.

                                            1. re: JungMann

                                              Even those with good understanding of science are poorly served by the media because they do a generally poor job of reporting food, science and medical news.
                                              The media will latch onto one study - often simply because it gets publicity from a special interest group - that points to a "possible" link to an "increased" cause of a disease in a lab rat by a certain product. You never hear that the study was funded by a special interest group trying to discredit the product, that the sample was too small for an accurate result, that rats might react differently than humans, that humans would have to consume a ridiculous amount of the product to have a similar effect, or that the increased risk is statistically insignificant in that case. There is a public outcry and people stop buying a perfectly safe product. The Today Show and Oprah are doing TV segments on it and it's in all the consumer magazines. Yikes!!!
                                              Even if it's discredited, the scare story now lives forever on the internet.

                                              I work with PR companies and media and am constantly amazed at the stories I see. The differences among the end results from the identical studies are sometimes not even related.
                                              Polling companies "poll to the results" or statisticians can rework the same set of numbers to show a completely different pictures.
                                              Anybody with or without a B.S. degree (apt name) from any college can call himself an environmentalist or nutritionist. Set up a 501(c)3 with a good name and call yourself a non-profit. Get a slick website. You are instantly credible.
                                              As soon as politics gets thrown into the mix, it's over.

                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                My being annoyed by the current status of what's considered edible or should be administered to human beings in this country is no result of any media saturation. Media generally serves the interest of some group wanting profit; at least the media where I live. Their goal should be informing, but 90% of what an American reads or hears from the TV/Radio/Newspaper is an advertisement. The situation seems as if our entire purpose in life is to be brain fogged overworked mindless consumers of chemicals, gasoline and poor quality movies (note I'm not calling it films or cinema - those are too nice of words). Back to the chemicals and inferior food poseurs... there are thousands of unnecessary chemicals in everything. I'm not sure of where you live, but here, seeking more whole foods is the exception rather than the rule.

                                                The cuisine of the South was mentioned... Here's what I have: how do you like BBQ sauce with high fructose corn syrup, MSG, autolyzed/hydrolyzed extracts, artificial flavors, etc? Do you accept that? Another option is a fish fry... usually frozen fish from Asia grown in ponds with antibiotics, with preservatives, a coating - with preservatives... sauces for dipping - msg, preservatives and HFCS. Shrimp from America here? LOL! It might exist somewhere for richer folks, but what's more widely available is the imported. Even Coke is HFCS and other things. A popular snack cake - preservatives and tons of other conditioners and things. Trust me, I copied 'em down into a text file. That's what folks eat. It's so sad. Chains have taken over, and they serve out chemical slurries. There are many many more chains than non-chain restaurants. Luckily you still see some old timers who aren't in the fast food restaurants - they have their pinto beans, homemade biscuits, pies, etc. They rock.

                                                1. re: soleado123

                                                  see my point exactly MSG sounds like some awful test tube chemical. its a fermentation of sugars and starch. its a fairly "natural" product.

                                                  1. re: soleado123

                                                    Are you reduced to consuming these things that you find so abhorrent? Or is this your assumption of what other people must be eating? How are you getting this information?

                                                    I think you are making a great number of invalid assumptions that are not born out by facts. There are not chemicals in everything, including the food I bought today. There are many "chemicals" that are necessary, as well as preservatives and enhancers that are naturally occurring that have been used for centuries.
                                                    I've lived in several regions of the US, both in urban areas and fairly rural ones, and have never encountered the difficulties you cite. Good, fresh food has always been available and, if anything, I can get more and better variety now than in the past.

                                                    Sure, there's junk and there are people who buy it. There always has been, here and in every country I've ever visited or lived in. That's not going to change and there's no reason for you to buy it. But why bother complaining about something that will never change. Live YOUR life not other people's. Does it matter to you if someone else eats a Twinkie?

                                                    It's easy to bash chains but also easy to forget the crummy local restaurants that used to dot the landscape. There have always been bad eating establishments that served crappy, unhealthy food.
                                                    A chain is a monolith that's easy for groups to bash but you can easily find out about them on the internet and download the ingredients of their food. That's an improvement. We never knew what was in the Mystery Special at the Greasy Spoon. It was probably worse. Now you know not to go there if you don't want to eat what they're offering.

                                                    The point is that food is a personal choice. Your attitude is a personal choice too. If you see the entire food world as nothing but crap, you'll find crap everywhere you look.
                                                    I see a marketplace full of great fresh food. I filled my shopping bag with it today just as I have for decades - here in downtown Washington, DC, and when I lived in a couple of places in the South, which is really an amazing place to find fresh food - and seafood.

                                                    Seek and ye shall find - either great food or plenty to bitch about.
                                                    Your choice.

                                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                                      "A chain is a monolith that's easy for groups to bash but you can easily find out about them on the internet and download the ingredients of their food. That's an improvement." -MakingSense.

                                                      This is if the company has an ingredient statement they publish,. Most don't. Also, in these statements, they twist important details and perceptions around, so that the average consumer thinks things are less harmless or removed from a necessary whole ingredient (less unnecessary) than they are in reality. This practice isn't something I've made up do to some paranoid suspicion, but really exists and is totally observable - practically everywhere.

                                                      When chemicals are in all the restaurants, at all the parties, in all my friends homes, how will I ever socialize over food?

                                                      A real chef, a real lover of food, etc. will use more whole ingredients. - From real butter to fresh veggies. That's how cooking and eating are supposed to be, and it's not that way in America for the majority. Slow food is the exception, not the rule. There are people out there who think you can only get a cake in a box or bakery (most here already have things prepared in a factory somewhere) I don't call products like that cakes - rather garbage - and there's no snobbishness to that - those boxed/products of alchemy can just be so removed from what a basic cake is - usually flour, sugar, oil, eggs, you know... not very expensive to make).

                                                      1. re: soleado123

                                                        Sounds like you won't "ever be able to socialize over food" if even your friends are serving you food that isn't up to your exacting standards and you believe that everyone is trying to deceive you.
                                                        That's a pretty bleak outlook.

                                                        Yes, the ingredient lists do seem confusing. They follow standardized rules for presentation that make them sometimes incomprehensible in an effort to allow consumers to compare apples to apples. It took me years to figure them out but mostly they don't mean much since I buy so little packaged food. My rule is that if it has a label, I probably shouldn't buy it.

                                                        If you are indeed making everything you eat and serve completely from scratch, I congratulate you. Most Americans don't have that luxury of time. But it is elitist to dismiss their choices as "garbage" when there are alternatives that most people find perfectly acceptable if they shop wisely. Although I cook almost completely from scratch, I don’t think that makes me better than the majority of my countrymen who chose to use some products that I might not personally buy.

                                                2. re: JungMann

                                                  "The OP starts out by attacking the meat content in chicken mcnuggets; then no, it's actually the injectable solution in KFC that is the problem:" - The subject of the 70% chicken chicken has and always has been the Sweet & Spicy Wings from KFC, not the McNuggets. Both products are adulterated beyond comprehension. The ingredients in them are perversions of what's considered edible - they are chemical cocktails and not necessary, tasteful or moral.

                                                3. re: MakingSense

                                                  MakingSense, making sense, as usual. Here in the UK, there's a new craze against "chemicals." There was recently a whole TV series dedicated to counting the number of chemicals we live with, and everyone's gone hysterical over "chemicals." If I hear the word one more time I'm gonna lose it. Now we've got loads of people misdirecting their energy being stressed out for no reason, when really what they should do is get informed.

                                      2. People throughout history have endeavored to find ways to preserve food, make it more convenient and enhance its flavor. It's a thousands of years old tradition. With modern innovations in chemical engineering, we've moved beyond the potassium bitartrate, pectin, sodium hydroxide our grandmothers and even great-grandmothers would have known. Now with our increased ability to manufacture chemical preservatives and additives, consumers have grown used to a long list of additives meant to do what our ancestors attempted with their own chemical additives, just more effectively. Just because the names have gotten longer and more complicated does not necessarily mean that these additives are any worse than what we used in the past.

                                        To imply that these additives are being "administered" to us like dogs at the vet is disingenous. Consumers have chosen to accept food additives for their preservative qualities, nutritional benefit and convenience. If we demand additive-free foods, we can create a niche market to cater to that desire, something we already see developing as more and more brands produce "additive-free" goods.

                                        There's nothing wrong with wanting to eat simple, unenhanced foods -- I seldom use canned or processed goods myself; but don't dupe yourself into thinking that food additives are some new-fangled development in the regression of consumerist culture. It's an established facet of human culinary history.

                                        11 Replies
                                        1. re: JungMann

                                          well said...no one is forcing you to eat the chemically enhanced foods you mentioned. There are plenty of options out there for you to choose instead. Go to your local farmer's market or grocery store and whip up something tasty and good for you

                                          1. re: JungMann

                                            Well put into context. Preserving foods has been a long standing battle throughout history as a means of not having to rely entirely on "what's in season". The story I was always told was about a bunch of Vikings in Iceland who had all of this shark meat (or some other kind of seafood), and no way to immediately preserve it. So they peed on the meat in order to pickle it, and this has created a long standing tradition to eat seafood preserved this way in order to remember a "cultural event".

                                            I live in Ohio, and am in fairly close proximity to the Amish - and you wanna see how they eat fruits n veggies?? While during peak season, fresh veggies are apart of the diet - most of the year their consumption of fruits n veggies is in a preserved context. Meat receives a similar treatment, and lots of it ends up being smoked and dried.

                                            Personally, I'm thrilled that the "quest for food preservation" has brought about means to provide access to those of us in places like Ohio with "fresh" fruits, veggies, and meat throughout the year. I'm not a huge fan of jerky and canned fruit.

                                            This has also brought about other food additives that may be more or less desirable. But we also happen to live in time when all of that stuff is listed on the packaging. So if you're looking to avoid it - then you can.

                                            1. re: cresyd

                                              From what I've noticed with the little exposure I've had to the Amish/Mennonites, they eat whole foods. I doubt they add TBHQ, etc. to their food. What might they use? Smoke, salt, pectin. That's so much more understandable than the things on the other ingredients list I pointed out.

                                              There's also something to be said for eating seasonally.

                                              1. re: soleado123


                                                As I noted above, smoke contains benzopyrene, a known carcinogen. And salt is bad for salt sensitive hypertensive patients.

                                                You would bolster your position if you could inform us to the scientificly valid hazards of the components ("chemical cocktail") of a McNugget or KFC wing.

                                            2. re: JungMann

                                              "Consumers have chosen to accept food additives for their preservative qualities, nutritional benefit and convenience." - JungMann

                                              No right minded person would accept the plethora of food additives that are everywhere. They are an unnecessary perversion that promotes the security and growth of chemical companies and their associates profits. Being in a chemical wasteland, some consumer's are forced into buying "'health' 'foods'" or factory farmed organics, which only continue putting money into the pockets of corporations, who care nothing except the security and growth of that profit, no matter the cost or perversion.

                                              1. re: soleado123

                                                I know there is the college allure to blame Big Bad Corporations for preying on weak-minded proletarians who have been seduced into food additive addiction. I went to university and saw the "Killer Coke" protests, too. But consumers are not ignorant or helpless. Michael Pollan's manifesto has been on the NY Times best-seller list, Whole Foods and organics are well-established in the public consciousness, food production has been front-and-center with the recent spate of recalls and Chinese production scandals, food packaging comes with ingredient lists, the Internet only broadens access to nutritional information. You might not want to believe it because the idea of food adulteration is so offensive, but people know that there are chemicals being added to our food (just as there have been for generations); they're just not all migrating over to the natural movement. Why?

                                                For one, a lot of people are put off by the anti-corporate conspiracy theories of the movement. Smart people know that companies aren't needlessly drugging consumers just to line their pockets. A long-lived, brand-faithful consumer yields more revenue than a short-lived, HFS-addict. Secondly, unpreserved food is more expensive. It has a shorter shelf-life, and therefore is more prone to spoil and waste. Producers need to recup those losses by increased prices. Thirdly, some people like the additives. Manufacturers have tinkered with recipes and consumers do not always like the natural flavor of foods (how long has it taken "whole grain" to become mainstream?). Fourthly, some people are lazy. They know the ingredients are there, but who cares, and all the campaigning in the world isn't going to get them to make the effort to change their lifestyle. They'd rather die happy.

                                                That's my two cents (which is coincidentally all I have left in my pocket after attempting to get lunch at Whole Foods).

                                                1. re: JungMann

                                                  The adulteration of foods with non-foods is not moral, no matter how widespread it is, and no matter how many consumer dollars are spent on those adulterated products. I seriously doubt that most people who ingest chemical cocktails have taken a closer look at the ingredients. Addiction, price and market saturation are at play.

                                                  I'm not a corporate conspiracy theorist. There's no conspiracy or theory in question when the company clearly labels their product as containing unnecessary things.

                                                  Sometimes though, companies don't label things clearly, even in the ingredients label. They purposefully label things in misleading ways.

                                                  1. re: soleado123

                                                    If adding non-foods (which I take to mean chemical preservatives, flavorings, added nutrients, stabilizers, emulsifiers, and textural enhancers) is the moral crisis you believe it is, what would you propose to reverse the situation? For the purposes of conjecture, let's assume the additives also are not literally addictive.

                                                    1. re: soleado123

                                                      I think the ideas that the "adulteration of foods with nonfoods" as immoral is taking a stance that simply may not coincide with the history of food. And first question would be to ask 'what do you define as a nonfood'?

                                                      I don't think I'm taking a huge leap to say that people most likely to buy food with more additives are those who do not have the money to buy foods with less additives, and/or the time to shop for food more than once a week. Now the course of history has long shown that poor people get the short end of the culinary stick. Prior to additives as they are now, people with fewer resources were not exactly left with significantly better options. And while some might argue that additives are not an improvement, for those who used to have to pick over sub par meats and produce - anything to make food taste fresher longer was perceived as a vast improvement.

                                                      1. re: cresyd

                                                        I like your argument about food additives and the course of history. There are positive effects of food additives, and without them and other forms of food preservation, I think the standard of living would be much worse for many people around the world.

                                                        I've just been reading about the history of scurvy in "Near a Thousand Tables: A History of Food" by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto. Here is a classic example of disease caused by food deprivation. Scurvy, from all descriptions, was a nasty, horrible disease. And yet now it is nearly unheard of.

                                                        I am quite sympathetic to the concept of avoiding excessive food additives. I am making a concerted effort to cut processed foods out of my diet, and to be more sensible in my choices (Sadly, I am weak of will and still succumb now and then. I am cursed with a very broad palate. There are too many things I love to eat.) But as with nearly everything, there are no obvious rights or wrongs.

                                                        Choose your evil:
                                                        Addiction, attention deficit disorder, toxicity, increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease etc. from excessive food additives


                                                        Scurvy, Vitamin A deficiency, Kwashiokor, or just plain starvation, to name a few of the diseases caused by lack of nutrition.

                                                        Preservatives, for better or for worse, make it theoretically easier to provide more nutrient rich food with a longer shelf life for more people. Distribution of these resources? Well let's not go there on this thread.

                                                        But what a luxury it is to be able to debate the potential hazards of food preservatives! I am very grateful to be able to argue about the evils of Chicken McNuggets, and not "who gets the last maggot infested heel of bread, there is nothing left for tomorrow, do you think we can make the hay edible?" Or to debate the health risks of tap water vs. bottled water. I don't think the people who live in a dessert with no potable water care if someone adds fluoride.

                                                        1. re: cresyd

                                                          I'm personally glad I dont have to go to the supoermarket every day and can still have good stuff to eat.

                                                2. What ever happened to simple, honest, whole foods? You ask. They still exist in abundance!! Maybe more so than in your great-grandmother's day. However, you want find many of them at your local convenience store, fast food restaurant, or the convenience food sections of the grocery store. The real problem is...well that's another topic...Let me suggest you find and buy the freshest fruits, and vegetables, the best meats, the freshest seafoods and poultry... Then make Great-grandma proud....take them home and learn how to cook...You will be amazed at the "simple, honest, whole foods" you can enjoy!

                                                  Have Fun!

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                    Thank you for the words of encouragement. :O)

                                                    1. re: soleado123

                                                      Soleado, I don't disagree with your take on processed, preserved and packaged foods, but I do disagree with your impression re: the availability of "real" food. There is an abundance of produce, natural dairy, fresh meats, and many varieties of whole grains accessible today like never before. If you want to avoid the boxed "chemical cocktails", try the classic supermarket U-Turn: shop only from the outer perimeter (produce, meats and dairy). Skip the breakfast cereals, packaged sweets, canned syrupy fruits, and snack chips laden with all sorts of artificial sweeteners and other flavors. If possible, buy your bread from a local bakery and your meat and fish from butchers and mongers. It doesn't take too long before you develop a habit for seeking out quality ingredients (the same habit formation factors in with choosing "bad" foods, too). It costs more, for the most part, and not everyone can afford it. Indeed, this is part of the answer to your question re: why people accept KFC and McDonald's as "food"-they are accustomed to the taste, and they can afford it.

                                                    2. I think a lot of it has to do with a form of addiction. I find when I have fast food/processed foods it agrivates the craving. I have been a fast food junkie most of my adult life. This last week I gave up processed foods (Taco Bell, frozen pizzas, etc.) and the first two days were hell but I kept on with salads, quality cheeses, lean meats, fruits, etc. and now I have passed the craving stage and want the wholesome stuff, but I think it's so available (and cheap) and the more it's eaten the more it is craved.

                                                      6 Replies
                                                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                        You may be on something there, Janet. I rarely eat that stuff (though I did in the past). Your tastebuds gets acclimated to something in those processed foods -- something beyond just the excess salts and fats. And real food doesn't taste quite right until you get past the withdrawal stage -- similar to if you just eat out all the time, your taste buds have issues with home-prepared foods.

                                                        And to the OP, echoing what some other posters have said, real food still exists. It just exists side-by-side the processed foods you're talking about. There are a lot of people who share your views, shunning fast food and processed foods.

                                                        Sounds like somebody just finished reading Pollan's In Defense of Food. ; )

                                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                                          Miss Needle,

                                                          I haven't read that book by Pollan yet. I did look at quite a bit of it in the store though, and I share those frustrations. It's all a matter of staying away from the negative stuff and going for the positive stuff. It's just so frustrating when so many people chose the negative stuff, or have it chosen for them by businesses.

                                                          1. re: soleado123

                                                            I empathize with you about your frustrations. Please read what I have written above about how a change of locale may do you some good. I didn't write that to be flippant.

                                                            You may also be interested in this:


                                                            I actually attended it. It gives you a good overview on the different nutrition systems out there. By no means can you consider to be an expert or a nutritionist studying this, though. Please make note of that. Personally, I didn't agree with a lot of the school's philosophies -- and there did seem to be somewhat of a cultish element to it. But I got what I wanted out of it and use it to supplement my background.

                                                            But you will meet a lot of people like yourself and I can see you very happy in that environment. Wasn't for me but perhaps it will be for you.

                                                        2. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                          I have read that the high sugar content may contribute to the "addictive nature" of these junk foods. I don't know how scientific the evidence is.

                                                          But I also agree there is something about those foods that make you crave them. I've been eating a lot less of them in the last few years, and fortunately, I can fall off the bandwagon, buy my junk food and still get back to home-prepared foods. In fact, when I am away and have to eat out all the time, I start to crave home-prepared food!

                                                          But when I first tried to eat less processed foods, it was tough to get used to.

                                                          1. re: moh

                                                            I'm inclined to see food cravings as more benign. "Addiction" suggests some malevolence on the part of food companies as if they were the equivalent of Big Tobacco.

                                                            Taste preferences, though, make more sense in the context of evolved behaviors which compel humans to seek out energy-rich foods. The high energy-content of sugars and fats would make those foods containing them in larger quantities most valuable in pre-industrial society where hunter-gatherers could not control the availability of food. Similarly salt, which does not occur in great quantities in plant or animal products, is perceived as "tasty" or biologically positive because it is a mineral our bodies require but does not occur in great quantities in an ancestoral diet.

                                                            If we are still inclined to sense salty, sweet and rich as "yummy," the question to me is: is this a sign of addiction, or an element of evolved behavior? And if the food companies cater to our natural inclinations (including the natural inclination to excess), are they evil or responding to market forces?

                                                            1. re: JungMann

                                                              Appreciate your point. Addiction is a word that is often used inappropriately and in overly dramatic ways! Guilty as charged.

                                                              I also like your point about market forces. We choose to buy products. But I do think that marketing has a very strong effect on our choices. Hence the laws about limiting cigarette advertisements.

                                                              Nicotine is addictive, and one could argue that junk food is not. So it could be argued that food companies who cater to our natural inclinations are merely responding to market forces. But that doesn't necessarily mean that we shouldn't regulate the food industry as well. I am thinking about the whole trans fat issue. Trans fat products taste good to a lot of people. They aren't addictive in the same way that nicotine is, but still, they have an appeal. The market forces may demand them. But if trans fat proves to be as worrisome as they fear it is, shouldn't we do something to limit their intake? Certainly, food cravings are more benign, but not necessarily as harmless as one might think... So marketing products full of trans fat may be thought of as on the same spectrum as cigarette marketing. Just putting this out there!

                                                        3. In a free-market society, consumers have the option of choices. With this goes taking responsibility for the consequences of the choice.

                                                          At the supermarket, no one holds a gun to my head when I buy tomato paste. For the exact same price, I can choose a can with the ingredient list reading: Tomatoes or I can choose the adjoining can with the ingredient list reading like a textbook from Chem 101. My choice.
                                                          One day, I saw a woman picking up the "Chem 101" can of tomato paste and pointed out the disparity of ingredients. She told me that she couldn't be bothered to read labels, "food is food" she said. If someone is going to be stupid about their decisions, so be it. This had nothing to do with time or money, it was just lazy.

                                                          When I lived in a rural "Yankee South" (read: Maryland) environment and could not find what I wanted, I either bought seeds and grew it myself or did without. Yes, I wised up and gave some San Marzano seeds to a local Amish farmer who grew them for me in his greenhouse, but that was a couple of years down the road. I couldn't buy a Granny Smith apple so I ordered garden stock and planted trees. Becoming more self-sufficient made me aware of seasons and we certainly appreciated our food more than we did when we simply forked over greenies and hauled brown bags home full of food. The consequence of my choice - this became a family learning experience as well.

                                                          As many posters have pointed out, successful civilizations are built on preserved food. In the 21st century, we simply have many more choices. If careless choices are made, the consequences are dire. Make positive choices for yourself. If you don't like the bread at your store, learn to bake your own. Good flour is easily available by mail order. Spaghetti sauce need not come from a jar, make your own.

                                                          As both Uncle Bob and Sam Fujisaka pointed out, buying real food at the supermarket is possible. Do that, as well as begin to learn about gardening, and your life will be full & rich with pleasures at your table. Think Lemons VS Lemonade!

                                                          1. i hate to break it to you, but all foods are "chemical cocktails" even "simple honest whole foods." eat an orange, a steak, a kidney bean, and guess what you are eating chemicals. If you weren't the body couldn't really use it could it?

                                                            i remember an article in one of the 1st issues of omni magazine, that showed what the labels would look like for fruits &tc if they had to be labeled as exactly as prepared and processed foods. pretty funny, really.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: thew

                                                              Thank you, thew! The voice of reason, finally!

                                                              Yes, eat as much food from the garden as you can. Read the labels, yes, do! Avoid the foods you don't trust, yes, please! But my goodness. This "chemical" thing is just a little over the top.

                                                              I'm curious who in the crowd takes a daily vitamin or other dietary supplement. I mean, speaking of chemicals.

                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                What thew said. Why does the OP assume that every ingredient in these "chemical cocktail" is some potent carcinogen and to be avoided?

                                                              2. This is a very noble cause and good luck with finding a right balance between your desire for everything clean and preservative free and your engaging fully in your surroundings.

                                                                It may not be possible for all people to achieve 100% of this but many of us do our best. for example jfood tries to stay away from processed foods. Fast food is not really on his radar but he does purchase some of the bottled "chemical cocktails" especiall Olde Cape Cod French Lite salad dressing and Hellman's.

                                                                But before you cast dipersions across the board, remember the next time you, or a loved one, are sick, those same big bad companies that you are so enraged about probably created the cures to those diseases.

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                  Thank you for the well wishes. Don't get me started on the health-care industry here. Haha. Whew. I would like to see an example of one of those additive manufactures helping manufacture "cures" for diseases.

                                                                  1. re: soleado123

                                                                    There are preservative in antibiotics to keep them "fresh" on the shelf on they are called inert additives.

                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                      When improper food eaten by the average citizen here makes him/her sick, they generally go to a large corporation (a chain store) and buy something to mask those symptoms - or they go to a doctor (who is governed by several business/corporate groups). That product that masks the symptoms is manufactured by a large corporation too. Everything is symbiotic for these groups.

                                                                      1. re: soleado123


                                                                        If you truly believe these statements then, my friend, there is very little jfood can say to sway you from this philosophy.

                                                                        But these corporations are not meeting behind closed doors, Dastardly Whiplash as the Chairman, trying to devise how to unleash yet another diabolical plague upon humanity by adding polysorbinate to a banana. They are trying to feed the enormous population growth the world is experiencing. Look at the current rice crisis,. Fortunately Indonesia announced yesterday that there internal crop may be sufficient and they may not need to import this year, hopefully causing a lessening effect on the worldwide demand and easing current price increases.

                                                                        I, for one am glad for the advancements in medicine, food production and the quality of life that many of these companies have given to the average citizen. And those symbiotic groups allowed jfood's FIL to live 20+ years longer, allowed him to see his grandchildren grow and prosper. And I suspect they will do likewise for jfood.

                                                                        If there is a concern in your approach to eating, please do what you must to meet that need, whether organic, grow your own, or whatever else works.

                                                                        But food production, doctors and medicine for the most part are here to feed, assist and heal, not poison, misdiagnose and mask.

                                                                        1. re: soleado123

                                                                          Part of my work has to do with increasing the micronutrient content (zinc, iron, pro-vitamin A) of basic food crops (rice, maize, wheat, cassava, sweet potato, potato) through conventional breeding. Micronutrient deficiencies bring about a number of development problems for infants and children. I suppose that you might be against such work. Governments in places like Central America and elsewhere have another solution--micronutrient fortified sugar. Very positive health effects. Would you be against such programs?

                                                                  2. Food culture isn't only about taste. It's also about geography and technology. The U.S. has a food culture which is almost certainly built around its history and the fact that the country developed not too long after canning became a widespread food preservation technique. Unlike other countries with long histories (e.g., Japan) where food preservation was linked to drying, salting, brining, and more "low tech" methods of preparing food for long term storage or transport, the U.S. is built around people who grew up with canned food and served it to their kids. Canned food is often soft (overcooked), overly salty or packed in syrup. We like what we eat as kids and the general tastes pass from generation to generation. There is no lack of palate at issue. People don't choose their food culture. They inherit it.

                                                                    If you add the size of the U.S. and a culture that started with expansion in mind, you have an emphasis on moving food from place to place rather than having it available locally to a far greater extent than in other cultures where the food culture developed to serve smaller areas and to move food over shorter expanses. The chemical cocktails you abhor are the product of a need to preserve food but maintain its color, texture, and taste as it is shipped all over a vast country.

                                                                    In many ways, U.S. food culture is built around the fact that the country is young and started when technology rather than food chemistry was a food preservation option. People can rag on American tastes all they want, but the bottom line is that everyone in every country likes what their family served them for the most part. In older cultures, their history has them relying more on fresher foods because the emphasis early on was not on migration and preservation, but on local sustenance.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Orchid64

                                                                      Actually, European settlement of the New World started with salt cod, proceeded to a high dependence on salted and smoked fish (especially along the Grand Banks), moved inland to include jerked game meats and, more importantly, cured pork (combinations of salt, smoke, or air curing--and "pork barrel" allocations came along with what developed into a major ag commodity). The root cellar was ubiquitous in agricultural settlements. Canning and preserving started relatively early in what is now the US. Europeans learned a bit from indigenous groups: from pemmican on the plains to use of arctic mammals' blubber and fat. North American reliance on maize, wheat, rye, and oats took off as people arrived in the mid-west: grains that only need threshing and drying to allow the stocking of foods for the lean months. Much of the slave chapter of American history had to do with rum, sugar, cotton, and tobacco: i.e., food, fiber, and addictions. With expansion, people didn't transport much over distance other than buffalo tongue--with the American bison almost going the way of the passenger pigeon [shoot 'em all, there's plenty more from where those came from]. The expansionist period arrived at the Pacific NW where the Europeans took over from the NW coast indigenous groups in exploiting one of the last food Bonanzas--the salmon! Just took over with the salting and smoking until those fisheries collapsed. The Dust Bowl came as we mined those deep soils to death with grain production. We transformed the Central Valley of California--a desert--into the center of the agricultural universe by pumping ground water and channeling the snowmelt like there was not tomorrow (my family was part of this)! Agricultural research led to adundant food for many. Industrialization and the optimism of post WWII led to convenience and fast foods. Food chemistry emerged (what I started to study in university in 1968)--leading to both good (way more) and bad (the reason for this thread).

                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                        Sam, I'm a (retired) Food Historian and would like to congratulate you on a brilliant synopsis. It's historically accurate, easy to read and makes the whole +/- 500 year picture come into focus. Best of all, it makes sense. Where were you when I was teaching?

                                                                        1. re: Sherri

                                                                          Thank you, you've more than made my day! Orchid64's comment just got me going. I've long been an international agricultural scientist (who unsuccessfully tried to retire in 2000). I've never taken a food history course! Where were you when I was studying?

                                                                    2. Hey Soleado123! You should read "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan if you haven't already. The author makes a similar point to yours, which is that a lot of foods have been processed so much that they've ceased to be food. (At one point he dissects the 30+ list of ingredients for Sarah Lee's "Soft and Smooth Whole Wheat White Bread", whatever the hey that is.)

                                                                      It comes down to the bottom line. I like to think corporate America isn't deliberately poisoning us, but it's also pretty obvious that food companies only care about manufacturing convenient "food" as cheaply as possible. And it's frustrating, because these products make up the majority of what you can buy at an average supermarket. It takes more money and work, but my approach is to "vote with my feet" by buying local and organic when possible, cooking more meals at home, and refusing to eat fast food.

                                                                      1. Back when I happily dipped my McDonald's french fries in my synthetic strawberry shake (I loved reading the ingredients list as I ate, the shake had propylene glycol in it) and enjoyed my Big Mac, I guess it was because they tasted good.

                                                                        1. I try to eat well, and often succeed. Today, however, I was hungry and on the road with very little money in pocket. I had my first McD's double cheeseburger in years. It was cheesy, mustardy goodness and only $1.05. I know it was fake cheese and the meat was of very poor quality. I know it was bad for me. But if I let that knowledge stress me out, I would not have been able to eat today!

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: mojoeater

                                                                            Is one obligated to think that the cheese was fake and that the meat was of poor quality if it was good?

                                                                            1. re: mojoeater

                                                                              Why would that "cheesy, mustardy goodness" necessarily be "bad for you"?
                                                                              So the meat was probably select rather than choice - but that's not "poor quality."
                                                                              McD's burgers are still 100% beef.
                                                                              The American cheese isn't aged cheddar but that's because it melts better. Processed cheese isn't that horrible if it's not on a cheese tray or something. According to Wiki it's "regular cheese and sometimes other unfermented dairy ingredients, plus emulsifiers, extra salt, food colorings and/or whey."
                                                                              Hardly a chemical plant in an orange-colored slice.

                                                                              Mostly, that burger is the right size for a decent portion. That's the size of the original McD's burger before the world had to super-size everything and America became a nation of lard asses.

                                                                              For $1.05, how can you go wrong? Except if you eat it every day.