“Good thing I cook or else we’d starve to death…”Janet Jackson, What Have You Done For Me Lately
If only it were that easy.
Over the last several years, I’ve become increasingly horrified at the multiple issues with our food supply. Thirty years ago, a burger and fries weren’t laced with toxins that were introduced intentionally by people who want to make as much money as possible from us every time we eat. Thirty years ago, arsenic wasn’t an ingredient included on the recipe for fried chicken. Thirty years ago, my strawberries weren’t irradiated, my cereal wasn’t genetically modified, and my root beer had real vanilla and sugar in it, rather than high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavoring. Thirty years ago, I didn’t have to seek out “heirloom” seeds to grow a decent garden. I didn’t have to worry about whether my grocery store purchases were grown in sewer sludge, overtreated with antibiotics or hormones, or laced with cyanide.
A lot has happened since then.
Fast Food Burger-like Products
Recently, my good friend Erik Johnson ruined my appetite. He said that if I wanted a real eye-opener, to break off a piece of a hamburger from McDonald’s, and take a look at the edges. He said it looked like there were fibers in the meat. “Seriously”, he said. “Maybe you can Google it, but it’s worth it to see for yourself”.
I took that as a challenge. I’m not much of a fast-food burger aficionado myself (although I do adore junky french fries), but my beloved dog gets a dollar-burger from McDonald’s almost every time he gets in the car. I wanted to see what I was giving him, up close and personal.
Not too far from where I live, there is a small strip of fast-food joints, with McDonald’s right in the middle. I decided to make the trip worthwhile, and picked up the cheapest burgers from Burger King, Jack-In-The-Box, AND McDonald’s. Once home, I spread my burger collection out on the table.
As Indy, my faithful canine companion of 13 years, patiently drooled in anticipation of his favorite treat, I commenced to ripping burgers apart. I started with the McDonald’s McDouble, because that is Indy’s burger of choice. To my horror, I could see stringy THINGS in the burger meat. Close examination of the Burger King and Jack-In-The-Box foodlike substances revealed the same THINGS.
What the HELL.
A quick Google search produced the following article:
At first glance, I thought “Gross. But not what I’m looking for”. However, it turns out that it’s exactly what I was looking for. According to this article, one of the primary suppliers of beef to fast food joints, schools, and grocery stores, Beef Products, figured out that they could process inedible bits from the carcass and use it as filler in their burger meat. In order to do this, they had to come up with a pathogen-killing plan, as these bits largely came from the outer surfaces of the carcasses, where pathogens were more likely to reside. So they blasted it with ammonia. This is not listed as an ingredient, because the FDA agreed to call it a “processing agent”.
There are a lot of theories on line about what goes into our food. Some of it is urban legend, but some of it isn’t. I searched for science to support the claims made in this article about the meat content itself, and found it:
- In this study, burgers from eight different fast food chains were purchased and studied. Some of the findings were:
- In 7 of 8 brands, more than 20 fragments of skeletal muscle were identified.
- More than 20 fragments of connective tissue and more than 20 blood vessels were noted in all hamburgers.
- Other tissue types identified in all hamburgers included peripheral nerve and adipose tissue.
- Rare fragments of cartilage were seen in 3 hamburgers and bone in 2 hamburgers.
- Parasitic organisms situated within skeletal muscle fibers were identified in 2 hamburgers.
You might be wondering about the parasitic organisms, in light of the fact that we just discussed the use of ammonia for just this purpose…to kill the bugs. But according to the “hold the ammonia” article, using enough ammonia to actually kill the critters makes the burger taste lousy. So they don’t use enough to actually kill pathogens, only enough to show “attempt” to kill pathogens, so that the nasty filler pieces can continue to be used.
According to this article, http://grist.org/food/2010-01-05-cheap-food-ammonia-burgers/,
Beef Products buys the cheapest, least desirable beef on offer–fatty sweepings from the slaughterhouse floor, which are notoriously rife with pathogens like E. coli 0157 and antibiotic-resistant salmonella. It sends the scraps through a series of machines, grinds them into a paste, separates out the fat, and laces the substance with ammonia to kill pathogens.
The result, known by some in the industry as “pink slime,” is marketed widely to hamburger makers.
And, not only does “pink slime” NOT kill pathogens, it apparently actually adds to the pathogen mix:
School lunch officials said that in some years Beef Products testing results were worse than many of the program’s two dozen other suppliers, which use traditional meat processing methods. From 2005 to 2009, Beef Products had a rate of 36 positive results for salmonella per 1,000 tests, compared to a rate of nine positive results per 1,000 tests for the other suppliers, according to statistics from the program.
Recently, McDonald’s made a statement to the effect that they are no longer relying on the pink slime; however, based on the appearance of my burger, I’d hazard a guess that “no longer relying on” is not the same thing as “no longer using”.
Fried Chicken Gone Wild
Apparently, not all chicken is equal. SOME chickens get an extra treat in their feed….arsenic.
According to this article http://www.upc-online.org/health/41806arsenic.html, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) tested 155 samples of raw chicken from grocery stores, and found arsenic in 55% of the samples. ALL 90 fast food samples tested positive. Apparently, the USDA doesn’t test for arsenic, and the FDA allows the use.
Some specific findings from the report:
- Arsenic levels vary significantly. The most contaminated brands of uncooked chicken breasts and thighs on average had arsenic levels around ten-fold higher than did the brands found to be least contaminated with arsenic;
- Plenty of the raw chicken tested had no or nearly no detectable arsenic, including that from some organic companies and most chicken tested from the world’s largest chicken producer, Tyson Foods;
- Five packages of Golden Plump livers contained an average of nearly 222 ppb arsenic, the highest of all the chicken samples;
- Prepared chicken thighs from Church’s on average had 20 times the arsenic levels of thighs from KFC. The chicken in sandwiches from Jack In The Box on average had more than five times the arsenic than in Subway sandwiches.
- An estimated 1.7 to 2.2 million pounds of roxarsone, a single arsenic feed additive, are given each year to chickens. Much of this ends up in chicken litter and the broader environment.
So not only have I been poisoning my dog with Not-A-Burgers, I’ve been poisoning the roadrunners that live near my RV with KFC. They really like the stuff! But I’ve been inadvertently contributing to wildlife harm, simply because other members of my own species don’t care one iota what they put in MY food.
Staying out of fast-food joints seems prudent to me, at this point. Indy can do without McDoubles, although he won’t understand why he doesn’t get them anymore. But what about the grocery store?
GMO foods are foods that have had their DNA changed through genetic engineering. Here’s a good article that gives the basics about the history of genetically modifying plants and foodcrops, some of the debate about the safety of doing so, and the statistics that clearly show the United States to be the worst offender. http://www.disabled-world.com/fitness/gm-foods.php
Not only is the U.S. carrying the largest percentage of GM crops, it has (so far) refused to adhere to public demand for labeling of GM foodstuffs. So, by and large, we have no idea what we’re eating.
Some particulars from this article:
- In 1989, dozens of Americans died and several thousands were afflicted and impaired by a genetically altered version of the food supplement – L-tryptophan. A settlement of $2 billion dollars was paid by Showa Denko, Japan’s third largest chemical company. (Mayeno and Gleich, 1994).
- On August 18, 2006, American exports of rice to Europe were interrupted when much of the U.S. crop was confirmed to be contaminated with unapproved engineered genes, possibly due to accidental cross-pollination with conventional crops.
- In 1998, 95-98 percent of about 10 km² planted with canola by Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser were found to contain Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready gene although Schmeiser had never purchased seed from the Monsanto company. Monsanto then sued Schmeiser for piracy. In the past few years more and more crops have started to cross-pollinate which leaves a problem that is yet to be solved.
- In 2005 Environmentalists say Australia faced “the most serious genetic contamination event” in its history, after the West Australian government confirmed low levels of genetically modified canola had been found in non-GM canola. Also in 2005 a decade-long project to develop genetically modified peas with built-in pest-resistance has been abandoned after tests showed they caused allergic lung damage in mice.
“They’re now turning those seeds into intellectual property, so they have a virtual lock on the seeds upon which we all depend for our food and survival.” – Jeremy Rifkin
So which foods are genetically modified?
Well, rapeseed (canola), cotton, rice, soybeans, tomatoes, some potatoes, some squash, and corn, among others. Dairy products due to GM bovine growth hormone injections, meat due to the GM grain fed to livestock, and almost anything that you eat in a restaurant due to cooking in GM oils. Another good friend supplied me with this list that’s probably not comprehensive (believe it or not), but that includes many things you’d never think were GMO foods, including baby formulas, barbecue sauces, salsas, spaghetti sauces, and more: http://opposingdigits.com/forums/post-62.html
If you’re wondering why I’m posting this on a CFS blog, it’s because I’m mad. When I thanked Erik for informing me about the burgers, I used words like “blearrgh” and “aaaack”, phrases like “I want to go to the FDA and vomit all over someone’s desk!” I no longer wonder why so many people are sick, why we have so many mushrooming illnesses. Instead, I wonder why everybody isn’t sick. It’s not just the food. It’s the environment as well. We’ve hit an era where the overriding sentiment that drives the world is greed, at any expense. We’ve created an entirely new paradigm, one that many species cannot survive. Bats, bees, birds, turtles, frogs…all have us to thank for becoming dwindling species. Ultimately, we …humans….may be one of those species that just doesn’t make it. Thanks to us.