Food Conspiracies

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People have always worried about the food they eat. Because of poisonous plants and other dangerous foods, humans have developed aversions to specific foods as a means of survival. In psychology, this is called taste aversion and occurs unconsciously through a process called classical conditioning, which pairs a neutral stimulus with another stimulus which produces a reflex. Humans can identify foods that may make them sick despite never having tasted them due to inherent taste aversions. This fear of certain foods has been attributed to food giants that are secretly poisoning food to both manipulate human body chemistry and make it addictive, keeping them overfed but undernourished.

Contents

History

Since the beginning of recorded history, many foods have been the objects of myths. Considering them either cure-alls or poisons, many people have held erroneous opinions of certain foods. The nature of the diet of the human population drastically changed after the Industrial Revolution, causing food to be produced completely out of sight of the consumer and therefore allowing more room for doubt in its wholesomeness. After a lot of whistle blowers and muckrakers revealed some atrocities of the food and drug industries in the early 1900s, the government of the United States formed the Food and Drug Administration to protect the health of consumers. Many conspiracy theories involving certain foods have since included the FDA as a participant in the conspiracy by reporting that members of the FDA were pressured or bribed in some way to allow a certain food or practice to be approved. While most of these claims have been unfounded, the FDA does not have a spotless record. Most recently, a scandal involving the drug Vioxx was revealed.[1] Fear of processed food led to a movement in California in the 60s and 70s of purchasing all food from local farmers and distributors.[2] These ideas have greatly influenced the current movement toward organic foods.

Examples

Since its approval in 1976, aspartame, a common sugar substitute, has been suspected of having adverse effects on consumers and is still criticized by conspiracy theorists.[3] While most evidence seems to point to the fact that high fructose corn syrup is a healthy alternative to sugar, a recent study states that almost half of all HFCS contains some levels of mercury. Though the amounts are minute, very sensitive members of the population may be affected.[4]

Canola oil is purported to be derived from a poisonous weed. The FDA is also said to have been bribed by Canadian companies to approve it in the US.[5]

The fast food industry has been accused of many devious acts such as using fillers in processed meat and even putting addictive substances in food to generate more profit.

High-fructose corn syrup is allegedly very unhealthy and partly the cause of rising obesity rates in the US. Given that it is now cheaper to produce than sugar, conspiracy theorist believe that the food industry is disregarding public safety to increase profit.[6]

Milk from cows is held as causing almost any disease imaginable. Proponents say that the dairy industry is suppressing information about the health effects of milk.[7][8]

The fluoridation of water in almost all city water systems in the United States is criticized by many conspiracy theorists. The chemical is often cited by conspiracy theorists who believe that the government is attempting to gain control over the entire population's minds.

One of the most important food conspiracies today concerns genetically modified foods. Conspiracy theorists believe that genetic modifications are unnatural and unhealthy for the environment and consumers. [9]

Organic foods are said to be more healthy than food produced with the help of chemicals.

Criticism

Numerous studies have concluded that consumption of aspartame does not correlate to higher risks of contracting purported diseases like leukemia and brain tumors. Most of the current conspiracy theories revolving around aspartame originated from an email hoax.[10]

Canola oil is derived from a genetically modified variety of the rapeseed. Because of the negative connotations of the word "rapeseed",the name "canola" ("short for "Canada Oil") was given to the oil.While this technically is a "poisonous weed," the chemical that causes it to be poisonous, erucic acid, has been significantly lowered in the genetically modified variety. Also, contrary to the opponents of canola oil, most canola oil is now grown in the US rather than Canada where it was originally developed. The canola oil conspiracy was also made popular recently by a chain email.[11]

While most fast food is unhealthy, the quick, low cost meals and easily obtained labor are very beneficial to the economy. No evidence has ever been revealed to prove addictive substances have ever been added. Also, most ideas about fillers in burgers are merely urban legends.

Almost all purported evidence stating that milk is poisonous to humans is either logically flawed or scientifically unfounded. Most of the proponents of this theory seem to be vegetarians and therefore have a strong personal bias against the exploitation of animals. Domesticated cows have been milked by humans for thousands of years. Milk is only harmful to people who are lactose-intolerant or allergic to milk. While whole milk does have a high fat and cholesterol content and could therefore be unhealthy for certain groups of people, this is no justification for considering milk to be a poison.

Fluorine in water has caused a handful of deaths from overly high levels of improperly regulated community water systems, but the majority of scientists agree that the benefits of fluoridation outweigh the minute risks involved.[12]

Because genetically modified yield more crops per acre, the impact on the environment is substantially because less land must be partitioned for crops. Also, many genetically modified plants are resistant to diseases and pests reducing the amount of pesticides that must be used. Not using this technology will only lead to more economic strain on the consumers and more starvation in third-world countries. Though there may be unforeseen risks involved, almost all horticultural experts believe that genetic modification is necessarily as the population continues to grow.

Similar to the debate against genetically modified foods, organic plants have been shown to be no more healthy than any other plant of the same type. Technically "organic" only means that a substance contains carbon. Therefore, all plants and animals are organic because carbon is a fundamental element of living tissue. Growing plants without pesticides and fertilizer is an extravagance humanity cannot afford. [13]

Analysis

While it is quite possible that many foods that are commonly eaten are slightly detrimental to the body in some form, scientific studies are constantly being conducted to protect the consumer. All foods, however healthy, need to be consumed in moderation. Intelligent monitoring of daily intake of calories, fat, vitamins, etc. is much more important to overall health than creating unfounded anxieties over certain foods. Some sacrifices must also be made to aid in the efficiency of food production to ensure as many people as possible can be fed.

In Popular Culture

Conspiracies involving the food industry have A main part of the plot of the dystopian novel and film A Clockwork Orange concerns a form of classical conditioning in which stimuli are involuntarily paired in the main characters mind.

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair was a very influential satire of the meatpacking industry. While it was intended to provoke public outcry over the circumstances of the factory workers, the novel contributed significantly to the signing of the Meat Inspection Act and the formation of the FDA.

Super Size Me is a documentary that portrays fast food corporations very negatively.

Fast Food Nation is a book by investigative journalist Eric Schlosser that examines the influence of the Unites States fast food industry.[14]

Food, Inc. is a documentary criticizing many elements of corporate farming in the US.

Cited References

  1. msnbc.com staff. (2004, October 6). Report: vioxx linked to thousands of deaths. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6192603/
  2. Laurel, Rosen. (2000, March 8). The Revolution will not be catered. Retrieved from http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2000/03/08/FD87911.DTL&hw=relatedhttp%2F%2Fwww+now+it%2F&sn=091&sc=180
  3. GAO. Food and drug administration: food additive approval process followed for aspartame. (1970, June 18). Retrieved from http://www.gao.gov/products/HRD-87-46
  4. Washington Post. Study finds high-fructose corn syrup contains mercury. (2009, June 18). Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/26/AR2009012601831.html
  5. Thomas, John. (n.d.). Beware of canola oil . Retrieved from http://www.shirleys-wellness-cafe.com/canola.htm
  6. Engber, Daniel. (2009, April 28). Dark sugar. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/id/2216796
  7. The Notmilk homepage. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.notmilk.com/
  8. Cow’s milk is a white poison — it’ll kill you and your family. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.skrewtips.com/2007/09/14/cow%E2%80%99s-milk-is-a-white-poison-itll-kill-you-and-your-family/
  9. Mercola, . (2009, June 25). The Genetic conspiracy -- are genetically engineered foods dangerous? . Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/06/25/The-Genetic-Conspiracy--Are-Genetically-Engineered-Foods-Dangerous.aspx
  10. Aspartame warning. (1999, January 6). Retrieved from http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/blasp.htm
  11. Berglund, Duane. (2007, August). Canola production . Retrieved from http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/crops/a686w.htm
  12. Balbus JM, Lang ME (2001). "Is the water safe for my baby?". Pediatr Clin North Am 48 (5): 1129–52, viii. doi:10.1016/S0031-3955(05)70365-5. PMID 11579665/
  13. Mayo Clinic staff. (2008, December 20). Organic foods: are they safer? more nutritious?. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/organic-food/NU00255
  14. Schlosser, Eric. (1998, September 3). Fast-food nation: the true cost of america's diet . Retrieved from http://www.mcspotlight.org/media/press/rollingstone1.html

External links

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