One bit of news that got a lot of attention last week was the World Health Organization report saying that processed meats are carcinogenic. Hot dogs, bacon and bologna, sausages, salami and ham; these generally salty, flavorful meat products have been staples of the American diet for many years. Let me quote a bit from the October 26, 2015, BBC News item:
“Processed meat has been modified to either extend its shelf life or change the taste… It is the chemicals involved in the processing which could be increasing the risk of cancer.” (Emphasis mine)
If you have read any of my blog posts over the last couple of years, you might remember my commentary on the PFIC, which is my code name for the Processed Food Industrial Complex. Well, here you have it in action. I think one of the most offensive and appalling aspects of the food industry is their method of finding ways to make more money by ‘re-purposing’ waste products. And processed meats are a classic example. Here is some info from the Clear Food website. (It’s an interesting site to check out, if you are interested in knowing what is really in your food. Warning: you may learn some things you wish you hadn’t!)
“… hot dogs are usually processed in factories, where meat trimmings, spices and other ingredients are chopped and blended into an emulsification… If variety meats, such as livers, kidneys and hearts are among the ingredients… the particular ingredient should be listed on the label.” (But often they are not!)
As a side note, Clear Food also found that 10% of the vegetarian products they tested contained meat. What?
I’ve named today’s post Waste for a few reasons. The first, as stated above, is the nefarious use of waste or byproducts by the PFIC to increase profits. There is a wealth of documentation on this common practice in books like Michael Moss’s Salt, Sugar, Fat and elsewhere. The modification and chemical additives which the WHO report tags as likely causes of carcinogenic effects, are ubiquitous (ah, I always wanted to use that word) in the processed food industry. They spend millions of dollars on scientific research into the development and use of said ‘modifications and additives’, because they are in the business of making food products taste so good that we crave them (say, bacon, bacon, bacon.)
This research, purely to enhance profit, is another form of waste, in my opinion. If redirected, the human brainpower and financial investment could make amazing contributions to the health and wellness of the world’s population. Instead, unhealthy processed food products are marketed to consumers all over the planet.
And a final reason that I chose the title Waste… Initially the PFIC was the PPFIC (Packaged & Processed Food Industrial Complex.) I dropped the first ‘P’ after realizing that it was redundant. All processed food is packaged, because it is necessary for an ‘extended shelf life’. Sometimes the amount of packaging is obscene; it’s always wasteful.
I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the processed meat story – or any other idea sparks or sparks of joy that you want to share. Thanks.