Essay: Artificial Food
This essay is an original work by AddisonDM. Please comment only on the talk page.
Why do Americans, the wealthiest and most technologically advanced people in the world, eat one of the world's unhealthiest diets? It’s true; assuming that a Chinese or Latin American peasant could have enough rice or corn to meet basic calorie needs, he probably would eat healthier than the average American. It is no wonder, then, that while hunger still plagues much of the world, obesity plagues America.
Much of the food we buy and eat every day is either low quality or actually semi-synthetic. For example, have you ever heard of “meat slurry”? Meat slurry is a mix of fat, meat fragments, and water mixed together and used in place of real, solid meat. If you’ve ever felt like you were ingesting Styrofoam while eating frozen chicken nuggets, you were not far from the truth. Such “chicken” products are made of breaded, deep-fried meat slurry.
Then there’s “mechanically separated meat,” or meat bones spun at high speed on a centrifuge to reclaim the scraps that could not be used in conventional butchering. Prior to government regulations limiting the amount of "calcium" (i.e. bone fragments) allowed in mechanically separated meat, the product was sometimes considered unfit for human consumption. Today, this low-quality meat is found mainly in products like Spam, hot dogs, and cold cuts, all of which also contain the probable carcinogen sodium nitrate.
While these inferior meat products top the list of offenders, there are plenty of food additives which collectively come in second. Take Red 40, an artificial food dye derived from either coal tar or petroleum. Red 40 is ubiquitous in everything from red candy to red juice drinks to even hot sauce (which of course would be red without the help of an artificial additive). It also causes serious allergic reactions in some people, and may cause hyperactive behavior in children.
High fructose corn syrup would not be in this list, except for the fact that its sugar content is increased through chemical modification, thereby rendering it semi-artificial. High fructose corn syrup has been implicated in causing diabetes and obesity, and it is found in virtually all sugar-added drinks, as well as many baked goods and other food products. Similar in nature to high fructose corn syrup is most modern vegetable oil. This oil is acquired not through natural cold pressing, but rather is extracted through the use of heat and a chemical bath of hexane. The hexane leaves poisonous traces in the oil, the heat strips it of natural nutrients and flavors, and there you go: another American food item.
Saving one of the best for last, we come to trans fat. Trans fat is a chemically-modified fat, formed by thickening regular oil through the process of hydrogenation. Though trans fat is relatively uncommon today, it was ubiquitous only a few years ago. Trans fat almost certainly raises bad cholesterol levels and raises the risk of heart attack. Worst of all, however, is the fact that trans fat is actually not recognized by the human body as an edible substance! As such, it cannot be metabolized, and remains in the blood stream or causes weight gain. For comparison, another substance not recognized as food by the body is wood.
As the wealthiest nation in the world, we can surely afford to eat a healthier, more natural diet than we do. We have the money, the land, and the farms to raise this food. We just allow the middleman of the food processor to pry his way between us and real, natural food. Why settle for meat slurry when there is an abundance of real chicken? Why drink down high fructose corn syrup when ordinary cane sugar is plentiful? Most of all, why ingest an artificial diet when we have better access to real, natural foods than any other nation in the world?