Your Government Is Making You Sick!
One of the primary culprits in pushing unhealthful, obesity-promoting food is our venerable United States Department of Agriculture. Yes, this is the same organization that is responsible for the Food Pyramid, or as it known now--My Pyramid--bought and paid for by the food industry that would rather you purchase and consume their fatty, sugary junk foods instead of fresh fruits and vegetables that would deny them enormous profits.
In Food Politics, Professor Marion Nestle details how the Eating Right Pyramid was almost scuttled by the meat and dairy groups who objected to their position in the pyramid. After 11 years of work and the involvement of leading nutrition experts, Secretary of Agriculture Edward R. Madigan yielded to the pressure of the meat and dairy interests and killed the Pyramid just as it was slated for publication. The press took up the cause and wrote many stories about the demise. The USDA began to receive numerous letters of protest from organizations like the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
One year after the project was scuttled, the Food Guide Pyramid was resurrected and released in 1992 by the USDA. The title had been changed because of complaints by Kraft Foods that Eating Right was the title of their line of prepared foods. Conagra objected to the title because it gave Kraft a sales advantage. The change designed to placate food producers was to set the servings in bold face and move them outside of the pyramid. This move suggested that the recommended diet include at least 2 to 3 servings of meat and dairy daily.
More cheese in pizza
The article revealed that one slice of this new Domino's pizza delivers 2/3 of the daily maximum for saturated fat--the type of fat that has been linked to heart disease. How's that for irony! Our government has been warning us about the danger of ingesting too much saturated fat, but is promoting cheese because Americans have cut back on drinking milk. One reason we are fatter and sicker is that we're eating three times the amount of cheese we devoured in 1970--that amounts to an average of 33 pounds for each of us each year.
Domino's isn't the only chain to benefit from Dairy Management's cheese pusher efforts. Thanks to DM, Taco Bell's Steak Quesadilla with three cheeses (cheddar, pepper jack, and mozzarella) plus a creamy sauce is now on the menu. This nutritional A Bomb contains 3/4 of the daily recommended limit for saturated fat and sodium.
Dairy Management was also behind the Calcium Key Diet introduced in 2003. The organization announced, "Clinical studies show that people on a reduced-calorie diet who consume three servings of milk, cheese or yogurt each day can lose significantly more weight and more body fat than those who just cut calories." The claim was based on research by Professor Michael B. Zemel of the University of Tennessee, author of The Calcium Key: The Revolutionary Diet Discovery That Will Help You Lose Weight Faster.
Zemel research "not convincing."
The same USDA claims to have made "strides in improving the nutritional profile of USDA foods served through the National School Lunch Program." Their publication, "National Alliance for Nutrition & Activity" states, "However, since most school-aged children are not meeting the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, especially recommendations for total fat, saturated fat, sodium, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, it is critically important that USDA continue to make improvements and work with states and local school districts to ensure that all components of school meals--including USDA Foods--are of the highest nutritional quality."
In the 2006-2007 school year USDA Foods purchased by states were
Anyone who has made it through grammar school could examine the numbers and quickly realize this is a saturated fat, cholesterol-laden diet guaranteed to make kids fat. That 25% fruits and vegetables proves insignificant when 35% of that amount turns out to be fatty French fries.
Foods high in salt, fats, sugars
The dietary negatives are compounded when more than half of USDA Foods are shipped to over 100 food processors before being sent to the schools. The USDA claims that this processing makes the food more appealing to kids as well as improving food safety, convenience, and lower labor costs for the schools. The agency admits that this processing "may decrease nutritional quality of USDA Foods by adding fat, sodium, and sugars."
So what are the Most Popular Products Made from USDA Foods?
Frozen fruit is processed into fruit pops and turnovers while chicken takes on a new life as nuggets, patties, and roasted and breaded pieces. Turkey is transformed into turkey ham, bologna, and breast deli slices.
Dairy Management will be happy to know that flour, mozzarella, and tomato paste become one of the kids' favorites--PIZZA. Bring on that extra cheese!
Michael Pollan, professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, says the school lunch program's problems can be traced back to the farm bill. The latest version is the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. "Few pieces of legislation have as profound an impact on the American landscape and environment," he says.
Pollan cannot understand why a country facing an obesity epidemic subsidizes the production of high-fructose corn syrup. He is quite disturbed by the fact that the farm bill determines what food children will eat for lunch at school. The school lunch program began when children were suffering from undernourishment and surplus agricultural commodities seemed like a good solution.
Overnutrition not malnutrition
More than 90 percent of agriculture subsidies are directed to farmers of five crops--wheat, corn, soybeans, rice, and cotton. This explains why a package of Twinkies is cheaper than a bunch of carrots. "Like most processed foods, the Twinkie is basically a clever arrangement of carbohydrates and fats teased out of corn, soybeans, and wheat--three of the five commodity crops that the farm bill supports to the tune of some $25 billion a year," Pollan says.
In the Farm Subsidy Database The Environmental Working Group compiled statistics on subsidies distributed by our government between the years 1995 and 2009. The numbers were staggering. Over 1.6 million recipients received $73.8 billion for corn. Wheat subsidies of $30.7 billion went to 1.4 million people. Soybean payments of more than $22.7 billion were awarded to more than one million growers. Rice subsidies of $12.5 billion went to fewer people (almost 7,000) while the dairy program's $4.8 billion was received by 158,000.
The shocking surprise is that the government, despite trying to discourage smoking, is still providing subsidies to tobacco producers totaling $994 million for that time period. More than $400 million was given to tobacco growers during the 2008 to 2009 time period.
With a runaway deficit and a sick America, the time has come for the people of this country to say, "Enough!" We need to urge our congressional legislators to put an end to the farm subsidy program. According to recent statistics, more than 800,000 farmers and landowners receive subsidies, but the most cash goes to the largest producers.
If farm subsidies are to continue, they should go to growers of fruits and vegetables so that these items would be more affordable than highly processed food that fills the supermarket shelves. Healthy food should be inexpensive.
Change the roles of the USDA
The role of encouraging healthful eating ought to be shifted to another agency, possibly in the National Institutes of Health. Hopefully, this organization would be able to create a food pyramid based on research instead of food industry lobbying--a pyramid that would gain the respect of health professionals and even have a greater impact on the public.
As citizens and parents we must take a greater interest in what our children are eating at school and what we choose to prepare at home for our families. We need to educate ourselves to make healthier choices with our dollars and what we decide to put into our shopping carts. School cafeterias that replicate fast food establishments are not the answer. We should demand the school lunch program place an emphasis on fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that are prepared daily instead of being processed by food companies that load meals with fat, sugar, and salt to make them more appealing to young people.
But most of all, as citizens we must take a more active role in telling our government to end subsidies for unhealthy food. Our mantra directed at Washington should be "STOP MAKING US SICK!"