The very lucrative, addictive, fattening and not very nutritious processed food

The very lucrative, addictive, fattening and not very nutritious processed food

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By Adán Salgado Andrade

The food industry, both processed and, let's say, "natural", is controlled worldwide by a handful of giant companies that control the production and distribution of what we eat and jealously hide many facts that would show how harmful they are to health is most of the products that they practically "manufacture", as if they were televisions or cameras. The enormous damage that has caused, and will continue to cause, the food industry throughout the world with its industrializing and monopolistic practices both to the economy, as well as to the metabolism of the plants and animals that it "manufactures" and to the environment also translates into serious damage to health, due to the physiological alterations induced by the uncontrolled intake of carbohydrates and saturated fats.

Despite the fact that we live in a world so controlled by the media, in which true and objective information flows by the dropper, there are works by independent producers who try to show us the facts as they are, of course, with its limitations, since it is very difficult to access secrets so closely guarded by large corporations and governments, their docile accomplices.

In this case, the food industry, both processed and, let's say, "natural", is so controlled that only a handful of giant companies worldwide control the production and distribution of what we eat, which They jealously hide many facts that would show how harmful most of the products they practically "manufacture" are to health, as if they were televisions or cameras.

Contravening this media trend, I recently witnessed a remarkable work that shows the terrible truths that, as I said, the "food industry" hides from us. I am referring to the film “Comida SA” (Food Inc. title in English), a controversial documentary by director Robert Kenner, which has been very controversial, both for what it shows in it and because it has been the target of strong criticism, especially by the agri-food corporations that are exposed and criticized there. There was already a precedent that also criticized the type of diet that these corporations have tried to accustom us to, with great success, unfortunately. It is about "Superengórdame" (Super size me !, English title), a documentary in which its director, Morgan Spurlock, undergoes an infamous diet for six months of fast food (hamburgers, hot dogs, fried chicken, French fries , soft drinks) made by corporations such as McDonald's, KFC, Burger King ... which almost caused a heart attack due to the very high level of cholesterol in his blood and other toxic substances that so much uncontrolled intake of saturated fats and carbohydrates, main components of the "Fast food" had saturated his system.

Spurlock shows very convincingly how large corporations manipulate information on nutrition labels to show that their products are "very healthy" when the reality is that the so-called Western diet is dramatically increasing the percentages of obese, malnourished, of cardiovascular problems, heart attacks and, especially, diabetes, since in the United States, people born after 2002, one in three, will contract some type of diabetes at some stage of their life, while Among so-called American "racial minorities," the trend will be two out of three.

These figures give an idea of ​​the dramatic health problems that will be faced not only there, but throughout the world, if the docile governments continue to consent to the agribusiness and food corporations continuing to do their thing (in Mexico, despite the fact that recently The sale of junk products in schools, causing fat and diabetes among children, such as soft drinks and sweets with a high content of corn fructose, a substance that in high levels also causes brittle bones, corn chips or wheat, super-sweetened cakes ... in the end the companies that distribute them, such as Coca-Cola, Bimbo, Pepsi-Cola, General Foods ... won the legal battle, claiming that the calorific content of what is sold is not the same as the caloric mass ... I mean, that's because kids eat more than one bag of, say, potato chips, and that's why they got fat and had health problems. I mean, they used the stupid argument of that "little poison does not kill").

And if somehow Spurlock's documentary gives a fair idea of ​​the power of corporations and of the physical conditions by which foods that are marketed almost everywhere are prepared, Kenner's work is more specific precisely in the way they are that agri-food production has practically become a serial industry, in which Fordist production systems are used to “manufacture” millions of tons daily of meat, cereal and vegetable products and that many do not meet the required sanitary standards due to, precisely, at the speed with which they should be obtained and put on the market ... especially on the shelves of self-service stores, such as Wal-Mart, very apparently clean and healthy, without the consumer really knowing what is behind it. of that, for example, "hygienically" packaged kilogram of beef or pork steaks or cuts of chicken.

In fact, that's how the tape opens, with a tour of the meat and dairy section of any supermarket ... which may be the one we have a few streets from our home. But immediately, scenes of a chicken "factory", belonging to the Perdue Farms conglomerate, jump onto the screen, where chicks are harshly mistreated as they go through endless bands, as if they were stuffed animals, and workers rudely manipulate them to certify that only the “perfect” leave the gangs to the farms subcontracted by the company (similar scenes had also been shown in the documentary “Baraka”, produced by the American Ron Fricke in 1992, which was not shown in Mexico , but up to a 2003 film show).

These chicks are then taken to these farms, in which, under unsanitary conditions, hundreds of birds are crowded into totally closed poultry houses (the company says that this guarantees a better "growth" of the poor birds), feeding them with enriched food. packed with plenty of hormones and carbohydrates, as long as the birds grow up as soon as possible. Thus, it is achieved in about 52 days that each bird has a growth greater than normal, which requires about 72 days. Each hen, despite the lower number of fattening days, weighs almost 40% more. Thus, the resulting birds are fat freaks, many of which can hardly stand upright, much less flap their wings. But also the conditions, as I said, are totally unhealthy, because the birds must breathe in a closed environment, inhaling the smell of the fattening food, combined with their excrement and everything that implies being treated as inanimate objects, and not as living beings. .

According to the only person who dared to give her testimony for the documentary, farmer Carole Morison, the overcrowding is such that she must daily collect ten to fifteen chickens killed by suffocation and other problems and diseases caused by growing up in that saturated environment. and unhealthy (Morison also stated that the company has implemented a very disadvantageous “business strategy”, under which, in addition to being permanently in debt, farmers who sign contracts to fatten chickens with Perdue, obtain meager returns in relation to the invested credit. all are forced to meet a production quota, below which they are paid less or the contract is terminated.

They are also constantly forced to make "improvements", at the expense, of course, out of the farmers' pockets, and if they do not make them, it is also a pretext for termination of the contract. In a testimony from Morison addressed to the US Attorney General and the Attorney General of the Department of Agriculture, dated December 30, 2009, he denounces that Perdue demanded some "improvements" for $ 150,000 dollars that, in addition to increasing his already large debt , were not justified, nor would they increase the production of her farm, and by refusing, the company terminated the contract, leaving the farmer to her fate, with debts, infrastructure that she will no longer use and everything that this implies. An example is given in the tape that someone who goes into debt with $ 500,000 in a year, will barely earn ridiculous $ 18,000, less than 4% of the loan invested).

But that massive production of poultry, as I said, is due to the imposition of the Western diet, which requires millions of them to be slaughtered and fill the shelves of supermarkets, fast food franchises of fried chicken, hamburgers ... Perdue Farms has annual sales over 4.6 billion dollars (mdd), which means that it must process millions of chickens in carcass to satisfy a hungry society that is becoming more and more accustomed to the aforementioned Western diet. That's almost thirty million kilograms of dead birds ready to cook! (It is in third place, after Pilgrim’s Pride, second site, which produces 73.9 million kilograms annually, and Tyson, first place in the production of chicken for cooking, which processes more than 74 million kilograms per year).

And the same happens with other animals, such as cattle or pigs, which the practices of “industrializing and serializing” their production also treat as inanimate commodities that are slaughtered without the slightest remorse and then processed for their prompt sale. A truly gore scene, is the one that a hidden camera in an anonymous worker who agreed to participate in the film, is presented and that takes place in the largest flea market in the world, the one belonging to the Smithfield Foods company, located in Tar Heel, in the state of North Carolina, the largest slaughterhouse in the world (Smithfield has annual sales of $ 11 billion, has 51,000 workers worldwide, operates in nine countries, and annually produces nearly 1.5 billion kilograms of pork and 700 million kilograms of beef).

As some two thousand cattle must be processed per hour! This company no longer takes on the task of slaughtering them individually with, for example, an electric gun applied to the neck of the animal, but instead several cattle are put in a kind of torture chamber where the doors are closed and brutal pressure is exerted on defenseless animals, who die in a matter of seconds from compression of their bodies (it really is a twitching scene). After a few moments, the murderous floodgates are separated and animals are killed, falling helplessly on a floor full of their blood and urine, expelled by the fear they experience in the few seconds that they are dying. And then the almost 4000 employees that the plant has are in charge of cleaning and skinning the cattle to make channels that will be packed as different meat products or sold to other packing companies.

Also, like Perdue, Smithfiled subcontracts farms that raise and fatten the animals very quickly (both cattle and pigs are processed by the company), under extremely unsanitary conditions, living all the time with their feces, urine, rotten and muddy food. , stagnant water ... which have led to the generation of parasites, such as E-Coli 0157-H7, a variety of the enteric parasite Escherichia coli, which causes intestinal bleeding and kidney damage, especially in children and older, more sensitive adults to its damaging effects. The worst thing is that since the animals are given various antibiotics supposedly to fight possible diseases, that strain of E-Coli has already acquired immunity to almost all known antibiotics.

As cattle or pigs are processed so quickly, many are not even washed and so they go to the slaughterhouse where they are received with dirt, mud, feces and everything in their skins, which is severely polluting the slaughterhouse facilities, as well as, consequently, “hygienically” packed meat. But in addition, not only are infections and parasites in packaged meat gone, but also the farms where the millions of animals that are processed each year are raised (very conveniently called CAFOS, Confined Animal Feeding Operations), have been become true sources of infection. Texas, for example, the land of the failed George Bush, which is where CAFOS abound, has been transformed in these places into a huge sewer, where local aquifers are so contaminated with animal feces that more than 50,000 coliform particles, and even millions, are contained by every 100 millimeters of the vital liquid. Around 127 million tons of manure are produced annually in Texas !, which gives an average per Texan of 18 kilograms of cow or pig feces ... very hard record, don't you think? (I simultaneously publish another article entitled "Animal factories, serial diseases", in which I comment on other serious risks that the industrial handling of animals entails).

In Mexico, for a change, it turns out that Smithfield has established several farms for raising animals, under the trade name “Granjas Carrol”, which had something to do with the over exaggerated influenza epidemic that last year, 2009, occurred in the country (according to my journalistic investigations, more than those that cause swine flu, as this disease was called at first, what those farms did show was that due to so many antibiotics administered to pigs to “fight” infections, they had only succeeded in spreading strains highly resistant to countless antibiotics and chemicals, such as MARS, along with pig meat, as well as contaminating local land and aquifers due to massive animal production. my article “Behind the flu: big profits and superbugs).

But as if that weren't enough, another infamy is committed on that trail. It turns out that the company hires dozens of illegals, often the only workers who dare to work in such unhealthy and dangerous conditions, especially when they have to do with the series of cuts that are practiced on animal corpses. All of them have their nails infected, as a result of having to treat dirty animals, with feces and mud impregnated with millions of bacteria, in addition to other skin, intestinal and respiratory diseases and some mutilate their fingers or cause serious injuries in hands or arms. But since the company tries to show that it acts legally, in accordance with immigration laws, from time to time, it appears to "denounce" undocumented workers. And indeed it does, but only to a few. As it has rooms for its employees, when the immigration police arrive, they only point out one or two of those rooms, where some undocumented people are sleeping, but nothing else, because it seems that a quota is met, just to pretend, as I said. , "Legality", that the company does not employ illegals and denounces them if they arrive at its facilities. It usually gets rid of those workers who are owed several weeks' pay or those who suffer from an illness and are no longer as productive. Such corporations reach that level of baseness and unscrupulousness, in order to save several dollars or have unpaid workers for a few days, which are later denounced, in order to save their salaries (that is what the that there is not yet a law to legalize immigrants, to avoid injustices such as those mentioned or to be persecuted as criminals, as will proceed when the anti-immigrant law of the racist state of Arizona comes into action).

Other agribusiness hoarders are also mentioned. Cargill, Conagra, Monsanto and Tyson also occupy a notable place as the corporations that control more than 80% of the world market for the production of agro-industrial products, as well as processed foods.

For example, the sales of Conagra Foods, the American giant of processed foods, during 2009 amounted to a not inconsiderable sum of $ 12,731 million, which provided gross profit of $ 2,841 million. In other words, despite the current crisis, this company has done very well, especially due to the rising cost of food, which for two years has also been affecting the world economy (stockbrokers, who are the experts in advising people where to invest and where not to invest strongly recommend buying stocks in food corporations, as they are the ones that are paying the most dividends).

In addition, Conagra has extra businesses, simulated as “philanthropic works or“ foundations ”. It has a foundation whose motto is "Let's feed today to flourish tomorrow", as can be read on its official site (, which, as is known, is an excellent way to deduct taxes through supposed philanthropic programs. in an evening way to increase the sales of their products, many of which will pass themselves off as adequate nutritional alternatives for hungry people. Just to illustrate its advertising strategy, more than a philanthropic campaign, the company boasts that for several years it has donated nutritious food to hungry people, but it has done so with its better known products such as Snack Pack, which is a very sugary pudding, Peter Bread, which is nothing more than peanut butter chemistry, Healthy Choice, a line of supposedly "nutritious" processed foods, such as flavored pasta, Marie Callender, also a line of frozen foods, very vast in flour and calories, Orville Redenbacher, which are fattening fried foods, Hunts, which is their line of highly processed tomato purées and sauces, Chef Boyardee, which are canned or “cooked” pasta in a microwave oven, Ro * Tel, which are minced and processed tomatoes that, ensures the company, “they are better than natural tomatoes”, please do me, David, which are simple packaged nuggets or Egg Beaters, which are processed eggs - in fact, this particular product was created so that they could be used r so many eggs that they break during packing and handling–, that nothing else is uncovered, they are poured into the pan and voila, no annoying shells, in addition to the fact that, the company also presumes, they do not contain cholesterol or fat of natural egg yolks –which is a lie, since recent studies have shown that eggs contain low levels of cholesterol–, but they are careful to say the amount of chemical substances that they and all their junk and fast food products contain. Thus, more than charitable donations, your campaigns can actually be seen as advertising strategies to increase your sales. He doesn't even always donate, but sometimes “nutritious packages” are offered to children in their schools at very “reasonable prices”.

Tyson Foods Inc. is another of the companies shown in the film, which is also a giant of "natural" and semi-processed foods, which in 2009 had sales of no less than 26.7 billion dollars. This American company that has its headquarters in Springdale, Arkansas, is the second largest food producer company in the world, the largest meat processor and one of the 100 largest companies in the United States, according to Fortune magazine (this elite publication is responsible for promoting the fame of the largest corporations and companies in the world. But not only that, but also highlights the richest men, and this year and the past has placed the expensive capo Quintero as one of those millionaires, with a thousand million dollars of well-earned !? fortune).

Tyson has 107,000 employees in more than 300 subsidiaries it owns around the world. It sells cuts of beef, pork and chicken to supermarkets and retailers, to processed food distributors and to multiple chains of so-called fast food companies, such as KFC, Taco Bell, McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Wal-Mart, Coger, Costco, IGA, Beef's O'Brady's, among many others. But it also processes food and has a wide variety of meat products already prepared that "just have to be heated in the microwave." And if that were not enough, it is the company that supplies all prisons in the United States, a country where the custody of prisoners for prisons is a big business, most of which are already private. It is estimated that the number of inmates grows at a rate of 13% annually, so having a criminal in jail is very lucrative since the government pays an average of $ 30,000 per year for each one (it is much more expensive than having a child in school, since it costs only $ 3,000, but that does not seem so important to Americans, who have preferred to increase the number of prisons in relation to schools. Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-governmental organization, estimates that the growth of the The private prison business between 2006 and 2011 will cost Americans about $ 27.5 billion in taxes, so Tyson will continue to do very well in that area as well.)

This massive delivery of meat products also implies massive production. Each week, its 54 chicken processing plants established in the US process 42.5 million chickens, the 13 that process cattle, kill 171,000 cattle, and the 6 that produce pork, kill almost 348,000 pigs, so industrial practices are also required for this. . And like the inhumane ways of raising chickens practiced by the Perdue Farms company mentioned above, Tyson forces farmers who want to get into that business to herd 24,000 birds into 12-meter by 120-meter chicken coops, which remain at in a 0.065 square meter space, enough to sit on their own stool for seven to eight weeks (the stool is only cleaned every 18 months). Every day 10 to 15 chickens die both from suffocation and from being attacked by other birds. Obviously such farms are a constant source of fecal contamination and other pollutants that seriously pollute lands, rivers and aquifers.

However, of the several times that Tyson has been sued, in reality these lawsuits have rarely taken legal action, which proves how consistent the government is with its large companies, despite the fact that their practices damage the environment or cause other problems. And like Smithfield, Tyson hires a lot of illegals, paying them an average of 30% less wages than legal workers, plus offering them less or no benefits (this shows how useful they are to the American economy the so vilified illegals, who by continuing to be so stigmatized and persecuted, the only thing that is achieved is that they are increasingly cheap and docile).

Cargill also appears in the Food Inc. film, because in addition to also practicing the, say, animal manufacturing, such as Tyson or Perdue, its monopolistic strategies have managed to monopolize around a third of the global commercialization of grains. So much so, that as of 2008, when food prices have started to rise dramatically, this company has seen its profits multiply in very good percentages. Above all, the so-called biofuels are entering the big business, a technological folly, since food, such as corn or soybeans, is being used to produce nothing less than fuels for car gobblers, in view of the fact that fossil fuels are running out faster and faster than previously thought. And that, the fact that a good part of the cereals produced in the world are going to be used to make gasoline, partly explains why their prices have risen so much and will continue to do so.

The other reason is that few companies, just like the ones mentioned here, with their hoarding practices control the price of food around the world at their free will, let's say that when we starve, they leave us at their mercy (See my article Biofuels, transgenic imposition, not ecological alternative). Cargill's revenues give a good idea of ​​the power that that company has: its sales in 2009 are estimated at $ 116.6 billion dollars, of which it obtained a net profit of $ 3.3 billion (2.83%, very low profit rate, a trend that in general presents savage capitalism, which despite its monopolies and monopolies, fails to reverse this declining situation). It is responsible for 25% of US grain exports, has 160,000 employees in 1,100 facilities located in 67 countries, and produces 22% of the meat consumed in the US. Its plants in Argentina are the largest exporters of beef than any other, as are its plants in Thailand, which export the most chicken. And if that wasn't enough, all McDonald's restaurants use Cargill produced eggs. The company has always proved to be very opportunistic, regardless of violating certain ethics of conduct or behavior. As I said before, it has benefited enough from the control it has over a good part of the production of grains around the world to control and raise prices at will. And in its history, it has.

For example, during the First World War, its profits rose steadily during the four years of the conflict, as it was practically the only company that continued to supply food. He did the same thing during the Second World War, when he had exclusive contracts with the United States Navy, to supply him with food for his troops, in addition to the fact that he also built ships (yes, he even got into those businesses, in order to earn a lot). But in keeping with his arrogance (as it is a family business, the despotism with which its owners behave, is also manifested in their business practices), he expressed his disagreement with the film, especially stating that if all the food was obtained organically, it would be they would require three times as much land as is currently used to make food.

Another company in which much emphasis is placed, in addition to demonstrating the enormous power that it has both economically, politically and judicially, is Monsanto, which produces transgenic crops, that is, they are plants modified from their genes, introducing them Genetic materials from other organisms, as long as we provide them, the company says, "enhancements" (this is playing God!). In particular, one of its crops, the transgenic soybean baptized as Roundup Ready, is the one that is practically planted in all the US, displacing the natural one, precisely due to the monopolistic practices that said corporation exercises, in very happy collusion with the government. (But in addition, the large-scale monoculture of that transgenic soybean implies strong environmental damage, since millions of liters of glyphosate are used, the very toxic herbicide that is applied to said soybean, which in addition to contaminating lands, rivers and aquifers On a large scale, it is becoming resistant to weeds that are no longer killed with said poison and then the "solution" for Monsanto is to "create" another new transgenic soybean, but now "resistant" to dicamba, a substance even much more toxic than the aforementioned glyphosate. This serious problem is already happening in Argentina, where almost 100% of the soy grown is Monsanto's).

Alluding to the great power of Monsanto, the tape tells of a lawsuit that the company launched against a farmer, Maurice Parr, who owned one of the only six machines left in that country to clean grains, who just cleaned the grains of farmers who planted transgenic soybeans. As the company claimed that “its” transgenic soybean “is patented” (as if it had been a camera, for example, in which it would be worth asking, when can simple man here invent and patent nature !?) , the poor farmer was forced to desist from his “criminal practices” of cleaning the GM soybean seed, under penalty of charging him a huge fine and sending him to jail (he did this with a poor Canadian farmer, whose crops were accidentally contaminated with Monsanto's GM corn, in a case that the company continues to claim the man did on purpose). Lo peor de todo, se queja el granjero en una parte, es que la empresa sabía todo sobre él, a quiénes les limpiaba la semilla, cuánto les cobraba, dónde vivía él, cuánto valía su máquina, qué compraba… ¡sí, el poder de esas grandes corporaciones, con la ayuda del gobierno, claro, es ilimitado!

Y, bueno, el daño tan enorme que ha provocado, y seguirá provocando, la industria alimentaria en EU y en todo el mundo con sus industrializadoras, monopolistas prácticas, tanto al medio ambiente, así como a la economía, el metabolismo de las plantas y animales que “fabrica” y al medio ambiente también se traduce, como dije antes, en un grave daño a la salud, debido a las alteraciones fisiológicas que induce tan descontrolada ingesta de carbohidratos y grasas saturadas.

En la cinta se evidencia dicha situación cuando una parte se concentra en mostrar a una familia de migrantes, padre, madre y dos hijos, que ganan lo suficiente para irla llevando, o sea, apenas subsisten con los magros sueldos que reciben. Absorbidos por sus tareas y ocupaciones, al final de la jornada, acuden a una sucursal de comida rápida, en la que compran seis paquetes de hamburguesas con papas y un refresco de más de dos litros por menos de diez dólares todo y esa es su comida de casi todos los días. La madre es entrevistada y se queja de que su marido es diabético y debería de seguir una dieta de alimentos saludables (no engordantes, pues), además de que tiene que tomar un par de costosos medicamentos, pero que con lo que ganan, pues no pueden darse el lujo de comprar alimentos naturales, como vegetales frescos, ya que si van al supermercado a adquirir una lechuga, por ejemplo, ésta vale casi siete dólares, poco menos de lo que les cuestan las hamburguesas y el refresco mencionados antes. Y como sus medicamentos le cuestan uno 170 dólares y el otro más o menos lo mismo, la mujer lamenta que no puedan hacer a veces ninguna de las dos cosas, o sea, ni comprar medicina o seguir la dieta y que ello tenga la consecuencia de que su marido pueda empeorar en su salud, que se quede ciego y no pudiera seguir trabajando como chofer, que es a lo que se dedica.

Como ese caso, hay millones, no sólo en EU, sino por todo el mundo, que la engordante, poco nutritiva dieta occidental ha ocasionado, pero es algo que a las grandes corporaciones “alimentarias” las tiene sin cuidado. Seguirán matando y procesando millones de animales (pollos, cerdos y reses) y cultivando millones de toneladas de granos y uno que otro tubérculo (maíz, trigo, soya, papa) a diario, guiadas por un lema que podría ser: “al mundo engordemos, enfermemos y contaminemos y de las consecuencias no nos preocupemos”.

Adán Salgado Andrade, mexicano, profesor de la UNAM. Blog del autor.

Video: Processed Food Documentary - Processed Food vs. Nutritional Needs (June 2022).


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