Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Ugly Side of Food: A Quick US/UK Comparisons

High Fructose Corn Syrup, mechanically separated chicken, partially hydrogenated soybean oil: it’s the ugly side of food, the side we wish not to see, but it’s still there, too hard to ignore. It may not be until you live in another country that you can really conceptualize how bad the problem in America is, how we are a nation that supports and allows for processed, unnatural, nutritionally-lacking food to flood our markets. Here’s just a few interesting things I’ve noticed so far while abroad in the UK:

1. Heintz Ketchup and Coca-Cola soda, to name a few, do not need high fructose corn syrup, unlike their American counterpart

2. The American McDonalds is actually much worse for you than the UK McDonalds (and even in the UK McDonalds is looked up as a junky treat)

a. US chicken nuggets contain dimethylpolysiloxane (a chemical used in making silly putty) and tertiary butylhydroquinone (a petro-based chemical). A kid's size serving of chicken nuggets, four nuggets, have 3 more grams of fat and 20 more calories than the UK counterpart.

b. The UK McDonalds uses all free-range chicken eggs (a proposal which American McDonalds has publically opposed), and organic milk.

3. Animal welfare standards in the UK, in-so-far as they are related to food products, are clearly a more prominent issue: labels based on RSPCA welfare standards are clearly marked on numerous items that are available in any local grocery store

4. American's lunch system is often times in such despair, that it takes a British chef--see Jamie Oliver and recent interviews--to come over seas to reform school lunches.

These are just a few of the examples that I have personally witness while abroad; and so, it may not be any surprise that British men and women, on average, tend to be much healthier, live longer, and are less prone to diseases (everything from high blood pressure to diabetes) than similar American counterparts.

As bleak as such a comparison may sound, it truly illuminates what needs to happen in the future: as Oliver notes about the state of American food policy, “In America, what hasn't happened yet is the public haven't really told business what they want”. And its true. What needs to happen is a large scale public movement for a change in food policy, and it starts with the vote for change each of us makes every time be buy something at a grocery store.

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