The Dirty Secrets of Food Processing. Strong Stomach required.

By Paul Michael on 22 March 2007 (Updated 11 June 2012) 28 comments

After my post on the Dirty Secrets of Credit Cards, a good friend of mine sent me an article on food processing secrets that chilled me to the bone.

Now, I know this is slightly off topic even though I've labelled this a food and drink article. But I like to think that ‘living large’ is also about making wise decisions with your money. And when you see these revelations, you may think twice abut where your grocery money goes.

The article was taken from a presentation written by Sally Fallon, the President of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Sally is also a chef, nutrition researcher and founder of A Campaign for Real Milk. I won’t give a complete transcript of the presentation, it’s around 16 pages long and you can read it here (it’s both an excellent and worrying read.) But I will give some snippets of the story to make you look twice at a few things in your pantry and fridge. (See also: Is "Health Food" Worse for You than Junk Food?)

Food Processing – industrial damage

In modern times we favor factory and industrial processing, which destroys the nutrients in food rather than increasing them, and makes our food more difficult to digest. Furthermore, industrial processing depends upon products that have a negative impact on our health, such as sugar, white flour, processed and hydrogenated oils, additives, synthetic vitamins and an extrusion processing of grains. These are the tools of the food processing industry.

Packaged Cereal – now without goodness

Dry breakfast cereals are produced by a process called extrusion. A slurry of the grains is put into in a machine called an extruder, which forces them out of a hole at high temperature and pressure and turns them into pleasing shapes. Then a blade slices off each flake or shape, which is then sprayed with a coating of oil and sugar to make the cereal milk-proof and keep it crunchy. MMM.

This process destroys most of the nutrients in the grains, including fatty acids and even the chemical vitamins added at the end. And ALL the boxed cereals are made this way, even ones sold in health food stores. It’s all about cutting costs, not making nutritional food.

Rat Experiments

Four sets of rats were given special diets. One group received plain whole wheat, water and synthetic vitamins and minerals. A second group received puffed wheat (an extruded cereal), water and the same nutrient solution. A third set was given only water. A fourth set was given nothing but water and chemical nutrients.

The rats given the vitamins, water and all the puffed wheat they wanted died within two weeks- even before the rats that got no food at all. Autopsy results revealed dysfunction of the pancreas, liver and kidneys and degeneration of the nerves of the spine, all signs of insulin shock. That was just one test. You can read more about the other tests in Sally’s complete article.

Milk

Processing milk destroys it. You should be able to live exclusively on raw cow milk, but our industrial system puts dairy cows inside on cement and gives them foods they are not designed to eat—grain, soy, citrus peel cake and bakery waste. In turn, these cows produce watery milk which is very low in fat.

Milk from these industrial cows is shipped to milk factories, where lots can go wrong. The largest milk poisoning in American history was in 1985. More than 5,000 people across three states fell ill after a "pasteurization failure" at an Illinois plant.

In these factories, milk is completely remade. 1st, it’s separated into fat, protein and other solids and liquids. These are reconstituted to set levels for whole, low-fat and no-fat milks; in other words, the milk is reconstituted to be completely uniform. Of the reconstituted milks, whole milk is the closest to original cow's milk.

The butterfat left over goes into butter, cream, cheese, toppings and ice cream. The dairy industry loves to sell low fat milk and skim milk because they make a lot more money from butterfat when consumers buy it as ice cream.

Milk Allergies

Many people, particularly children, cannot tolerate the stuff we call milk. That’s because the pasteurization process deforms and denatures the proteins in milks to such an extent that when we drink it, the body mounts an immune response instead of deriving instant nourishment.

Fortunately what we call real milk, that is full-fat milk from pasture-fed cows, milk that is not pasteurized, processed or homogenized, is becoming more available (see realmilk.com).

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

Powdered Milk

A note on the production of skim milk powder: liquid milk is forced through a tiny hole at high pressure, and then blown out into the air. This causes a lot of nitrates to form and the cholesterol in the milk is oxidized. Those of you who are familiar with my work know that cholesterol is your best friend; you don't have to worry about natural cholesterol in your food; however, you do not want to eat oxidized cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol contributes to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, to atherosclerosis. So when you drink reduced-fat milk thinking that it will help you avoid heart disease, you are actually consuming oxidized cholesterol, which initiates the process of heart disease.

Orange Juice

In processing, the whole orange is put into the machine. And when they put the oranges in the vats and squeeze them, all the nasty pesticides go straight into the juice.

A study carried out in Hawaii found that consumption of fruit and fruit juices was the number one dietary factor for the development of Alzheimer's disease. The researchers speculated that the real culprits were the pesticides used in fruit.

The FDA has decreed that we can no longer buy raw juice, because it might be a source of pathogens. But they have found fungus that is resistant to pressure and heat in the processed juices. They also found E. coli in orange juice that was pressure resistant and had survived pasteurization.

Another study shows just how toxic and damaging these juices are to teeth. They found that rats had more tooth decay from these commercial juices than they did from soda pop!

And have you ever wondered why processed orange juice stays cloudy, why the solids do not settle? Well, soy protein combined with soluble pectin is added, keeping the juice permanently cloudy. Good to know if you have a soy allergy, right?

Processed Food Affects Fertility and Facial Structure

As children eat processed foods, with each generation the facial structure becomes more and more narrow. Healthy faces should be broad. When societies abandoned traditional diets and began to eat processed foods, the next generation was much more susceptible to diseases of every sort.

We know from animal studies that if you continue a deficient diet for three generations, reproduction ceases and that's what we're seeing now. About 25% of couples are infertile. If we don't go back to a diet that produces good health, the human race will eventually die out.

To sum up...

As I say, the complete article by Sally Fallon goes into so much more detail, and also covers topics like natural and artificial flavors, hydrogenated oils and trans fats. I urge you to read it, then to look much more closely at the labels on all of your grocery store items.

Spend your money wisely, yes. But don’t always go for the cheap foods, because the more expensive, genuinely organic alternative may cost a little more but it certainly won’t be as costly to your health.

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Will Chen's picture

That part is especially depressing.  We've always been told that juice is good for us.  Some articles even say frequent consumption of juice can lower your Alzheimer's risk by 76%.

But those studies don't take the pesticides into account.  It is a confusing time to be a consumer.  =(

Andrea Karim's picture

Well, I'll just stick to coffee and a cigarette for brekky, then. (Note to self: start smoking)

Paul Michael's picture

You mean the 'meats' made out of soy proteins? Or the nasty, hormone-injected, water-solution filled meats? I've read Fast-Food Nation and Don't Eat This Book. Meat scares me. Plus, I come from England. I could already have Mad Cow Disease and not know it, which is why I can't give blood here (I was a blood donor in the UK).

Andrea Karim's picture

I changed my comment, but yeah, I had mentioned fake meats. And I meant the ones made out of soy (is there another kind of fake meat?). I actually quite like these, but when I see the list of ingredients, I get worried.

I don't really eat much meat, mostly seafood and veggies. I read Fast Food Nation, too, and probably spend a week crying over the cows. But I'm a wuss. Or so says Will.

Lynn Truong's picture

i highly recommend Omnivore's Delimma.  it's a fascinating read about how corn is taking over our bodies, and how organic and self-sufficient farming can actually be more efficient than mass producing and specializing farms.  i stopped eating fast food after fast food nation.  i stopped eating high fructose corn syrup after reading Omnivore's Delimma.

Tannaz Sassooni's picture

Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma as well as his other book, The Botany of Desire are both fascinating reads that really open your eyes to food politics issues like the ones this article highlights. The latter is a little farther from the topic, but before I read the last chapter, on genetically modified potatoes, I had no idea how haphazard and how potentially dangerous it is to genetically modify foods.

Another good one is The Food Revolution -- not quite the eloquent read that Pollan's books are, but it's extremely well-researched, and packed with facts about factory farming conditions, food processing, and the environmental effects of the food industry. It's amazing how much information we don't have about what we eat unless we read books like these.

Guest's picture
MisChef

there is all kinds of meat replacers, and not all are made from soy. TVP may or may not include soy products. Seitan is made from wheat gluten and Quorn, which is a mycoprotein (sort of like a mushroom) Those last two are great, but seitan that squeaks when you chew it skeeves me out.

So let's see:
beef = mad cow & hormone poisoning
poultry = bird flu & salmonella
seafood = mercury & contaminated water toxicity
peanut butter = salmonella
spinach & lettuce = e-coli
Hell, even dogfood is contaminated now.

What's left? Chocolate cake!!! :-)

Guest's picture
Keith

I call shenanigans.

There's a hysterical gloom-and-doom tone to all of this, and not a lot of citation. (The few citations seem to be pointing at other natural foods proponents, which seems a bit incestuous.)

There are also lots of appeals to emotion, such as, "In fact, the USDA is gloating over the fact that children today get the vast majority of their important nutrients from the nutrients added to these boxed cereals." An emotional portrayal, rather than a scientific discussion. (The government is a bloated menace! Think of the Children! We're all going to die!)

While this article is good for promoting critical thinking about food choices, I think I'll look for independent verification before I believe everything that Sally Fallon says.

Guest's picture
aGuest

what Keith said. As an exercise simply use the same presentation & arguement method as this essay does with some topic that you disagree with and the flaws become obvious.

For example the claim that 25% of couples are infertile & the implication it is due to the food they eat simply ignores all sorts of evidence (such as the fact that venereal disease is a major cause of infertility...it appears that about 10% to 20% of all infertily is unexplained at best) to hype up the "danger" and of course to get one to buy the book and the food (and no doubt suppliments are offered) etc.

Reasons why couples are infertile:

In addition to age-related factors, increased risk for infertility is associated with the following:

Multiple sexual partners (increases risk for sexually transmitted diseases)
Sexually transmitted diseases
History of PID (pelvic inflammatory disease)
History of orchitis or epididymitis in men
Mumps (men)
Varicocele (men)
A past medical history that includes DES exposure (men or women)
Eating disorders (women)
Anovulatory menstrual cycles
Endometriosis
Defects of the uterus (myomas) or cervical obstruction
Long-term (chronic) disease such as diabetes

link: http://www.healthline.com/adamcontent/infertility#causesincidenceandrisk...

Ok what is below is long but the above makes my point that the essay ignores other causes and hypes what numbers are provided. For that reason alone I do NOT trust the other items (e.g., pestisides in OJ....hmmmm if true would not there be a slew of court cases with sick/dead children? At least children who were hyper allergic?)

See Below for a little google searching:

Even a quick google search points out that the 25% couple figure itself is probably wrong.

While I can not access the 1985 actual paper at this link
http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0070-3370(198508)22%3A3%3C415%3ARIITUS%3E2.0.CO%3B2-Z#abstract

...the title says 1 in 5 (20%) couples and that is for a host of reasons not because of the food and that, "Since 1965, infertility was unchanged overall and in most age groups, but increased among wives aged 20-24." Why would it only change in slightly younger (but not the youngest!) catagory as opposed to those who have been exposed for a longer time?

Paper title & cite: One-Fifth of U.S. Couples Infertile; One-Quarter of Contraceptively Sterilized Want More Children Family Planning Perspectives, Vol. 17, No. 6 (Nov. - Dec., 1985), pp. 268-269

Another example with more recent data

http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3003498.html

Does point out the increase (in females) but explains it otherwise:

"The proportion of U.S. women aged 15-44 who reported some form of fecundity impairment rose from 8% in 1982 and 1988 to 10% in 1995, an increase in absolute numbers from 4.6 million to 6.2 million women. Although the proportion of fecundity-impaired women who had ever sought medical help did not change between 1988 and 1995 (44%), the absolute numbers of such women grew by nearly 30%, from 2.1 million to 2.7 million. Women who had ever sought help for fertility problems were older and had a higher income than those who had not, and were more likely to be married.

Conclusion: The dramatic increase in the numbers of U.S. women with impaired fecundity occurred because the large baby-boom cohort, many of whom delayed childbearing, had reached their later and less fecund reproductive years. This increase in both rates and numbers occurred across almost all age, parity, marital status, education, income, and race and ethnicity subgroups."

Family Planning Perspectives, 1998, 30(1):34-42

1st paragraph, "The most substantial change in infertility in the United States during the 1970s and 1980s was not in age-specific infertility rates, but in the numbers of women who reported infertility problems and sought medical help to have a baby. Though nationally representative surveys through 1988 provide no evidence of such rising rates,1 the popular press reported that rates of infertility themselves increased. Baby boomers' patterns of late marriage and delayed childbearing within marriage are chiefly responsible for this perception."

And on and on....

It reads like marketing hype.....

Guest's picture
aGuest

OK, I can not format

what Keith said. As an exercise simply use the same presentation & arguement method as this essay does with some topic that you disagree with and the flaws become obvious.

For example the claim that 25% of couples are infertile & the implication it is due to the food they eat simply ignores all sorts of evidence (such as the fact that venereal disease is a major cause of infertility...it appears that about 10% to 20% of all infertily is unexplained at best) to hype up the "danger" and of course to get one to buy the book and the food (and no doubt suppliments are offered) etc.

Reasons why couples are infertile: In addition to age-related factors, increased risk for infertility is associated with the following: Multiple sexual partners (increases risk for sexually transmitted diseases) Sexually transmitted diseases History of PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) History of orchitis or epididymitis in men Mumps (men) Varicocele (men) A past medical history that includes DES exposure (men or women) Eating disorders (women) Anovulatory menstrual cycles Endometriosis Defects of the uterus (myomas) or cervical obstruction Long-term (chronic) disease such as diabetes link: http://www.healthline.com/adamcontent/infertility#causesincidenceandrisk...

Paul Michael's picture

...that Sally's article has passion that does not always translate as complete objectivity, I firmly believe that there is cause for concern here. The indutrial food-processing techniques and factory farming are doing us all damage. For instance, BSE - that came directly from factory-farming methods. I can't tell you what or how to eat though. This is merely a topic for deabte. I think calling it shenaningans is underplaying the serious nature of the topic though.  

Guest's picture
STJ

I'm always suspicious when people say "the studies say.." I'd like to know where all these studies and surveys come come. Without the doctors/professors/labs names, I will say, and you will believe me just a much as this article, that "a HUGE study came out and stated that fresh veggies and fruits made with out processing was killing people at an earlier age. When asked why, the random man replied that people 200 years ago only lived until their 50's, now people live past 80, duh."

Also, you think that the milk poisoning was bad? Let's see how many cats and dogs we kill this week!!!

Guest's picture

This is a bunch of BS mixed in with a few real facts. If you link to the article, you see a lot of my favorite sentence in pseudoscience: "Another unpublished experiment was carried out in the 1960s..."

It's an imperfect food system, for sure, but remember that back in the old days it wasn't at all uncommon for people in their 20's to have tumors and for people to get diseases like rickets and scurvy and other things that are _extremely_ rare in the western world.

Paul Michael's picture

...and as this is Wisebread, here's a link to free cereal for all you folks who think the article is complete bunk. Now, you can't say you don't get something for nothing here. I personally won't be applying though. But that's what's great about freedom of choice.

Guest's picture
Mark Base

I seem to have lost my apetite.

Thanks!

Guest's picture
Tug

Wow - somebody go ahead and shoot me now.

Guest's picture
Guest

Go read the entire article!! The references to real studies, published materials and all the rest is right there.

Grab a copy of "Nourishing Traditions" off the library shelf. There are more references (documented) in there than in just about anything else I've read. Then check the WAPF website, the Real Milk site and Dr. Mercola's website.

www.westonaprice.org
www.realmilk.com
www.mercola.com

When you've finished with the 50,000 pages of fully documented material just on Mercola's site, the referenced materials on the others, and done a search through past issues of NEJM, JAMA and Lancet - THEN tell me Sally's article isn't justified let alone factual.

This article appears on the WAPF website. The site, as well as its articles (not just by Sally) are all fully documented there.

Just because she mentions a couple unpublished studies doesn't mean this is nonsense. Google search some of the references located on the sites themselves. THAT is where you will find the information you claim to look for.

Further - not doing your homework is only hurting you. Those of us that research everything to the "nth" degree have also read the ENTIRE article (which this is not), and studied the reference materials.

A quote from the post above:

"To sum up...as I say, the complete article by Sally Fallon goes into so much more detail, and also covers topics like natural and artificial flavors, hydrogenated oils and trans fats. I urge you to read it, then to look much more closely at the labels on all of your grocery store items."

Enjoy your soy.

Sue

Paul Michael's picture

..thank you Sue. I did mention several times that my article was merely an appetizer to the full blown 16-page document, which would have been way too big to post here. I did a quick capsule review for WB readers, and if they wanted to know more, the article and complete documentation was available. I'm gald you liked the article...and I apologize for putting you off your breakfast.

Guest's picture
Horace Goodface

I also call shenanigans. I don't believe this bit for a second:

"the pasteurization process deforms and denatures the proteins in milks to such an extent that when we drink it, the body mounts an immune response instead of deriving instant nourishment"

That's ridiculous. Heat denatures proteins, but it's not going to elicit an immune response. By the same argument, you could say that eating a fried egg or some baked beans would cause a similar reaction.

That's enough for me stop listening, even if there's good information sprinkled among the bs.

Guest's picture
Guest

I've been doing some reading on food history and food processing, in order to talk about 1870s foodways a bit more at the historic house museum I work at. I do agree that a lot of what goes on in food processing is scary, but it is fear-mongering to say that all food processing is bad. Take pasteurization for instance. You could not pay me to drink unpasteurized milk or juice. Why? Well, people used to die quite regularly from drinking tainted milk and tainted fruit juices. It was one of the great public health achievements that pasteurization led to a safe milk supply for children. And it's not just food poisoning to worry about with "raw milk." Tuberculosis used to be spread by milk from cows infected with bovine tuberculosis. And humans can contract bovine tuberculosis. Pasteurization helped eradicate that risk. Of course we should be more aware of what goes into and what happens to our food, but we shouldn't let knee-jerk reactions like "processing = bad" compromise our collective health.

Guest's picture
Leo Fair

"Well, people used to die quite regularly from drinking tainted milk and tainted fruit juices."

Yes, before the days of refrigeration, pasteurization was very necessary if you were going to drink milk and didn't own your own cow. I also don't think I'd like to try unpasteurized mass market milk products, but from responsible suppliers of raw milk I don't think I'd have a problem with it. Unpasteurized juice depends on the source as well; I don't think many of us heat up our orange or lemon juice when we squeeze it at home.

Guest's picture
Guest

weston a price foundation is half right, and half very wrong, inobjective, hope = self-deceit

Guest's picture
Guest

wow this was amazing. i particularly liked the part about the rat experiment conducted. i think this information should be on the news!!!!!! its important for people to know what they are ingesting every day... ugh.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have read what some of you have said and I have a an example for you of the above information being true.....my family.

We have been have removed all processed foods from our diet. (we only have noodles and sour cream since I haven't figured out how to make them yet) We have all done this for over two months now....we even drink raw milk.

When we eat out or go to someone's house for dinner (even if they make everything from scratch they still use processed ingredients) all 6 of us get sick....burping, gassy, diarrhea about 1 hour after we eat. That right there is all the proof I need to tell me that there is something really wrong with the processed foods we buy everyday. We need the enzymes that are heated out of food and we need a strong gut.

Just thought I would add our testimony....we aren't a study but a real family.

Guest's picture
Sydney

I was drinking a cold glass of OJ when I read this.. fml. I couldn't finish it. And, I kind of felt like a bad person when I got to the end of your article when it woke about facial structure. I'm pregnant. Good read. I definitely learned something. I wish we had more access to "good" food. Seems like unless you grow it and pick it yourself, it is not as easy to to find the stuff that is better for you and not break the bank account. Thanks.

Guest's picture
PinkGeek

Oh god! GROSS

Guest's picture
Weee

The link above to Fallon's article doesn't work. I found it here:

westonaprice.org/modern-foods/dirty-secrets-of-the-food-processing-industry

Amy Lu's picture
Amy Lu

Thank you, WEEE! I've updated the link.