Sunday Food: Happy Easter, and Don’t Eat Revolting Stuff
(Picture courtesy of liftarn at wikimedia commons.)
If you are going out for dinner for Easter, sorry, but wouldn’t you prefer real food, and prefer not to put things into your system that are harmful? Okay, if you don’t thank me after reading this, I am sorry.
The subject line may strike you as unnecessary advice, but if you know what you’re eating when you buy into restaurant fare, you may well be doing that very thing.
The research kitchens that are making food that appeals to us do not put our health as their motivation, but their profits.
Would you like a cow eyeball with your burger?One of the more-enduring urban legends about McDonald’s is that their hamburgers contain cow eyeballs. While this has not proven to be the case, the company’s Baked Hot Apple Pie does contain duck feathers, or at least an ingredient commonly derived from such. Truth can be just as strange as fiction.How have duck feathers become a viable ingredient in apple pie? Welcome to the world of food additives. People have been adding flavors, spices, natural preservatives and ripening agents to food since antiquity. But as the popularity of highly processed food has risen dramatically since the 1950s, so has the astounding array of bizarre chemical additives used in food manufacturing. Fast-food recipes seem to be born more from the laboratory than from farm or field.And although the powers that be deem these food-additive chemicals safe, the science fiction of it all is a bit unsettling. How do we come up with these things? Here are some of the wackiest of the bunch.1. Duck feathers and human hair (L-cysteine)You thought duck feathers sounded bad? How about human hair? These are the two most-common sources for l-cysteine, an amino acid used to condition dough for increased pliability, which facilitates better machine processing. CNN reported that most human-derived L-cysteine comes from Chinese women who help support their families by selling their locks to small chemical-processing plants.Although originally the primary source for L-cysteine was human hair, many manufacturers seem to have moved away from hair-derived L-cysteine and on to the more-palatable duck feathers. According to Jeanne Yacoubou, MS, research editor for The Vegetarian Resource Group, 80 percent of L-cysteine is now derived from feathers. During her research, McDonald’s told Yacoubou that the L-cysteine used in its Baked Hot Apple Pie, as well as its Wheat Roll and Warm Cinnamon Roll, was of the duck-feather variety. Many other fast-food joints rely on L-cysteine in bakery products as well.And not to be sensationalist here, the resultant additive is far-removed from its original source — but still. It may be disturbing to many, and importantly, may fly in the face of ethical or religious dietary restrictions.
…snip… (Please click the above link before the blockquote to see the remainder of the 8 mystery foods)Generally recognized as safe (GRAS)
These four little words seem to have become the FDA mantra when it comes to food additives; all of the above ingredients, and an expansive array of other chemical additives, have been generally recognized as safe in scientific studies. Taken out of context and looked at individually, maybe a little ammonium sulfate here and a petroleum product there aren’t going to cause quantitative damage to lab animals. But if you were to add up all of the chemical ingredients consumed during a life of a fast-food fueled Western diet, what would that look like? Would it look like an epidemic of obesity, diabetes or cancer?Michael Pollan‘s advice, “Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food” never seemed so appealing.
If you were just planning a trip to the local garbage purveyor – which is how I regard fast food outlets – if you decided not to, I’m glad for you,