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'Shocking' food manufacturers slammed for 'preying on public'

16 February 2011

An article entitled 15 Shocking Food Industry Secrets on Yahoo has slammed food processors in the US for 'thinking and banking on the fact the public is stupid'. What were the 15 secrets?

The article, published on the Yahoo Health website, and written by David Zinczenko with Matt Goulding, was written while the authors were researching their latest book, Eat This, Not That! 2011

''We spotted more minefields than ever—in restaurants, at supermarkets, in your own pantry. That’s why we cornered food-industry insiders and asked them to come clean. What they told us may shock you,'' the authors were reported as saying.

Here's the 15 secrets, as reported in the Yahoo article:

First, the average American has easy access to 2,700 calories each day, versus just 2,200 in 1970. Second, the average American drinks 450 liquid calories a day - twice as much as they consumed 30 years ago, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina.

Third, Fresh fruits and vegetables cost 10 times more than junk food, according to researchers at the University of Washington. Fourth, there are more than 3,000 items on the FDA’s list of approved food additives—everything from acesulfame potassium (an artificial sweetner that animal studies have linked to breast cancer) to Yellow #5 (a food coloring linked to learning and concentration disorders in children).

Fifth, US food can legally contain maggots and rat poop. The FDA limits the amount of such appetite killers in your food, but that limit isn't zero. 

Sixth, smaller portions are equally as satisfying as larger portions. Participants in a Penn State study ate macaroni and cheese over four different days, and when presented with bigger portions, they consumed an extra 160 calories. Despite the extra food, they rated their fullness the same.

Seventh, between 1977 and 1996, the average cheeseburger grew in size by 25%. In that same time, a bag of pretzels grew by 93 calories, according to analysis by researchers in North Carolina.

Eighth, hamburgers, particularly those served at schools and fast food restaurants, is routinely treated with ammonia to kill off E. coli bacteria. That’s the same substance used in fertilizers and household cleaners.

Ninth, there's a good chance chicken will make you sick. In a 2006 Consumer Reports review, more than 80% of whole broiler chickens bought in the US contained campylobacter or salmonella.

Tenth, junk food is like a drug. A study in the journal of Nature Neuroscience found eating junk food doesn’t just satisfy cravings - it creates them. ''That's why manufacturers load their foods with sugar, salt, and artificial flavorings, and why you should never forget the golden rule: If your food can go bad, it's good for you. If it can't go bad, it's bad for you,'' the authors claim.

Eleventh, only 19% of what you pay for a food product actually goes toward the food itself. The rest pays for packaging, labor, and marketing, according to USDA data.

Twelfth, food companies pay “slotting fees” to supermarkets to ensure the best possible placement - an average of $70 per item, according to a 2004 government report. These fees are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.

Thirteenth, the leanest cuts of meat may have the highest sodium levels. Leaner cuts by definition are less juicy. To counteract this, some manufacturers "enhance" turkey, chicken, and beef products by pumping them full of a liquid solution that contains water and salt.

Fourteenth, long checkout lines may make you fat. If you’re waiting to pay, you're up to 25% more likely to buy the sweets around you, according to a recent study at the University of Arizona.

And, finally, calorie counts may be wrong. To ensure you're getting at least as much as you pay for, the FDA is more likely to penalise a food manufacturer for overstating the net weight of a product than understating it. ''As a result,'' say the authors, ''manufacturers often package more food than the stated net weight or make servings heavier than the stated serving size weight.''

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