Tyrades! Extra! Extra! Eat All About It

Friday, August 7, 2009

While enjoying the tasty simplicity of Lewisburg's own Brother's Mild Chow-Chow ("No preservatives, no artificial color"), I became more and more disgusted with food additives.

You've seen the package labels. In this era of processed foods, sometimes it's a dash of antioxidant and a hint of spices, but more often the guy listing the ingredients thinks he's writing the Great American Novel or something.

Does some purchasing clerk feel obligated to buy "antifoaming agent" from his brother-in-law? Did some nutritionist lose a game of Truth Or Dare involving fumaric acid? Whatever the cause, additives have gotten to be the tail wagging the dog. I'm half-expecting a sheepish recall notice along the lines of "Please take your bag of our corn chips to a certified dealer and have this corn inserted."

Companies will defend with their dying breath the right to use every preservative short of embalming fluid. No one wants to admit "Our products ain't exactly flying off the shelves, so we've had to pump them full of the same stuff that has given Paris Hilton's 15 minutes of fame such a shelf life."

Every stabilizer and humectant has its cheering section in the industry. I'm sure a CEO would tell you "Every single ingredient in Mrs. Acme's Original Recipe Emulsifier-sicles is absolutely essential -- unless we find a cheaper substitute."

21st Century mankind is blessed with food fortified with all kinds of goodies, but what benefit is carrot cake if you ruin your eyes reading the fine print? And by fine print I mean the teensy gobbledygook about monocalcium phosphate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, rack and pinion steering, dealer prep, roaming charges, etc.

If you doubt my assertion that something just isn't right on the grocery shelves, check your Bible. Would the Israelites have followed Moses into the Promised Land if God had described it as "a land flowing with milk and honey... and bulking agents and color retention agents and tracer gases and..."?

My wife the biology teacher has been helping people identify and treat allergies, but the impediments thrown up by the goofballs in the food industry are nothing to sneeze at. Not only do they offer vague descriptions ("colors," "flavoring") and forget whether a batch calls for natural or artificial ingredients, but they also make bizarre "stealth" additions, such as red dye in blueberry pies and artificial vanilla in chocolate candy! I'd like to see the ingredient list for the cigarettes these jokers are smoking.

In the cut-throat world of groceries, everyone wants their product to be the shiniest, the firmest, the sharpest. I understand the need to keep a competitive edge, but the whole beauty pageant angle of (barely) edibles has gotten out of hand. Soon, the potted meat will be left on the shelf unless it can do a baton twirling routine and deliver a heartfelt essay about world peace.

I know it will be difficult, but the manufacturers need to declare a truce and reverse this escalation of additives. It will be strange to give up all the unnatural cohesion and larger-than-life hues, but peace of mind can be gained with a mantra that has worked well with generations of house pets: "If they get hungry enough, they'll eat it."