Health and Food Industry in the US

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We all know from media discourse in America about the “dieting fad”; magazines, TV commercials, and multiple internet and billboard ads are thrown in our faces everyday using propaganda as a tool to lure hopeful consumers. Not to mention the hefty attention on medical procedures and surgeries that will magically make you stick thin and “beautiful”. Yet there is just as much, if not more, media attention and propaganda focused on food. Food not as an environmentally friendly or reliant, nutritional and beneficial necessity to life, or even a communal commodity but as a high-quantity, low-cost, low-maintenance, time efficient commodity. Is the contradiction inapparent? 

(ad from the Dallas Restaurant and Bar)1

In Naomi Klein’s book, No Logo, she describes the endless lengths that advertising companies will go through for profit2. Not only do America’s most cherished shoe and clothing companies like Nike fool us by branding our own “cultural space” (appealing to our values and lifestyle) to promise prosperity, but our food and diet companies do too. In fact they encourage overindulgence and unhealthy habits. In the context of our health, we have been utterly fooled by these companies and the media. Cheap but delicious dollar menu burgers and fries disguise their evils with momentary pleasure, while advertising things like manliness and indulging “because you deserve it”. While the reality is that the “food” you just bought has the ability to either contribute to or contest to your life-long health and happiness.

America has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world, while also struggling with increasing rates of heart disease, diabetes, and multiple other diet related diseases. This isn’t surprising when our cheapest and most easily accessible foods contain an abundance of calories, carbohydrates, fat, sodium, cholesterol, and high fructose corn syrup. This abundance keeps most of America very well fed, but it lacks the many nutrients found in fresh vegetables, fruits, and nuts that we need in order to sustain our health. As seen in the graphic below from infoplease.com, an informational website authorized by Pearson educational company, one item from the McDonald’s menu, the Big Mac, has more calories and grams of fat then an entire meal an average person might cook at home. 

(Fat and Calorie Content of Fast Food Versus a Home-Cooked Meal)3

Here are some stats directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention government website about obesity in the United States:

   (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) 4

Our every day lives are becoming busier and busier with long work hours and commuting; we don’t have time to make ourselves a nutritious and healthy meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This makes for cheaper fast-food, meaning that even when we have the time to cook, the food from our local health store is likely to be significantly more expensive then the food at our local McDonalds. In turn our most impoverished communities tend to be the least healthy and most obese.

The infographic below shows what the average American eats. The article from the website states that “Dairy products non-cheese are among the most common foods eaten in America weighing in at 181 pounds per year… Corn makes the list being one of the most subsidized foods that our farmers grow. Unlike many other nations Americans have no limit as to what we can eat. We are provided with cheap food, that was even cheaper to make, allowing almost anyone to have access to food. However these cheap foods carry none of the nutrients we need, and are ever present with all the ones we do not.” (What Are We Eating? by Diego Martinez-Moncada)5

(What Are We Eating? by Diego Martinez-Moncada)5

Along with what we choose to eat because of it’s availability and cheapness, the use of chemically and genetically altered food can significantly affect our health as well. The online US National Library of Medicine states that: “Scientific and technological developments in the agricultural sectors in the recent past has resulted in increased food production and at the same time led to certain public health concerns. Unseasonal rains at the time of harvest and improper post harvest technology often results in agricultural commodities being contaminated with certain fungi and results in the production of mycotoxins. Consumption of such commodities has resulted in human disease outbreaks. Other possible causes of health concern include the application of various agrochemicals such as pesticides and the use of antibiotics in aquaculture and veterinary practices. Foodborne pathogens entering the food chain during both traditional and organic agriculture pose a challenge to public health. Modern biotechnology, producing genetically modified foods, if not regulated appropriately could pose dangers to human health.” (Human health problems associated with current agricultural food production)6

The fact is that mass food production in the US provides for an abundance of cheap, yet very unhealthy, sustenance. This makes way for unhealthy and harmful habits. Leading to a country of obese and diseased citizens.

This needs to change.

We need to realize that we are being taken advantage of by the food industry and it’s massive corporations – at the cost of our health. We cannot continue to trust what companies and brands tell us, because the reality is that they will use the cheapest and lowest quality ingredients and chemicals in order to make the most profit. They do not care about our health. 

Ideally,

our government would regulate and maybe even deprivatize the food industry. They would supply us with organic, healthy, nutritious, real, food. They would provide support to all communities, especially those in poverty, and implement/encourage local gardens and health food markets. For now, the solution lies with the individual. Eat your vegetables, eat as healthily, as whole, and as organically as you can. Know that what we put in our bodies greatly affects our health and wellbeing. And use your Sociological Imaginationto realize that individual problems concerning deteriorating health, obesity, and even body image are intertwined with the larger social issue of mass food production in the United States. This issue negatively affects us all, and that is why we must work to change it.

Sources

1<http://www.coloribus.com/adsarchive/prints/dallas-restaurant-bar-the-balanced-diet-16682555/resizes/1024/>

2Klein, Naomi. No Logo. Canada: Vintage Canada, 2000. Print.

3<http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0934642.html#ixzz2vbmkAIxb>

4<http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/facts.html>

5<http://dailyinfographic.com/what-are-we-eating-infographic>

6<http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18296310>

 7 Mills, C. W. The Sociological Imagination. London: Oxford University Press, 1959. Print.

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