Reclaiming (food) power through knowledge

(This post originally appeared on my real food blog, Plays Well with Butter.)

Have you heard the latest? That the maker of neurotoxin aspartame is going to rename it “AminoSweet” and market it as a natural substance because it is made from “amino acids?” Then there’s Sara Lee, coming up with “EcoGrains” that are supposed to be “more sustainable”  because they use 15% less fertilizer and will be marketed as “better than organic.” I’m sure you’ve heard about all the various “organic” companies that have been shown to be anything but organic (Dr. Bronner’s is still fighting in court about this regarding hygiene products). And then there are the TV commercials that claim high fructose corn syrup is just fine for you because it’s made from corn; despite the numerous problems with such a claim on its own, the commercials then go on to say it is fine “in moderation.” Anyone who’s been reading labels knows the lunacy of that statement—HFCS is in just about every processed/packaged food on store shelves. Even if a person believes that crap about it being ok for you “in moderation,” if you eat processed/ready-made foods, it is impossible to ingest HFCS “in moderation.”

Every time I hear about industrial food propaganda like these, I get angry. Really angry. It seems that whenever a piece of information regarding true health & wellness gets widespread attention—aspartame is a poison, organic farming is better, HFCS is bad, etc—industrial food producers find a way to twist the truth to their advantage and dupe the public. It makes me very rant-y. Might even have steam shooting out of my ears, cartoon-style. How dare they lie so blatantly?! How dare they try to trick me into eating crap that I know causes illness and eventual dependence on their drugs?! How dare they try to deny me my quality of life?!

Ranting a bit helps me let off steam. And after I’ve let it out, I can take a deep breath, and realize that “they” cannot hurt me any more. Because I know better, and I can (and do) make different choices. I know aspartame is poison, so it doesn’t matter what they call it, I’m not going to eat it. I make my own bread, so anything Sara Lee does doesn’t have to affect me. I am aware of the problems with personal care products so I am finding alternatives that work for me (Dr. Bronner’s is one of them; I’ll post on my experiences soon). And I wouldn’t touch anything with HFCS in it with someone else’s ten-foot pole.

I can make these choices because I know better. Sadly, most people don’t, so the best way I try to help them is to live my talk and pass on as much knowledge as I can. Let’s all do what we can; those of us who know the truth of our food system can do the most good by showing people that it’s not hard to make better choices. Answer questions when you can, talk about how you do it. You never know who you might encourage to finally stop drinking sodas or start eating grass-fed butter.

When I used to teach college writing, I placed a lot of emphasis on critical thinking and questioning pop culture. I wasn’t as concerned with the specific subjects the students chose to question (music or movies or fashion, usually whatever they wanted), but with the fact that they just start questioning. All the “greenwashing” that industrial food companies do only works when their audience does not question what they say and blindly accepts what they are told. The more people who start to pause and wonder and question, even in tiny fits and starts, the less people who are duped by fake greenwashing.

I do still get a bit grumbly if I happen to see a pro-HFCS commercial, but then by the end of it, I can smile a little smug smile to myself as I remember that not only does that propaganda not work on me, but that I’m actively working to lessen its power over others, and I know that many of them are likewise reaching out. Food knowledge is power. Let’s keep spreading the word.

UPDATE on Friday, March 5: Today word is out about a big recall of processed foods that use “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” (basically, MSG). If you don’t eat processed foods, then such recalls don’t affect you…but it’s one more reason, as if we need any more, to make changes and spread the word.

This post is part of Fight Back Friday for March 5, 2010.

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  1. Love your blog title, absolutely agree with your rant.  It’s must be catching, because I hear my kids critiquing commercials, too. ;-)

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