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April 11, 1971 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1971-04-11

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How food additives earn corporate
profits at the eaters' expense

Canterbury, Englan4 ( -- A
23 year old woman starved to
death beeause she believed nearly
all human food was produced by
the suffering of animals, the
Canterbury coroner's- court was
told. Miss Brenda Holton, an of.
flee secretary, had a horror of all
meat and other, foods that -s h e,
thought had been tainted by
chemical spraysg She :ried to live
on a diet of hopey, cereals and
dandelion coffee; but der appetite
faded and she ivastetd away.
* - *
Brenda Holton, poor masochist, at
least had a glimpse of the problem:
namely, that the western world and
especially the United States may be
slowly eating itself to death as it
stokes down'nutty doddle snacks, hot
dogs, balloon bread, chickens and
steaks, canned orange juice, dehy-
drated soups, soft drinks, cakes made
from mixes and imitation whipped
cream sodden with 3,000 different
synthetic flavors, colors, thickeners,
acidifier , bleachers, preservatives,
package contaminants, antibiotics
and poison pesticides.
Virtually no food on the grocery
shelves is free from chemical addi-
tives,'which have no nutritive value,
are probably harmful, and whose
main purpose is to make eaters think
they're eating something they aren't.
Even Brenda Htolten's honey was con-
taminated with benzaldehyde, a toxic
bee repellent, her cereals tainted with
preservatives and traces of grain
pesticides, and" her poor dandelions
choked by herbicides and automobile
No one knows for sure whether
synthetic additives in our food poison
us in normal every day eating, as
many scientists suspect-traceable: in-
stances of human poisoning are rare
- but at best no one knows that
they don't. "We never know for sure
whether additives are safe or not,"
warns Marvin Legator, chief biochem-
ist at the Food and Drug Administra-
tion,- "Long term usage of additives
can in no way be rated with safety.
We have so many cases of . common
diseases like mental retardation and
cancer, which, we can't account for
through epidemiological studies, for
which we can't find a, cause and ef-
fect." It might be chronic poisoning
from food additives-but it will take
years to find out. "The only reason

we ever pinpointed thalidomide
(drug) poisoning was because its ef-
fects, were such gross abnormalities
which are so damn rare. And even
then it took us five years to find
out," says Legator.'
All those sniffles and allergies you
suffer? "It's possible that allergic ef-,
fects caused by foods or substances
in foods are much more common than
would appear from the medical and
scientific literature," reports the food
additive panel of the Federal Agri-
cultural;Organization-World Health
Even if the 93 possible different
additives in your daily bread aren't
bad for you (and there's good evi-
dence they are) they do nothing for
you. At best you pay for synthetic
color and taste signifying - nothing,
except booming profits for the multi-
billion dollar drug and food industry.
Food companies are beginning to de-
vote themselves exclusively to pro-
cessed, synthetic foods, and it's no
surprise. "The profit margin on food
additives is fantastically good," a top
food marketer says, "much better
than the profit margin on basic,
traditional foods."
The corporate sweepstakes
Just before the birth of J e s u s
Christ, Pliny the Elder mentions that
in manufacturing groats "an admix-,
ture of chalk is added which passes
into the substance of the grain and
contributes color and fitness." To-
day the food industry is more soph-
isticated: the nation's top drug and
food corporations have parlayed syn-
thetic additives into a booming $500
million a year business, churning out
close to a billion pounds last year.
Additive sales have tripled since 1955,
and market researchers expect them
to increase 25 per cent by 1975.
Additives owe their phenomenal
success to the boom in "convenience"
foods, frozen and dyhydrated stuff in
pouches and trays which turn into
meals when you add a little water or
pop them in the oven for thirty min-
utes. It's a nice symbiosis, because
convenience foods wouldn't be pos-
sible without all the marvelous chem-
icals the drug industry can muster.
Convenience foods need every addi-
tive known: as Chemical & Engi-
neering News noted in a special addi-
tive supplement in 1966, "they are
prepared under more severe condi-
tions of temperature, pressure or agi-
tation. Therefore they may require

special flavorings, flavor enhancers,
colors and additives to make up for
the partial loss of flavor, color, tex-
ture and other properties caused by
Imagine what a blessing to the food
industry! these additives, in an era
when regional and local food pro-
ducers have died and the giant cor-
porations, the food monopolies, the
post World War II mass market have
taken over; a market in which Gen-
eral Foods, General Mills and Kel-
loggs produce close to 75 per cent
of all breakfast cereals, in w h i c h
General Foods and General Mills
alone manufacture the majority of
the synthetic food market. Ten com-
panies make most of the foods which
sit on American shelves, and t h e n
enough to send to markets overseas.
Additives are the vehicle for the mass
market; they allow high speed pro-
duction, minimize costs, let the foods
endure over thousands of miles of
transporting and buffeting, and then
keep them fresh looking and tasting
for weeks, sometimes months on the
nation's shelves - and consequently
maximize the chances they'll be pur-
For vigorous industries looking for
new products and new markets, addi-
tives are a bonanza: the've made pos-
sible 10,000 entirely new types of pro-
ducts in the past decade, and 4,000
more new or modified products pop
on the market every year. All will be
convenience, and synthetic foods.
"These kinds of products will almost
totally absorb the food industry's en-
ergies in the future," says a General
Foods spokesman.
With this kind of future, "more and
more companies are going out of their
way to develop chemicals specially
designed to meet the specialized neer9
of the food industry," writes C & E
News. Monsanto, the $2 billion chem-
ical corporate monster, plunged into
the food additive business in 1961;
Pfizer entered the same year and now
devotes almost half its research dol-
lars to new food products: Union
Carbide jumped into the fray in 1963,
soon followed by the rest of the
giants: Abbott, Allied Chemical, Atlas,
Miles, DuPont and Dow among them.
And for compelling reasons: the food
industry, with $130.6 billion in sales
last year - a 63 percent growth since
1960 - is the nation's biggest and
fastest growing business. S a 1 e s of
convenience and synthetic foods are
outpacing the traditional foods, and

the consumer is paying for it. "Con-
venience foods have contributed more
than anything else to the growth of
the food industry," says Leonard
Trauberman, managing editor of
Food Engineering. "If you plot the
dollar sales of food against the popu-
lation growth, you'll find people are
actually paying more dollars in the
supermarket than ten years ago. And
for the same amount of food. These
extra dollars the housewife is leav-
ing behind in the supermarket are for
convenience foods."
How additives cut costs! Cakes that
once needed eggs and butter n e e d
only tiny amounts of synthetic flav-
oring and coloring and emulsifier.
Fruit juices no longer need fruit. But
perhaps the biggest revolution in food
is just beginning; the spun soy pro-
tein, a bland,ntastelesspcreature of
industry research which every addi-
tive in existence can turn into some-
thing resembling - meat, vegetables,
almost anything! One pound of iso-
lated soy protein costs only 30 cents
dry - but when it's hydrated, pump-
ed with water, oil, flavorings and
other chemicals it's three times the
It's a great future, this additive
business; even aerospace companies
like Aero-Jet General and TRW have
put out industry feelers. This inti-
mate union of drug and food corpora-
tions is paving the way for the total
f o o d corporation, companies which
make both the chemical additives and
the foods which need them.
It's a f i e 1 d only for the giants
who can muster the resources. Like
the Greyhound Corporation's Armour
and Co., which pumps out additives
along with its dairy, poultry, meat
products and vegetable oils (buy them
while waiting in Greyhound termin-
als); Beatrice Foods, whose subsid-
iary chemical companies find a ready
market in its Aunt Nellie's, LaChoy,
Meadowgold and Dannon products; or
International Telephone and T e 1 e-
graph, the corporate king whose sev-
eral hundred subsidiaries include, be-
side missiles and armament makers,
feed additive plants, Continental
Bakery (the nation's largest bakery
and home of Wonder Bread), Merton
Frozen foods, and candy companies.
All IT&T food ends up in IT&T's
Sheraton motor inns, restaurants, ad-
vertised on communication networks
built by - IT&T. It's a nifty corpor-
ate package, a complete industry

which manufacturers, literally, the
nation's guns and butter.
So who needs them?
What do we need them for, these
33 preservatives, 28 antioxidants, 45
sequestrants, 111 emulsifiers, 39 stab-
ilizers and thickeners, 24 bleaching
and ihaturing agents, 60 buffers, acids
and alkalies, 34 food colors, three ar-
tificial sweeteners, 117 nutritive sup-
plements (synthetic, to replace what
processing takes ,out), 1610 artificial
flavors - and now, imitation soy
meats? (see chart) The way indus-
try tells it, convenience and synthe-
tic foods and the additives which
make them palatable are industry's
answer to the twentieth century, the
domestic revolution, the liberation of
the consumer - synonomous in the
food world with housewife. "The
housewife of today, who may v e r y
likely have an outside job or be deep-
ly involved, in community activities,
is no longer willing to spend t h r e e
hours in the kitchen preparing din-

genes, they're going to be around for
generations and generations."
All chemicals in the food supply
carries FDA's blessings, e i t h e r be-
cause they're listed G e n e r a 11 y
Recognized As Safe (all the additives
that were in use when Congress pass-
ed the Food Additive Amendment of
1958 and which seem okay after years
of use) or because food additive reg-
ulations restrict their use to levels
which laboratory tests ostensibly
have shown to be safe. Actually, less
than half of the additives on t h e
market have ever been tested in a
It's hard to eat with gusto when the
FDA keeps bumbling over the toxi-
logical surprises that keep popping
up. FDA, poor belittled, underpaid un-
derstaffed agency that it is, has suf-
fered its shares of humiliations. In
the past few years it has been forced
to swallow earlier decisions and ban
saforale, t h e carinogenic flavoring
ingredient in root beer, every little
boy's picnic drink; sharply restrict


A factory worker ate some common sau-
sage, vomited three times, collapsed to
the pavement and turned b 1 u e - from
sodium nitrate poisoning.
....: .v: .a"..:.:a ".:. :.''."+:.4:"i:v~:m :Xi:«:.:::"r".r...S ............ .: :":4S.v.: vi}.;.:.. .^.....:-..::

A reader's guide to food pollution


The typical American eater munches about three
pounds of a44itives each year, but it's an impossible
task to keep track of which of the three thousand-odd
chemicals that includes. Reading package labels won't
help too much, because according to arbitrary quirks
in the law, most additives don't have to be listed.
MSG, for example, must appear on the label in every-
thing except mayonnaise, salad dressing and French
dressing (The Mayonnaise and Salad Dressing Associa-
tion in Washington employs a good lobbyist). In al-
most every standardized product -- like bread or
margarine - for every ingredient listed, five or 10
more aren't. They're in the product at the discretion
of the manufacturer, and it takes a chemical analysis
for even FDA to uncover them.
are the biggest sellers in the additive business, raking in
$152 million last year. They make foods taste rich,
creamy aad buttery even when they don't contain any
eggs, milk or shortening. Emulsifiers homogenize liquids
which naturally don't mix (like oils in water), and
prevent fants from rising to the product's surface. That
keeps the foo4 looking "fresh and lustrous," as one
trade journal, puts it, even when it's stale. Before
syntheiics, industry used natural emulsifiers like e g g
yolk. Now they use additives like: Mono- and digyl-
cerides, polysorbates, serbitan manostearate, polyeth-
elene glycol esters, propylene glycol esters, hydroxylat-
ed lecithin, methylcellulose, etc. Look on almost any
label: you'll find emulsifiers in ice cream, cakes, whip-
ped vegetable toppings (Dream Whip wouldn't whip
without propylene glycol monostearate), nondairy cof-
fee creamers, salad oils, gelatin desserts, margarine, and
conceivable food on the shelves for weeks. without

cheese and the antibiotic chlortetracycline, for coat-
ings on uncooked chickens.
SEQUESTRANTS tie up metals like copper and
iron, that can speed the oxidative breakdown of foods.
That keeps products, especially canned fruits and
vegetables, on the shelves a long time without losing
their color (which might be artificial). You'll also
find sequestrants in cheese, drinks, baked goods, wine,
canned soups, potato salads, animal shortening: syn-
thetics like EDTA, phosphoric and citric acid, phos-
phates, monoglyceride and stearyl citrate, and sorbitol.
EDTA keeps beer from gushing when you flip open
the tab.
ially speed the natural aging, maturing and bleaching
of flour, and makes dry, workable doughs which allow
high speed, low-cost baking operations. Any flour pro-
duct you eat contains traces of acetone peroxide, nitro-
gen oxides, potassum and calcium bromate, chlorine,
hydrogen peroxide, and other highly poisonous chem-
icals which require expert handling. The Natural Acad-
emy of Science reassures eaters that "since excessive
treatment (with bleachers) results in an inferior pro-
duct, their use is self-limiting."
ACIDULANTS give a tartness to soft drinks, fruit
juices, jams, candies and gelatin desserts, and control
acid levels in bakery products, confections, canned
vegetables and fruits. Among the most popular: citric,
phosphoric, malic and fumaric acids, sodium, calcium
and potassium acetates, and hydrochloric acid (used in
processing modified starches), sulfuric acid and sodium
SYNTHETIC FLAVORS, the wonders of the drug in-
dustry, can make the blandest, foulest tasting synthetic
conglomerations taste palatable and remarkably like any

When artificial flavors don't do the job, flavor en-
hancers help - they bring out "natural flavors", per-
haps because they increase salivation or because they
make taste buds more sensitive. Monosodium glutamate,
(most commonly sold by International Minerals and
Chemica as Ac'cent) is the most popular enhancer;
meat products usually contain disodium 5'-inosinate and
-guanylate to add "meatiness" - especially when there
isn't much meat.
SYNTHETIC COLORS, which account for 95 per cent
of all food colors, are derived from coal tar, so they're
called coal tar dyes ("that's a terrible name which
I don't think consumers appreciate," says one food ad-
ditive expert). Various shades keep dropping from the
market because they cause cancer in laboratory ani-
mals - most of the ones left merely contain residues
of arsenic, mercury and lead. The most popular hand-
ful of colors include FD&C Green No. 3, FD&C Red
No. 2, FD&C Red No. 3, FD&C Violet No. 1, and
FD&C Yellow No. 5, in every conceivable soft drink,
canned fruit, imitation jams and jellies, breakfast cer-
eals, and desserts.
For every need, chemical companies can came up with
the right additive! Firming agents like calcium chforide,
calcium citrate and mono- and dicalcium phosphate
keep canned fruits and vegetables from getting a big
soggy. Anticaking agents like calcium silicate in salt
keep moisture from getting in the product, while other
chemicals called humectants keep moisture from get-
ting out - like sorbitol, glycerine and propylene glycol
in shredded coconut and marshmallows. Since industry
thinks the public wants glossy candies, it coats them
with shellac.
Farmers spray propane gas on fruits to make them
ripen quicker and sell faster. Additives like ethoxyquin

ner," writes Chemical & Engineering
No one ever asked the consumer
whether there might be other social
means to liberate the woman - and
consumers never asked for additives
which m i g h t liberate but poison
them, in the first place. But the mar-
ket doesn't work that way. "Con-
sumers rarely demand anything," says
S. Allen Heininger, director of food
additives at Monsanto. "The only way
to find out if a need for a product is
there is to put the product on the
market and see if consumers accept
it. If the consumers accept it and
buy it, then you candsay they want
it and, therefore, need it."
The food industry has flooded the
market's shelves with synthetic pro-
ducts, saturated the airways w i t h'
their ads and created a demand for
additives which never existed in the
first place. "You can say that a de-
mand was created f o r convenience
foods," Trauberman confides. "The
function of advertising is to create a
demand for a product and to point
out its virtues. Of course, all the ad-
vertising in the world isn't going to
make me buy a product I don't like,"
Trauberman says, but he adds, "Ads
tell the housewife over and over
again that if she likes the product,
it's still around to be bought.
"People have to be reminded that
these are products they want to buy."
With over $100 million p e r year,
spent on its advertising, a corporation
like General Foods can keep its syn-
thetic products going pretty well.
Consider Tang, the imitation orange
drink: when a severe freeze in Florida
about six years a g o decimated its
orange crop, GF saw an instant op-
portunity for a new product; a simu-
lated orange drink nothing but some
citric acid, calcium phosphate, sodi-
um citrate, hydrogenated vegetable
oils, BHA, and some artificial color
and flavoring. GF's promotion found
'fang a permanent place on the na-
tion's shelves.
Do consumers want and need this
kind of orange juice? Some never had
a chance to decide. "My daughters
won't touch natural orange juice,"
says Trauberman. "They drink only
the packaged or canned concentrates.
But it's only because that's w h a t
they're used to. Natural orange juice
is unfamiliar."
The poisoning of America
Geneticists like Nobel prize winner
Joshua Lederberg, and Bruce Ames at
the University of California, Berkeley,
fret about the human gene pool. They
think synthetic food additives may

the use of Vitamin D in mill; strike
the antioxidant NDGA from the
GRAS list; fight the public over mon-
osodium glutamate (MSG) - MSG,
source of Chinese Restaurant aches
and pains, and a cause of brain tu-
mors in infant mice, but still GRAS
- and of course, struggle through
the cyclamate controversy. From 1950
on, FDA continually ignored warn-
ings by its own staff and the National
Academy of Science that this most
widely 5used artificial sweetener caus-
ed tumors in rat lungs, ovaries, kid-
neys, skin and uteruses. It finally
pulled cyclamates off the market in
October 1969 only after the industry,
Abbott Laboratories, Inc., showed
that cyclamates caused bladder can-
cer in rats. Then, in a marvelous bu-
reaucratic maneuver, FDA allowed
cyclamates on the market as long as
they're sold as "non-prescription
drugs" and if the food labels caution
that "medical supervision is essen-
tial for safe use."
Most soft drink companies h a v e
taken cyclamates' out of their mass
market drinks and other artifically
sweetened products, but only because
rotten publicity spoiled public en-
thusiasm for the sweetener. Now, sac-
charin sales are booming-no matter
that FDA's own labs produced tests
last year showing saccharin may also
induce tumors in rats. FDA's "inde-
pendent" consultant, the National
Academy of Sciences - which is dom-
inated by industry representatives --
reviewed all the literature on sac-
charin "including some .damaging
evidence," says an FDA spokesman,
but it saw no problem in current use
levels. They did stress that saccharin
needs intensive research and recom-
mended restricting its u s e. Today,
saccharin is the biggest artificial
sweetener on the market.
To fully understand how much pro-
tection the FDA is giving you, take a
long cooling swig of Mountain Dew,
the tart beverage from Pepsi-Cola.
Mountain Dew, like most tart soft
drinks from the nation's $4 billion
soft drink industry; gets its zip from
brominated vegetable oils, artificial
flavorings which have been stabilized
in vegetable oil by a reaction process
with poisonous bromine. Scientists at
the Canadian Food and Drug Directo-
rate discovered in 1969 that BVO's
cause liver, heart, kidney and spleen
damage in rats.
In a well-publicized furor, FDA
swept brominated oils from the Gen-
erally Recognized as Safe list in Jan-
uary 1970 and ordered food compan-
ies either to cease using them or se-
verely restrict their use (Sweden to-
tally banned BVO's as early as 1968).





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