As I walk down the aisles of supermarkets today, I note the ever increasing beautifully packaged products. I’m also aware the consumer has greater choice in canned, bottled and packaged products. Then I reflect to when I was a kid going through the grocery stores of the times. I instantly recall the processed food selections were few in comparison. And the canned foods I enjoyed during my youth compared to the similar products today has changed dramatically.
45 years ago, I was old enough to recall these experiences and understand there was nowhere near the selection of manufactured canned products I see today. Many of the canned foods my mother stored in the garage had a shelf life that was not even half the life of today’s equivalent product. I remembered this well because there were a few canned foods I loved as a kid. One was a spaghetti product and the other was ravioli, and believe it or not, canned spinach [I know, I was a rare kid].
I do remember my mother rotating her canned inventory. I also remember opening a can that sat “less than a year” and had spoiled. Back in the day, canned food products had short shelf lives for lack of chemical preservatives.
Today, there are dozens of competing canned goods. One would think at least a few of them today would have the quality of freshness I recalled during my childhood. I recently tried the most popular and expensive canned brand foods I loved as a kid, most today are absolutely disgusting. Had my taste preferences changed that much from when I was a kid, or did something else happen within our food chain? Could it be we’ve become a nation addicted to food chemicals and don’t recognize what occurred within our food industries in the last 40 years?
A week ago I recalled another favorite canned food I enjoyed as a kid. It was a popular brand fruit cocktail mix. I still recall the flavors which were akin to taking fresh fruits, chopping them up in the kitchen and adding a sprinkle of sugar, stir and served in a bowl. This particular canned mixed fruit of the time was fantastic and served typically as a quick dessert. This product would also go bad in a year if not used
I believe the canning practices of the times by manufacturers were much like my mother’s seasonal canning practices. If you didn’t eat these foods in a year, they likely go bad.
I went over to my mother’s house the other day. She basically buys the same canned brand named products I recall as a kid, stores them on the same shelves and on the same shelf space. I found the same canned cocktail fruit mix and opened it. The product looked good, but the smell was different. I could smell the sweetened liquid, but couldn’t smell the fruit in the liquid like I recalled as a kid. I thought, strange. Then I launched into the fruit and quickly noted, there was very little flavor for anyone of the individual diced fruits. Even though I could distinguish by site a pineapple, peach, pear, cherry, the only thing distinguishable about eating a few bites of the mixed fruit was the texture. It was absolutely disgusting, so I tossed it. Much like the spaghetti and ravioli’s I tried not to long ago. Absolutely gross!
I know, you’re thinking my palate has changed because I’ve become more refined with age, or have become too sophisticated. Well, my wife would differ with you in knowing that my meal preferences are anything but high society. I’m more likely to be described by many that know me as a retired military man that still would enjoy eating an MRE (Meal Ready to eat), or cold chili or spinach out of a can.
I know, my wife still doesn’t understand it, laughs at me and says, “You really can’t be enjoying that.” But I do, I’ve been eating out of cans since I was a kid raiding my mom’s cellar. This does not mean my mother was a horrible cook. Not at all, she was one of the best cooks in the neighborhood. I have many childhood friends that showed up to eat at my house because of my mother’s fantastic home style cooking. In many of her recipes there were no canned foods added.
Although I don’t eat out of cans often today, or purchase many at all, I still will go to the cabinet, grab a can, open it and eat it on the fly when compelled. But the difference today, it’s getting harder to find a canned selection that still tastes good enough to consume cold. There are very few manufacturers today that produce foods with little preservative and additives. When there are too many of these chemical additives in any food, the taste is not their and often upsets your stomach and digestive system. There you have it, the decline of my out-of-the can meal habit has changed because of cheapened additive ingredients, manipulation of agricultural and food processing practices.
Much has changed within our agriculture, processing, vacuum packaging for food, storage and transportation of food to market. And the younger generations don’t know, or understand the differences of food quality changes.
I’ve even noted my mother stopped rotating the hundreds of canned food products in her cellar. I think this is because any can that she has opened in the last 15 years hadn’t spoiled to remind her to keep pace with her rotation practices. I wonder if she realizes her canned products have not spoiled. In some cases, I know some of these items have been sitting on those shelves a long time. I can say this, because I opened a few of these old timers to help with a family meal. The cans I opened were dated “best to consume five years ago!” I was shocked, there was no blackened, or spoilage smell to the product. Gads! I picked around these foods, ate very little as I enjoyed the more organic portions of the meal.
Of course, during my early experiences with food and now thinking about today’s farming and food processing practices leads me to wonder about our national food bank. If the quality and purity of our food in cans had deteriorated in quality and nutrient value, then it was reasonable to assume other foods to market had experienced the same fate. What does this mean for our overall health?
In doing a little research, I soon realized and as suspected, it wasn’t just my pallet, or imagination. As a matter of fact, it’s a good thing I had the experience as a kid to know what organic food should look, smell and taste like. In the long run, I’m better off relating to these experiences, because I can identify and more likely relate to a canned products quality, that may only be slightly tainted with additives and preservatives [somehow this makes me feel a little better about eating certain canned foods]. In understanding the reality of the food bank situation, I know I need to stay knowledgeable about how much and how often I consume certain types of processed foods that won’t make me feel sick. Let alone acquire some insidious disease should I become addicted to a food chemical like aspartame [an artificial sweeteners in thousands of food products. Per scientific studies: could cause disease in humans including cancer].
Let’s face it. We still must eat. And many of our foods are processed with chemicals. But we still do have choice in the marketplace over the foods we purchase and consume. There are still processed foods that are better for us than others. To identify better to worse food choices makes a big difference on your weight, appearance, energy and the way you feel; and quality living experiences as we age.
Reflecting back to your childhood, if you spent it during the 60 and 70’s then I’m sure you’ll be able to relate to the food you ate then and what you eat today. Today, not only does food taste different, it has very different packaging features that are eye appealing to kids. Why, because if the kids get addicted to the chemicals in them, they make your life hell in the store by screaming for the product. So you continue purchasing it for them to appease their wants [childhood obesity is on the rise and partially caused by artificial sweeteners and other chemical food additives].
I’ve found other underlying safety concerns you should be aware. There have been many changes within our farming, food, storage, decontamination of foods and transportation of them to market. Here are a few tidbits of information if not aware could put your family’s health at risk.
I did a little research and here’s what I came up with. Even if you didn’t eat food out of the can’s like I did, and don’t relate with my quality food relationships; I’m sure you’ll find interest and relate with what has occurred within the crop farming and food processing industries.
In large part, the later 20th and early 21st Century farming practices changed to produce the volume necessary to meet a fast food global food demand. As the demand changed to meet consumer expectation in distant markets, so too did the farming and processed food industries. Further organic erosion of our food bank occurred as many farming and food industry operations were outsourced. These large corporate agricultural and processing facilities were relocated where volume production was more cost effective and also lacked federal regulation. Some would argue the quality of the food has further deteriorated for lack of U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) crack down on GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms). And that genetically engineered foods should be labeled as a consumer right to know. Well that hasn’t happened.
That’s right; many consumers don’t know that 70% of our processed foods are “now” genetically engineered. Ingredients that are genetically modified can be found in such common household baking and convenience food products: corn syrup, soy lecithin, sugar, vegetable and cottonseed oil, etc. You wonder, what’s GMO? These are genetically modified seeds that are Herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops and can survive a deluge of chemicals that would otherwise kill, or severely stunt a crop. There are also other types of crops engineered to produce toxins, which kill certain insect pests.
The next thing you want to understand, are GMO crops safe for consumption? Here’s your bellwether… 30 other countries around the world, including Japan, and Australia and all countries within the European Union have significant restrictions or outright bans on the production of GMO foods. Why is this? Because they are not proven to be safe for human consumption! And yet, here in the United States, depending where you get your information from, ~86% of corn and 93% of soybeans here are genetically modified. Since agricultural, farming and food processing locations very greatly geographically, the only way to ensure the foods on your dinner table is organic is to purchase whole foods labeled “certified organic.”
Other than this, I’m not sure how you’d know in the long run if the whole foods you consume don’t have some adverse impact on your health. What further compromises GMO produced foods is the heavy use of antibiotics to eradicate the rise of a drug-resistant super germ(s) within these agricultural practices. These bugs now reside within a “super weed” colony growing alongside these crops that have built up tolerances to these chemicals. It is now necessary to use more herbicide and pesticides to keep them under control, then ever before. Can you see the problem here?
One important statistic that’s worth mentioning here: According to the research conducted by The Organic Center, Genetically Engineered (GE) crops have increased herbicide use in the United States over the last 13 years (1996-2008) by 383 million pounds! And although much of the GE crops are used to feed livestock in wealthier countries as opposed to people in poorer countries the metabolized product in livestock is still being consumed within the worlds food markets.
Genetically engineered foods are one thing and processing of the foods and getting them to market is another. I don’t believe you could notice the taste difference in a GE raw crop food, like corn, or soy bean. But once all the additives for taste and preservative are added during the processing of the food, you should understand you now have a “man made complex chemically produced product” that is capable of causing illness and disease.
This is because the more man manipulates our food source through crop seed DNA engineering, chemical additives and preservatives; the more likely it is we’ll get sick from these products and unable to prove what’s making us sick. Hows that? Because targeting foods that make us sick is an epidemiologist’s and medical professionals worse nightmare. This task would be very difficult since we eat so many different types or processed and engineered foods throughout the world. Targeting the many potential types of GE foods and chemical culprits would be difficult to prove medically and in any court of law. Many of the processed food chemicals we consume are now known to cause cancer, diabetes, hypertension, congenital heart, liver and kidney failure and obesity.
Would you like to know a good test to determine if the processed foods you eat on a regular basis are safe for consumption? Simply pick an ingredient off a product label you can’t pronounce. Then go to your favorite Internet search engine and type in the “ingredient chemical name” and health risk.” You’ll be shocked what you read! If you can’t pronounce it, or understand it’s meaning, it’s likely a chemical added by man to improve taste, kill microorganisms, improve appearance, or increase the shelf life of the product.
In thinking about GE crop foods like corn; yes, I was notorious for eating corn out of the can as well. Why? Because it had the natural sweetened taste, with the snappy starch texture of corn I remembered from our garden. It was fantastic! But the same is “not” true of the same brand corn in the can today. Like the canned spinach I loved as a kid, I don’t eat these canned products anymore. Why? Because it doesn’t resemble the taste, texture or smell of what these foods should be. I know, many of you reading this will think there are no canned foods that ever tasted good. To your pallet this may be true. But as I’m one that experienced a shift in quality of particular products in cans starting at a very young age, I can tell you, there is a big difference in the canned products today.
It appears as we became a global fast food market, where high volume and processed food technology evolved throughout the 80’s, so too did the quality of the foods in our kitchens and local restaurants.
If you go on-line and simply search under GMO, GE farming and agricultural-farming, herbicide/pesticide, canning, warehousing and transportation practices; you’ll then begin to understand why our kids are getting sick and obese, why cancer is on the rise in our nation and why our health care costs are out of control.
If you want to provide safer and more organic foods on your table, simply read your food labels and prepare more whole foods. If you can’t eat a canned product cold, chances are it’s loaded with stuff you don’t want to be putting in your body. The big tip here… The fewer times man has handled and processed the foods you consume the better it will taste and healthier it will be for you and your family.
Whitman, Deborah B. Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful? April 2000. http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php
Organic It’s Worth It Home Site. GMO’s 101. http://www.organicitsworthit.org/quick/gmos-101?gclid=CJK8ocvBta8CFYSh4godA3vTjA
Genomics.energy.gov Home Site. Human Genome Project Information http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/gmfood.shtml
True Organic Products Home Site. True Organic Fertilizer. http://www.trueorganicproducts.net/?gclid=CNaxuJDDta8CFcek4godJzR9iQ
USDA Farm Bill Forum Comment Summary and Background. Organic Farming. http://www.usda.gov/documents/ORGANIC_FARMING.pdf
Jeanroy, Amy. Definition of Oganic Pesticides. eHow Home. http://www.ehow.com/facts_7553058_definition-organic-pesticides.html
Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET. 2012 Copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Inc., www.mirrorathlete.com, Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.