November 2, 2010
Today Dr. Oz did a show titled ‘Secrets the Food Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know’. Oh dear. I can already tell it’s going to be disturbing. He starts the show off by asking “Do you know what’s lurking in your food? Do you know what you’re really putting on the dinner table?” Uhhh… I feel like I should say “No”?
The experts on today’s show were Lisa Lee Freeman, ShopSmart magazine Editor-in-Chief – their labs and researchers test thousands of products every year, and David Zinczenko, Editor-in-Chief of Men’s Health magazine, and author of the book Eat This, Not That, which lays out healthier food choices. Dr. Oz asked them why the food industry wants to keep secrets from us. Zinczenko says 1) because seeing how food is made is not appetizing, and 2) the food industry wants to maximize profits by filling us with as many empty calories as possible. Dr. Oz and the experts then discussed four main secrets the food industry wants to hide from consumers.
Secret #1: Heart Healthy logos are misleading. Many of these labels were created by the companies themselves. Some are legit, but a lot mean nothing at all. The FDA hasn’t addressed this yet. It is up to us as consumers to read the ingredients, and make sure they actually are healthy for hearts. Even the American Heart Association label isn’t that great, since they do not factor in sugar content when awarding their seal of approval, which is strange considering they acknowledge that added sugar is hazardous to your health. So Dr. Oz has made his own Heart Healthy Seal of Approval. In order to be heart-healthy, items must contain the following: Fat 4g or less, Sodium 480mg or less, Fiber 2g or more, Sugar 4g or less. Freeman says food labels are misleading. They are used more as product advertising. She said 1 out of every 5 Americans don’t even read the nutrition facts on the back of packaging.
Secret #2: Drinks are making false health claims. Freeman uses POM juice as an example. They claim their juice prevents heart disease, cancer, and even erectile dysfunction. The FDA has gone after them, saying these claims do not hold up. Another example is Tropicana. They said their product lowers cholesterol. Cheerios made a similar claim, and the FDA went after both of them as well. Dannon Activia yogurt also got in trouble for the health claims they make. Companies are really pushing the envelope with their claims. Zinczenko says health claims made by vitamin drinks is one of the greatest food industry swindles of all time. He says it’s basically expensive sugar-water, and that we now consume more than 400 beverage calories a day, because of these kinds of drinks. In vitamin drinks, sugar is the 2nd or 3rd ingredient. In one brand (he didn’t disclose), the sugar in a 20 oz drink has 33 grams of sugar, the equivalent to over 2 scoops of ice cream.
Secret #3: Meat labels are deceiving. Freeman says the two most important are ‘USDA Certified Organic’, and ‘100% Grass-Fed’. Organic means the cow has to be able to go into the pasture and eat grass, and cannot be pumped full of antibiotics and hormones. 100% grass-fed beef is healthier. It has more nutrients, like Omega-3s. And ‘Natural’ is a very misleading label. It doesn’t mean much at all.
Secret #4: Bugs are allowed in food. And it’s perfectly legal. Under FDA rules, certain levels of maggots, larvae, insects, and insect parts are actually allowed in food. The flies get into processing plants and lay eggs on the food. They could be on the tomatoes used in sauce. According to the FDA, 10 fly eggs are allowed in every 3.5 oz of tomato juice. One of ShopSmart’s researchers worked at a tomato plant, and saw workers mix clean tomatoes with those that had maggots, in order to meet the standard. Rat hair and rat feces are also allowed in lots of different food. The FDA allows an average of 5 or more rodent hairs in a 17 oz jar of peanut butter. The FDA handbook says it’s unavoidable when you’re handling natural products, so we have to deal with it. Freeman says if a rat falls into the vat while peanut butter is being produced, as long as they add enough peanut butter to the mix, it meets the standard. Similac baby food was recently recalled because it was full of insect parts. 5,000 people die every year in this country because of food poisoning.
Dr. Oz’s tips to avoid these hazards are: shop the perimeter of the supermarket, and buy foods with the fewest ingredients, as they have the lowest chance for contamination.