The food and drink industry is, unsurprisingly, one of the biggest industries on the planet, and it’s growing in size every year. Correspondingly, our waistlines are growing – at an alarming rate. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), worldwide obesity has doubled since 1980. In 2011, over 40 million children under the age of 5 were classed as overweight. The massive rise of obesity has been attributed to an overall decrease in physical activity and the popularity of fast food and junk food. Yet many people who actively try to make healthy choices often find themselves gaining weight; according to nutritionists, consumers have to be extremely cautious. In recent years, many have become conscious of certain tricks the food industry uses to conceal unhealthy ingredients.
The growing size of the food industry has resulted in an ever-increasing demand for animal products, which has led concerns about how livestock is treated, and how meat products are sourced and distributed. Such concerns have led to growing numbers of people adopting a vegetarian lifestyle. According to Harris Interactive, the number of young vegetarians in the United States has risen by 70% in the last decade.
Controversy surrounding the food industry is vast and complicated and often comes under scrutiny. Food is an essential part of our existence, so it is important to take great care of your diet, to make sure that it is both healthy and ethical. Take a look at our list below to find out the 5 Biggest Lies the Food Industry is Feeding You; have you fallen victim to any of them?
5. Free Range
Organisations such as PETA have been campaigning for years to turn people away from what they refer to as “The Free-Range Lie”. Many people are concerned about the treatment of animals within the food industry, a point which is often illustrated by horrific images of the cramped, factory-like conditions in which chickens are habitually housed.
It should not be news to you that chickens living on chicken farms often live terrible lives. Many are kept in filthy, cramped spaces or in cages, which causes ‘cage madness’ and bodily sores over a prolonged period of time. They are injected with hormones, debeaked and mistreated. This has become increasingly worrying for consumers in recent years, but producers have caught on to this. They figured out that many people would pay more for eggs they believe were produced in a better environment, and thus the “free-range” and “cage-free” labels were born. Yet these labels are hugely misleading. “Cage-free” chickens are not kept in cages, but they often live in crowded, damp sheds. “Free-range” hens are still slaughtered inhumanely when they become old, and sometimes they aren’t even free-range at all. Consumers also forget that only hens (females) lay eggs. The male chicks on many of these farms, free-range or not, are murdered moments after birth, as they are useless for the egg market.
4. Serving Sizes
In an effort to make food more attractive to customers who are watching their waistlines, many food suppliers have started to give out misleading information about the calorie and fat content of their products. According to the American Heart Association, US adults consume an average of 300 more calories a day than they did in 1985. This is largely due to portion distortion, and the fact that more people are eating out than ever before. Often, restaurants and fast food joints do not offer nutritional information, and if they do, it is often manipulated down to smaller numbers.
The definition of portion size often gets confused with serving size, but the two are very different. Portion size refers to how much you actually eat, the size of the meal that is served to you. Serving size is the recommended amount that you should eat, based on the food’s nutritional values. For example, a serving size of Doritos is 11 chips; in reality, the average person’s portion size of Doritos will be much more than 11 chips. King size candy bars often use this trick, displaying the calories per half bar rather than the entire thing.
3. “Real” ingredients
In today’s increasingly health-concerned society, foods that display buzzwords such as “real” and “natural” ingredients are often popular with consumers… as well as being three times the price. However, often these labels are completely misleading, and the products are not necessarily healthy in the slightest.
“Natural” is often chosen for the feeling that the word evokes: the consumer imagines a product that contains fresh ingredients. For example, “natural” potato chips may actually contain natural potatoes, but they have still been covered in oil and fried just like all other potato chips, which makes them no healthier. “Real” is another popular word, often used by juice companies. Juice drinks commonly bare labels such as “made with 100% real fruit juice”. However, this term doesn’t account for everything in the bottle; if you check the ingredients list, only 50% of the drink may be made of ‘real’ fruit juice, with the other 50% being sugar and additives. “Fat Free” is often used in misleading ways, too. Fat is a natural ingredient in many products and in many cases, fat is what gives food its flavour. “Fat Free” snacks are often actually fat free – then why do they taste so good? The fact is that they are often loaded with sugar to make them taste better, and too much sugar will expand your waistline.
2. Mystery Meat
In 2013, a massive scandal broke out across Europe which has become widely known as the Meat Adulteration Scandal. It began when several supermarket-brand meat products, such as frozen burger patties, were found to contain horse meat instead of beef. While horse meat is okay to eat and is popular in many countries, in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, the horse is treated as a food source and the eating of horse meat itself is viewed as taboo. The scandal caused many to worry about the meat industry and how heavily processed the meat on supermarket shelves is, along with growing concerns of animal cruelty within the industry.
Rising meat costs have been pinned as the cause of the scandal. In a bid to save money, food producers had begun to buy questionable meat from Eastern Europe. The rising meat costs are due to an overall rise in global meat consumption, along with the cost of feeding livestock. Consumers were outraged and boycotted many products, but the scandal is still raging on, with many products to this day being revealed to contain traces of different meats. Although the wrongly-labelled meats were not particularly harmful, this issue highlights the importance of the right of the consumer to know exactly what they are eating.
5-a-day is one of the most recognisable phrases in the world. 5-a-day has long been the mantra of people who like to eat healthily- but what many people don’t know is that 5-a-day is just a slogan, nothing more. 5-a-day derives from the “National five-a-day for better health” plan, created in California in 1991 by the National Cancer Institute and the Produce for Better Health Foundation. The plan was started to encourage people to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day in order to prevent cancer. However, after 30 years of research, no protective effects could be proven.
The 5-a-day slogan caught on, however, and many people now follow it as a diet plan. The fact remains that 5-a-day is not based on any scientific fact- it is not the defined number of fruits and vegetables you should eat to stay healthy. While fruits and vegetables are very good for you, it is wrong to believe that 5-a-day is nutritional advice; its a marketing slogan. In fact, most food experts agree that 5-a-day is simply not enough, and that human beings should try their best to eat as many fruits as vegetables as possible, and that the “daily cap” of 5 portions is misleading. But in a world where obesity is become a global epidemic, getting even one portion a day is becoming a challenge.