‘Stealthy enemy’ still lurks in many seemingly healthy products

Posted by
October 10, 2013

In her comprehensive article, Obesity in kids: How America cultivated a new generation, author Faye Flam gives us a look into the wavering trends in childhood nutrition, from the fear of malnutrition that persisted from the beginning of the century up to the introduction of the national school lunch program in the late 1940s to profit-making innovations that turned school cafeterias into mini fast food restaurants in the 1970s. However, “the widespread alarm about childhood obesity is a relatively recent phenomenon…” she writes.

One of the more recent “threats” to kids’ fitness and health, Flam reports, was a “stealthy enemy created in a government laboratory in Japan” during the 1970s – high fructose corn syrup.

Consumers didn’t realize what a “bad deal health-wise” HFCS was, says Flam, as portions got bigger and food prices didn’t, but mostly because health warnings were focused on the danger of fats.

While this widespread “anti-fat campaign” took center stage, HFCS slowly crept into scores of processed foods, with most consumers never even being aware of the change. So pervasive did it become that even now, with many studies having identified it as a culprit in obesity and various health problems, and resultant widespread concern about its use, HFCS has remained an ingredient in any number of food products.

In past blogs, we’ve “named names” of a variety of items where it persists. Here are a few more of the sneaky places (including several products geared to kids) in which this “stealthy enemy” still turns up (along with other undesirable additives):

Birds Eye Steamfresh Chef’s Favorites Rigatoni & Vegetables

Vegetables? They’ve got to be kidding. Of all the places we’ve seen HFCS used, this has got to be the most uncalled for. Is no form of food safe from this additive anymore?

Aunt Nellie’s Red Cabbage

Here’s yet another supposed “healthy food” that’s been sabotaged with HFCS. (And there’s even more HFCS in this product than water, being that it’s the second ingredient after cabbage.)

Smucker’s Uncrustables Whole Wheat Peanut Butter & Grape Spread sandwich

This product is another example of “health food” identity theft. If you only judged the contents by the package copy, you would think this is a great, kid-friendly, nutritious item. Buzz words on the box include “whole wheat” and “reduced sugar,” and it carries the both the logo of the United States Olympic Team and the Whole Grains Council’s seal of whole grain goodness. (Curiously the HFCS in this product is in the bread, not the “grape spread,” which actually contains sugar.)

Pillsbury Toaster Strudel Pastries

While there are several warnings on the package about safe toasting practices and that the pastry will be hot when out of the toaster, perhaps a more truthful warning would be about the ingredients, which include HFCS, hydrogenated palm oil, four preservatives, two artificial colors and artificial flavor. And the blueberries pictured on the front of the package? They comprise two percent “or less” of the ingredients.

Chef Boyardee Mini ABC’s & 123’s

This is perhaps one of the more deviously labeled products we’ve come across. First there’s the outside of the can, which touts “NO artificial preservatives, and “good stuff inside,” and goes on to talk about protein, vegetables, vitamins and minerals. The ingredients list, however, paints a far less healthy (and appetizing) picture.

Along with the HFCS and soy protein concentrate – an additive that contains free glutamic acid (hidden MSG) — the piece de resistance of the product is “mechanically separated chicken.” Now what, you might ask, could this delectable ingredient be? Here’s how the U.S. Department of Agriculture describes it:  “Mechanically separated poultry (MSP) is a paste-like and batter-like poultry product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible tissue, through a sieve or similar device under high pressure to separate bone from the edible tissue.” Enough said.

So once again, we see graphic examples of how processed food manufacturers try to mislead us by creating a ‘healthy image’ for distinctly unhealthy products – and how the only way we can keep from literally swallowing the disguised junk food they’re really selling is to read the fine print used to list the actual ingredients.