"The Hidden Industrial Food System: Why Beaver Glands and Human Hair May Be a “Natural” Part of Your Food"
by Cole Mellino
Industrial agriculture is a major part of the global ponzi scheme. By continuing to fool ourselves into thinking we can infinitely produce more fossil-fuel laden food with limited resources, we’re setting ourselves up for a major catastrophe.
And that fooling happens on every level. Take the disturbing ways in which we create flavors for foods.
The “all natural” label applied to food means absolutely nothing by federal standards. And yet, food companies prey on growing consumer demand for wholesome healthy food by slapping the label on anything they can. The Food and Drug Administration, which is charged with protecting and promoting our health through regulation and oversight of the food industry, has not developed a definition for the “all natural” label. However, “the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances,” according to the FDA’s website.
People have a false perception that our food industry is well regulated, when it simply is not. To shed some light on what is in our food and what concoctions can even be labeled as “all natural,” Bruce Bradley, a former food marketer at companies like General Mills, Pillsbury, and Nabisco, keeps a blog about the food industry. In 2008, he left the corporate world and decided to devote the rest of his life to promoting healthy food and criticizing the Big Food industry.
Because our food has become so highly processed and because by FDA law, food companies can list spices and flavorings as natural or artificial flavors, unbelievably strange and disgusting things are being added to our food:
- Beaver anal glands, known as castoreum (I guess anal glands was a hard sell), are typically used in vanilla and raspberry flavoring and can legally be labeled natural flavoring
- L-cysteine or cystine is used a dough conditioner. It’s sometimes made from human hair, but more and more from duck feathers and can be found in breads and baked goods.
- A red food coloring additive that goes by many names (Carmine, Crimson Lake, Cochineal, or Natural Red #4) is made from insects like the cochineal beetle.
This is just one more example of how distorted our food system is. To see a longer list of the strange food additives that can be grouped under “natural flavors,” go to Bruce Bradley’s blog.
— Cole Mellino is an intern with the energy team at the Center for American Progress