Food Challenge: We Found 172 Ingredients for Just 48 Cents!

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(Originally published on Nutritional Anarchy)

In a follow-up to our report on the TV dinner which had a whopping 196+ ingredients for just $2.22, we challenged ourselves to find a food with the most ingredients for the lowest cost.

What we found was that we were able to purchase a food with an astounding 172 different ingredients listed on the back for just 48 cents!

And yes, it’s another frozen TV dinner-ish type thing.

Less really is more. Is it wrong of me to ask what business we even have eating a highly industrial, processed food product with nearly 200 ingredients anyway? If we don’t actually know what it is, should we really be eating it?

On the flipside, do you know how many hours it would take someone to sit and actually research all the ingredients contained within this one product? It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway) that if someone is buying a frozen meal, they might not even feel like they have time to cook something healthier for themselves, let alone try to interpret the Chinese radio instructions printed on the back of the box.

Here’s an overview of what we found in here.

For starters, this food is filled with a multitude of corn and soy derivatives, most likely genetically modified as it does not say anywhere on the package that anything is organic or non-GMO and around 90% of both corn and soy crops grown in the U.S. are GMO. For ten studies (of the many) that show how harmful GMOs are to health, read this.

Corn and soy are two of the top three most highly government subsidized crops in this country, which might explain why they are found in virtually every processed food item at America’s grocery stores. It can’t be “fine in moderation,” (as those high fructose corn syrup commercials from back in the day suggested), if it’s put in almost everything.[pullquote]“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” ― Hippocrates[/pullquote]

Aside from the potentially dubious origin, remember that saying “You are what you eat”? Well, one plant biologist says that if that statement holds true, the majority of Americans are corn and soy.

This food also contains artificial color dyes yellow #5 and #6, which are synthetic petroleum derivatives made from coal tar and banned in other countries due to studies including a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial which have overwhelmingly shown they can trigger behavioral issues such as ADHD. Animal studies have also linked these dyes to kidney and intestinal tumors, and due to the way they are processed, they may be contaminated with several carcinogens including benzidine and 4‑aminobiphenyl. Don’t worry; like pretty much everything else, the FDA says it’s all good.

This food also contains a plentiful helping of the neurotoxin monosodium glutamate (MSG), both named and hidden. Many more synthetic chemical additives and preservatives are tucked in here, some of which are not that easy to pronounce, let alone have half a clue of what they actually are or where they come from without a chemistry degree.

For example, sodium erythorbate is in there. Did we know what that was off the top of our heads? What average consumer does?

Upon further research, we learned it is a non-nutritive chemical variation of ascorbic acid that is used as a preservative to not only prevent color and flavor loss, but to reduce the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines. That’s because sodium nitrate is listed on the ingredients more than once, something food companies routinely add to processed meat products even though it was almost banned in the 1970s for links to stomach and intestinal cancers. While some claim nitrates are safe because they are also naturally found in vegetables, the vitamin C also naturally present in those vegetables actually inhibits nitrosamines from forming when eaten. Meat does not naturally contain vitamin C.

Apparently sodium erythorbate is known to cause all kinds of side effects as well, including headaches, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, generalized fatigue, dizziness, and hemolysis — that’s where your red blood cells rupture which can bring on anemia and other health complications. Too much sodium erythorbate can cause a dangerous buildup of acids in your blood as well, which can ultimately cause you to form kidney stones and the oh-so-lovely symptoms associated with them (read: hellfire pain of a thousands suns when you pee).

And that’s just one of 172 ingredients listed on the back of this food.

Speaking of studies, did you know that some recent ones have also shown that poverty is the highest indicator of obesity in this country?

Drewnowski and Darmon (2012) explain:

The observed links between obesity and socioeconomic position may be related to dietary energy density and energy cost. Refined grains, added sugars, and added fats are among the lowest-cost sources of dietary energy. They are inexpensive, good tasting, and convenient. In contrast, the more nutrient dense lean meats, fish, fresh vegetables, and fruit generally cost more…

If the rise in obesity rates is related to the growing price disparity between healthy and unhealthy foods, then the current strategies for obesity prevention may need to be revised.

And finally:

The broader problem may lie with growing disparities in incomes and wealth, declining value of the minimum wage, food imports, tariffs, and trade. Evidence is emerging that obesity in America is a largely economic issue.

In short, subsidizing the crap out of ingredients (largely genetically modified) that pack on pounds without adding much nutritional punch isn’t doing anyone — especially those with little means — any favors.

In other news, food allergies, auto-immune disorders, and cancers are all on the rise in this country. Gluten intolerance is flying off the chart at an astronomical pace. Celiac disease, a related severe immune reaction to eating the protein gluten, has increased fourfold just since the 1950s. Both can damage a person’s intestinal lining, rendering them unable to properly absorb nutrients from their food.

As you can imagine, that ends in all kinds of horrible side effects, digestive problems, disorders, diseases and even cancers. Speaking of cancer, figures show it will now affect 1-in-2 men and 1-in-3 women in America, and the U.S. government has predicted the number of new cancer cases is set to nearly double by the year 2050.

And speaking of obesity and cancer, the U.S. National Institutes of Health recently released study findings which demonstrated that it is actually obesity, rather than diet, that actually primes the colon for cancer.

Just out of curiosity, for a country that far outspends all others on the planet for healthcare, shelling out an amount equivalent to 17.9% of our gross domestic product (GDP) every year — why is the U.S. sitting at a pathetic 42nd in life expectancy?

One thing seems certain: as long as the ingredients in food like this are heavily government subsidized and thus cheap and plentiful to both food companies and consumers alike where healthier, organic options are not, the trend of sickness and disease will surely continue…

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