Lies and Deceits from the Food Industry

Dr Vernon Coleman

In an attempt to stay healthy most of us want to eat nutritious, healthy food that tastes good and does us good. We want to be able to pay a fair price for food that contains natural ingredients and, ideally, no chemical residues. If the food we are buying contains additives we would like to know what they are.

In order to make sure that we do our best to eat healthily we naturally put a lot of faith in the labels used to describe the food we eat.

Our faith is misplaced.

Encouraged and supported by governments food companies lie, lie and lie again. Ordinary, everyday words such as ‘fresh’, ‘natural’, ‘wholesome’ and ‘nutritious’ are virtually meaningless.

Food companies are aware of our desire for genuinely good food and so they employ clever advertising and marketing ‘spin doctors’ to help disguise the way that the food they sell us is adulterated by behind-the-scene chemists. Here are some of the ways food companies defraud us. Customs and word usage vary in different countries, of course, but these are fairly common instances of fraud which may be used in a country near you:

The word ‘meat’ can be used to describe anything that comes from an animal — from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail. Scraps of meat blasted off the bones are counted, as are bits of faeces clinging to tissues.

Farmfresh and Farmhouse
Utterly meaningless words which sound attractive. The foods described in this way can be produced in factories from animals or birds (such as hens) kept in battery cages.

This means whatever the food company wants it to mean.

GM Free
If you think that a ‘GM Free’ label means that food doesn’t contain genetically modified food you would be wrong. The rules mean that food can contain a small quantity of genetically modified food and yet be described as not containing genetically modified food. Since the whole point with genetically engineered food is that a small amount may induce cancer (there is no evidence that it does and no evidence that it doesn’t) this is dangerous and absurd. Incidentally, studies on genetically engineered cotton have created real concerns. In New Zealand farmers found that thousands of sheep had died after grazing on land where genetically engineered cotton had been grown. Another report showed that workers who picked genetically engineered cotton suffered severe skin eruptions. What will genetically engineered food do to anyone who eats it? I haven’t got the foggiest notion. And nor, I suspect, has anyone else.

This implies that the item is a solid piece of flesh. But this isn’t necessarily so. ‘Steaks’ can be built up using scraps and flakes of flesh.

Low fat
This doesn’t mean anything since there are no legal rules defining what ‘low fat’ means. Nor are there any rules about the words Extra Lean. (Nor, for that matter, Extra Extra Lean.) A product described as ‘lean’ may sound as though it contains little fat but it can be just as fatty as any other product.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that the phrase ‘banana flavour’ implies that the food you are buying has anything to do with bananas. The flavour may be made in a laboratory from chemicals.

Free Range
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the hens (or other creatures) `literally’ range free. It can mean that a vast number of creatures share limited access to a very limited outdoor space. Free-range chickens are merely chickens who are technically allowed to stretch their legs. Most are fed on mass produced pellets and never see a hay barn or a blade of grass. Chemicals may be added to the feed in order to try to improve the appearance of the yolks — and in order to keep the hens alive in their unnatural ‘free range’ conditions. (If you and ten thousand other people lived in one room with a door into a carpet sized garden would you describe yourself as ‘free range’?)

Brown bread
Sounds wholesome but it can be white bread which has been dyed brown.

This word doesn’t mean anything when applied to food. Or, rather, it means whatever the food manufacturer wants it to mean.

If you think your smoked bacon has been smoked you are probably being naive. Your bacon may well have been pumped up with an artificial smoke flavour liquid.

Country Fresh Eggs
The hens are probably kept in a battery but the battery may be in the country. The word ‘fresh’ means whatever the food company wants it to mean.

This doesn’t mean anything at all. A food company could happily package pig faeces and label it ‘nutritious’.

How do food companies get away with all this deceit? Largely, I’m afraid, because most people don’t know. And most people don’t know these things because there are virtually no proper journalists left in the world. These days, I believe that most mainstream publications, broadcasters, fact checkers and regulatory organisations are controlled by the establishment and the lobbyists for powerful industries.

And there is much confusion about which regulators are statutory and which are not. In the UK, for example, the Advertising Standards Authority is the self-regulatory organisation of the advertising industry. The ASA cannot make, interpret or enforce the law – though some people (such as journalists) seem to believe that it can. The ASA cannot ban anyone from doing anything. Ironically, the ASA has, in the past, itself been reported to the Office of Fair Trading.

Adapted from the book `Coleman’s Laws’ by Vernon Coleman. `Coleman’s Laws’ is available as a paperback and an eBook.

Copyright Vernon Coleman October 2021