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New Look for a Failing Product
Although proponents of pasteurization couldn’t see it at the time, the widespread adoption of heat treatment instead of certification as a way to insure the safety of milk was the beginning of a long slide into centralization followed by bankruptcy for the dairy industry. Along with rising costs of replacement cows in confinement dairy operations, consumption of milk in America is falling, and subsidies can only prop up this failing system so long. Milk’s share of the national beverage market is only 12 percent, less than half that of carbonated soft drinks and about equal with beer and coffee. To counteract the trend of falling sales for liquid milk, the industry is pushing flavored milk drinks, loaded with sugar and additives. “New pasteurization technologies” give these products a long shelf life and the flavorings invariably come from laboratories. Meadow Gold of Utah sells vanilla-orange milk and root beer milk, Safeway’s Lucerne brand sells mocha-cappuccino-flavored milk, Shamrock Farms of Arizona offers Cookies ‘n’ Cream, and Turkey Hill Dairies of Pennsylvania is considering caramel and black raspberry flavors. Even Coca-cola is looking into adding “milk-based” flavored drinks for vending machines, although they may contain only a small amount of milk in the form of dried milk protein–or may even be based on soy protein and contain no milk at all. The advent of single-serve, clear-plastic containers that fit into car cup holders has greatly increased sales among teenagers. According to Dean Foods, use of these resealable cups increased chocolate milk sales by more than 150 percent. None of these beverages has anything in common with old-fashioned full-fat unprocessed milk and, in fact, they are likely to carry the same health consequences as soft drinks and highly sugared juices.
When multinational corporations target a developing country for a marketing blitz, one of the stratagems is to work with the existing government to outlaw the competition. This happened in India when small scale rapeseed oil processing was banned to make way for imported soybean oil. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Latvia imposed new health laws forbidding the sale of locally made kvass by street vendors, paving the way for Coca-cola to move in and take over the beverage market (Associated Press). When local drink makers introduced a bottled kvass that passed muster with the new health laws, kvass rebounded to account for more than 30 percent of Latvia’s soft drink market. Coke has countered by purchasing several kvass brands and refitting some plants to produce kvass. But it’s a mistake to think that the new kvass will have much resemblance to the old-fashioned lacto-fermented kind. The new industrial kvass is made from a powder, contains additives and is highly sugared.
More Cholesterol Madness
In spite of widespread cholesterol-lowering measures, heart disease remains the top killer in the US, according to a new report (Washington Post 1/1/2002). Almost 1 million Americans per year die of heart disease, twice as many as are killed by cancer. The American Heart Association’s insistence that we be more diligent in following a lowfat diet represents the triumph of hope over experience. Ever since the mid-1930s, when Americans began to consume supposedly lower-fat processed foods based on vegetable oils, the rate of heart disease has continued to climb relentlessly. And, naturally, the report is being used to promote greater use of drugs to lower cholesterol. In fact, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal by Thom Burton, many insurers now grade doctors’ performances and dole out monetary bonuses and penalties based on measuring and “improving” patients’ cholesterol levels. And the fastest and easiest way for doctors to lower cholesterol is to prescribe a powerful statin like Pfizer’s Lipitor. As the new government guidelines are structured in such a way as to transform virtually every American into a candidate for cholesterol-lowering drugs, Pfizer’s profits are climbing. Income for the huge pharmaceutical company rose 38 percent in the last quarter of 2001 to $1.93 billion. Karen Katen, president of Pfizer’s human pharmaceuticals group, said Lipitor “still has enormous room to grow” because of “widespread under-diagnosis of high cholesterol.” (Wall Street Journal, 1/24/2002). Enormous creativity has been shown in increasing the market for these expensive and toxic drugs, including drug-discount cards for poor Medicare beneficiaries, American Heart Association literature aimed at Blacks and Hispanics promoting use of vegetable oils and egg substitutes, and smiling football coaches in full page ads promoting statin drugs. Meanwhile, yet another study has linked low cholesterol levels with depression (Psychosomatic Medicine 2000, 62), creating new customers for antidepressants. It’s a crazy system based on fear and a misplaced respect for what passes as medical science.
Worse than Communism?
Small landholders in Poland are the target of European Union officials who say that Poland’s 1.6 million family farms are inefficient, unsanitary and perpetuate poverty (Christian Science Monitor 12/28/01). EU agricultural policy requires that Poland modernize and restructure its farming sector over the next eight months. That means instituting regulations that would prevent small farmers from selling their produce–wheat, milk, cheese, preserves, meat and vegetables–and make way for larger, more industrialized farms. The average farm family in picturesque southern Poland owns just ten acres, and while they may use horses instead of tractors, most have snug homes, a car and a few other luxuries. These farmers have seen a decline in farm income because of the influx of subsidized, factory-farm products from Western Europe. Fearing that they may end up even poorer, as the urban unemployed, most Polish farmers are protesting. “The communists tried to force us off of our land in the 1950s and they failed,” says Joanna Wojcik, owner of a small farm in Stryszow, Poland. “We are staying. This is the only life we know and it suits us fine. Who are those politicians to say our farm is too poor?” Prominent British activist Sir Julian Rose spoke to the Polish Parliament in the Spring of 2001, begging the government not to abide by the proposed EU regulations. According to Rose, the same policies devastated his country, putting 1.2 million British farmers out of business and cutting remaining farm incomes by 70 percent. The results, he says, were pollution, loss of biodiversity, stock epidemics, unhealthy food and shattered communities. Some farmers are organizing into organic coops to get certification in order to sell their value-added products. The proposed EU measures expose the true nature of most health and farming regulations–as a blatant method for stealing land from individuals and turning it over to corporations. In the process, competition with processed foods is eliminated.
Last minute provisions in the Senate farm bill will allow irradiated beef to be labelled “pasteurized,” instead of the Food and Drug Administration’s small print label “treated by irradiation.” The industry argues that there is no difference between irradiated and nonirradiated foods, a claim that any cursory survey of the literature will prove false. Studies dating from the 1960s show the massive treatment doses of ionizing radiation used in the treatment of meat (200 million times greater than a chest x-ray) produce profound chemical changes. These include elevated levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, as well as a family of unique new chemicals called radiolytic products, some of which have been implicated as carcinogenic. One group of radiation-induced chemicals, know as cyclobutanones, has been shown to cause chromosomal damage in the intestinal cells of rats and humans. Irradiated food has been shown to induce genetic damage in a wide range of studies, including tests on malnourished children by India’s National Institute of Nutrition. Irradiation also results in major losses of vitamins, particularly A, C, E and B complex. A final downside is that food irradiation plants are relatively small and unregulated, and therefore highly vulnerable to sabotage. Radioactive cobalt pellets used in the process could easily be stolen and mixed with conventional explosives to produce dirty bombs. Nevertheless irradiation is being promoted by the USDA and the Department of Energy’s Byproducts Utilization Program to reduce disposal costs of spent military and civilian nuclear fuel by providing a commercial market for nuclear wastes. Add irradiation to the list of other projects in which the Food Processing-Industrial Complex has turned garbage into gold–fluoride, wood pulp effluent and soy protein isolate.
Centers for Disease Control has introduced a model law that would give state public health officials new police powers “to control the spread of infectious disease” (www.publichealthlaw.net). Although said to be a response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, the law has actually been in the planning stages for a number of years. What the Model State Emergency Powers Act does is transform state governments into terrorist organizations and peaceful citizens into the enemy. Some of the more heinous provisions include forced medical examinations, forced vaccinations and forced quarantine (all on pain of property confiscation). The model law has no criteria for deciding who should be quarantined or treated–that’s left up to state health officials. Various versions of the legislation have been introduced in at least 16 states, including AZ, CA, DE, IL, KY, MA, MN, MO, MS, NE, NM, NV, NJ, NY, PA and TN. These draconian laws should be protested at all costs. Contact your local state senator or representative.
Not So Sweet
According to a tabloid paper, actress Suzanne Somers, who defended her decision to refuse chemotherapy for breast cancer on the Larry King show, has gained 25 pounds (Globe, 1/22/02). Somers is the author of several diet books including Eat, Cheat and Melt the Fat Away and Somersize Desserts. Her weight loss program calls for eating protein, carbohydrates and fats separately and the use of a “no-cal” sweetener called SomerSweet made of fiber, fructose and soy extract. Hollywood wags blame her weight gain on overeating, but we think there might be another reason–soy extract, which depresses thyroid function leading to weight gain. The fiber and fructose in the sweetener probably don’t help either. Fructose can cause liver problems and fiber can block the absorption of important minerals.
And now for some good news: Ayr Township recently became the seventh Pennsylvania township to adopt local laws to prohibit non-family-owned corporations from farming in the township. The anti-corporate farming ordinance, developed by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund of Chambersburg and modeled after similar laws adopted in nine Midwestern states, specifically prevents non-family-owned corporations from owning farmland or engaging in farming in the Townships that have adopted the ordinance. Such laws have withstood a variety of constitutional challenges in state and federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court, which broadly declared anti-corporate farming laws to be constitutional in 1945.
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