I recently seem to have been having a lot of conversations with my friends about all sorts of food and non-food products and how often the companies that make them are basically just out to screw you over or to lie to you. Two specific examples come to mind.
- This week I went to buy dry cat food at Global Pet Foods on the Danforth. A store I absolutely love, not only due to the super knowledgeable staff but also to the fact that they do not carry crap animal food. I got into a conversation with one of the employees about dry cat food and she told me that often the lesser brands make their dry cat food in various shapes in order to get cats “addicted” to them. Apparently cats are quite obsessed with oral sensation and if they find a shape of dry food they particularly like they will refuse to eat any other type. If you have ever had a cat or a dog you may have seen this behavior which resembles kids eating Lucky Charms, only certain pieces of food are worthy of consumption and the rest are delegated to the bottom of the food dish. I haven’t noticed this behavior in my cat Billy, but I have definitely seen the different attitude he takes with good food versus the cheap crap I sometimes have to buy due to time or monetary restrictions. The good food he will eat but will take his time, the crap food (which has been likened to McDonald’s for pets) he gobbles down like there is no tomorrow. Unfortunately, just like fast food, while it may taste good, it often causes Billy all sorts of digestive discomfort, the details of which I will spare you.
- My friend recently told me that food products are the only ones that are regulated in terms of the order in which their ingredients are listed. I think that most of us know that on food labels the first ingredient listed is the one of which there is the greatest quantity. So when we see that sugar is the first ingredient, we know that there is more sugar in that food item than any other ingredient, which sadly is the case for most “children-focused” food. Well apparently, this hierarchical listing is not mandated in other products. The example my friend gave was of cleaning products, especially ones that are labeled as “green” or “eco” or whatever other labels conjure up images of forest meadows and bubbling brooks. The companies who make these products often take advantage of the fact that most consumers have been conditioned to read ingredient labels a certain way, and will therefore likely continue to do so with all products. So that cleaner that seems good because the first few ingredients are recognizable might not actually be that great at all. Here is some more reading which I hope will make you rethink how you clean your home.
What I am trying to get at is not only the fact that we are often tricked into thinking a certain way, and buying certain products, but that there are people out there working for these companies that deliberately think of ways to deceive us. The idea of a boardroom full of people discussing how to make their crappy pet food addictive, or how to better label their product to make it seem like something it isn’t is just sad. It also makes me angry. It also makes me realize just how much work I have to do to be fully better informed about the products I choose to purchase. However, being at least aware of these practices is a good first step.
In that spirit, I leave you on a comical note courtesy of Marc Johns.
My wife Kristen has always been disturbed by the claims made by food companies, and she’s opened my eyes to the suspect world of packaged food labeling. Calling something ‘smart food’ or a ‘healthy choice’, even though said ‘healthy choice’ food is loaded with glucose/fructose. It’s appalling and irresponsible, and a perfect example of how industry cannot always regulate itself. We can get pretty worked up about this stuff, especially since we have two kids whose health is entirely in our hands.
Anyway, if there was such a thing as smart food, I’d want it to help me complete crossword puzzles and make savvy investment decisions.