I’m not sure why I’m still endlessly astonished by the food system, no matter how many of these stories I read. Last night I heard about “popcorn lung”. The person telling me the story didn’t know much about it, but said this was the only documented case. So today I decided to do a little research, and it turns out it’s not the only documented case, it’s the only documented case in a consumer. Workers in the plant that produces the flavoring for microwave popcorn get “popcorn lung” all the time.
Here’s the news story: ”Popcorn Lung”- CBS News
It’s no surprise that there was a flavoring in the popcorn that could cause lung failure or whatever. No surprise at all. It’s only a little surprising that someone thought it would be healthy to eat two bags of microwave popcorn per day. It’s also not surprising, at least to me, that the FDA has done absolutely nothing about the fact that there are volumes of documented cases of this illness (scientifically called bronchiolitis obliterans). They approve the chemical in the flavoring that causes the disease (diacetyl) for use in food products.
But perhaps this will be a little surprising to others. The people I was with last night seemed a little put out, though the general sentiment was that it was absurd for the man who contracted the disease to sue- because in their eyes, if the FDA approved it, it must be ok, and he must have just been unhealthy. Which he was. But that doesn’t stop it from being a nasty toxic chemical. A little more research shows he sued Kroger for selling the popcorn- not ConAgra, who makes the popcorn- which is a little absurd, I’d say. Ah, wait, he also sued the flavor manufacturer. Still- if I was going to sue, I’d sue the FDA for approving a product which isn’t safe to consume.
The point being, the FDA is not there to protect you. There are thousands and thousands of additives, flavorings, and preservatives on the market, and no one has ever tested all of them, and you can be damn sure they haven’t been tested in all the random combinations with one another that people actually eat them. And why is this allowed to happen? Well, first you have to get it into your head that the FDA does not actually give a shit if you get sick from eating “food.” The FDA cares (a little) if masses of people die from foods, because then they have massive lawsuits on their hands. But a collection of people get strange rashes and allergic reactions and bronchial problems? Well, those people are eating thousands of different chemicals. No way to pin it on one- and no way to win a lawsuit against the company manufacturing it. And so manufacturers can basically put anything they want in food products, as long as they out and out don’t start killing people (I’m not counting diabetes and cancer and other long term diseases, which are most certainly caused by food products- but again, they take a long time, and have multiple causes- so who do you sue?).
The crux of it is, the FDA allows manufacturers to use their own research to prove that additives are safe. And obviously, the manufacturers are going to skew the research in their favor.
I typically respond to all this with my usual, people should just buy local thing. Which is all well and good, if you can afford to do so. There are a couple big issues with that concept, and I’ll probably address them all in more depth later, but think about it:
1. Most people don’t realize their food is toxic. Unless they’re hospitalized, they probably don’t pay any attention to occasional strange rashes and congestion and the typical mild symptoms of reactions to chemicals in food.
2. Even if they do realize their food is toxic, what are they going to do about it? Do people who work over 90 hours a week have time to be selective about their foods? Do they have time to go to the farmer’s market? Do they have time (or the energy) to cook?
3. Can people even afford whole foods? It’s usually pretty expensive to buy exclusively local- even if veggies are cheap in the summer, around here at least, bread never is. Flour is expensive and hard to find- as are meat and eggs.
4. THERE ARE CHEMICALS IN EVERYTHING. Everything. Toothpaste. Soap. Popcorn. Pasteurized milk. Vegetables from the supermarket (sprayed). Ketchup. Beer. I mean, try and survive without buying a single thing that has some kind of strange ingredient in it. I can guarantee that unless you live on a completely self-sufficient farm, it’s not happening.
Ugh. Fuck the conventional food system.
After finding out about this popcorn thing, I wonder if that isn’t why I found 15 boxes of Act II popcorn in the dumpster. Usually I don’t eat microwave popcorn because the stuff is kind of foul, but it was free and is very filling. Hmm. I wonder what my chances are of getting popcorn lung when it takes me three days to eat one bag?
Just as a note of interest, here is a partial list of ConAgra brands: List of ConAgra brands- wikipedia
AND a bunch of facts including ConAgra’s many incidences of salmonella, e. coli, worker’s rights violations, environmental violations, and more salmonella: ConAgra Foods- wikipedia