Chemically Altered Food

The Lempert Report
July 22, 2022

Phil: There are more databases out there that are available to us than ever before. The question is, which of them are just gathering information that we're never going to use? Well, here's a new one that comes out of Northeastern's Network Science Institute that I am very excited about. What they have is a database of 50,000 products and they've broken it down to see what percentage of those products are ultra processed.  Now what they found is scary because ultra processed foods are linked to a higher risk of developing a variety of health issues. And bottom line is, what they found out of these 50,000 products, 73% were ultra processed. Sally, what is going on here?

Sally: This is so interesting to me, Phil, and I don't know if you've had an opportunity to check out true food. Dot, dot, dot tech. Sorry, that's true food. Dot tech. But you can go in this database and you can search for a product. So what I chose was mac and cheese. And then it lists them in order of the least processed to the alt to ultra processed. Now in this particular category, there are 99, I believe what I was shocked to find out is the mac and cheese that I buy for my kids, which is in many ways is one of the most processed ones. I had no idea. It has a very, you know, because it's organic and because it's Annie's, you know, it I would have never put it down that far as one of the most processed. So I found that out, I click on Annie's and then this database gives me suggestions for other ones that are not ultra processed or not processed as much. And guess what comes up as the first suggestion? So first mac and cheese.

Phil: Really?

Sally: So Interesting. Yes. You've got to get on this data of database and see how it works. I think it's wonderful for consumers.

Phil: Yeah, it's a great tool. And also, when you look at all the studies that the government have done that other people have done, you know, it's it's just amazing that we are so we are we are so ingrained in eating ultra processed foods according to the the scientists, for a food to be ultra processed, it must have been chemically altered.

Phil: So the example and this is a great example as well in mac and cheese example is that some arm juices are labeled natural, but actually they've been divided into three different chemicals before being stored separately and remixed later. Now the number one orange crop, if you would, comes out of Brazil. So it's too expensive to squeeze the orange juice there and transport it. So what they do is they take out all the water and they make a sludge out of it, and then they reconstituted here. So, you know, it's done for efficiency, but that doesn't mean it's good for our health. The other thing that these scientists have said, which is really interesting, is that the FDA only requires companies to report around 12 nutrients to problem, because as this research team claims, there's a link between higher, higher ultra processed foods and a higher risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, angina, elevated blood pressure and biological age.

Phil: So one more point. When an onion is fried, they give this example and battered more than half of its nutrients change in concentration. These changes correlate with the level of processing. So, you know, I'm not saying that we should have, you know, a label on foods that say ultra processed. But what we should do is we should be going to this database and checking out what you're buying, what's in your cupboard.

Phil: And also, frankly, I think it's a great tool for retailers because what we've seen over the past couple of years pre-pandemic is retailers sort of curating what they're going to offer. They want to have the healthiest products. They want to have the most artisan products. And maybe another step to that buying decision or for category managers is to access this database before they give a product a green light and not be fooled by that, by the hype, which obviously we both were when it came to two Annies Macaroni and cheese.