Toxic Food

The Lempert Report
December 20, 2021

Last week’s cover story on Newsweek magazine showed a huge burger and splashed across the photo was a warning label. The headline was “toxic food” – the story included a great photo reminiscent of Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me movie poster that showed a partial face stuffed with a burger – surrounded, or engulfed, with French fries. Powerful images all – meant to shock the reader into changing their diets. The cover story sets the stage in its opening paragraph “being severely overweight has never been so dangerous. During the COVID-19 epidemic, Americans who are obese, without any other risk factors, were hospitalized at three times the rate of those who weren't, by some estimates. When combined with other diet-related health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, obesity raises the risk of hospitalization sixfold and the risk of death twelvefold.” Wow – enough to scare anyone.

The discussion is mainly about the evils of overprocessed foods – which as reported in Newsweek accounted for 57% of calories consumed by Americans in 2017 and 2018. No doubt today, as a result of the pandemic, I would guesstimate that percentage is even higher. Our friend, Marion Nestle, professor emerita at NY University is quoted as saying that "We have now the accumulated evidence, particularly in the last five years, that people who eat more ultra-processed foods have higher risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, depression, cancer, renal and liver diseases. The studies have been overwhelming. There've been hundreds and hundreds of them. There's no doubt that this is not a good thing. It is a problem." This is an important article that is a must read for everyone in the food world. While some may disagree philosophically with the premise that big food is formulating their products on purpose to become addictive and loaded with sugars, salt, fat and other ingredients that may harm our health & wellbeing – the underlying truth is that we in the US have the cheapest food supply in the world – and much of that has to do with the recipes and formulations that companies have developed. As our consumers become more aware of what they eat, and become more empowered to not only read labels but understand the implications of what they say – we are at the precipice of change – do we take a deep breath & leap forward and change our food world for the better? Or do we just doomed to just fall off the cliff?

The choice is ours and the food world must stand up for what is right. In the long view – the food companies that align with the values of consumers – who want to eat those foods that can make our lives healthier, better and longer – will be the ones who win.