A successful lie works both ways. A liar has to establish rapport, credibility and a convincing narrative to sell on the one hand – on the other, consumers indirectly choose to consume lies based on their willingness and capacity to accept/ignore available information.
But what happens when select food industries are responsible for all the nutritional and health information available to consumers? For the longest time, food industries have capitalized on public fear against mortality, society’s preoccupation with health, and wonder foods that were sold as fountains of youth. As a result, millions have become victim to systematic falsehoods.
Gluten-free diets (and all similar diet-hoaxes) are exemplified. If you truly believe gluten is bad, here’s what the New York Times have to say:
The protein [gluten] — found in wheat, rye and barley — gives dough an elastic texture and foods like cereal and bread a chewy quality. The diet started as a medical necessity for the 7 percent of people in the US who either suffer from celiac disease — an autoimmune disorder — or a diagnosed gluten intolerance. For them, the protein wreaks havoc on their intestines (Goldberg, 2017).
This means that gluten only affects those with celiac disease and a natural gluten intolerance. In fact, a study by the Harvard School of Public Health even found an association between high intake of whole grains and lowered risk of major chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (Wu et al., 2015).
Still, this doesn’t mean all fad diets are bad. On the flip side, there hasn’t yet been concrete studies to show that the absence of gluten from your diet is harmful.
But what about milk?
If you believe in the advertising of dairy industries, and the recommendations of many scientific bodies, then you’re aware of all the fantastic benefits and health associations with milk: that milk is good for strong bones, contains calcium and vitamin D and…
“does a body good.”
Empirical evidence is sorely lacking in backing up these claims. A meta-analysis published by the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research examined whether milk consumption protects against hip fracture in middle-aged and older adults. It was found in six studies that among almost 200,000 women, that no association exists between lower rates of fractures and drinking milk.
More importantly, a recent study has found no association between milk consumption in adulthood and protection in men and an increased risk of fractures in women; most interestingly, milk consumption was associated with an increase in mortality in both sexes (Michaëlsson et al., 2014)
Honey is one of the oldest sweeteners, a superfood in many cultures and is rich with nutritional and medicinal values; as a result, the high demand for honey has enticed individuals and companies to taking advantage of short supply by selling fake honey.
Honey manufacturers have revealed that three times the amount of Manuka honey produced annually in New Zealand is being sold around the world. In fact, 76% of the honey sold in US stores are fake.
What’s the deal with that?
The consensus among food safety divisions of the World Health Organization and the European Commission is that pollen is the only way to determine if the source of honey comes from legitimate and safe sources. However, many products undergo an illegal and unethical process that removes pollen from honey called ultra-filtering:
Ultra-filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only fool-proof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey – some containing illegal antibiotics – on the U.S. market for years (Schneider, 2011).
The problem is that FDA doesn’t check honey for pollen – it’s an industry-known fact that they only check about 5% of all foreign honey shipments. This is why fake honey products are sold to the masses, posing as the real deal.
So what does this mean anyway?
Sure we know industries and brands lie about the authenticity and quality of their products more often than not. Milk and honey has been mass consumed as with many other ‘fake’ products. The issue lies with a blind trust the public holds in nutritional and health sectors to responsibly research, cross-check and provide the right health information.
While brands have a moral duty to present the truth about their products (especially foods), many don’t – consumers have a personal duty to ensure they are properly informed when making purchase decisions. The sole responsibility of ensuring consumers don’t fall prey to duplicity doesn’t (shouldn’t) fall just on brands and industries. Today, it would be responsible and wise for you to adopt attitudes of skepticism when purchasing foods that hail to be ‘organic’, ‘pure’, and ‘original’.
You’ll never know when you or a family member could benefit from avoiding fake ‘healthy’ foods.
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Goldberg, H. (2017). Gluten-free is total BS. [online] New York Post. Available at: http://nypost.com/2016/01/19/i-gained-10-pounds-by-going-gluten-free/ [Accessed 15 Nov. 2017].
Michaëlsson, K., Wolk, A., Langenskiöld, S., Basu, S., Lemming, E. W., Melhus, H., & Byberg, L. (2014). Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies. Bmj, 349, g6015.
Schneider, A. (2011). Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn’t Honey | Food Safety News. [online] Food Safety News. Available at: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/11/tests-show-most-store-honey-isnt-honey/ [Accessed 15 Nov. 2017].
Wu, H., Flint, A. J., Qi, Q., Van Dam, R. M., Sampson, L. A., Rimm, E. B., … & Sun, Q. (2015). Association between dietary whole grain intake and risk of mortality: two large prospective studies in US men and women. JAMA internal medicine, 175(3), 373-384.