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Why America Has the Cheapest, Most Addictive and Most Nutritionally Inferior Food in the World

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page and our Food Safety Research Center page.

AMY GOODMAN: As we continue deep inside the $1-trillion-a-year "processed-food-industrial complex," we turn to look at how decades of food science have resulted in the cheapest, most abundant, most addictive and most nutritionally inferior food in the world. And the vitamins and protein added back to this processed food? Well, you might be surprised to know where they come from. That's the focus of a new book by longtime food reporter Melanie Warner, author of  Pandora's Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal.

Melanie, welcome to  Democracy Now! She's joining us from Denver, Colorado. Vitamins, vitamin-added food. You think you go to the grocery store, and you want to get a little added punch, and you want to ensure that your kids, that your family, has added vitamins. What's the problem with that?

MELANIE WARNER: You know, one of the things with processed food that I found while doing this book, is not only that it has an abundance of the things that Michael was talking about-salt, sugar, fat-it's also what it's lacking, which, it turns out, is naturally occurring nutrition, in many cases. So that's vitamins and minerals and fiber and things like antioxidants.

So, you take something like cereal-you know, you walk down the cereal aisle, and you're bombarded with health messages: It's high in vitamin D, a good source of calcium, fiber, antioxidants. You see these things all over the package. And one of the things-one of the questions I asked myself when I was starting to work on this book was: Why is it nearly impossible to find a box of cereal in the cereal aisle without vitamins, added vitamins and minerals, in the ingredient list?

And it turns out, because most cereal has very little inherent nutrition. And this is in part because of processing. The processing of food is very intensive. It's very-it's very technical, and with cereal, can be very damaging to naturally occurring nutrients, especially vitamins and oftentimes fiber. So, what manufacturers do is they add back in vitamins. So, essentially, you see all these wonderful claims on the package, but essentially-and you look at the panel, and you're getting 35 percent and 40 percent of your recommended daily allowance of these vitamins, but they're essentially added in like a vitamin pill, which many people maybe are already taking in the morning. 


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