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5 Disturbing Facts Big Food Doesn't Want You to Know

From mercury in tuna and wood pulp in parmesan cheese to ground beef treated with ammonia to retard E. coli (“pink slime”), the press does a good job exposing the dangerous and deceptive practices of Big Food. The problem is, the public forgets about the food risk or contamination, assuming that reform is in the works and that is just fine with Big Food. Often nothing changes.

For example, many thought the problem of mercury in tuna had been solved since it has been so widely reported. But Time recently wrote “the latest analysis shows that eating fish the way the government recommends is exposing people, especially pregnant women, to unsafe levels of mercury.” And two years after the nation’s stomach was turned by pink slime, its manufacturer Beef Products, Inc. had reopened plants and even filed a defamation lawsuit against ABC and Diane Sawyer. Who are you calling pink slime?

Here are some hidden-in-plain-sight facts Big Food doesn’t want you to know.

1. Meat preservatives cause cancer.

Did you ever wonder why bacon, hot dogs, ham, cold cuts, Slim Jims and most processed and cured meats taste salty, look pink and stay on the shelves indefinitely? Because food processors use the preservatives nitrite and nitrate which produce the pink color, delay bacterial growth and rancid taste and smell and impart a cured or smoked meat flavor.

Researchers have known since the 1970s that the preservatives become "nitrosamines" in the body—compounds that cause cancer. Following a 2008 American Institute for Cancer Research/World Cancer Research Fund report that found just one hot dog a day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent, there were calls to ban such processed meat, especially in schools. Last year, the World Health Organization reignited the controversy and declared processed meats Group 1 carcinogens, the highest risk category that exists. WHO researchers, who analyzed 800 studies, defined processed meat as “anything transformed to improve its flavor or preserve it, including sausages, beef jerky and anything smoked,” reported the Boston Globe. Researchers identified links from processed meats to colon, prostate and pancreatic cancers.

Scientific articles also link nitrosamines to lung cancer, kidney cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease and diabetes mellitus. The American Cancer Society tells people not to eat them. Still, the industry-influenced USDA remains agnostic about the dangers of nitrosamines in its new Dietary Guidelines rolled out this year. "We are pretty disappointed the report doesn't recommend limiting red and processed meat because of the link to cancer," said Katie McMahon of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

2. Shrimp are a safety disaster waiting to happen.

Most people do not realize the majority of shrimp sold in the U.S. are neither domestic nor wild-caught. They are imported from countries like Thailand, India and Indonesia where they are "farmed" in crowded, filthy pools with antibiotics, disinfectants and parasiticides that are banned in the United States. The shrimp themselves have their eyes removed before being raised in pools so dense and dirty that many die.

The FDA is responsible for ensuring the safety of such imported shrimp for human consumption, yet over 96 percent of shipments are not opened or even checked when they arrive on the dock in the United States. Instead, exporters' identities are stored in the FDA Automated Commercial System (ACS) system and only if a country or company has had prior problems will it receive receive inspections. Even then, the so-called inspection may only be a look at documents or a visual inspection, not lab tests for dangerous substances. FDA inspectors admit that blocked exporters can “transship” their products from another country to fool inspectors. Is anyone surprised that banned drugs and mislabeled products including pet shrimp find their way to U.S. dinner tables?

http://www.ap.org/explore/seafood-from-slaves/Like so many food products that are bad for consumers, intensively farmed shrimp also harm the environment, workers and animals. A recent, award-winning Associated Press series exposes slave labor used in the commercial seafood industry in Indonesia and Thailand—and the actual incarceration of captive workers in Myanmar in cages. U.S. officials and human rights activists call on Americans to “stop buying fish and shrimp tied to supply chains in Thailand.” Intensive shrimp farming also harms sensitive mangrove areas.

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