Do you think a Stephen King tale or "Psycho" is horrifying? They're bedtime stories compared to the nightmare that is industrialized food (from which comes 70% of our calories -- it's not a fringe problem).
Science's advances like pasteurization, germ theory and penicillin have proven very good for very many. E. coli and campylobacter in your milk was not good; I remember my grandmother would not drink milk because so many of her contemporaries when young died of what she called "milk fever." Food and water supplies have to be looked after or you too will die young. Deciding to use accelerating science to expand sales of commodities and invent artificial new ones after World War II, food industries were formed by business people and have grown to be a monster which not only wags the tail of our government (Monsanto, through bought Congresspeople and lobbyists denied us truthful GMO labeling just recently) but determines exactly what is profitable, and thus available, at the daily retail level. If you have ever been on the road for your job, you quickly find out that what is available everywhere is absolute junk and there's not much else, due to time constraints and lack of refrigeration. My compatriots would stop at a convenience store in the morning and afternoon, with a quick trip to the burger joint at noon. As that movie about living on McDonald's fare for a month showed, that will bloat, sicken, and almost kill you. Our local McDonald's drive-through window is busy from dusk to midnight. The farmer's market in town -- completely ignored.
So, armed with some knowledge, you try to do better. Not that you aren't going to die from something, but you're thinking you have some responsibility to yourself and those close to you to keep from becoming unhealthy and a mess. Not many alternatives except diners (way too much food and suspiciously starchy, salty and fatty at that) and Subway. Let's try the tasty-looking Sweet Onion Teriyaki sub: you don't know it contains 105 ingredients, more than half of which are dry dusty chemicals added to the meat (13), bread (23), glaze (12) and onion sauce (8). Who doesn't like the Subway bread -- they sort of bake it right there and it looks good. But 23 ingredients? We all know what's normally used to make bread, and the list is pretty natural and short.
Industrial processing of "food products" removes vitamins and phytochemicals, which in natural food work together with our bodies. Adding vitamins to correct this ("enriched," as in cereals and milk and bread) is a good corrective, though, right? It seems not. With the phytochemicals still missing, those added synthetic vitamins (which are made in shady factories in China, by the way) are mostly useless in our systems. It's just an advertising angle.
This started more than a hundred years ago. Mr. Kellogg milled, squashed, baked, dried and squeezed grains to produce mass-marketed breakfast pseudo-cereals that did not go bad ("shelf life" was the goal). They also had none of the nutritional value of the original whole grains once the germ and bran were removed, and those were eliminated to prevent spoilage. Live things decay; dead dried-out things don't. And everyone starting putting Carnation dry dairy substitute powder in their coffee during that breakfast. Yum. I remember when all those sugar substitutes became quickly ubiquitous some years after margarine had replaced butter and Crisco had replaced lard and bacon grease. So modern, yet even as an ignorant kid, I thought that stuff looked suspicious. How could industrial chemicals you didn't know anything about be better than what people had used since beyond memory? I refused to use them all, but quietly, because you'd better choose your battles when it comes to not conforming.
Pellegra, a debilitating progressive disease that looks like leprosy, was first medically described in the 1730s. In certain areas like northern Italy and American South it was endemic, and in fact became epidemic in the U.S., eventually resulting in 100,000 deaths. It was noted that it occured in areas of high corn (maize) consumption, and it was thought there was something toxic in that food. It took over 200 years for an American scientist to discover that the disease was not caused by anything other than the removal of vitamin B3 (niacin) from the corn during processing (there's that word again). Just like with the breakfast cereals, food businesses in the U.S. began a new milling process in the early twentieth century which removed all those pesky nutrients that had led to long-term storage problems.
As if our home-grown geniuses haven't been dangerous enough, we now have Chinese imports to recoil in horror from:
A while ago, they manufactured an artificial apple juice from chemicals and sold it to commercial bulk customers worldwide like schools and day care center corporations. It was cheaper, but loaded with toxins.
That vitamin D added to your milk: it's made with industrial chemicals to transform the base ingredient, sheep grease. It's not liquid sunshine.
Vitamin B1 comes from coal tar. Other B vitamins and C are produced through manipulated bacteria and fermented corn derivatives.
It's big business. Nutrition has nothing to do with it.
(Factoids from the new book, Pandora's Lunchbox.)