In the October 2013 issue of Vending Times, editor Tim Sanford's column discussed the charade staged by those seeking to profit from spreading public mistrust of the nation's food supply, and of "corporate America" in general. He urged readers to get involved and defend common sense and fair play. I couldn't agree more and believe this stands repeating. The present anti-food industry silliness has got to stop. Let people eat what they want, and let's put an end to propaganda and heavily edited science.
I happen to be a "pescatarian," someone whose diet includes fish but no other animal products. I eat what I have found makes me feel good, and I think everyone else should do the same.
That discussion has continued ever since. The inability of 1960s (and '70s) technology to handle promotional discounting was recognized as a problem and many operators worked around it by staging periodic "customer appreciation" days. The usual method was to send a supervisor out, every now and then, to stand in the vending area during break periods and offer customers a cup of coffee on the house. Still, industry observers who watched what other retail channels were doing were concerned about vending's apparent inability to match the promotional flexibility and creativity displayed by convenience stores and the "big-box" chains.
The pure food and drug laws enacted a century ago have given us a safe, wholesome food supply. The government should not be in the business of trying to rank wholesome foods into better and worse; it can't be done without reference to the particular individual's overall diet and lifestyle. "Science" is being misused by food activists, who have become expert in using their choice of statistical correlations to tout this or that food as "healthy" or "unhealthy, simply ignoring the studies that contradict their prescriptions. They propagandize in the media for regulations which, perhaps, may benefit some consumers, but which will be injurious to others.
"Fat" is a term that's subject to abuse, probably because the word itself is associated with overweight. "Empty calories" is a catchy label, but a calorie simply is a unit of energy; it is neither full nor empty. Fuel not converted to energy (expressed in calories) is stored, adding weight. Wherever those calories come from, overweight people are ingesting too many of them.
Although doubt has been cast on the century-old equation of a quantity of food containing 3,500 calories of energy with one pound of body weight, that equivalence does seem to apply in the majority of cases. And it applies whether the calories come from carbohydrates, saturated fat, high fructose corn syrup or whatever the activists are targeting this week. Their allies in the media, who follow the old newspaper motto "if it bleeds, it leads," then proclaim that the Bad Food du jour is killing us and the government should do something about it. In a democracy, this sort of campaign often will induce the government to oblige, probably by endeavoring to tax whatever it is that's in the crosshairs of the fanatics at the moment.
For example, after a prolonged campaign blaming high-fructose corn syrup for the rise in obesity -- and inducing fad-conscious big-city mayors to propose taxes on soft drinks made with it -- we now are told that fructose availability in the American diet really hasn't increased in four decades (nutritionj.com/content/12/1/130).
And surely you remember the "The Ultimate Twinkie diet." If not, allow me to refresh your memory. For a class project, Kansas State University nutrition professor Mark Haub ate Twinkies and other sweet and salty snacks every three hours, instead of meals, for 10 weeks. He limited himself to less than 1,800 calories a day. A man of Haub's pre-dieting size usually consumes about 2,600 calories daily. So he followed a basic principle of weight loss: He consumed many fewer calories than he burned. He set out to demonstrate the old weight-loss contention that it's the volume of caloric input, not the source of the calories, that matters in affecting body weight. And demonstrate it he did: On his "junk food diet," he shed 27 pounds in two months.
Did other indicators of health suffer? No, they didn't. Haub's "bad" cholesterol, or LDL, dropped 20% and his "good" cholesterol, or HDL, increased by the same percentage. He reduced the level of triglycerides (a form of fat) by 39%.
"That's where the head-scratching comes in," Haub said. "What does that mean? Does that mean I'm healthier? Or does it mean how we define health from a biology standpoint, that we're missing something?" His conclusion is that much more research needs to be done to improve our understanding of human nutrition, and he certainly is correct.
Even renowned scientists agree that, once you get beyond deficiency diseases like scurvy, research into the link between diet and ill-health frequently produces conflicting results. The continual stream of bulletins about "good" and "bad" cholesterol a few decades ago indicates the difficulty. And trans fats once were regarded as much "healthier" than saturated fat. Science marches on.
For the sake of our industry and the country as a whole, we can't allow the special interest anti-corporate movement to kidnap the language. Let's stop talking about "healthy" and "unhealthy" foods, because we don't know what these are. Let's defend our right, as citizens, to make our own decisions.