This is a guest article by Mannie Barling and Ashley F. Brooks.

Somewhere in the past two decades of Gordon Gecko’s, “Greed is good” concept for America, major corporations have drifted from traditional business ethics to a ruthless disregard for the American public they serve.

You can’t miss this trend. The fallen corporate leaders lay littered on the side of the road by media coverage, criminal prosecutions and countless recalls, deceptions and manipulations of prices by Big Food, Big Agra, Big Pharma and Big Oil.

Enron, Bernie Madoff, Wall Street Bail-outs, the BP disaster, E. coli recalls in meats, Salmonella recalls of more than 550,000 million eggs, more than 100,000 deaths from the prescription drug Vioxx and skyrocketing gas prices at the pump for no apparent reason. Who can ignore these acts of deception?

Because there are so many major issues of deception and fraud peppered among American industries, some of the food industries smallest, but most effective, deceptions slip through the cracks without much fanfare. They may seem simple, but their economic effect of the American family is huge.

This article concerns itself with only two – “clean labels” and “masking”. These seemingly harmless little terms have more of an impact on the health of Americans and the stresses on their pocket book than any other commodity, including the price of oil. More than twenty-five cents of every dollar is spent on food in America. Let’s explore how and why.

In the case of oil, the unit price per gallon is visible on every pump and usually posted on a huge sign at the entry of a gas station. In the case of food, the unit price is not on the package and there are literally thousands of package goods sold in stores. Most grocery stores publish a unit price by placing a small card containing the cost on the bottom of a product’s shelf. As you look down a food aisle, these repetitious little placards are almost blinding.

To avoid making disclosures to the public regarding price increases, food manufacturers repackage their products in deceptive ways. Packages, cans and bottles have been downsized while their package prices remain the same. The unit price does not appear anywhere on the package and the amount of the contents is often obscure because the color and size of the print make the amount difficult to read.

We have found that often the unit price on the shelf is different that the unit price we computed using the information on the package. Where several brands of the same product are displayed together, the unit prices are inconsistent and difficult for even a CPA to understand. There is no effort to make this information more understandable for shoppers.

This industry-wide technique of hiding the unit price of a food by altering the contents of a package without changing the package size or disclosing the unit price is called “masking”. It’s very name implies deception. The only purpose of shrinking packages to mask the quantity and unit price is to conceal inflation. It is a carefully thought out industry scheme to avoid disclosure. It’s no accident.

Prices are constantly going up while packages are getting consistently smaller and smaller. For example, turn over a yogurt container and see how much more of the package is now indented versus a year ago. Big Food has found another way to increase profits during the Great Recession, at your expense. In February 2011, food prices inflated by a reported 4%. That inflation was concealed from the public by carefully resizing packages.

For example, Chicken of the Sea tuna now comes in a 5-ounce can and often costs more than the old 6-ounce can. Bags of Doritos, Fritos, and Tostitos now contain 20% less than they did in 2009. The bags are inflated with air so consumers can’t notice how much less is in the bags until they are opened. This is another form of deception.

Some brands of cereal come in three different content amounts, but are packaged in the same size boxes. Only a careful reading of the product’s label and a comparison to an older box will disclose this truth. Clever, but still deceptive.

And boxes of baby wipes that once contained 80 wipes now contains only 72. Sugar now comes in 4-pound bags, no longer in 5-pound bags. Sixteen-ounce cans of vegetables are packaged in the same cans but now contain as little as 11 ounces. The manufacturers know perfectly well that a woman with an infant riding in her shopping cart does not have the time to read every label and compute whether the unit price has changed or not.

All of these products and many, many more are sold at the same price without any disclosure that the contents have been reduced. By compelling the stores to post unit prices, it has created a confusing atmosphere of unintelligible little signs on shelves that run together like a porridge of colorful numbers.

In 2010, the New York Times reported the story of Lisa Stauber of Houston, who was able to feed her nine children with three boxes of pasta. When the three boxes came up short one night, she checked the box only to find that the old 16 ounce-sized box of pasta now contained only 13.25 ounces. Yet she was still charged the same price as if it still contained 16 ounces.

The food industry would rather fool you than tell you the truth. Can Americans ever trust these companies to stop being deceptive about prices?

In addition, the industries’ machinizations are not limited to hiding chemicals in ingredients. This is what is known in the food industry as “clean labels” – the art of adding MSG, artificial flavors, inert excipients, fillers and other chemicals to food, without having to list them on the food label.

For example, foods that say “NO MSG” on their packages almost always contain MSG anyway. Yeast extract and hydrolyzed vegetable protein are examples of using deceptive names to conceal MSG. There are more than 140 different food ingredients used to “mask” MSG. These names often sound like perfectly safe natural food ingredients, like natural flavoring which can contain as many as 200 different chemicals without disclosure. But many have been proven to be unsafe over and over again by scientists and medical doctors.

Approximately 440 million pounds of MSG were sold in 2009, despite it being unavailable to purchase in retail stores. All of this MSG goes into packaged foods and restaurant foods such as McDonald’s and other fast food chains who have no legal obligation to disclose its presence. Many upscale restaurants also use MSG. Food processors oppose disclosure and allow the deception to continue.

There is little doubt that once MSG prominently appears on food labels, most Americans will stop purchasing any foods containing it. If MSG was truly a benign, naturally-recurring substance, the food industry would not be spending billions to hide its presence from the general public.

The deceptions in masking and clean labels are best exemplified by the following examples:

*    Until early 2009, Silk brand soy milk was made using organic soybeans. Then, Dean Foods, the maker of Silk, quietly switched to non-organic “Roundup Ready” soybeans, grown with pesticides, but kept the same barcodes identifying them as organic. They continued to charge consumers the higher “organic” price for a product now cheapened with conventionally-grown soybeans. All in the name of profits.

*    In the case of Dannon Blackberry and Raspberry Flavor Yogurt, the ingredients are the same despite displaying a beautiful blackberry and raspberry on their respective containers. There are no raspberries or blackberries on the Ingredients list because both flavors are synthetically derived from artificial flavoring. Selling the same product under two different names is deceptive to say the least.

*    Dean Foods, also the manufacturer of Horizon dairy products began adding unapproved carcinogenic additives, Martek Biosciences Corporation’s omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (DHA/ARA), which are derived chemically from fermented algae and fungus, to foods with the organic label, without disclosure in violation of federal guidelines. The USDA reiterated in a compliance letter issued March 16, 2011 that these additives are illegal in organics. Despite warning from the FDA, Dean Foods has not removed the unapproved carcinogenic additives that are not disclosed on the package or Ingredients Label.

*    These same unapproved synthetic carcinogenic additives are used in infant formula and baby food, without disclosure.  They have been linked to many serious reported gastrointestinal problems in infants and young children. Neither the USDA nor the industry have disclosed the dangerous additives to the public despite warning letters to Dean Foods. These dangerous chemicals continue to be in infant formula today

*    A Hungry-Man Roasted Carved White Meat Turkey contains approximately 160 ingredients, of which more than 80 forms of MSG are hidden in Maltodextrin and other ingredients.

*    The Salmonella-contaminated eggs from Wright County and Hillandale farms recalled in 2010 were suddenly deemed safe, if cooked, and sold to commercial food manufacturers across American and used in packaged foods.

The problem facing unsuspecting mothers is best illustrated by the story of Megan Golden of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, who watched her newborn son suffer from serious vomiting and gastrointestinal illness from the day he was born. He was given formula containing Martek Biosciences Corporation’s omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from birth.

At age 9 weeks, she switched to a brand of formula without these additives and his symptoms disappeared. As of January 2009, more than a hundred similar adverse reaction reports have been filed with the FDA and USDA, and still there are no disclosures or warnings on the labels that would protect susceptible newborns.

An investigative report by the Washington Post disclosed that a powerful corporate lobbyist, Jay Friedman of the law firm of Covington Burling, convinced the former director of the USDA’s National Organic Program, Dr. Barbara Robinson, to overrule her staff’s decision, and allow companies to market products with Martek’s unapproved and dangerous additives.

Since 1994, the FDA, USDA, Big Food and Big Agra have joined together to successfully oppose all consumer efforts to compel full and complete disclosures on food ingredient’s labels, especially those containing genetically modified foods and rBST, a synthetic bovine growth hormone also made by Monsanto and used on dairy cows.

As Norman Braksick, the former president of Asgrow Seed Co. (now owned by Monsanto) predicted in the Kansas City Star, “If you put a label on a genetically engineered food, you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.” This is the prime reason why Big Food and Big Agra continue their deceptions – the knowledge that their Frankenfoods are not acceptable to Americans when fully disclosed.

Would you trust anything that Monsanto says about its products? Do you trust Monsanto when they tell you that genetically modified plants are “nature-identical”? Do you trust Monsanto when they tell you that genetically modified foods are safe because they tested them in their own labs, despite the fact that no one has ever seen their tests?

Do you trust Monsanto to test their own creations and pass judgment on whether their products are safe to eat? Do you think Monsanto would tell you the truth, if their products were not safe?

Can you trust the USDA which sides with Monsanto on every issue? Can you trust the politically-influenced FDA when Monsanto’s former lawyer and lobbyist, Michael Taylor, then Deputy Commissioner, said in 1994 that there were no tests that showed any dangers in the public eating genetically modified foods, despite rank and file FDA scientists disagreed with him? Now, Taylor has returned to the USDA with a new industry agenda.

Do you trust AquaBounty when they tell you that their genetically modified Franken-salmon is safe to eat with no independent testing?

Whom can the American public believe and trust? Certainly, not Big Food or Big Agra.

The American Food industry is not a monopoly board for Big Food and Big Agra. Don’t play their game. They own too many places on the board and control too much “play money”. Instead join The Food Revolution and fight for your right to eat unadulterated packaged food. Support sustainable organic farming and vote with your dollars at the grocery store. You will not be alone.  Millions of Americans will be there to fight for these rights too.

Mannie Barling and Ashley F. Brooks, R.N., are the authors of award winning books – Arthritis, Inflammation, Gout, Crohn’s, IBD and IBS – How to Eliminate Pain and Extend your Life (Books and Authors 2010 Best Books in the Health, Diet & Reference Categories) and Mannie’s Diet and Enzyme Formula – A Change of Lifestyle Diet Designed for Everyone (Blogger News Net 2010 Best Health And Nutrition Book Award winner) available at HowToEliminatePain.com, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other booksellers around the world.

The authors’ latest book, It’s Not Your Fault – Weight Gain, Obesity and Food Addiction is now available at HowtoEliminatePain.com, Amazon and booksellers everywhere. The authors latest book, The Food Revolution Papers – A Primer on What’s in Your Food, is due in bookstores on October 1, 2011.

Mannie Barling and Ashley F. Brooks are the co-hosts of Surviving the 21st Century with Simon Barrett on Blogger News Network on Saturdays at 10:00 A.M. PST/1:00 PM EST found at http://www.bloggernews.net or Blog Talk Radio.

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