J500 Media and the Environment

The Government’s Role in Processed Foods by jackiemcc

After reading several articles about Steve Ettlinger’s Twinkie, Deconstructed, I began to speculate the government’s concern of unsafe processed foods.

In his book, Ettlinger explored the secrets of processed foods, like the Twinkie. Through his research, he discovered that ingredients used in industrial materials may in fact be also used in the foods you think are safe to eat.

In his article that cited Ettlinger’s book, Don Lee from the Los Angeles Times discussed China’s involvement as a supplier of many of these harmful ingredients. He further discussed China’s poor food safety record , and how that is a concern for many U.S. consumers.

As much of a concern that this is for the customers, I began to wonder how concerned government officials really are about these unsafe ingredients. In his article, Lee cited that “The Food and Drug Administration has said it checks just one percent of all imported grocery items and food ingredients, excluding meat and poultry products.”

This leads me to believe that the governments, both in the U.S. and China, either are not informed of the real harm of these imported ingredients, or they simply do not care.

In many of the articles I read about Ettlinger’s book, the U.S. import and manufacturing companies declined to comment. Personally, I find it hard to believe that government officials don’t know what is happening. Because these companies declined to comment, it most likely means they were at least told about the issue from the reporter. They probably know it’s a problem, but they don’t want to believe it, which is why they keep declining all the interviews. Any other thoughts on this?

What we need to do is inform and persuade government officials of the issue’s severity.

On a more local level, an article in the University Daily Kansan, the University of Kansas’ student newspaper, was about the recent discussion “Food for Thought: The Culture of Food in the United States” that took place on Monday. Part of the discussion was about food production and distribution in the United States.

The article quoted Sara Thomas Rosen, the event’s moderator, saying, “We don’t think how about the shrink-wrapped meat bought at the grocery store came to be.”

I wish I had heard about this event before it happened, because I think it would have been very useful to attend for our Media and the Environment journalism class. From the article, I get a sense that it would have reinforced the idea that we need to educate more people about our country’s food production process.

At least we are making some headway on the awareness of the issue here in Lawrence, but we still have a long way to go for the country.

—Jackie McClellan


3 Comments so far
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Thanks for the post, Jackie. My post was somewhat similar in that I agree that we, as a society, should be more educated on what we put in our bodies and where the ingredients in our food come from. What would you suggest is an effective way for others to learn about the food they consume?

— Lauren Cunningham

Comment by Lauren Cunningham


Lawrence is definitely ahead of most other places across the U.S. when it comes to food production and consumption. Kansas City has the Slow Foods Society of Kansas City (the Slow Foods Society is a nationwide group, and we do have our own chapter) in which individuals or restaurants who are dedicated to providing or eating healthy and sustainable foods can join. The only problem is that there are less than 10 restaurants in all of KC who are a part of this.
I am curious to know how what you’ve learned in this class has changed your habits? -Kristina B.

Comment by kristinabev

Thanks for reading my post!
Lauren-I did read your post, and it was similar. We do need to be more educated on what we eat. I think an effective way for others to learn about the food they consume is through utilizing media resources. Educated groups and people need to utilize the media more to inform others about the risks of certain foods. By using media options like television, radio, or advertising space, we can teach people through ways that they are already watching or listening to anyways. People are going to watch tv, listen to the radio, or look at a billboard while they are sitting at a stoplight anyways, so why not take advantage of that opportunity. We need to catch people’s attention while we can.

Kristina- That Slow Foods Society group is very interesting to know about. I’m not originally from Kansas City or Kansas, so I didn’t know such a group existed. It would be interesting to learn more about them.
As for my habits, this class has had an effect on me. I have definitely thought twice before eating some foods now. I don’t think it’s going to effect everything I eat, but there are certainly some items that it will effect. For example, after watching Food, Inc., I’m not going to stop eating hamburgers or anything, but everything we have read about Twinkies recently has really had an effect on me. Although I haven’t had one in a long time, they do not sound appetizing to me anymore. I think it will vary depending on the type of food and how much we learn about them. Great question!

-Jackie M

Comment by jackiemcc

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