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In March 2015, the French newsweekly Marianne* featured an excerpt from a new book, L’alimentation prise en otage (‘food taken hostage’) by farmer-MEP-activist José Bové and co-author Gilles Luneau.

No escaping multinationals

The excerpt begins with an explanation of the control a few multinationals have over the world’s food. Even when we think we are buying a specialised brand name, more often than not it is owned by one of these giants (p. 56). Although many of the brands named below are European, others are not:

– In the realm of hot drinks, Kraft owns Jacques Vabre, Carte Noire, Maxwell and Lipton.

Kraft also own biscuit brands Belin, LU and Tuc — as well as sweets brands Toblerone, Côte d’Or, Suchard, Cadbury, Carambar, Lajaunie and Vichy pastilles.

– Among many other food and water brands, Nestlé own Perrier, Buitoni, Bolino, Herta, Flanby and Mövenpick.

Nestlé also own pet food brands, among them Gourmet and Friskies.

We discover that Nestlé, founded in 1866 in Switzerland is comprised of more than 2,000 brands and 10,000 products requiring 333,000 employees and 447 factories in 86 countries.

I won’t go into the Kraft-Mondelez set-up, because it is equally as huge and more complex.

Of course, there are other big players in the world marketplace. Unilever own food as well as household product brands. Among them are Cif, Dove, Sun, Skip, Alsa, Amora, Maille, Knorr, Ben & Jerry’s, Carte d’Or, Miko and Cornetto.

Even when we think we are buying small or traditional niche brands, we’re actually buying from multinationals.

International lobbying

Not surprisingly, several of the world’s largest corporations banded together years ago to form an influential lobbying group, ILSI — International Life Sciences Institute.

ILSI was founded in 1978. Billed as a non-profit, its objective is

to provide science that improves human health and well-being and safeguards the environment by creating a platform for coordination, cooperation, and collaboration among experts from industry, government, and academia and other civil society organizations. We actively design our programs to foster multi-sector collaboration conducting, gathering, summarizing, and disseminating science related to the world’s most pressing health issues.

Better decisions affecting public and environmental health and safety are made when they are based on good science. ILSI believes its science – as part of the larger body of scientific information – helps industries make safer, healthier products and helps governments, civil society organizations, and individual health professionals provide effective and practical guidance to promote safety, health, and well-being.

It has representatives from multinationals as well as universities.

Bové and Luneau posit that, whilst all this sounds highly worthy (p. 59):

Behind it, there is the interest to create, capture or protect a market.

So, we have lobbying for and research into GMO, processed foods and fast foods. One example involves eggs, which are now ‘ovoproducts’ (p. 59). Currently, 42% of eggs in the United States and 30% of those in France are broken and separated for processes needed to make fast and mass-produced food. Whites and yolks are separated, liquidised, solidified in bars or powdered to make industrial cakes, pastries, sweets and lunchmeats.

Milk separation shock

The worst example of adulterated and diminished food involves milk (p. 64-65).

If you have ever wondered if today’s commercial milk has the same characteristics as that of your grandparents, you’re right to be sceptical.

Today, companies can make more from separating nutrients and enzymes than by selling milk in its entirety. The public then need to buy various milk elements separately in order to arrive at the entire nutritional profile.

Bové and Luneau tell us that:

– Researchers now understand the relationship between dairy proteins and amino acids which aid muscle formation. Isolating them from milk becomes big business. Sports medicine is the main target market of the resulting products.

– Dairy cows, depending on the breed and conditions, produce milk containing between 3.5% and 4.6% fat. The dairy industry — mass quantity milk producers, not the farmers — decided that whole milk should contain only 3.6% fat. The rest of the fat can be added to other products or processes, all of which make more money.

– Raw milk is either banned or difficult to buy because multinationals can remove its most important nutrients to make other products. This means that one has to spend a fortune on buying complementary dairy or dairy-derivative products: probiotics, supplements or other foodstuffs. These are then marketed separately for the athlete, expectant mother, children and students. Ker-ching!

The authors ask (emphases mine):

… while all these different molecular elements are in complex interactions in raw milk, this intelligent equilibrium explodes under all the physical or biological treatments (rechilling, heating, drying, acidification, etc.). Who is evaluating what and how those affect the properties of each fractured element? Not many people … the question merits asking with regard to the increase of certain pathologies linked to food, particularly allergies.

Food allergies only came widespread in the 1970s or 1980s. What causes them and why? It will probably take years before we get the whole story.

This also makes me wonder about the dramatic increase in Alzheimer’s and personality disorders. Our nerves, specifically the myelin sheath, need fat in order to remain healthy. (Reducing carbohydrate and added sugar to <20g a day largely eliminates the possibility of weight gain.)

Clearly, we are not getting the full package of nutrients from milk — or, for that matter, many other foods.


* Marianne, 6-12 March 2015, pp. 56-65


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