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Three beautiful Irish soft drinks that are good for your family's health
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Why are the world’s trans-national, global food companies allowed to regulate their own food products?
Hang on, let’s rephrase that: Why are the world’s trans-national, global food companies allowed to regulate their own industrially produced edible substances?
When the World Health Organisation recently released a new guideline on non-sugar sweeteners (NSS), it recommended against the use of aspartame, stevia and other products to control body weight or reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases.
Note the language: the WHO issued a guideline, and made a recommendation. PepsiCo and Nestle must be shaking in their boots. Especially when they read the concluding paragraph:
“The WHO guideline on NSS is part of a suite of existing and forthcoming guidelines on healthy diets that aim to establish lifelong healthy eating habits, improve dietary quality and decrease the risk of NCDs worldwide.”
When Helen Ellis, of The Atlantic, recently met Chris van Tulleken, the doctor and writer who has just published a new book, Ultra-Processed People, about the deleterious effects of Ultra Processed Foods – UPFs – Ellis told him she reckoned the occasional full-sugar cola is probably better than multiple diet sodas every day.
Von Tulleken replied: “Enjoy the phosphoric acid leaching the minerals out of your bones.”
Ultra Processed Foods, these “industrially produced edible substances” are everywhere, and are everywhere causing immense damage to human health and human psyches. They account for 60% of the calories people consume in the U.K. In the United States, they grab 70% of the calories people consume. The restaurateur and campaigner Henry Dimbleby has dismayingly noted the recurrence in the U.K. of rickets and scurvy, diseases associated with the hunger and poverty of the Victorian era.
But don’t worry about that. Our Minister for Health has just approved health warning notices for bottles of wine. You know wine. You make it by pressing grapes. Very dangerous stuff, obviously.
Chris von Tulleken lived on a diet of UPFs for a month. How did that work out?
“In just a few weeks, I felt like I’d aged ten years. I was aching, exhausted, miserable and angry.”
Sound like anyone you know?
The world of UPFs is strange, and strangely terrifying. In a recent New Yorker article, Antonia Hitchens visited the Innovation Kitchen of Taco Bell. Surreal is not in it. Hitchens is given a new product to try: a burrito with grilled cheese on top. Rene Pisciotti, the executive chef, explains the concept like this:
“It’s a challenge, from an innovation standpoint,” Pisciotti said, of toasting cheese on top of a burrito at the end of the assembly process. The cheese goo acts as adhesive for four jalapeno slices studding the burrito’s exterior. “It has to be super quick on the line, but it feels cared for, it feels prepared,” Liz Matthews, the global chief food-innovation officer, told Hitchens.
Cared for. Prepared.
People, the Upside-Down is already here. But wait: it gets worse.
Global food companies have shown us that they have no morals, but surely they wouldn’t stoop to putting UPFs in baby foods, right?
Wrong. About a third of the well-known baby food brands use UPFs. And what happens if kids eat this stuff? Not only are they malnourished, and simultaneously overweight, but their growth can be stunted.
Why is this happening? Money, of course. Shareholder profit.
Look at it this way: how might you make money from a turnip? There is little profit in growing it, selling it, or preparing it. Turnips are weighty, awkward to cook, and no one makes money from them because of their wisely intransigent nature.
As a vegetable, turnips are resistant to capitalism.
But if you trade in sugar, fat, additives and salt, the world of edible substances, the world of UPFs opens up for you. Sugar, salt and fat are as malleable as playdo, but much more profitable.
Food companies like UPFs because they make lots of money processing and selling them. Cheese goo on a burrito produces money: when Taco Bell launched The Crunchwrap Supreme in 2005, they sold fifty-one million of them in the first six weeks.
All of this has verifiable consequences. In a brilliant essay entitled “I’ve got guts too”, in the second edition of Scoop food magazine, Karen O’Donoghue writes about the personal torment of a malfunctioning gut.
“37% of us are struggling to get food out, while 34% struggle to keep food in”, writes the founder of The Happy Tummy Co.
71% of us have a problem, then.
This tsunami of bad news can make you feel hopeless. So, can we recommend that you open a cool can of soda to make yourself feel better?
No, not Coke, with its verifiable 35 grams of sugar per 330ml. We mean a can of Irish Craft Soda Lemonade, from Liam Tutty, of Athlone’s Dead Centre Brewing Co.
Yes it has sugar – 7.72 grams – but the sugar is one of only four ingredients, the others being carbonated water, lemon juice, and citric acid.
It’s a lemony lemonade, with some of the sharpness of lemon pith, and it drinks cleanly, without any cloying sweetness.
In 2023, in order to maintain your own and your family’s health, food shopping has to become a subversive act. You have to seek out the unprocessed, the healthy, the local foods made by people who actually care about what they produce and, thereby, care about you.
Just picking up the stuff sitting on the supermarket shelf introduces you to the world of UPFs at every turn: the bread; the spreads; the cereals; the packaged and processed.
But there is an alternative. If the kids want juice, then Con Trass’s Apple Farm will post you out a bunch of bags of his second-to-none apple juice, and the kids can help themselves from the bag in the fridge.
You can avoid the sugar and phosphoric acid in Coke by drinking an Irish Craft Soda Lemonade. If you want something with even more zip, then have a Zingibeer, made by father-and-daughter team Kevin and Rachel Byrne, in Dublin. This is a wonderful, mad thing of a drink, a zesty ginger beer that rips into your thirst, and which has a smidgen of alcohol at 4%abv.
The traditional stance of Government towards products they deem harmful is to tax them in order to discourage consumption, and to stick health warnings on the products. Neither is likely to happen with UPFs.
The trans-national, global food companies know that, so they will continue to manufacture and sell industrially produced edible substances.