"We have a saying in our company: "Our competitors are our friends. Our customers are the enemy." -- A comment made in the early 1990s by Archer Daniels Midland (ADM)’s then-president James Randall, as quoted in Fast Food Nation
The Archer Daniels Midland Company is infamous for its ability to obtain corporate welfare in the form of government subsidies and tax breaks. According to a study by the Cato Institute, “at least 43 percent of ADM's annual profits are from products heavily subsidized or protected by the American government". Last year those profits added up to $36.6 billion. Numerous top executives have been convicted for price-fixing schemes as well, and over time these crimes and “favors” cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars (for more details, check out James B. Lieber’s Rats in the Grain: The Dirty Tricks and Trials of Archer Daniels Midland).
ADM also provides over a thousand ingredients to various food makers, and has served as a strong, long time advocate for lessening the quality of the meals we eat. For example, through aggressive lobbying ADM was able to limit the production of U.S. sugar and keep its price high. This in turn caused numerous large food companies, including Coca-Cola, to drop the use of cane sugar and turn instead to ADM’s corn sweeteners. ADM is likewise using its considerable clout to prevent the improvement of America’s public school food program.
Yet fucking up our national beverage, insuring that our school children continue to eat poorly, and bloating the world’s population with artificial fructose additives, apparently aren’t enough for this greedy global agribusiness giant. This past October The Grocery Manufacturers Association (of which ADM is a major player), along with the Chocolate Manufacturers Association (of which ADM is a major player), International Dairy Foods Association, American Meat Institute, and eight other food industry conglomerates filed a “Citizen’s Petition” with the Food and Drug Administration, calling for the cheapening of production standards for about 300 foods. The proposal that would allow manufacturers to "use a vegetable fat in place of another vegetable fat named in the standard” (e.g. vegetable oil for cacao fat in chocolate, as reported by AP in Wednesday's Herald ) has gotten the most press -- after all, this means fudging standards for one of our most iconic indulgences. Yet while chocolate has become the poster child for those opposing these comestible-corrupting measures, there is so much more at stake.
The petitioners and their long-standing ally, the FDA, sum up their justification for change thusly: “Food standards are often an impediment to the innovation necessary to meet consumer demands.” For example, “’Whole wheat macaroni’ is not permitted unless it contains 100 percent whole wheat flour, even though many consumers may be more likely to repeatedly consume a whole wheat product with some amount of refined grains.” Solution: 51 percent wheat flour and the product can be called “whole wheat”.
Another deceptive label would be allowed on our beloved BBQ: “Manufacturers of barbecued beef now have modern processes to produce a food with the ‘brown crust’ and ‘rendering of surface fat’ without the ‘burning of hard wood or hot coals’ currently required by the standard.” Another rule change regards “roasted meats”, which will be used to describe products that have been cooked any old way, as long as the result has a “roasted appearance.”
Still other production shortcuts include cutting aging time for a country ham, rubbing fungal antimycotics onto cheese in place of pasteurization, putting powdered milk in yogurt and enzyme-modified yolks in mayonnaise, permitting more than 15 percent “scabbed cherries” per can, lessening the milk content of evaporated milk, and allowing a product’s saturated fat content to be more than 25 percent and still be called “reduced fat”.
What other proposals would you expect from those who see us as their enemy? --Lee Klein
Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.