Monday, March 29, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food [D]evolution.

The title of this very short blog is clickable, it to see what I'm talking about.

I watched a piece that ABC's Nightline program did about Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.  It was obviously about his show, but they did that thing where they just put the set and his show in the background without mentioning it as a sort of subliminal advert for the other ABC show.  They show a clip where Oliver is in some lady's kitchen and has conjured up all the things she says she feeds her family during the week and piles all these things on a smallish kitchen table.

She was shamed by this(of course) to the point of tears and he then tells her that this food was endangering her family and shedding years off of their life.  Nightline later shows a clip of lunch ladies being interrogated over food ingredients.  Oliver again asks a shaming question of whether they know all the ingredients in the food item he was looking at.  They didn't.

He was pointing out the 'chemicals' in the foods and was made that these chemicals were being fed to school children.  It's 'chemicals' and deadly additives to Oliver and food activists like him, but to a food scientist, it all makes perfect sense.  In some cases, the ingredients are very familiar(vinegar, baking powder, vitamin c) but regulations require the food companies to use the scientific names so you see things like ascorbic acid, boric acid, and acidic acid(not sure why I listed all acids).  In other cases, the additive serves an important function in relation to shelf life, flavor, color, or it may even be a trace ingredient in another ingredient.  For instance, you may see anti-caking agents mixed in with some flour/salt so they flow in the hopper at the plant. 

Anything currently proven to be a danger is not in use.  Anything GRAS (generally recognized as safe) is at the very least, only used in quantities that have no ill affects.  For instance, an additive may be toxic once an ounce per pound of bodyweight is ingested, but the formulation might never have more than a hundreth of an ounce per serving, meaning that you would need to ingest 100 servings per pound of bodyweight.  So if you weighed 100 pounds, you would need to ingest 1000 servings.

A major problem that food hysterics like Oliver have is that while educated in cooking, they are uneducated about food.  Their ignorance of food science and things like how toxicity levels are determined give them a zero tolerance view on additives without scientific support for it.  The science they do mention always fails to account for the volume of a particular additive it would take to make someone sick.

He makes a remarkable statement that underscores this theme of willful ignorance.  I'm paraphrasing, but he says that if you don't understand something in the ingredient list, don't buy that food.

Let's apply this logic to other things in life, shall we?

Unless you've built computers from scratch and know all the components - don't buy a computer.  If you don't understand the mechanics of the internal combustion engine and other major systems of a car - don't buy one.  You can apply this leap in logic to bug spray, medicine, medical devices, video games, the shoes on your feet, or the paint on your walls.

The lady from the beginning of the story was interviewed and said that thanks to Jaimie's intervening, she has lost 40 lbs.  For her and her kids, she cut out chips, snacks, and pop.  The problem is that she was told those things made her fat, and not that it was the excess calories.  Sure if you stop eating 10% of the foods you normally eat, it stands to reason that you'll lose 10% of the weight.

The problems:

No real education about food and nutrition, just misinformation and scaremongering.  It's awesome that Jamie Oliver teaches people how to use ingredients and plan out and make a meal.  This can save people money and they can lose weight if they reduce their caloric intake.  Also, Nightline offered no interviews with food scientists or food science academics to counter what he said.  Once again, America gets half the story.


  1. You are so RIGHT! America only gets half the story! You are bang on!

    Now... let the cameras into the factory farms so America can get the WHOLE story.

  2. Great idea! I assume you want everything filmed so America can see the atrocities taking place, yes? Here's the problem with that - there aren't atrocities taking place on 99.9% of all farms big or small. People might see things they don't understand, but they won't see any atrocities.

    The structure..or narrative that these activists follow is pretty similar to that of a conspiracy theorist. Do you think they will stop once they see that everything is on the up and up? No. Now they have an organization that employs people and has to have injustice taking place for their institutions to stay alive. So they'll find something else, then something else, then something else, because they've created a hungry political/social machine that cannot be stopped.

    I'm all for going after violators of the law and people cruel to animals, but even the most aggressive of action and the most stringent of regulations will not satisfy these groups.

    Sorry about the rant.


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