#3. Fake Berries
Imagine a blueberry muffin.
One muffin, you greedy bastards.
Even with your freshly gained knowledge that there may or may not be some cellulose in the cake mix, it's pretty impossible not to start salivating at the thought. This is largely because of the berries themselves. What's better -- they're so very, very healthy that it's almost wrong for them to taste so good.
We could taste delicious if we wanted to. Stupid show-off berries.
Everything is better with blueberries -- that's why they put them in so many foods. Now that we think of it, there sure seems to be a lot of blueberries in a lot of products. You'd think we'd see more blueberry fields around ...
... not that it would do any good, as the number of blueberries you've eaten within the last year that have actually come from such a field is likely pretty close to zero.
We can almost hear the muffins mocking us.
Studies of products that supposedly contain blueberries indicate that many of them didn't originate in nature. All those dangly and chewy and juicy bits of berry are completely artificial, made with different combinations of corn syrup and a little chemist's set worth of food colorings and other chemicals with a whole bunch of numbers and letters in their names.
They do a damn good job of faking it, too -- you need a chemist's set of your own to be able to call bullshit. You can sort of tell them from the ingredient lists, too, if you know what to look for, although the manufacturers tend to camouflage them under bullshit terms like "blueberry flakes" or "blueberry crunchlets."
Natural News TV
Nothing says "nature" like petrochemical-derived food coloring.
There are a number of major differences between the real thing and the Abomination Blueberry: The fake blueberries have the advantages of a longer shelf life and, of course, being cheaper to produce. But they have absolutely none of the health benefits and nutrients of the real thing. This, of course, doesn't stop the manufacturers from riding the Blueberry Health Train all the way to the bank, sticking pictures of fresh berries and other bullshit cues all over the product packaging.
Now, here's some good news: The law does require the manufacturers to put the whole artificial thing out there for the customers. The bad news, however, is that they have gotten around this, too. First up, the Kellogg's Mini-Wheats way:
This is somewhat recognizable. They just stick a picture of the berries there, while not actually bothering to conceal the fact that the actual cereal looks like it's made of cardboard and Smurf paste.
A bunch of Betty Crocker products and Target muffins use the second route, which brings the cheat level even further by actually containing an unspecified amount of real berries. This way they can legally advertise natural flavors while substituting the vast majority of berries with the artificial ones.
All but three of these are made of plastic.
Or, you can just take the "we don't give a fuck anymore" route, as evidenced by General Mills' Total Blueberry Pomegranate cereal. The whole selling point of the product is that it contains a bucketload of blueberries and pomegranates, and the package boasts all the buzzwords the marketing department has been able to dream up:
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In reality, not only are the blueberries fake, but also they've forged the freaking pomegranates as well.
#2. "Free Range" Chickens That Are Crammed Into a Giant Room
Buying "free range" eggs is one of the easiest ways to feel good as a consumer -- they are at least as readily available as "normal," mass produced eggs from those horrible giant chicken prisons Big Egg maintains. Hell, they even cost pretty much the same. There's literally no reason not to buy free range even though, now that we think about it, we're not actually sure what that means. But the animals must live in pretty good conditions. In fact, let's buy our meat and poultry free range, too!
Fresh air, green grass, plenty of cocks ... free range chickens have it good.
Well, according to law, the definition of "free range" is that chickens raised for their meat "have access to the outside." OK ... so that's not quite as free as we assumed, and it appears to only apply to chickens raised for their meat. But at least they still have some freedom, what with the outside and all that.
Words have power, and "free range" in its original sense means unfenced and unrestrained. That makes it a powerful phrase that, no matter how smart we are, conjures subconscious images of freedom hens, riding tiny little freedom horses out on the plains, wearing hen-sized cowboy hats and leaving a happy little trail of delicious freedom eggs in their wake. There may be mandolin music.
Although we have it on good authority that chickens prefer Jay-Z.
But the reality is there are absolutely no regulations whatsoever for the use of the term "free range" on anything other than chickens raised for their meat. Your Snickers bar could be free range for all the government cares.
The industry knows this full well and happily makes us lap up the free range myth, even though in reality a free range hen lives in pretty much the same prison as a battery cage hen -- except its whole life takes place in the prison shower, rather than a cell.
Look, they're free!
Awareness of the free range myth is slowly increasing, but although a manufacturer that has been pushing his luck a bit too much does get jailed every once in a while, that doesn't do much to the overall phenomenon. In fact, Europe is set to ban egg production in cage systems come 2012. Guess what the replacement is going to be?
#1. Bullshit Health Claims
Nuts that reduce risk of heart disease. Yogurts that improve digestion and keep you from getting sick. Baby food that saves your kid from atopic dermatitis, whatever the hell that may be. Products like that are everywhere these days, and we do have to admit it's hard to see any drawbacks to them. We eat yogurt anyway, so why not make it good for our tummy while we're at it?
"This brand treats syphilis and diabetes."
It's just that we can't keep wondering where all these magic groceries suddenly appeared from. One day your peanuts were peanuts, and then, all of a sudden, it was all coronary disease this and reduce heart attack risks that. Maybe Food Science just had a really, really productive field day a while back?
Or, of course, it could be that we're being fooled yet again.
We don't know if we could handle Mr. Peanut lying to us.
The vast majority of product health claims use somewhat older technology than most of us realize: the ancient art of bullshitting. The "health effects" of wonder yogurts and most other products with supposed medical-level health benefits can be debunked completely, thoroughly and easily. So why are they able to keep marketing this stuff?
It all started in 2002, when many ordinary foods found themselves suddenly gaining surprising, hitherto unseen superpowers. This is when the FDA introduced us to a new category of pre-approved product claims. It was called "qualified health claims," and it was basically just another list of marketing bullshit the company can use if their product meets certain qualifications. This was nothing new. What was new, however, was that the list said no consensus for the scientific evidence for the product's health claims was needed.
"That pepper will keep you hard for hours, and eggplant works in lieu of chemotherapy."
Since "no consensus needed" is law-talk for "pay a dude in a lab coat enough to say your product is magic and we'll take his word for it no matter what everyone else says," companies immediately went apeshit. Suddenly, everyone had a respected scientist or six in their corner, and the papers they published enabled basically whatever they wanted to use in their marketing and packaging.
We're not saying that none of the products boasting health properties work. There are plenty out there, but they're kind of difficult to find under the constant stream of bullshit supplementary claims. Come on, food industry -- just tell us the truth. Don't you realize that we'll just eat it anyway? Shit, people still buy cigarettes, don't they?
"There's a doctor who says these can cure my gout."
Read more of Pauli's ranting at The Unpronounceable, the least edible comedy blog on the Internet.
For more revealing truths, check out 6 Bullshit Facts About Psychology That Everyone Believes and The 6 Most Frequently Quoted Bullsh*t Statistics.
And stop by LinkSTORM because it'll make you shoot OJ out your nose.
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