#2. Utah Is Why You Can Buy (Killer) Vitamins
The next time you're at the grocery store or pharmacy, notice how there's two shelves: One has all of the drugs that include meticulous lists of ingredients and walls of text detailing side effects, while the other shelf is full of snake oil bullshit. Vitamin supplements that claim to speed up your metabolism, weight-loss pills made of nothing but placebo herbs and caffeine, "natural" cures that rid your body of "toxins" -- all of it blasting flagrant lies from the label. Have you ever wondered why in the hell can they get away with that, when the Food and Drug Administration watches actual medicine like a hawk?
"If it comes in fancy bottles, check it. If it comes in a bag nailed to cardboard, who cares?"
Blame the state of Utah and Senator Orrin Hatch for that.
Church of Latter-Day Saints founder Joseph Smith didn't just believe that Jesus once walked among Native Americans; he also believed that pharmaceuticals and doctors were bad news for a healthy body. Instead, Smith advocated natural remedies for all that ailed you. And he took that mentality to Utah, where his religion and anti-medicine attitude flourished.
Fast forward to the late 20th century, and the heart of the vitamin industry still operates from Mormon country. Which was all fine and dandy until the group that regulates everything else we stuff into our holes realized that 20 people had already died from a "natural" sleep remedy and 16 kids were dead from iron supplement poisoning. So regulators got busy trying to control them. But the heart of Hatch's constituency was in bed with the vitamins -- his son is a supplement lobbyist in Washington, his grandson and son-in-law are chiropractors who shill a product called Slim and Sassy Metabolic Blend, and industry bigwigs have contributed millions to Hatch's campaigns. There was no way Hatch was going to let the FDA dig their claws into his precious vitamins.
"Americans have the right to stay slim and sassy by any means necessary."
So in 1994, Hatch ramrodded the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act through Congress. Under this Wild West of a law, supplement manufacturers can put whatever the fuck they want on the market and the FDA can't do anything about it until after people get hurt. Do you think bird shit will cure astigmatism? Wrap that shit up and sell it. We'll see what happens next.
According to Hatch, the consumer has the right to discern the difference between things that are good for you and poison marketed as weight-loss pills. Which explains why it took three years and an estimated 80 deaths before the FDA was able to shut down the sale of ephedra supplements.
"Medicine" is such a strong word.
#1. New Jersey Is the World's Tastemaker
Take a look in your pantry, or, if you're in college, under your bed. What do you see? Probably lots of cans and boxes and bags of junk food, each with an essay-sized block of text that reveals the ingredients.
Chief among the cadre of technicians who put together those ingredients are flavorists -- scientists who are trained to create the tastes behind everything that doesn't come from the produce aisle. In fact, 90 percent of what we take home from the grocery store was touched by one of the world's 500 flavorists, who determine not only how food will taste, but also how it will look and even how it will smell. These are the guys who create the difference between Dr Pepper and Dr Thunder, Lucky Charms and Marshmallow Mateys, and James Franco and James Marsden.
Guess where most of those food scientists live and work. It's not France! It's New Jersey! Which is hilarious, because these days when we mention New Jersey, we think of orange, puffy-haired people, not orange, puffy cheese snacks. As for why, well, the natural hub for the flavor industry was New York, especially since the flavor scientists were pilfered from the fragrance scientists, who worked nicely alongside the garment district and fashion houses of New York City. But New York was too expensive for the lab space needed to invent Cool Ranch, so manufacturers moved to New Jersey, and now the state has the highest concentration of flavor experts in the country.
"Making powdered hummus requires more brainpower than the moon landing."
Savor each second of your next meal -- you're taking in New Jersey with every bite.
For more on why things may not always be what they seem, check out 6 People Who Secretly Ruled the World and 6 Massive Secret Operations That Are Hidden All Around You.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The 4 Most Childish Ways Powerful People Settled Arguments.