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Big labels infesting vulnerable food chain

05-18-2010 14:02 BJT

By Christopher Williams

I was shopping at my local grocery store the other day, looking for fruit juice. This was at one of the major local chain stores, with literally hundreds of locations.

I went to the drink section and found nothing. I don't mean they didn't have anything to drink, but everything available was Coke, or Gatorade, or some sickly-sweet orange-colored flavored fruit drink.There wasn't a single can or bottle of real fruit juice.And then I realized, it's happening in China, too.

I mean the same thing that has already overwhelmed the US and many other "devel-oped" nations.

Food is becoming something that doesn't get dug out of the ground, or plucked from a tree, or pulled from the water, or raised on a farm.

Food is now something that comes in a brightly-colored package, and what's in the package is increasingly unlike anything ever intended by nature.

In the US if something is labeled as a "fruit drink," it actually needs to contain only 10 percent of actual juice. The rest is water and sugar and food coloring. It's a major contributor to the diabetes rate in the US, which has reached 25 percent in some areas.

This is a catastrophe, and it's also the gateway to other severe medical conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and cancer.

We might say it's people's own fault for not changing their diet, but what if they go into the store, like I did, and have no other option?

China is going through a transitional period in its development.

Hundreds of millions of Chinese people still live a traditional rural life, and you can still find local farmers' markets with real produce direct from the fields, or maybe little mom-and-pop stands on the side of the road selling whatever is in season.

But they are being squeezed out little by little, just as they have been in the US.

As China becomes more urban, and more people do their shopping at the big box stores, they are feeding themselves on pre-packaged food that must, inevitably, succumb to certain inflexible market pressures.

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