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"When in Doubt, Add Bacon and Cheese": How the Food Industry Hijacked Our Brains and Made Us Fat

The food industry has changed American eating habits and helped create the country's No. 1 public-health issue.

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Tobacco, in some ways, is much harder. Tobacco, you can avoid. You can do without, you should do without. Food, we need. Food needs to be rewarding. It needs to be enjoyable. So how are we going to get this epidemic under control?

One of the big issues is the big food, and I'm not talking -- you know, this is not about corporate big. This is literally about big portions of food, food that is layered and loaded with fat, sugar and salt.

If you look at that plate of fries and say, "That's my friend. I want that. That's going to make me feel better," there's little I can do to stand between you and that plate of fries. What we need to do is, we need to change how America perceives food. A lot of people want to be thin. They look at, you know, how much they weigh. So they don't want to be fat.

But on the other hand, they want the food, and there's a disconnect. What you have to do -- this is about how we look at food. And we're going to have to, as a country, change how we look at food and our eating habits. Eating 24/7, eating all day long, that has to change.

Goodman:We're joined here in our firehouse studio by Arun Gupta, journalist, editor of The Indypendent newspaper in New York. He's writing a book on the decline of American empire for Haymarket Books. His latest article is published at Alternet.organd The Indypendent , and it's called "Gonzo Gastronomy: How the Food Industry Has Made Bacon a Weapon of Mass Destruction," looking at how industrial farming is central to the processed-food industry. Arun also happens to be a chef, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute.

I've been trying to keep this away from Anjali right now, which is the bacon, egg McGriddles -- oh, and cheese. As Dr. Kessler said, "When in doubt, add bacon and cheese.”

Arun, can you describe what we're looking at right now?

Arun Gupta:Sure. What this is, is -- I became fascinated by this, because this is essentially the childhood product of bacon soaked in maple syrup. And a few years ago, McDonald's turned this into an actual product, the McGriddle. These are pancakelike biscuits that take the filling for an Egg McMuffin, which is an egg, a pork product, in this case bacon, and cheese. And it's exactly what Dr. David Kessler talks about, where it's just layers of fat, salt and sugar.

You know, for instance, the muffin itself is white flour, refined flour, which is essentially sugar, and it's injected with three types of fat. There's salt. The egg is fat and salt. The bacon is fat, salt and flavorings. The cheese is fat and salt. And then it's topped by another biscuit, which, again, is fat, salt and sugar. So, this fits in with exactly what Dr. Kessler is talking about, how we're being fed these infinite variations of fat, salt and sugar that are highly addictive.

Another aspect that's interesting about it is the bacon has, actually, 18 ingredients. You wouldn't think that bacon would have 18 ingredients. Six of these are apparently types of umami. Now, umami is Japanese for -- it's the fifth flavor, after sweet, salty, sour and bitter. And it's loosely translated as "deliciousness." It's meaty, savory flavor. And it's highly addictive, and it has a response on our neurochemicals also.

And so, McDonald's pumps this with all sorts of umami. This is something I've been looking at. A lot of our foods are pumped with all sorts of umami, everything from savory foods to ice cream, because it elicits an actual neurochemical, physiological response. This thing has something like 80 percent of your daily intake of cholesterol. It's absolutely deadly, even though it's relatively tiny.

 
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