Sunday, November 16, 2008

But of course!

Traces of Corn Found in Almost All Fast Food; only 12 servings out of hundreds had nutrients that didn't contain it, researchers say is the headline for an article that made me talk to my computer. I was so surprised that I asked the Mac, "What 12?"

Seriously. I can't think of a single thing at a fast food place that I would feel completely safe putting in my mouth. Here is the beginning of the article:

THURSDAY, Nov. 13 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that many fast-food meals begin with a single ingredient: corn.

Researchers uncovered signs of corn in food items from Wendy's, McDonald's and Burger King.

"We found that corn is not just a grain used in the production of fast food, it is the basis of all fast food," said study author A. Hope Jahren, a professor of geography and geophysics at the University of Hawaii. "Of the hundreds of fast-food meals we purchased across the country, there were only about 12 servings of food that could potentially be traced back to something besides corn."

I guess those 12 were the dressing free salad options. I assume the citric acid wash, which contaminates the salad with corn for the corn allergic, does not count as the basis of a meal for most folks. The dressings, of course are full of corn.

I found myself continuing to talk to the Mac while I read the rest of the article. (Please note, I usually don't talk to inanimate objects. I'm chalking this up to having spent a lot of time at home by myself for the last few weeks while I've been sick. Or this virus has gone to my brain and I am finally cracking up. Hard to say.) For the most part, I wound up imitating that old Grey Poupon commercial and saying "But of course!"

The researchers analyzed the food to look at how corn is used in the production of fast food and to the results are not surprising to those of us who try to avoid the stuff on a daily basis. The exceptions in their finding were what kept surprising me. "12 Burger King burgers bought on the West Coast came from cows that didn't exclusively eat corn-based diets." I assume the reporter mean finished on corn. Cows do not naturally eat corn, they don't have the digestive system for it, but it does fatten them up quickly. In CAFOs they are fed corn in high amounts in the last few months of their life, along with large amounts of antibiotics to deal with the concomitant problems. For a good overview on the US food system that supplies our fast food and unsettling details on CAFO system, check out Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan's NYT article Power Steer.

While I was reading, I couldn't help thinking that the corn allergy group could tell the researchers what does and does not contain corn quite quickly. Of course we are not lab instruments, so what can report is going to get anyone published in a science journal. I feel more like the human analogue to the truffle hunting pigs, I can detect corn with a high degree of sensitivity but I do NOT want to eat it.

With the scientific research in, now maybe no one will want to eat it. But of course, that could just be the virus talking.


Jeff said...

I'm glad yer feeling better and finally over yer election day loss. I know it was a tough blow. And I agree -- as performance art a Palin presidency would've been an order of magnitude above and beyond the Bush Piece that we've enjoyed for the last eight years.

But one can take one's dedication to Art (or the lack there of) too far. Such as crawling into bed for a week. But buck up, and try to rejoice in the election of our first Hawaiian president. And with any luck he'll turn out to be a commie, Muslim and we'll all be back on track.


Stephanie Lee said...

12 cows..who weren't exclusively fed


it will be interesting to see in 15 years ho many of us there are walking around.

Jessica said...

I've been following your blog for a while (LOVE it, by the way) and this article made me curious. Are you able to eat meat (or eggs, milk, etc.) from an animal who's been fed corn, or is it all 100% grassfed meat for you? My daughter has a severe corn intolerance (not IgE), and we can only do 100% grassfed lamb. I'm curious how that works in the IgE world.

Christine said...

Hi Jessica,
I generally don't eat meat, so it is not an issue for me. However, commercially processed meat in the US is typically contaminated with corn during the processing, by citric acid cleaning washes or in the flavoring or preservatives. All of these corn products takes most meat out of the safe list for us.

Is the grass fed lamb your getting coming from a local farmer/butcher? Your daughter may be able to try other meats locally raised and processed by the same people.

While I don't clearly see how we could be reacting to corn fed animals, what they ate does show up in analysis of the meat . But I do know that grassfed has so many health and environmental benefits that it does seem like the logical and safe choice.

Are you using the corn-safe-foods list?

Jessica said...

Yes, I buy the lamb from our co-op store and it is somewhat local. Unfortunately, they only raise lambs... and my daughter is allergic to beef, so there goes our other option for grassfed meat. (Check out my blog if you want to read our [really long] story.)

And I definitely keep my eye on the corn-safe lists!! Thanks for all your links too- they have been really helpful for me and other moms on my allergy discussion board (