It’s Only Rational: How Military Research & Development Has Shaped America’s Food Supply

This paper really changed the way I thought about the United States’ food supply. Feeding the City was my first summer course at BU; our assignment was to pick a topic surrounding the way we feed cities. This research helped me understand the history of the way we eat and the impacts that could/will have on us in the future.

Running late for something and need a quick snack on the way? Or maybe even a quick meal? In the United States, in 2016, that’s no problem. Our grocery stores and supermarkets are packed with prepared processed goods that stay shelf-safe for long periods of time and require little to no effort to prepare. Sealed ham and cheese sandwiches, canned fruit, granola bars, and microwaveable dinners are common household items for most American families. Our reliance on these products makes it hard to believe that most of them were only invented within the past one hundred years. Our food system has been revolutionized more in this past century than the rest of the time humans have walked the earth. The farming techniques, food preservation methods, and mass production of foods we use now are largely due to the United States military’s research and development.

Keeping troops fed during the perils of modern warfare is no easy task. But, to put it simply, the best fed soldiers win the war. Therefore, it is logical that defense budgets focus on research and development in the realm of food science to ensure combat soldiers are nutritiously satisfied and victorious (Stipp, 2003). With plenty of effort and funds, the progress made for military use benefits the general public as well, since the U.S. government only temporarily holds these useful patents (Salcedo, 2015).

Historically, soldiers ravaged towns and country sides to feed themselves (including the occasional cannibalism), or used their equestrian beasts to hold themselves over between pillages. Prior to 1800, not much had been accomplished by means of food preservation. Fermentation or drying and salting were the best techniques if food was brought on any journey, but of course had to be supplemented by other available resources in order to provide adequate nutritional value. During their revolutionary wars, the French government challenged their people, with the reward of one year’s salary, to come up with a new preservation method to help sustain troops. The familiar process, Pasteurization, was actually invented (but not scientifically understood) by a man named Nicolas Appert. After perfecting his antimicrobial technique, he presented the ‘fresh’ food to Napoleon’s minister of the interior. It took a few years for the French government to realize his idea was genius, but once they did, they convinced him to relinquish his rights to it (Salcedo, 2015). This discovery was one of the first food science techniques developed for military use that progressed society as a whole.

Shortly after Appert’s work was ‘sold’ to the French government, Peter Durand crafted the tin can. Originally, only six to ten cans were able to be constructed daily and were required to simmer for six hours each. This technology was almost exclusively used by the British Navy to bring large quantities of stews and soups along on voyages for its limey sailors. Later, during the American Civil War, smaller, cheaper cans that could be produced more efficiently, became part of the daily rations for soldiers. But it wasn’t until the Spanish-American war that the majority of meatpackers were practically forced to get onboard with heart sterilization and canning (Salcedo, 2015).

Unfortunately, the temperature abuse that the cans withstood were not tolerated by the soldiers in the Caribbean. While serving in Cuba, Theodore Roosevelt stated that the canned meat was so bad, “I think we threw it overboard.” Once he became president he helped push through the Pure Food and Drug Act, which mandated that research be conducted on killing microorganisms, forcing the army to rethink its strategy on supplying food to the troops (Salcedo, 2015).

Food science developments made before the start of World War II were helpful, but not as plentiful and necessary as those during. The U.S. military went from feeding 400,000 recruits to 12 million in just four years. In order to improve rations, an Army branch called the Quartermaster Corps, which was now responsible for feeding all branches of the military, called on civilians for help. People like Milton Hershey, Harvard professors, and MIT’s Department of Food Technology responded. Still, men overseas would rather go hungry than eat their rations, so, with urgency, the food industry was asked to focus more of their time and effort, and especially to allocate funds, on further research (Salcedo, 2015).

In the 1930’s, baby food was processed and produced in cans. While this development was a significant step forward for women and childcare professionals in the U.S., many parents were skeptical and wrote to the Child Bureau to question the safety and quality of these mushed nutrients. This revolution in child feeding is used widely all over the world today (Bentley, 2014).

After serious laboratory studies, it was determined that the high heat sterilization of the canned meats not only destroyed harmful bacteria and pathogens, but the more pleasant aspects of the food as well, like taste and texture (Salcedo, 2015).  

For the first time in history, large groups of people were relying on commercially produced and processed foods. But, the nutritional value they contained was useless if the men considered them unpalatable. A new field of study then developed: food acceptance research. Prior to WWII, the masses hadn’t relied on anyone else but themselves for their next meal. Local tastes and individual family ideals were the biggest contributing factors to meal time items, so the monotonous, factory produced rations were largely rejected (Dove, 1946). The Army still considers food acceptance research so important that they dumpster dive to see what hasn’t been eaten (Stipp).

The Quartermaster Corps sought Milton Hershey’s assistance with an emergency ration bar that included chocolate was nutritious enough to sustain a soldier for a whole day. The large-scale production helped Hershey and his company become the prime chocolatier for the U.S. Army. Anyone who has been to a grocery store, mini-mart, convenience store, or gas station, knows that was beneficial for him because Hershey chocolate is everywhere (Fisher & Fisher, 2011). The K ration bar that was developed with that chocolate has inspired numerous other granola, breakfast, cereal, energy, and protein bars since (Salcedo, 2015).

Additional preservation methods were developed during WWII, such as freeze drying and intermediate-moisture foods (IMFs). Although freeze drying a product created a less than desirable taste, it preserved nutrients and was shelf stable for long periods of time. It was also significantly lighter than canned goods (Fisher & Fisher, 2011). Remnants of that technique are still seen on our grocery store shelves today, with things like instant coffee and bits of shriveled fruits in cereal.  Although most of the investment on freeze drying has been tossed to the wayside, IMFs are still being sent to our brothers at arms overseas and line our grocery store shelves. Salts and sugars are added to these foods to bring down the water activity, which is one of the biggest spoilage factors for food. Despite its great ability to stay fresh, these salted and sugared foods then become more addictive than they originally would have been. And as any evening news coverage can tell you, added salts and sugars are raising our blood pressure, instances of heart attacks, and diabetes. Some IMFs that we see on our shelves today include cookies, breakfast pastries, and energy bars (Salcedo, 2015).

Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (also known as CRADAs) are one of the ways the military involves industry and academia in their food science ventures. Many big name companies (ConAgra, Frito-Lay/PepsiCo, General Mills, just to name a few) were involved in CRADAs in 2007. Many companies started helping the military during WWII and found it to be mutually beneficial because the techniques and processing they developed were then marketable to the general public since they didn’t have to relinquish any patents. These military encouraged research ideas were also better at feeding the troops than industry would have been on their own, since their bottom line was a goal instead of money (Meiselman & Schutz, 2003).

As any red-blooded American knows, bread, cheese, and packaged deli meat are a few of the main ingredients of a quality sandwich. However, the ones that line the grocery store shelves today are not the same products that were available before WWII. Even these common goods were ‘improved’ by wartime efforts. When most Americans were still going to the butcher for actual cuts of meat, bones were left in as an insurance policy that the meat was fresh and free of spoilage. But, these cuts of meat were not convenient for sending to our troops. It was also not possible to have the meat travel alive, and ‘by the hoof’. To supply our Army with adequate protein, the Quartermaster Corps decided to develop a way to send our men boneless meats. Charcuterie on a large scale was expensive and more difficult to procure than what Oscar Mayer helped the Army supply. At a slow pace, it was discovered that meat could be shaved, mixed together, manipulated, and then have its pH lowered to ensure preservation (Fisher & Fisher, 2011). This method allowed for the Army to utilize less favorable cuts, reduce waste, and increase protein consumption both in the field and at home (Salcedo, 2015).

Bread baking was time consuming and yielded small, perishable amounts. Canned bread being shipped overseas was a failure. The Quartermaster Corps needed to find a way to preserve flavor, aroma, texture, and the product itself. The modern loaf of bread stales slower, is made of less ingredients, and the end product has higher rates of gluten (which, controversially, may be increasing the cases of Celiac’s disease). By manipulating the enzymes in the dough, the bread bakes faster and is much lighter than it was before the war. All of these changes led an Army contractor to say that the carbohydrate loaf produced was a “non-staling bread-like product” (Salcedo, 2015).

The additives developed during WWII sparked further research and in a CRADA with Nabisco in 1996, food scientists discovered ways of making preserved foods taste better. These additives can be found in many grocery store items: frozen foods, baby foods, energy bars, bakery items, candy, cereals, and many more (Salcedo, 2015).

Plastic wrapped cheese slices are a fond childhood memory for most college-aged students these days, but the ability to preserve cheese and form it as a slice was developed for our military, as well. With the help of emulsifying salts, these slices can withstand higher temperatures than traditional cheese making methods and can also be produced much cheaper. But with these added salts and change of recipe, the Kraft company, still a booming voice in the snack world, created something that is deemed a ‘cheese-like product’ (Salcedo, 2015). But, the development of cheese products didn’t end with Kraft slices. When the internal structure of cheese is shortened, is dries and fines. This creates a cheese flavored powder. Not long after this dusty development, the Cheeto was born. Boxed mac ‘n’ cheese and Goldfish, Cheeto’s close cousins, were soon to follow and are still a big hit with children and youth (Salcedo, 2015). Don’t ask, ‘what did the Army ever do for me?’

The Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn received the largest funding from the Quartermaster Corps in 1944 to help create a polymer with viscosity, elasticity, and strength. A copolymer, called Saran, was the development. This tough structure was water and oxygen resistant and used for outdoor seat covers, among other things. With further development, the copolymer was constructed into a film to seal food packaging. And as any frustrated kitchen professional can tell you, Saran wrap was not only successful for the troops, but, in 1949, for commercial and at home kitchen use, as well. Despite the observations of the Quartermaster committee on plastics, the leeching of the polymer blend was ignored by the Army, but the commercial recipe was discreetly changed in 2004 by the S. C. Johnson & Son brand. The wrap we fuss about at home (when it sticks to itself) is much less likely to disintegrate into our food. (Salcedo). This will be a word of relief to my mother.

With all these improvements to food, increase in military mouths to feed, and fighting taking place in other countries, America’s agricultural productivity actually increased. With the increase in crops the U.S. was able to feed not only our own troops, but some of our allies, as well. Our government saw the value in that and decided that some farm workers qualified to skip out on the draft. The war also led to search for a long lasting butter alternative. Margarine was born, and with that cash crop soy bean industry started to boom. This cheaper protein crop was a great export to troops, but created some soil problems on the home side. There are also some skeptics about soy products because of its ability to increase estrogen levels; something especially frowned upon for feeding manly troops (Collingham, 2012).

In the 1960’s and 70’s the players in the American plastic industry gathered for a conference to discuss what was next in the plastic world. The Quartermaster Corps was looking for ideas to help with their synergistic packaging material project. Research and development with names like Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Kodak, Pillsbury, and Procter & Gamble, and experiment with materials like foil, vinyl, and laminate resulted in exactly what the Army was looking for: a tactical juice box. The Quartermaster Corps needed a pouch that could withstand high temperature and high pressure, and again, the industry delivered. PCNC (polymer/clay non-composites) are still a concern for some, and the FDA has yet to make a ruling on whether some of our food packaging that contains them is safe. The investigations into the kinds of health effects that could be risked are few and far between (Salcedo, 2015).

How does packaged guacamole stay green when a cut avocado turns brown in less than an hour? Hurdle technology and high-pressure processing are ways that uncooked processed foods can stay shelf stable for long periods of time. They are used to keep products that have varying moisture levels stable (wet sauce, dry crust, moist cheese), prevent nonenzymatic browning, control lipid oxidation, and prevent microbial contamination (Salcedo, 2015).

The Quartermaster Corps has also implemented a very important seven-point plan called HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points). They started this plan when working on food for future space programs. President Obama signed into law, in 2011, a mandate that said that all food serving establishments must follow the HACCP plan (Salcedo, 2015). It was announced just recently that any manned missions to Mars will have their food developed by the same center that the Quartermaster Corps used for their greatest food developments. The HACCP plan and reliability of the Quartermaster Corps are necessary for these food developments because there is no room for error when astronauts are in space. This food will need to last for 3-5 years and maximum vitamin stability. Research and development has begun this year since testing will taking years (Benson, 2016).

It is clear what the individual soldiers would like more development on: peanut butter sandwiches, crispy French fries, and medium-rare steak. The texture of the fries and peanut butter don’t cut the mustard after sitting on a shelf, and the bloody pink of a steak cooks after exposed to high heat to prevent contamination. The boys in the dessert just aren’t happy with their three-year old chicken sandwiches (Stipp, 2003). It’s important that our military continues its food acceptance research because nutrients have to be palatable, or we risk losing wars and lives. Through food habit, psycho-physiological, and organoleptic studies and statistical theory, the Army determines what’s best for delivering nutrients and what’s most likely to be eaten (Meilselman & Schutz, 2003). The Quartermaster Corps is still working on a dermal nutrient delivery system to help supplement soldiers that are eating prepared rations for long periods of time. They hope that someday a patch can help deliver micronutrients to help their mental and physical performances (Stipp, 2003).

In the 1960’s, approximately half of the funds the Army had for research and development went to academia and private industry, while the other half stayed inside military agencies; most of the money the Navy spent on R&D went to outside sources. To this day there is no shortage of industry interest in this market. The Navy’s evaluation of proposals for these bids include scientific merit of proposal, relevance of military mission, and competence of investigator (Weidenbaum, 1961). Whoever can prove their best value will win the contract. Unlike many other fields, the military supplies used for our troops are almost completely produced by American companies. This is all thanks to the Buy American Act and Berry Amendment. The Defense Supply Center of Philadelphia spends around $13 billion on food, clothing, and products for our troops through companies based in the United States (Grasso, 2010).

New crops, technologies, and equipment, all from military research and development, have trickled down to the most basic food suppliers. Our military has shaped most of our food supply without most of us knowing it. The improvements (and problems) with our current edibles have come from names we are familiar with, but through contracts we weren’t aware of. With our troops, and hopefully, our freedom in mind, the Quartermaster Corps has created food of the future yesterday. Time can only tell what further developments will be made on the food science front, and whether the current ones need further review for health concerns. But, until then, our last year’s Kraft cheese dust macaroni, General Mills IMF cereal bars, and high pressure processed green guacamole covered with Saran wrap will have to do.

 

Sources

Benson, J. (2016, May 24). Natick’s food packaging/processing will support Mars mission. Retrieved August 11, 2016, from https://www.army.mil/article/168406/naticks_food_packagingprocessing_will_support_mars_mission

Bentley, A. (2014). Industrial Food, Industrial Baby Food: THE 1890S TO THE 1930S. In Inventing Baby Food: Taste, Health, and the Industrialization of the American Diet (pp. 15-42). University of California Press. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.bu.edu/stable/10.1525/j.ctt14btg4h.5

Collingham, L. M. (2012). The taste of war: World War II and the battle for food. New York: Penguin Press.

Dove, W. (1946). Developing Food Acceptance Research. Science, 103(2668), 187-190. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.bu.edu/stable/1673169

Fisher, J. C., & Fisher, C. (2011). Food in the American military: A history. Jefferson, NC: McFarland &.

Grasso, V. B. (2010, February 25). Department of Defense Food Procurement: Background and Status. Retrieved August 11, 2016, from https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS22190.pdf

Meiselman, H. L., & Schutz, H. G. (2003, June 1). History of food acceptance research in the US Army. Appetite, 40(3), 199-216. doi:10.1016/s0195-6663(03)00007-2

Salcedo, A. M. (2015). Combat-ready kitchen: How the U.S. military shapes the way you eat. New York City, NY: Penguin Random House LLC.

Stipp, D. (2003). Son of Spam. Fortune, 147(1), 46-47.

Weidenbaum, M. (1961). The Military Research-and-Development Market. Journal of Marketing, 25(4), 38-41. doi:1. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.bu.edu/stable/1248990 doi:1

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Some Like It Pungent: An Analysis of Heat Perception

This paper was written for my Food & The Senses class, Spring 2017. We were to examine literature about one of our five senses in regards to food. I chose to analyze the mouth’s perception of heat. Overall, this paper helped me understand the biological level of taste and allowed me to form a better vocabulary for different sensory experiences.

Introduction:

“Be careful, that’s hot!” is an everyday warning. An urge to use cation from one person to another in order to avoid pain. A parent might say it to their child while ironing, a sister to her brother about a hair styling tool, or a welder to an apprentice reaching for a blowtorch. However, if someone serving food exclaimed this, there isn’t a clear meaning. What does hot mean? Is the plate warm to the touch, will the food burn the mouth, or will there be a burning sensation? People know the difference between thermal forms of heat and spicy forms of heat, but their vocabulary is ambiguous and can create confusion.

Research Question:

In this paper, I will discuss the biological difference between the human experiences of sensing food temperature and sensing spicy food. I wanted to know, what terminology, if any, appropriately describes these sensations. Many terms currently used are deficient or cause discord.

Through understanding the physical processes that occur and what vocabulary is applicable to them, people can better express their experiences. Creating terms for common usage will help culinary professionals, food writers, and any food-consuming individual. This means, basically, anyone could benefit from concrete definitions about these heat-related gustatory sensations. I hope my research and suggestions will be useful in the establishment of such terminology.

Literature Review & Gaps in Research:

Much of my research focused on the thermal and chemical interactions of food in the mouth. These studies were not hard to find and although some mentioned how that information could be useful for the other and vis versa, they were not yet considered together, and neither was their vocabulary. By analyzing the scientific studies, I was able to see the areas that have not been linked. Proper sets of definitions have not been at the forefront for academics because the developments on the differences between sensing heat from temperature and heat from spice have been recent. One of the researchers I studied even changed his definitions over time; I am sure definitions will continue to evolve in accordance with updated information (Marriott 1993 & Green 2017).

I also considered the average words used to describe sensations from food. Unfortunately, these culinary terms are broad and inadequate. Other common expressions were misnomers, confusing, or inaccurate. The words we use limit the scope of expression and do not give justice to our sensations. An improved vernacular is overdue, and future research will be more concise and easier to interpret with its help.

Temperature-Sensing:

The concept of ‘a hot meal’ has been the essence of comfort and hospitality for generations. Many do not consider their food a meal unless it is warm. Why do we enjoy our food on the warmer side? Of the five tastes; umami, bitter and sweet (but not salty or sour) are more detectable by the human tongue when warm (71-98 degrees Fahrenheit, specifically). Weak tastes are also harder to identify at approximately 86 degrees (Marriott 1993 & Shepherd 2012). This is one of the reasons that sugar is added to ice cream. Since ice cream is cold, the sweetness is harder to detect, so added sugar makes up for the temperature factor (Heller 2005). On the opposite side, people enjoy hot coffee and often turn up their noses once it reaches room temperature since it no longer produces the desired bitter taste (Brock 2016). The laws of thermodynamics state that the warmer things are the more volatile compounds they release; therefore, warmer foods would also produce a stronger smell, which also means a stronger retronasal smell, which influences taste (Marriott 1993).

The tongue is able to detect temperature, chemical, or mechanical changes through ion channels called Transient Receptor Potential (TRPs) (Shepherd 2012). TRP-M5 are the channels responsible for sensing taste perception at different temperatures. These small nerve fibers open and close, and then send information to the brain via electrical signal (Heller 2005). The warmer the substance, the stronger the signal. Hence, the stronger flavors of umami, bitter, and sweet in warm foods. We have twenty different TRP channels, six of which are devoted to temperature detection: four for warm and two for cold (Medicalxpress.com 2007). These four channels detect different temperature ranges, which enable us to distinguish between a warm handshake and a hot bowl of soup (Ameritasinsight.com 2013). These channels also have subunits. When those subunits combine with the subunits of the other TRP channels, they create new functioning ones. These channels and their subunits give us the ability to sense even the slightest change in temperature; something called thermosensitivity (Medicalxpress.com 2007).

Temperature also affects other aspects of the sensory experience of eating. Differences of temperature change our perception of texture. For instance, colder objects are perceived as heavier than warm ones and the tactile sensitivity of the tongue increases with warmth (Marriott 1993). Cooling the tongue also helps soothe the burning feeling chemicals compounds can cause (Shepherd 2012).

The words I encountered frequently during my research on sensing temperature were: hot, heat, warm, temperature, thermal, thermosensitivity, and taste.

Spice-Sensing:

Really, really ‘spicy food’ is simply not for everyone. The macho men who quip that they enjoy it, are not to be doubted. It has been proven that individuals with higher testosterone levels are able to tolerate the heat better (Begue et al. 2015). The accomplishment of eating certain peppers has been made into contests and cultivating the hottest goes down in record books. Why on earth do people chose to do this to themselves? As it turns out, the pain and pleasure centers of the brain are close together, making the transition of one to the other a thin line. People don’t enjoy the torture of the pepper as much as they enjoy the relief and success of finishing the task (McQuaid 2015).

Peppers need to be hot to protect themselves. Growing in naturally warm, humid climates, like Mexico, peppers are subject to seed-eating fungi and bugs (McGee 2004). Located just beneath the skin of the pepper are small capsules of a chemical compound, called capsaicin; which is the active ingredient in the burning sensation experienced by eaters (D’Souza 2015). Luckily, capsaicin deters bugs and slows microbial growth. This also makes them a staple of the local diets since they preserve other food they are stored with (Thompson 2008). Approximately, 150 times stronger than black pepper, capsaicin comes from the Greek word kapto meaning ‘bite’ (McQuaid 2015).

Dr. Bosland at New Mexico State University differentiates between different peppers with a series of questions: How hot is it? How fast does the heat come on? Does the heat linger or dissipate? Is the burn on the tip of the tongue or back of the throat? Is the heat flat or sharp? (Greenaway 2013). Strong peppers also have the ability to make the human nervous system react with vasodilation, sweating, and flushing (Green 2017). Those in pursuit of these symptoms, and who chose to experience them frequently, become less and less sensitive to their effects (Begue et al. 2015). With practice, chilli peppers can be appreciated similarly to wine. At first, all we feel is the burn from peppers (like the burn from alcohol), then, different types are easier to tell apart, and finally, distinguishing terroir; the ability to determine the particular region they are grown (Greenaway 2013).

Chili pepper connoisseurs use Scoville Heat Units to measure the amount of capsaicin in peppers. In 1912, Wilbur L. Scoville created the method to test pepper strength by diluting pepper extract tablespoon, by tablespoon, until they could no longer detect it (D’Souza 2015). Now, there is a new method to test pepper strength called High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), which determine how many parts per million heat causing alkaloids are in a given pepper (Chilliworld.com 2017 & Greenaway 2013). In order to preserve the scale, the amounts from HPLC are converted to SHU (D’Souza 2015).  Currently, the record-holding hottest pepper is the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion that is ranked at 1.2 million SHUs (McQuaid 2015). For a better idea of SHU rankings: bell peppers rank 0-600, jalapenos rank 2,500-10,000, and tobasco ranks 30,000-50,000 (McGee 2004). Factors that influence how hot a pepper becomes are: growing temperature, hours of sunlight, moisture, soil chemistry, and the type and amount of fertilizer used (Chilliworld.com 2017).

Chili pepper production and consumption is more than twenty times that of black pepper, and is by far the world’s most popular method of flavoring (McGee 2004). Capsaicin is chemically related to vanilla, a surprise for such a powerful flavor. We have many places other than our mouths where we sense capsaicin, like our mouth, skin, eyes, ears, nose, brain, bladder, membranes, colon, and urethra. The burn from peppers are helped by drinking cold liquids that saturate the tongue. Alcohol only helps relieve the pain if it’s cold, water is better, ice water is even better, but the best thing to drink with spicy foods is whole milk (Nasrawi & Pangborn 1990). Milk fats dissolve capsaicin (McQuaid 2015). The burn from capsaicin is sending signals from the tongue to the brain that indicate both pain and heat. The pain fibers on the surface of the skin, called polymodal nociceptors, respond to temperature changes, mechanical stimuli, and chemical influences. Capsaicin is just a chemical compound fooling our perception. These nociceptors transmit info about tissue damage to the spinal cord and brain (Tominaga 1999). This process does not damage the taste buds but, after prolonged exposure, capsaicin begins to block pain (Greenaway 2013 & Green 2017). Thankfully, knowledge about capsaicin is helpful for blood pressure medicine research. Vasodilators are treatments that dilate blood vessels to make blood flow easier (Mayo Clinic 2016).

Capsaicin is also helpful for those who tend to overeat. The chemical makes us feel satiated sooner and increases our metabolic rate. Contrary to popular belief, spicy foods do not increase risk of cancer or stomach ulcers. Unlike other spices, pepper does not reduce its spiciness with cooking (McGee 2004).

The burning of capsaicin has affects on our other senses and those senses also change our perception of capsaicin. The burning quality of capsaicin is reduced by cooling and increased by warming. If drinking ice water to dull the burn, as soon as swallowed, the tongue heats back up and the burn returns. The burning irritation also makes cool foods perceive warmer than they are. Certain amounts of capsaicin can dull the sensitivity of our sense of taste. When delivered simultaneously, capsaicin suppresses other scents (Shepherd 2012).

The terminology I saw most during my spice-sensing research were: capsaicin, pain, burn, irritation, taste, hot, flavor, spicy, pungent, detect, Scoville, and chemesthesis.

Terminology:

As far as I could find, there was no published work explaining specific terminology that differentiated between sources of ‘heat’. Although the processes by which we sense heat from peppers and sense heat from temperature are very similar, exclusive vocabularies are important for both. During my research I came across many words that I thought would be significant for helping us explain the sensation of eating.

The chemical absorption that comes with consuming capsaicin is an example of the process of chemesthesis. This ‘non-taste taste’ phenomenon occurs with other ingredients, as well. The Szechuan peppercorn, a staple of Asian cooking, gives a numbing, tingly spicy sensation delivered by the compound sanshool. Through studies it has been determined that the tingle is approximately 50 hz and a single nerve may be responsible for its perception. Another similar sensory event is the way humans feel allyl isothiocynanate, the active ingredient in radishes and mustard. Although accurate, chemesthesis is not common enough a word to ask society to make a general shift in using it to describe ‘spicy’ food (Greenwood 2015).

Even though we ask and encourage people to use their thermosensitivity every day, it sounds more like a super power than a personal thermometer. Our ability to detect subtle temperature changes leaves us asking if it is cold out to our friends and neighbors who have ventured outside ahead of us; ask about the predicted, relative thermosensitivity to your friends and soon you’ll find you don’t have any. Much like chemesthesis, most people do not know what the word is and would rather keep their current terms than switch to something from a biology textbook (Medicalxpress.com 2007).

Flavor is a word used to describe the properties derived from a food source that are sensed on the tongue and influenced by retronasal smell. Despite his accuracy earlier in this paper, Barry Green gets flavor wrong. He defines it as a description of the totality of oral sensations, including: taste, smell, retronasal smell, touch, temperature, and chemical irritation. There have been major advancements in the study of the human senses since Green created this definition, so his point is moot (Marriott 1993). Flavor is not an accurate term for temperature or the spicy quality of peppers. Taste, on the other hand, is easier to rule out for capsaicin; since we can sense the burn in other areas of our body that don’t have taste buds, capsaicin is an experience, not a taste. Taste is the sensation of flavor perceived in the mouth and throat on contact with a substance. Since we perceive temperature rather than tasting it, neither flavor, nor taste work well for either experience (Green 2017 & Brock 2016).

The phrase ‘spicy food’ is usually used by Western cultures to explain the burning sensation of capsaicin. “Spicy: having the quality, flavor, or fragrance of spice” (Merriam-Webster.com 2017). Unfortunately, this phrase is vague; using it for just capsaicin steals the glory from other spices. Not all spices are so hot that milk fat needs to be involved. Peppercorns and radishes should be deemed ‘spicy food’, as well. Therefore, spicy doesn’t work exclusively for pepper’s capsaicin. The same case is made for ‘burn’. Food can absolutely burn the mouth, and burning is definitely the feeling we perceive from pepper. So, since ‘burn’ applies to both feelings, it doesn’t help with clarity.

Is ‘hot’ an appropriate term for heat-sensing? Meteorologists use it on the weekly forecast, don’t they? Hot has definitions that work for both: “having a relatively high temperature” and, “capable of giving a sensation of heat or of burning, searing, or scalding.” The word may work for both, but it doesn’t clear up any confusion. The hard part isn’t finding a word that describes the sensation, but rather looking for a unique word with a specific definition to help differentiate between heat sources. ‘Hot’ is used by Western cultures as an easy to read warning about temperature. Plastering ‘hot’ notices on dangerous equipment can prevent law suits. Despite its dual definition, ‘hot’ can work for temperature, but only until the Western world has a more dedicated term (Merriam-Webster.com 2017).

Chilli heat is ‘neither a taste nor a smell, but a visceral, intrinsically unpleasant burning sensation’ (McQuaid 2015). Capsaicin cannot be accurately described by taste, smell, spicy, or hot. During my research I found a word that would encompass capsaicin without being confused for temperature. Pungent. “Neither a taste nor a smell, but a general feeling of irritation that verges on pain” (McGee 2004). If peppers are going to be sought out like fine wines, pungency would merely be a category to measure, not a general term for the flavors from peppers.

Concluding Thoughts:

My research helped me grasp the physical processes the mouth endures through both thermal and chemical reactions. An analysis of vocabulary for both processes led me to the conclusion that certain words can create more confusion, instead of less. Exclusive vernacular for both sensations is important for more accurate expression and explanation. To prevent physical pain from either source, or to direct those only looking for only a certain kind, proper vocabulary needs more research. Overall, the term ‘hot’ can be used for high temperatures, if only for cultural consistency. I think there needs to be a better word for temperatures uncomfortable to consume. The word ‘pungent’ is a great word to describe the feeling of capsaicin. Exclusive and simple, this is a great example for a food-specific definition.

Citations:

Bègue, Laurent, Véronique Bricout, Jordane Boudesseul, Rébecca Shankland, and Aaron A. Duke. 2015. “Some Like It Hot: Testosterone Predicts Laboratory Eating Behavior Of Spicy Food“. Physiology & Behavior 139: 375-377. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.11.061.

Brock, Lauren. “How Temperature Affects the Taste of Food.” January 20, 2016. http://www.freshtemp.com/blog/how-temperature-affects-the-flavor-of-food.

Definition of HOT“. 2017. Merriam-Webster.Com. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hot.

Definition of SPICY“. 2017. Merriam-Webster.Com. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spicy?utm_campaign=sd&utm_medium=serp&utm_source=jsonld.

D’Souza, Dilip. 2015. “Measure For Spicy Measure“. Http://Www.Livemint.Com/. http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/BvkASGhJq002Eqhg5fFzyI/Measure-for-spicy-measure.html.

Green, Barry. 2017. “Why Is It That Eating Spicy, & ‘Hot’ Food Causes The Same Physical Reactions As Does Physical Heat (Burning And Sweating, For Instance)?“. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-is-it-that-eating-spi/.

Greenaway, Twilight. 2013. “How Hot Is That Pepper? How Scientists Measure Spiciness“. Smithsonian. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/how-hot-is-that-pepper-how-scientists-measure-spiciness-884380/.

Greenwood, Veronique. 2015. “Food: How Spicy Flavours Trick Your Tongue“. BBC. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150120-hidden-ways-your-tongue-tastes.

Heller, Lorraine. “Food Temperature Affects Taste, Reveal Scientists.” December 19, 2005.  Accessed March 1, 2017. http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science/Food-temperature-affects-taste-reveal-scientists.

How Does The Human Body Sense Temperature Changes?“. 2013. Ameritasinsight.Com. http://ameritasinsight.com/employee-benefits/industry-buzz/how-does-the-human-body-sense-temperature-changes.

Lim, Jaehong. 2017. “Hot And Cool: Serving Temperature And The Food Taste” Sites.Psu.Edu. https://sites.psu.edu/siowfa15/2015/12/03/hot-and-cool-serving-temperature-and-the-food-taste/.

Marriott, Bernadette M, and Barry Green. 1993. Nutritional Needs In Hot Environments. 1st ed.

Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

McGee, Harold. 2004. On Food & Cooking. 1st ed. New York: Scribner.

McQuaid, John. 2015. Tasty. 1st ed. New York: Scribner.

Nasrawi, Christina Wu, and Rose Marie Pangborn. 1990. “Temporal Effectiveness Of Mouth-Rinsing On Capsaicin Mouth-Burn“. Physiology & Behavior 47 (4): 617-623. doi:10.1016/0031-9384(90)90067-e.

Researchers Discover Key To Body’s Ability To Detect Subtle Temperature Changes“. 2007. Medicalxpress.Com. https://medicalxpress.com/news/2007-02-key-body-ability-subtle-temperature.html.

Shepherd, Gordon M. 2012. Neurogastronomy. 1st ed. New York: Columbia University Press.

The Scoville Heat Scale For Chilli Peppers And Hot Sauces“. 2017. Chilliworld.Com. https://www.chilliworld.com/factfile/scoville-scale.

Thompson, Andrea. 2008. “Self-Defense: Why Chili Peppers Pack Heat“. Live Science. http://www.livescience.com/2774-defense-chili-peppers-pack-heat.html.

Tomginaga, Makoto, Michael J. Caterina, Tobias A. Rosen, and David Julius. 1999. “The Capsaicin Receptor. A Heat- And Proton-Activated Lon Channel“. Nature 39 (3): 159-164. doi:10.2142/biophys.39.159.

Vasodilators“. 2016. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure-medication/art-20048154.

 

No crying over raw milk: Analysis of the United States’ Raw Dairy controversy

In my Ethical Eating and Food Movements class, I was to explore a food movement and determine my own opinion on the subject. I went into this assignment with pure curiosity and little bias. My research alarmed me and I have been unable to drink pasteurized milk since. I buy raw milk from a local farm in Fremont, NH.

 

Thesis:

The population of the United States consumes government regulated, pasteurized dairy products sold at almost every grocery store, the rise of interest in its counterpart, raw dairy, has sparked controversy; this paper will illuminate evidence, contradictory to publicized claims, that raw dairy is safe and citizens should have the right to choose what they consume.

Introduction:

The phrase ‘raw milk’ is not familiar to the average American. Despite what many believe, the milk on supermarket shelves is not considered raw due to the mostly mandatory processing and pasteurization it endures. So, what exactly is raw milk? “Milk that comes from pastured cows, that contains all the fat and has not been processed in any way,” is a definition from one of the largest raw milk supporting foundations in the US (A campaign for Real Milk, 2016). Millions of Americans are unaware of the status of their milk, and those that do know have been led to believe pasteurizing milk is necessary for safe consumption. Government organizations and the dairy industry mislead and lie to consumers about the safety of raw dairy and have made significant efforts to make the distribution and production difficult for dairies and consumption difficult for consumers. These false claims are scare tactics to ensure monopolized market share and to protect factory farms.

I argue, that despite what anyone says, consumers in a free nation have the right to choose what kind of milk they want to buy. Both pasteurized and raw milk, and cheeses, have their pros and cons. Consumers should have readily-available, accurate information on which to base their decisions so that a trip to the grocery store does not require extensive research in order for the health and safety of their families.

This paper will explore the raw dairy industry, the benefits of consuming raw milk, the constraints placed on these dairies, and the truth about pasteurization. Thorough explanations of the arguments for and against raw milk will be presented, although I am sure my bias is obvious. I framed my research through the theoretical framework perspective and I hope it will enhance my point of view.

Theoretical Framework:

Food studies is an up and coming field. Not many institutions have programs that focus solely on it. Thus, the raw dairy industry has been at the mercy of government organizations, lack of public knowledge, and monopolizing agriculture corporations. The discussions about raw dairy are limited and mostly one-sided. Scare tactics are used by both industry and government to convince the public that pasteurization is the only way to safely drink milk, while the small percentage of the population (a difficult statistic to form) that produces and consumes raw milk is a victim of slander and not able to equally defend themselves.

My research included scientific studies of pathogenic bacteria found in raw and pasteurized milk, small dairy testimonials, extensive books on raw food by homeopathic doctors and journalists, and government websites. I believe that all of these sources are applicable to this kind of research because industry cannot be summarized by one model alone. Consumers and producers have valuable opinions, laboratories have extensive studies, and doctors have years of hands on experience; these all help the understanding of the issues surrounding the raw dairy movement.

My paper is an analysis of many sources that uncovers the truth after understanding both sides of the argument. The contribution to the field this paper makes is different because when I began my research I thought of both raw and pasteurized milk equally. After comparing conflicting resources, it became clear to me that this was not the case. My paper is unique and important to the field because I was unbiased prior to my research, strongly considered both sides, and by shedding further light can help people understand raw milk.

Beginning of Pasteurization:

In the early 1900’s milk pasteurization was a new discovery that significantly improved infant mortality rates and prevented food borne illness outbreaks. The problem with the milk was not so much that it was raw, but the unsanitary conditions in which the cattle were milked and kept (Schmid, 2003). By heating milk to 161.5 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately fifteen seconds, microorganisms that cause fermentation and souring are destroyed (Katz, 2006). By sterilizing milk, cramped, unclean dairy operations inside could continue to operate inside cities without spreading diseases and pathogens at such a large rate. Mandatory pasteurization started in cities, where the biggest outbreaks had occurred, and by the 1930’s the large dairies that supplied the masses were operating under the idea of ‘germ theory’ and were pushing for all milk to be pasteurized (Schmid, 2003). Nathan Straus was the largest proponent of pasteurization, since the new technology was an easy investment with promising great return, investor and industry alike seized the opportunity. However, Straus was not ignorant of the biggest dairy problem: sanitation. He knew it was the reason milk needed to be pasteurized, but thought it made more sense to promote the new, easy technology, instead of attempting to enforce difficult sanitation standards on all dairies. Straus even said, “If it were possible to secure pure, fresh milk direct from absolutely healthy cows there would be no necessity for pasteurization” (Schmid, 2003).

Continued smear campaigns against raw milk by the dairy industry won the public over, and the blind prejudice is still present in American households today. Instead of viewing pasteurization as a “necessary evil” because of the poor conditions and health of animals, citizens are under the impression that raw milk is inherently dirty and needs to be heat-treated. “If it were possible by legislation to obtain a milk supply from clean stables after a careful process of milking, to have transportation to the city in perfectly clean and close vessels, then pasteurization would be unnecessary” (Schmid, 2003). This ignorance led the industry from dirty city dairies in the early 1900’s to the horrific, mass produced factory farms of today, without the consumer realizing the truth. Any milk can become dangerous “in the course of its processing, handling, and storage, or as a result of diseased animals” (Katz, 2006). So, despite pasteurization, milk continues to cause food borne illnesses today.

Uncovering the Truth of Raw Milk:

Pasteurization may indeed kill harmful microorganisms, but it also kills the helpful bacteria and enzymes found in raw milk.  Lactase, an enzyme destroyed through pasteurization, is what helps breakdown the milk sugar lactose. Individuals who are lactose intolerant can drink raw milk and not be affected because the naturally occurring lactase would help them digest it. Another enzyme pasteurization destroys is phosphatase, which is required for the absorption of phosphorus and calcium by the human body. Pasteurization also diminishes the vitamins B6, B12, and C that are found in milk (Katz, 2006). The experts on raw milk say, “the milk should be full-fat milk, as many important anti-microbial and health-supporting components are in the fat” (A campaign for Real Milk, 2016).  So, not only are there less nutrients in skim milk, but pasteurization also renders the helpful enzymes useless. The enzyme lactoferrin would contribute to human health by taking iron (food for pathogens) into the blood stream, assisting those with anemia. The most powerful fact for the argument of raw milk is the pathogen-fighting enzyme lactoperoxidase. This enzyme is found in all animal secretions, but a high level is found in raw milk (Schmid, 2003). This amazing enzyme is able to destroy bacteria like E. Coli, listeria, and salmonella without the assistance of pasteurization. Mark McAfee, the owner of a large raw dairy operation, put lactoperoxidase to the test by adding pathogens to his raw milk as well as pasteurized milk, then testing the results. His raw milk destroyed the bacteria, while the pasteurized milk was so sterile that the bacteria grew (Katz, 2006). The government insists that raw milk can contain listeria and has evidence to prove it (Behravesh, 2011). However, what they fail to mention is that not all listeria is pathogenic. Small dairies have been shut down when the presence of listeria was found, even when no one became ill. More evidence is showing that the good bacteria that makes raw milk ‘alive’, is able to render some listeria strains harmless (Schmid, 2003). Again, this promotes the idea that germs are not the culprit of food borne illnesses, but rather unclean conditions.

Raw milk has been cited for improving health conditions such as asthma, allergies, digestion issues, and normalizing blood pressure, as well as helping maintain a healthy weight. Doctors in the late 1800’s would prescribe the ‘milk cure’ to start the healing process for those with troubled immune systems, along with proper diet and lifestyle. Fermented milk products (yogurt and kefir) have been cited as an even more nutritious because they contain higher amounts of beneficial gut bacteria (Schmid, 2003).

Creation of a milk-like substance:

“Pasteurized, homogenized milk? Might as well drink water with chalk in it,” said Dan Logue, a dairy farmer from Connecticut said (Schmid, 2003). That may be a humorous analogy, but it is far from the truth. Pasteurized, homogenized milk is absolutely more harmful to the human body, environment, and economy than water with chalk in it.

Pasteurization does more than destroy bacteria and pathogens. By creating a way for milk to technically be ‘safe’, commercial dairies are able to ignore the well-being of their cows. Since the beginning of pasteurization, living conditions for the livestock have worsened, their food has changed from grass to grain, they are treated with antibiotics no matter what, they are fed growth hormones to produce more milk, and their lifespan has been dramatically shortened. Heavy grain diets and long periods of standing on cement causes many cows to go lame. The grain they are fed is likely to go moldy, so milk has the potential to become contaminated with aflatoxins, which are carcinogenic to humans, but are also unaffected by pasteurization. Antibiotics are constantly used on preventative measures and have created strains of resistant pathogens (salmonella has become resistant to fourteen different antibiotics). Over forty percent of the milk on shelves in grocery stores are from cattle with painful infections in their mammary glands, called mastitis. These infections result in pus contaminating the product during milking. Mastitic cattle are treated with penicillin G, a heat resistant antibiotic that more than ten percent of people are now sensitive to. In 1950 cattle were living between 12-15 years and were producing an average of two gallons of milk per day; in 2000 they were producing over six gallons per day but only living an average of 3 ½ years. When cattle are producing more milk, the vitamins become more diluted. However, dairies are not paid for the quality of their milk, they are paid for the amount, so even if a commercial dairy manager wanted to ‘the right thing’ and treat the cattle better, shareholder’s rights push them towards whatever makes larger profits (Schmid, 2003 & Katz, 2006).

All of these issues concerning dairy cows are scary, but the most potentially dangerous is rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone). This hormone is what enable cattle to produce significantly more milk than their ancestors just sixty years ago. Along with more milk, is also more mastitis and more pus in commercial milk products. rBGH has been shown to increase the insulin like growth factor in milk which is associated with cancer in humans. The Food and Drug Administration approved widespread use of rBGH without much research on its affects and also decided that labeling products produced by cattle treated with it was not mandatory (Schmid, 2003). The United States is one of only three countries in the world where rBGH is legal (Mexico and Brazil are the two other countries). When the FDA approved the hormone, Canadian officials said their process was, “largely a theoretical review taking the manufacturer’s conclusions at face value. No details of the studies nor a critical analysis of the quality of the data was provided.” (Katz, 2006).

People are becoming more at risk for health issues due to commercially pasteurized dairy. Johne’s disease is slowly affecting more and more cattle every year; it causes diarrhea, emaciation, and eventually death. The bacteria that causes Johne’s is difficult to detect, and the milk industry has been slow to acknowledging the correlation between Johne’s in cattle and Crohn’s disease in humans. Interestingly, the bacteria that causes Johne’s will not take hold in the human stomach when consumed by raw milk. Vitamin A is diminished through pasteurization; which humans need to assimilate the protein in milk. This means human bodies pull vitamin A from their liver to help process milk, which will eventually lead to depletion and could lead to autoimmune disorders. Another health issue faced from pasteurized milk is from protein enrichment. Although that sounds like a positive aspect, the nonfat dried milk that is added to reduced fat milk creates oxidized cholesterol which is carcinogenic and builds up in the arteries (Schmid, 2003).

If these issues were not enough, the future of pasteurization takes even bigger risks. Through ‘cold pasteurization’ technology, milk goes through high doses of radiation created by cobalt 60 and cesium 137 (two nuclear industry byproducts). This process diminishes taste and nutritional value, alters molecular structure, generates free radicals and radiolytic products (like, benzene, formaldehyde, and other known carcinogens). At this point in time ‘cold pasteurization’ is on the rise and does not yet have restrictions and does not require labeling.

Government & Industry Scheming:

Raw dairy became a movement in the United States after mandatory pasteurization laws. However, it was slow moving due to the lack of public acceptance. The eventual chipping away of commercial market share led to the milk industry and FDA pushing back. In 1986, the FDA prohibited the shipment of raw milk, butter, and cream across state lines. The more people demanding raw milk, the less expensive it is, making it actual competition for commercially pasteurized milk. The laws passed have much more to do with sales than actual consumer health; however, that’s not what they are telling to the general public. The Center for Disease Control & Prevention says that an outbreak due to raw milk is “150 times more likely than in the past.” This ‘fact’ is presented with no additional information to explain its claim. Their answer to lowering the risk of food borne illness is to always drink pasteurized milk (Raw Milk: Know the Raw Facts, 2016). When the government releases information in this way it is difficult to determine fact from fiction. Scare tactics work when people’s utmost concern is making healthy choices for their family.

The raw milk movement remains on the rise. Unfortunately, government and industry action are as well. Twenty states still prohibit the sale of raw milk for human consumption, but thirteen states allow for raw milk sales in retail stores. A few states have some options that are compromises, such as cow shares and buying milk directly from the dairy (Planck, 2006).

Studies have shown that people who consume raw milk regularly are developing resistance to pathogens (Schmid, 2003). Others show that the sixty-day aging rule for raw cheeses is more than adequate for preventing foodborne illnesses, mold, and pathogens (Brooks, 2012). In 2007, a freedom of information act request by the Weston A. Price foundation found that there were no outbreaks of listeria due to raw milk (reported) between 1973 and 2005 (Schmid, 2003). These are small victories, but they are showing the American people that what the government claims may not always be true. Thankfully, raw dairy farmers will be protected by the non-profit organization Farm-to Consumer Legal Defense Fund. Members pool resources together to protect both producer and consumer. They have a 24-hour hotline for those who need legal counsel advice, as well as funding for those who cannot afford to defend themselves against the government and other organizations (Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, 2016).

Concluding Remarks:

In my research I discovered why pasteurization came to be. At the time, it was deemed a necessary evil (Schmid, 2003). Now that further research has been conducted on the benefits of raw milk, pasteurization has become an unnecessary evil. Change is on the horizon as people realize that the government and industry may not hold their best interest at heart, but perhaps are reaching deeper into America’s pockets regardless of the eventual consequences (Katz, 2006).

An argument set forward by economist Milton Friedman can be used as an analogy for raw dairy: “There’s no case for the government whatsoever in mandating airbags to protect the people inside the car…If I want to protect myself, I should do it at my expense. There is a case for the government protecting third parties; protecting people who have no voluntarily agreed to enter.” (LibertyPen, 2011). In a free country, which the United States claims to be, people have the right to choose what they want, especially when it comes to consumption. If people have all the facts and choose to ‘risk’ their health by drinking raw milk, it is not the government’s responsibility to stop them.

Commercially produced, pasteurized milk has been a way of life for Americans for a long time. Now that producers have better defense, they have the ability to make changes that could seriously better the food system in regards to milk. A Connecticut dairy was interviewed by edible Boston this year after successfully switching from a commercial dairy to a small-scale raw dairy. “They are making the same amount of money as when they had a larger herd but they now have a lot more potential. Direct retail sales of raw milk have allowed them to have a more sustainable business compared to when they were commercially producing milk.” (Pazmino, 2016).

“The raw milk underground is one of the most widespread civil disobedience movements in the United States today” (Katz, 2006). Spreading facts and enlightening milk drinkers will take time, but once the truth is out, this democratic nation will fight even harder for change, be it legal, or not. Education is key to this movement and the facts are raw.

 

Bibliography

1- Schmid, R. (2009) The Untold Story of Milk. Washington, D.C.: NewTrends Publishing, Inc.

2- Katz, S.E. (2006) The revolution will not be microwaved: Inside America’s underground food movements. United States: Chelsea Green Publishing Co.

3- Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (2016) Available at: http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/mission-statement/ (Accessed: 19 December 2016)

4- LibertyPen (2011) Milton Friedman – Regulation in a Free Society. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8d42BMRNQ0 (Accessed: 20 December 2016).

5- Pazmino, D. (2016) Edible BOSTON. Available at: http://www.edibleboston.com/raw-milk/ (Accessed: 21 December 2016).

6- A campaign for real milk (2016) Available at: http://www.realmilk.com/ (Accessed: 21 December 2016).

7- Behravesh, C.B. (2011) Drinking raw milk: It’s not worth the risk. Available at: https://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/raw_milk.html (Accessed: 21 December 2016).

8- Raw Milk: Know the Raw Facts (2016) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

9- Brooks, Martinez, Stratton, Bianchini, Krokstrom, & Hutkins. (2012). Survey of raw milk cheeses for microbiological quality and prevalence of foodborne pathogens. Food Microbiology, 31(2), 154-158.

10- Claeys, Cardoen, Daube, De Block, Dewettinck, Dierick, De Zutter, Huyghebaert, Imberechts, Thiange, Vandenplas, Herman. (2012). Raw or heated cow milk consumption: Review of risks and benefits. Food Control, 31(1), 251-262.

11- Planck, N. (2006). Real food: What to eat and why. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.

 

 

 

Irrelevantly In/authentic

This paper was written for my Introduction to Gastronomy class Spring 2016. Per usual, I picked a subject that had me asking more questions than answering. Overall, I think the case study of Canadian cuisine helped me come to the conclusion that the hunt for authenticity is almost ignorant.

Abstract: In a naïve attempt to search for authentic Canadian cuisine, I discovered the controversy that is ‘authenticity’. Even countries with hundreds of years’ worth of strong culinary tradition struggle with applying the word to food, dishes, and techniques. I explored three things in this paper: the ambiguous definition of authenticity, what Canadians are eating and whether they have a chance at an authentic cuisine, and why authenticity is sought after.

Introduction
As a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen, I wanted to know the motifs of Canadian cuisine. Being raised in the South, I was ignorant of the dishes of my recent ancestors. This simple idea was innocent enough, but I had no idea what I was in for. Everything from aboriginal diets, immigrant recipes, and current culinary trends popped up in my searches and the idea of defining authentic Canadian cuisine seemed impossible. I needed to begin again; this time with a broader question. What is authenticity and who has it? And why should anyone care, anyway?

Why authenticity is difficult to define

First, let me clarify that I am not discussing the honesty products, like if they lie about what they contain (horsemeat instead of beef, for example), but rather concepts like the originality of dishes. Counterfeit items are another discussion entirely.

In our global world, we have the opportunities to experience a vast array of foods. People may have entirely different opinions about the same dish. “Ask 20 Mexican cooks to make a tomatillo salsa and you’ll get 20 different salsas.” (Ricker, 2013).  But would nineteen of them be wrong? That’s a matter of opinion as well. Are there concrete answers concerning if things are right and wrong? If a roux breaks, that would definitely be wrong (Schulz, 2010). But, if a tomatillo salsa didn’t contain garlic, is it wrong? So many differing recipes and opinions make authenticity difficult to define.

Authenticity is an experience. No two experiences are the same; therefore, no one can determine if what anyone else had is authentic (Pine, 2014). Personal experiences cannot be inauthentic.

When the average American thinks of ‘Italian food’, a certain idea comes to mind. But that term is very ambiguous in Italy; does it include the food from the German speaking Alto Adige? And at what point did Ancient Roman food become Italian food? One of the earliest Italian pasta sauce recipes is simply a Mexican salsa recipe; is that included in our idea of ‘Italian food’, as well? (Anderson, 2014). If the most popular style of restaurant in the U.S. is Italian, and we still have so many questions about its authenticity, how can we be certain of anything else? It is obvious then, that authenticity is a social construct that changes based off of who you are and where you are.

Determining something as authentic food will also promote just the opposite from happening. People see the lines drawn and want to make techniques and dishes their own. Deviation from the norm can also become part of newer norm. Is this included in the authenticity now? (Anderson, 2014).

Globalization and immigration also make authenticity complicated. People moving across and changing borders creates new foodways and access to different ingredients. An ever evolving food system makes pinpointing near, if not completely, impossible. Considering that no land today is in the hands of the same people that had it at the beginning of time, food origin stories simply include what we can look up or remember (Anderson, 2014).

“A restaurant is only as authentic as profits allow,” (Gan, 2015). This also means that if people believe Chinese food should be cheap and that is the only authentic version of it, there will not be a surviving fine-dining Chinese food restaurant (Godoy, 2016).

Numerous Definitions

Dictionary.com (2016) defines authentic as, “having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified.” Unquestionable is a strong word for people who can’t agree on whether the moon landing happened or not. It also says, “not false or copied; genuine; real.” These definitions don’t help us gain much ground towards the meaning of authenticity since they are so objective and opinion based.

Or maybe authentic food means that it is true to our expectations (Godoy, 2016; Gan, 2015). Authentic shouldn’t mean timeless, though. All foods and dishes evolve; so capturing the spirit of the original could be a step in the right direction (Sukhadwala, 2012). Does this mean our expectations should evolve too? If they don’t, are we limiting what can be authentic?

Authentic dishes could be limited to a list of what is acceptable. There could also be a rule of thumb to determine if a dish makes the list. Authenticity could also mean using specific regional spices and herbs. There are seven ‘macro-regions’ that use similar flavor combinations that are useful for determining origin, as well (Anderson, 2014).

Borghini (2014) discusses the four different perspectives people can have regarding authenticity in food. The first is the realist perspective, where a dish must meet exclusive characteristics in order to be authentic. The second perspective is the constructivist perspective that uses a spectrum to determine what foods are more authentic than others since they consider cultural contamination to be the norm. Existentialist is the third perspective, where those who are on the quest for authentic food are on the search for authentic self. Finally, naïve perspective believes that those who relax and enjoy their experience with food encounter authenticity. He also elaborates that each perspective could possibly analyze specific cases.

The most in depth definition was that of Johnston & Baumann (2015). They concluded that food was authentic if it included at least one of these elements: geographic specificity, is “simple”, as a personal connection, can be linked to historical tradition, or has an ‘ethnic’ background. They further explain that geographic specificity means that food is from an exact location. Many foods are identified through their ‘place names’, such as: Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Roquefort cheeses. They do not, however, discuss if all elements of the food making process must be native to the place in order for it to be considered authentic. Simplicity means unprocessed, fresh foods that don’t require additional preparation. These are usually family farm grown and include things like peaches, oranges, and apples. Authenticity through personal connection means that the person making the dish is creating something more as an artist than simply a food preparer. As with many other claims to legitimacy, history and tradition are some of the biggest determining factors for authenticity of food. Lastly, and their hardest argument to believe, is the ethnic connection. If someone with the same origin as the food is making it, it is authentic. They state that some people won’t go to ‘ethnic’ restaurants if there is not a sizeable portion of the population in the area. They do not address if this necessarily makes the food better, or if a second or third generation ‘ethnic’ people can make authentic food (Johnson & Baumann, 2015).
I’m curious what Johnson & Baumann would think of the way Abarca’s (2008) aunt made tamales. She does not make them in the historically accurate way and instead makes her own twist that many natives disagree with. Would her recipe be considered authentic according to the standards they presented?

Questions on Authenticity

Since the definitions above do not create a clear path for determining authenticity, I have a few questions:

Would Julia Child’s recipes be considered authentic? She was not French, but was trained to traditional standards. What is the recipes she made were not French?

Barbeque is one of North Carolina’s biggest claims to food fame. Do other less famous barbeque producing states have the same amount of authenticity?

Lee (2008) presents a hilarious, yet serious question, “So, let me present the question to you: If our benchmark for American-ness is apple pie, you should ask yourself, how often do you eat apple pie, versus how often do you eat Chinese food?” Does this make Chinese food (Americanized dishes, of course), more authentic than apple pie?

Pak (2013) states, “ingredients and resources are limited and vary from place to place, so just like the eat local movement, which is as local as possible, so is the goal for authenticity.” So, does this mean that immigrants making the same food in their new homes, with the same ingredients are now less authentic?

Pine’s (2004) statement, “If you don’t like something, it’s fake. If you do, it’s faux” could be applied to the subculture food movement of Boston Chinese Food (a unique style of Americanized). Do popular faux foods have any authenticity?

Authenticity needs further defining to make determining itself easier.

What is ‘authentic’ Canadian food?

            Now that I have expanded my understanding of authenticity, to the best of my abilities, I wanted to present what can be considered authentic Canadian food and discussion surrounding those items.
Tim Horton’s is a popular coffee chain in Canada, much like that of U.S.’s Dunkin’ Donuts. Almost all Canadians consider it their own, it did originate there, the foods prepared there are by Canadians according to traditional techniques. Any argument to consider Tim Horton’s anti-Canadian would be hard pressed.

In 2012, twenty thousand Canadian citizens voted to make Poutine (pronounced poo-tin) Canada’s national dish. The origins in Canada can be slightly disputed, but many believe it was first produced in the Quebec province. This cheese curd, French fry, and gravy dish is found all over the country and is undoubtedly, Canadian (Harris, 2013).

These two pitiful examples at a national food show that Canada truly lacks a culinary identity. Continuing, I will present my original research so the Canadian diet can be better understood, and maybe attempts can be made in the future towards a national cuisine, but there is a general consensus that, “there is no such thing as a singular Canadian food tradition” (Iacovetta, Epp, and Korinek, 2012).

 

Canadian Food History

            Early aboriginal peoples in Canada had to survive in a harsh winter conditions and sparse vegetation. Their main foods were reindeer, fish, seal flesh, mice, lobster, and birds. As much as possible of these were consumed, nothing was wasted. Wild ingredients varied depending on the area. Canada has three different categories of regions: surf, prairie, and tundra (Jacobs, 2009).

The first immigrant wave to Canada was in the early 1700’s and was mainly comprised of English and Irishmen. The second wave was just prior to the 1850’s and included French and British Jews, Germans, New Englanders, Scots, Irish, Polish, and former black slaves. In the late 1800’s Hungarians, Finnish, Chinese, and Italian people started to arrive. These groups did not settle in concentrated groups, but rather spread themselves out across the country. In the early 1900’s more diversity arrived in the form of Icelanders, Ukrainian, Russian, Estonian, Lebanese, Serbian, and more Jews escaping the turmoil in Europe. The groups that held their cultural id the longest were the Inuits (Davidson, 1982). Immigrant Canadians are generally ignorant of the lifestyle and foods of the Inuit Native American culture. Their food ways did not have much of an impact on immigrants (Kenneally, 2008).

Restaurant menus, like the of the U.S., were rather conservative and were slow to change. In the 1960’s not much ethnic cuisine was available in the Great White North. In the 1970’s smaller amounts were available, but typically through the mainstream. In the 1980’s ethnic food started to show up in combination with other restaurants and on its own. The menus included further description of the unfamiliar foods. Finally, in the 1990’s the average Canadian knew of basic foreign foods (with undeterminable authenticity) (Gvion & Trostler, 2008).

Current Culinary Trends

Because of their unidentifiable food culture, many Canadian chefs are working hard to bring local ingredients (and therefore, hopefully, authenticity) into the limelight. Chefs pay attention to what the land around them has to offer. Ducks are plentiful; so foie gras is included on many menus. Seafood like cod, lobster, and scallops, are caught fresh and paired with foraged wild mushrooms. Local wines and cheeses are making more appearances as procurers also want local Canadian food products to be recognized. Wild rice, lamb, and bison are other popular menu items. These dishes are not what the average Canadian consumes, but rather what the average mid to high-brow diners see on their menus. Due to their background, most cooking is a typical European style with some Indian inspired seasoning (Chidley, 1998; Hluchy, 2003; McDougall, 1997; Sasvari, 2010; Fabricant, 1997).

Canadian food ways are similar to American’s in the way of large refrigerators, accommodations for allergies and vegetarians at restaurants, specialty food availability, and excess food packaging (Guignard, 2014).

Is ‘authentic’ Canadian cuisine possible?

The diversity in Canada is not a melting pot. Instead, immigrants are encouraged to keep their culture and foodways, thus enriching their communities. A current authentic cuisine does not exist, and at this rate, it may not for another hundred years or more. Most of the culinary traditions, foods, and techniques are from other places, as are the chefs and people themselves. These immigrant cultures also have their own definition of authentic, so creating a national identity would require more of a melting pot attitude. I believe that Jacobs (2009) put it best: “Ultimately, the answer to the conundrum of how a nation whose institutions protect diversity can claim a coherent national cuisine lies less in the determination of whether it actually exists than in the relative importance of the need to assert it.”

Canadians are proud of their diversity and although the culinary scene would prefer to have something of their own, Canadian households are unique and embrace their current foodways and globalization. Canadians have come to love foods like risotto, jerk pork, rotis, pad thai, borscht, moussaka, tandoori, and sushi (Hluchy, 2003).

Why do we seek authenticity?

If authenticity is a socially defined construct that varies from culture to culture and is completely relative to time and place, why do we crave it so much? All over the world, things are labelled authentic. Why? In our global world, we want as much exposure as possible to the things we can get our hands on. Also, authenticity is in the eye of the beholder (for example, the naïve and existentialist perspectives). So, naturally, human beings want to discover their own unique authenticity.

“The power to define a restaurants authenticity rests not with the cooks, but with the customers,” (Gan, 2015). Although, that statement goes against some of the ‘accepted’ definitions of authentic, I agree with it. The laws of supply and demand deem the customer as the true determining factor of the authentic, despite whatever definitions academia may want them to accept.

Regardless of why or who, the pursuit of authenticity is doing good. People are being exposed to foreign things they haven’t had the chance to experience, yet. This goes beyond food, as well. The world is becoming less ignorant of other cultures, people, and ideas. We grow closer through commensality and people tend to fear things that they don’t know. When people are exposed and learn of foreign things, the ignorance that has harmful potential decreases (Pak, 2013; Godoy, 2016).

Is authenticity important?

“What on earth is authentic food, and does it taste better?” (Sukhadwala, 2012). Let me answer that with another quote… “Let’s say we drop this whole authenticity nonsense and grab some amazing Neapolitan-style pizza–in Phoenix” (Knowlton, 2013).

Historians and Anthropologists will fight tooth and nail about what originated where and who brought what to which continent, but seeing as authenticity (if nothing else is certain about it) is relative; does it matter? When those in search of the authentic foods realize they are simply in pursuit of delicious food (which is obviously more important), they can loosen up their rules and enjoy more things.

By no means do I support loss of tradition. Roquefort cheese should remain Roquefort cheese. I understand that things often are done the same way because the art of them has been perfected. Gastro-nostalgia should be something anyone can experience when away from home (Srinivas, 2006). However, loosening the reigns does allow for further food evolution. I have heard many times that most dangerous phrase is, “That’s the way we have always done things.” Holding onto the ‘authentic’ could prevent brilliant new discoveries.

For example, a few years ago a Spanish farmer won a highly-coveted French culinary award. He was accused of cheating and having inauthentic foie gras; a rich goose liver, created by forcing the foul to consume more grain in a few weeks than it would normally through its whole life. It is absolutely true that he did not produce foie gras through force feeding the geese. But, his way was cruelty-free and more sustainable; not to mention, produced better foie gras than the French! In this case, authenticity is not important. His way should be the new way to farm the famous dish (Barber, 2008).

Maybe we should instead consider a different word to describe the positive side of authenticity. Abarca (2004), smartly suggests replacing the word, with original. This pleases the good food finders and the academia nerds.

Conclusion

Authenticity is a complicated concept. As I hope I have shown, it is difficult to define. Canada is the world’s second largest country and is comprised of immigrants from every continent. But, trying to find authenticity there was a headache. As I have said, authenticity has its place. But exhaustingly searching for an authentic Italian pasta dish, just to find out it was originally a Mexican salsa recipe just sounds like a waste of time and resources. Maybe it’s just the hedonist in me that prefers the easy way out with the smorgasbords of food, but let’s relax with the search for authenticity. In this case, it’s irrelevant.

Honey in America: Commodity Analysis

I wrote this paper for my U.S. Food Policy class during the Spring 2017 semester. I was to explore a food commodity in its entirety and the regulatory actors involved along its food chain. I picked honey because it’s a unique food and international household staple. I figured honey would be straightforward, but I bit off more than I could chew when it came to bee research and finding sustainable options. With a kind deadline extension, my honey research led me to discover that controversy and deceit hide behind many corners in the food system; honey is no exception.

Introduction:

What is honey? Every year, Americans consume more than 400 million pounds of the sticky substance (Heavey 2014). According to The New Food Lover’s Companion, honey is, “a thick, sweet liquid made by bees from flower nectar…the darker the color, the stronger the flavor” (Herbst and Herbst 2013). The extensive shelf life and multiple culinary and beauty uses of honey has made it a household staple. Honey is produced both commercially and locally, in a variety of flavors. Clover, orange blossom, and sage honeys are the most popular in the United States, but alfalfa, dandelion, spearmint, and raspberry are some more exotic flavors. The bee product comes in three styles: comb honey, chunk style honey (or cut comb honey), and liquid honey. Other honey products like butters and spreads are also popular, but not considered in this analysis. (Herbst and Herbst 2013).

This paper will discuss honey as a commodity and the major issues facing the honey food chain, such as; production, regulatory, trade, processing, consumer, and nutrition issues. The production of honey is not possible without bees. Therefore, this paper will also explore the problems facing bees and what can be done to create a sustainable honey food way. This paper provides a thorough examination of the key players in honey food chain, as well as their interactions and what that means for our sweet commodity in the future. This paper illuminates the complex politics behind honey and can help consumers be more aware of what they’re eating.

History:

Honey bees are not native to North America. European settlers brought colonies of bees into the Americas around the 1620’s. Bees established a foothold in the ecosystems of Massachusetts before 1800, however there were no honey bees west of Kansas by 1843. Native Americans said that shortly after they saw bees, they would see Europeans. Bees even became known as the, “white man’s flies” (Turpin 1999).

Anyone willing and ready to harvest their own honey in America did, and still can (as long as they adhere to their state agriculture department’s regulations). Backyard beekeeping is a growing trend because of its potential for sweetness and profit. The product is easy for anyone to sell because it requires minimal processing. Public acceptance of local, small-scale production and commercial grocer production have been positive through our nation’s history (Caughey 2015).

Conventional Forms:

Honey is graded on a voluntary basis by a scale constructed by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1967. Liquid honey can be filtered or strained to remove pollen, bee wings, and any other residue that accumulates during the honey making process. Comb and cut comb honey are purchased for their desirable thickness caused by crystallization. Liquid honey is often pasteurized (heated to 145 degrees Fahrenheit) to prevent crystallization and to potentially destroy harmful bacteria. (Ams.Usda.Gov 2017).

The main factors taken into consideration when giving liquid honey a grade is; absence of defects, flavor & aroma, and clarity. Points are given in each category and honeys that score the highest (90+ points) are given Grade A, second highest (80-89 points) are given Grade B, third is Grade C (70-79 points), and honeys that do not receive enough points for Grade C are considered substandard (Ams.Usda.Gov 2017).

Bees travel up to a five kilometer radius from their hive to find potential sources of food. In doing this they encounter various plants, but through strategic planning, beekeepers can produce honey flavored (mostly) by a specific blossom. In order to label these honeys, producers must be able to prove that the specific blossom is the, ‘chief floral source of the honey.’ The Food & Drug Administration does not define what they consider a chief source, so this standard is vague. (Fda.Gov 2016).

Unfortunately, what makes bees so amazing can also be negative. Their ability to pollinate plants helps farmers, but the pesticides, herbicides, and miticides they collect along the way hurts producers, consumers, and themselves. No matter how hard a beekeeper may try to lead his bees to organic sources, almost all bees bring pesticide laden pollen back to the hive. A study conducted by the FDA stated that 98% of the samples of commercially available beeswax is contaminated with miticides, a family of pesticides used against mites. New colonies that are started with contaminated beeswax will retain that miticide during the life of the hive since chemicals linger and even build up in the hydrocarbon chains over time. Not all miticides are synthetic, but those used in commercial operations typically are. In order for honey to be labeled organic it must be, ‘produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation’ (Honey.com 2017). Despite residue findings, organic labeling is still allowed as long as it follows those parameters (Wild, 2011).

Production Issues:

Honey itself is a unique product. Bees are singly responsible for its production and industry only has to do the simple harvesting and distribution. Bees also pollinate over $15 billion dollars worth of United States agricultural crops annually (including apples, oranges, carrots, avocados, coffee, almonds, blueberries, cucumbers, and onions). This means what bees do is immeasurably valuable for our food supply, so any problem with their health is detrimental to the entire industry (Sass 2011).

Bees function well on their own in ecosystems across the country. Unfortunately, in 2006, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) hit bees hard. CCD is a problem that colonies had experienced rarely and sporadically since the 1980’s, but significantly diminished domestic bee populations in the early and mid 2000’s. When CCD happens, a colony will almost completely disappear. Occasionally, a few worker bees and the queen are left behind, but a functioning hive is no longer possible. This makes CCD difficult for scientists to study, since the problem is literally absence. There have been serious indications that certain neonicotinoid pesticides make bees susceptible to the varroa mite. The United States and other countries have since outlawed those pesticides (Miller 2016). Despite industry claims that pesticides are safe and have no adverse effects on bees, “the results certainly indicate that pesticides are very likely involved” in CCD (Frazier et al. 2011). In 1989 there were approximately 3.5 million managed bee colonies in the United States; that number sunk to 2.4 million in 2008 (two years after serious CCD issues), and in 2016 a slight increase to 2.7 million colonies (Miller 2016). “In the United States alone, more than 25% of the managed bee population has disappeared since 1990” (Sass 2011). Although some experts believe that CCD is no longer a serious threat, they do agree more research is needed to come to conclusions about the CCD events of 2006 (Ferdman 2015). Environmental advocates at the Natural Resources Defense Council think the issue is not over, stating that “42% of bee colonies collapsed in the US alone in 2015.” Climate change, loss of habitat, disease, and pesticides are the largest negative impacts on bee health and contributing factors to CCD (Zissu 2015).

Bee research needs to be strengthened by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency.  The USDA has also allocated very little funds for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies (Sass 2011). Private agencies have been at the front of bee research. Beeologics was one of the leading international firms devoted to studying and protecting bees. Monsanto, a chemical company that produces mass quantities of pesticides and herbicides, bought Beeologics in 2011 (Benson 2012). During the acquisition, Monsanto said that their research would be helpful to “develop biological tools to provide targeted control of pests and diseases” (Humphrey 2011). However, the Beeologics website no longer exists and there are no news articles available for anything Beeologics related after 2012. The Monsanto website states that pesticide exposure to bees is a preventable occurrence instead of focusing on intervention to a very real problem (Benson 2012).

The Honey Bee Health Coalition is an advocacy group comprised of agrochemical corporations, government organizations, and large honey producers. Despite their obvious desire to help bees repopulate and thrive, they do not mention anything about how pesticides harm them. Their research efforts may indeed be a positive action for bees, but it is clear that their motives are focused on business first, not the environment (Honey Bee Health Coalition 2017).

With bees (thus, honey production and pollination) at serious risk, inventors have been actively exploring alternatives. Earlier this year, an engineering student created a small drone called Plan Bee. This small helicopter-like device can be steered by remote control and can even “pollinate plants like a real bee”. The student has applied for a patent of Plan Bee and large scale production will be possible in two years (Chang 2017).

Regulation Issues:

Since the ability to produce and sell honey is rather simple, enforcing laws and regulations could be difficult, but due to the nature of honey, not much regulation is needed. Federally, the only requirement for selling honey is proper labeling. Laws vary state to state but specific details about regulation can be found on any state’s Department of Agriculture website (Caughey 2015).

In order to meet requirements, labels on honey must state that the product is honey (or a honey from a specific blossom), any ingredients additional to honey (if it is pure honey it does not require an ingredient list or nutrition facts label), the weight of the product, and the producer name or contact information (Caughey 2015 & Honey.com 2017).

Until 2014, it was not mandatory for producers to label added sugars and sweeteners in their honeys.  “Honey is honey, it’s just that simple.  A bottle of pure honey contains the natural sweet substance produced by honey bees from the nectar of plants or secretions of living parts of plants.  Nothing else. (Honey.com 2017). The National Honey Board has many members that are producers. The decision to label added sugars in honey must have negatively impacted their sales, so such a bold statement on honey purity is a recent development, likely picked by the board in order to secure public confidence in honey products; especially considering most people were unaware of added sweeteners before the initial labeling ruling (Heavey 2014).

Trade Issues:

Out of the 400 million pounds of honey consumed by Americans annually, 350 million are imported. Relying on imports is a dangerous road because the supply must be adequate to meet the demand, but the quality must be acceptable, as well. The European Union banned honey from India in 2010 because of toxin issues (Ferdman 2015). The United States imports most of its honey from Canada, Mexico, Argentina, and China (Honey.com 2017). The Department of Health and Human Services keeps records of honey that is prevented from entering the the country. This is done to protect consumers from concerns like lead poisoning, pesticide residue, and other toxins. There have been 26 separate ‘import alerts’ from 13 exporting countries since 2009 (Acessdata.Fda.Gov 2016).

In an article from NPR’s The Salt, journalists concluded that claims made about Chinese honey by Food Safety News held no stake. The article said that Chinese honey was banned in the United States because of high levels of lead and antibiotics. Although there have been some issues with the quality of Chinese honey, the real concern from the government was that the products were too cheap and undercutting local honey producers. Despite its inaccuracy, the article did bring up an important issue in regarding honey filtration. The average honey is filtered, but ultrafiltered honey removes so much of the bee pollen that its origins are undetectable; a serious issue consumers have with producers and source transparency (Charles 2011).

Processing Issues:

Honey is a simple product that has its own unique producers that do most of the processing themselves. Large-scale producers typically only pasteurize their honeys. They do this to prevent crystallization and destroy potentially harmful bacteria that can occur through the natural collection of nectar. Honey that isn’t pasteurized is called raw honey. Pasteurization also destroys the antioxidants that naturally occur in honey. Raw honey has a mix of antioxidant polyphenols, approximately 50-500 milligrams per kilogram of honey. This mix depends on the species of bee, plants pollinated, the season of the year, and the environment. Raw honey that is stored for six months loses around ⅓ of its antioxidant properties and may change the antioxidant profile completely (Gauci 2015).

Despite pasteurization, glyphosate has been found in almost all commercially available honey. Glyphosate is the main ingredient to the pesticide RoundUp. Producers have no control over where their bees pollinate, that likely means this pesticide residue ending up in our products is inevitable. Experts at the World Health Organization said in 2010 that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. Researchers from the Food & Drug Administration say that glyphosate-free honey is hard to find. In their studies they also discovered that many samples of honey in the United States have glyphosate levels (measured in parts per million) higher than those allowed in the European Union. In 2014, the United States Government Accountability Office criticized the FDA for not testing for glyphosate sooner. The Environmental Protection Agency had set a date in 2015 to begin an assessment of glyphosate, but pushed the date to Spring 2017. The United States Department of Agriculture plans to start testing syrups and oils for the RoundUp residue in 2017. In previous statements, the USDA, FDA, and Monsanto have all said that testing for glyphosate is necessary (Gillam 2016).

Consumer Issues:

Obviously, pesticide residue and honey bee health are issues that consumers are worried about, but even the natural process of honey making can pose a problem for some consumers. A bacteria called clostridium botulism occurs when honey bees collect nectar. This bacteria exists in honey products and if given to babies could give them infant botulism. Babies under one year of age lack the proper gut bacteria to digest the bacteria (Honey.com 2017). Unfortunately, a label informing consumers that babies shouldn’t have honey is not mandatory (Caughey 2015).

Nutrition Issues:

Sugar is made of 50% glucose and 50% fructose, while honey is composed of 30% glucose, 40% fructose, and 20% other sugars. Since its construction is more complicated, we use more calories breaking honey down. Small amounts of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants are also found in honey. Honey is a slightly healthier substitute to sugar, is less processed, and is easily bought locally (Kantor 2014).

Consuming too much honey can create gastric troubles, stomach cramps, and bloating. If honey is overeaten for long periods of time, it can prevent nutrient absorption in the intestines and create insulin insensitivity. Fortunately, it would take ten tablespoons to get anywhere near that point; an amount hard to even accept mentally (Hart 2015).

Regulations by agency:

The United States government regulates honey in a variety of ways; monitoring labeling, providing grading standards, inspections, pesticide restrictions, and determining import & export quotas. There are a few federal agencies involved in these decisions and regulations, as well as individual state agriculture departments.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) publishes the National Honey Report every month. The report includes state-to-state production issues, where our production stands internationally, and how much producers are paid for their product (United States Department of Agriculture 2017). The USDA also appoints the members of the National Honey Board, an “industry funded agriculture group that works to educate consumers about the benefits and uses for honey and honey products through research, marketing, and promotional programs.” The members are comprised of industry professionals and government officials (Honey.com 2017).

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) explains the proper labeling requirements for honey, including distinguishing between pure honey and sweetened honey products (Heavey 2014, Fda.Gov 2016). The FDA is also responsible for testing honey for toxins and hazards. In 2016, they found Monsanto’s glyphosate in every honey sample they tested. Although they test for other pesticide residues in honey annually, this was the first time they tested for glyphosate despite growing public pressure (Gillam 2016). The FDA releases briefs on imports to be seized on arrival at U.S. borders. These imports have been halted for health risks like lead toxicity (Accessdata.Fda.Gov 2016).

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the government organization whose goal is to protect human health and the environment. Their strategy for protecting bees is outlined in Pollinator Risk Assessment Guidance, where the EPA is responsible for “assessing the risks posed by pesticides to bees, giving risk managers the means to further improve pollinator protection in our regulatory decisions.” Although they acknowledge issues pollinators encounter and report information, the EPA has no acting power in these problems (Epa.Gov 2016). They have also established the Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee: Pollinator Protection Plan Metrics Workgroup. This group is comprised of individuals from agrochemical companies, state & tribal agricultural departments, and beekeeping organizations (there are no environmental groups mentioned). The committee’s objectives are to provide recommendations on how to evaluate state and tribal pollinator protector plans at the national level and how to communicate their effectiveness to the public (Epa.Gov 2017). Despite their claims of advocacy, the EPA was caught in a scandal in early 2017. Jess Rowland, a deputy division director for the EPA, told Monsanto they should prepare to prevent a review of glyphosate by the Department of Health and Human Services. The World Health Organization recently determined that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen; prompting many governments to conduct reviews of the substance. Mr. Rowland also told Monsanto executive Dan Jenkins that if he could squash the review, he should “get a medal” (Hakim 2017). Monsanto has released multiple statements about glyphosate saying that it is not a carcinogen. However, internal emails from Monsanto, that were recently unsealed by a judge, executive William F. Heydens told company workers to ghost write research papers about glyphosate and to hand pick scientists to corroborate with their findings (Hakim 2017).

The USDA, FDA, & EPA are all members of the Honey Bee Health Coalition (HBHC), an advocacy group in North America who has a simple motto; healthy bees, healthy people, healthy planet. Other members include: Syngenta, Monsanto, DuPont, Bayer, large food production companies, numerous state agriculture departments, honey producers & associations, and beekeeping associations. Their website states they help bees by improving their foraging diversity, implementing hive management techniques, helping deter pests, as well as public communication and education about bee health. Unlike most bee health advocates, pesticides are minimally mentioned. Donations are welcomed and there are suggestions for action at a personal level. The coalition is monitored by the nonprofit Keystone Policy Center (Honey Bee Health Coalition 2017).

In May of 2015, The White House created the Pollinator Health Task Force to implement the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. This strategy has three goals: 1) reduce honey bee colony loss to no more than 15% in 10 years 2) increase monarch butterfly population to 225 million in Mexico by 2020 through international relations 3) restore or enhance 7 million acres of land for pollinators over the next 5 years through public-private partnerships. The task force also acknowledges that pesticide use harms pollinators. The executive order of the strategy states, “ land management agencies are identifying lands to manage for new and better pollinator habitats: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to balance the unintended consequences of chemical exposure with the need for pest control; the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is looking to expand pollinator habitats, particularly summer foraging areas, under the Conservation Reserve Program; and habitat opportunities are being found in new and creative places, such as on rights-of-way and other easements” (Washington Post 2015).

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has an Apiary Program through their Department of Agricultural Resources that works to “promote and sustain apiculture in the Commonwealth by providing support to honey beekeepers, pesticide applicators, farmers, land managers, educators, regulators, and government officials.” Beekeepers in Massachusetts can ask for inspectors to visit their hives to ensure their bee’s are healthy, have transportation permits issued, and identify parasites and pathogens (Energy And Environmental Affairs 2017). The Massachusetts Apiary Inspection Regulates the management and handling of diseased bees, standard maintenance of apiaries, the inspection and introduction of colonies, quarantines of ill bees, interstate permits, and holding beekeepers responsible for treating their bees correctly  (Department of Food & Agriculture 2017).

Advocacy by non-government organizations:

The American Honey Producers Association is a national, nonprofit organization by beekeepers, for beekeepers. They produce pesticide reports and explain the antidumping laws for honey, as well as international market information. AHPA also gives beekeepers the access to multiple state agencies that can be useful for them. The officers of the association are all beekeepers who have a personal interest in continuing the craft of beekeeping (American Honey Producers Association 2017).

The Pollinator Partnership is a nonprofit organized by doctors and scientists that aims to, “help people protect pollinators to ensure healthy ecosystems and food security.” They state that donors do not influence their decisions. The Pollinator Partnership’s largest initiative is the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC), which holds an international conference with an extremely diverse group of partners from many companies, government organizations, agriculture agencies, universities, and nonprofits. The Partnership is obviously bringing together actors on all sides of politics and opinion in order to find the best way to protect honeybees and other pollinators and have decision makers on the same page for the same reasons (Pollinator.org 2017).

The American Beekeeping Federation & the Foundation for the Preservation of Bees are also nonprofits at the national level. They share the same goals and interests, as well as the same resources, board of directors, and address. They should be thought of as a single organization (American Beekeeping Federation 2017 & Robuck 2017).

The Massachusetts Beekeeping Association is a nonprofit organization created to promote and share information about statewide beekeeping. They list the beekeeping schools in local areas, publish a monthly newsletter, organize events and discussions. They also have a document of best management practices that are guidelines for “safe and healthy management of honeybees” (Mass Bee 2017).

Boston Area Beekeepers Association is a local nonprofit organization geared specifically towards the Boston community and surrounding area. They create events, prompt discussion, conduct a ‘bee school’ for those wishing to start beekeeping, and promote connections and information sharing between local beekeepers (Boston Area Beekeepers Association 2017).

Commentary:

The regulations on honey are relatively loose compared to other food commodities. Both labeling and processing requirements are minimal, and almost any individual can become a honey entrepreneur. The most difficult aspect of honey producing to navigate is honeybee health. One of the most significant factors harming bees is pesticides. However, one of the largest pesticide producers, Monsanto, also needs the bees to pollinate the crops they are treating. This means that even the institutions harming bees need them; although the public may view their actions as advocacy, they clearly have their bottom line in mind. Monsanto wants the bees to be healthy, and yet, still make a hefty profit from their chemical products.

There is a lack of government integrity in regards to honey regulation and transparency. Honey is being labeled as organic despite glyphosate contamination, bee research agencies have been acquired by businesses with a conflict of interest, warning labels about infant botulism are not mandatory, and agencies responsible for testing for pesticide residue are lax. The Environmental Protection Agency has acted in interest of business instead of the public; proving themselves untrustworthy. Pesticides applied to crops need to undergo more testing before they can be deemed safe for bees, food, and human health. There needs to be further research on bee health performed by third party agencies to ensure sustainable hive practices.

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Citations

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Benson, Jonathan. 2012. “Monsanto Buys Leading Bee Research Firm After Being Implicated In Bee Colony Collapse“. Naturalnews. http://www.naturalnews.com/035688_Monsanto_honey_bees_colony_collapse.html.

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Charles, Dan. 2017. “Relax, Folks. It Really Is Honey After All“. The Salt. http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2011/11/25/142659547/relax-folks-it-really-is-honey-after-all.

Department of Food & Agriculture. 2017. APIARY INSPECTION REGULATIONS. Boston: Department of Food & Agriculture. http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/agr/legal/regs/330-cmr-8-00.pdf.

Energy And Environmental Affairs “Apiary Program (Honey Bees)”. 2017. . http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/agr/farm-products/apiary/.

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Epa.Gov. “Pollinator Risk Assessment Guidance | Protecting Bees And Other Pollinators From Pesticides | US EPA“. 2016.  https://www.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/pollinator-risk-assessment-guidance.

Fda.Gov “Draft Guidance For Industry: Proper Labeling Of Honey And Honey Products“. 2016. . https://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/guidancedocumentsregulatoryinformation/labelingnutrition/ucm389501.htm#label.

Ferdman, Roberto. 2015. “Dying Honeybees, And The Uncertain Future Of Honey“. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/05/14/dying-bees-could-mean-the-end-of-american-honey/?utm_term=.449295a76567.

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