Mislead Over and Over

Greetings from Philadelphia, where I’m spending a few days with good friends.

Upon my arrival in the US this month, I did notice a reasonable amount of buzz in the media and the occasional conversation about toys that had been discovered to have dangerously high levels of lead. Manufactured in China, these toys made the news and toy companies carried out what is called a re-call; requesting that people who have purchased them please return them as they could be dangerous.

My favorite shop on earth for buying food is Trader Joe’s, it is the first place I go when I arrive in the US.  The thing I most like is that I can look at the ingredients of anything, and read the short list.  Normally the ingredients are words that I know and never is there artificial colors or preservatives of any kind.  The thing that is strange, is that Trader Joe’s is considered “Alternative” in many ways.  Normal supermarkets have the big commercial products that have a long list of ingedients many of which start with the prefix poly or mono.  That is considered standard, and many people use those products all their lives.

Whether it is toys, food, or other products that we use regularly in our lives, it seems to me one of the mostparadoxical realities of this society we’ve created in much of the world; we sell each other goods made from materials that can ultimately poison someone, often times while tasting good or smelling good or bringing some short term joy.

Not that I’m against the joy of a nice cookie or a children’s toy. But it seems perposterous that in regular mainstream thought, you buy the cookies or the toys made by the big manufacturer that has uses some really questionable, incomprehensible ingredients to produce them.

How did the world get this way? Why didn’t the masses cry foul and take these producers to court or simply demand they clean up their act? Why is it that even in 2007, with all the experience and time that has passed that humans exist on this earth, that asking for a product made from healthy and simple ingredients is considered somehow alternative or “different”.

Just to add one more thought to all my semi-rhetorical questions today, many people will point to the new kinds of supermarkets and alternative companies that are emerging like the body shop that do things in a sustainable and healthy way. I would agree this is a positive development and a sign of some sort. But what still baffles me is that these companies are so small in terms of the big picture.. so once again.. too little and for many people suffering from the health problems this type of consuming has brought, too late.


  1. December 8, 2007

    One possibility: most people in this country do very little thinking about products they purchase beyond price and arbitrary preference. This is for many reasons like lack of money and time, poor education, and so forth.

    But most of it probably comes from herd mentality and the endless commercial propaganda most everyone, regardless of economic background, is subjected to day after day. Most people seem utterly terrified of stepping out from the crowd and the major media that defines the majority of our reality justifies and reinforces our fear of doing so. That’s if they ever consider questioning something. Most don’t.

    Also, that natural curiosity to question and think, for many reasons, is beaten out of most people by the early teenage years.

    And, there’s also apathy. All of us, myself included, often do not want to know about certain food ingredients, for example, simply to get on with the day. We have different priorities and are willing to accept the risk associated with convenience. On a small scale this might not matter too much, but taken to the extreme, as we often do, it results in much of the fucked up shit of modern human society.

    All of this is mixed together, although I’d say fear of stepping out of line and it simply never occuring to most people to question things are the major factors.

    • bicyclemark
      December 9, 2007

      well at the very least we can say that american life is not without exciting risks… like the exciting risk of choosing to eat fast food or choosing that food item with the huge list of ingredients. Sorry I said american life but actually this is a global phenomenon… so in the end Ive found how regular people live on the edge.. just by going to the grocery store.

      What about the trend for Trader Joes and WHole Foods then Chris.. anything to it beyond being a trend?

  2. DRock
    December 9, 2007

    On one hand you can look at the long list of ingredients on the back of foods and be pretty amazed at how many ingredients it takes to something simple. Knowing that there are some sketchy factories in China that produce most of the ingredients that end up in a lot of the food sold around the world.

    One the other hand don’t buy them. If it’s in a can or a plastic package and has a shelf life of 5 years what do you expect? Get the apple instead of the apple sauce that never goes bad…

    Here’s a fun fact France has one of the highest food poising rates in the developed world

    Industrialization of the manufacturing of food:

    The Good: it’s not likely to kill you quickly though poisoning

    The Bad: It might kill you down the road…but so will a bunch of other stuff, and you don’t have to eat it all the time.

    The bad doesn’t seem so bad

    • bicyclemark
      December 10, 2007

      you think the eat local buy local food trend will grow more making inroads with the mainstream? I was finally in a regular grocery store today… surprised to see certain organic items in there… almost excited by that development.

  3. DRock
    December 10, 2007

    Sure the eat local buy local will continue…my office on capitol hill this summer was putting together a plan with the USDA so people with food stamps (it’s now a debit card) can use them at farmers markets (via wireless internet). At least in DC there are about 5 maybe more farmers markets all over town.

    One of the biggest problems in inner cities is that there were no supermarkets around. An entire ward in DC like 70k people didn’t have a super market until last week. While the uber conscious bemoan the rampant consumerism associated with food…poor folks are still trying to get damn a supermarket so they don’t have to always eat at Chinese take out or chicken places. They would love to enjoy some of that commercialism so they can at least go food shopping.


    • bicyclemark
      December 11, 2007

      you’re coming on my podcast this week. The topic… DC.. representation.. and more!

  4. DRock
    December 11, 2007

    BO YAAA!!!

    I’ll do my homework

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