Faster. Easier. Cheaper. Today’s American culture demands food that satisfies and provides convenience for a fast-paced lifestyle, but at what cost? Processed foods are a staple for most of society, but these seemingly innocent foods can come with heavy consequences. The use of genetically modified (GM) ingredients, the overuse of corn and soybean products, and the excess of salt in processed foods have considerable effects on the environment, society, and human health.
Processed foods have taken over the American diet (Moss, 2013, xi). These foods are marketed to be delicious, easy, and affordable, often using colorful cartoon characters or eye-catching advertising to pull the consumer in (Moss, 2013, xi). This is especially effective for children; they are more likely to pick Goldfish, “The Snack That Smiles Back”, over a less appealing apple (Moss, 2013, xi). Even foods normally considered to be healthful can be deceiving. A yogurt Yoplait used to sell “had twice as much sugar per serving as Lucky Charms”, but sales were high due to yogurt’s healthy reputation; many yogurts marketed to children are loaded with sugar and flavoring as well, which takes away from the nutritional benefit (Moss, 2013 xiii). Processed foods can be found everywhere from the grocery store, to school cafeterias, to convenience stores. Part of the reason they are so accessible is because processed foods tend to have longer shelf lives than fresh foods, which allows them to be simple to store (Warner, 2013, p. 39).
This attribute is especially desirable to stores in lower-income areas (Warner, 2013, p. 39). These businesses do not want to lose profit on spoiled food, so they tend to sell mostly processed foods (Warner, 2013, p. 39). People in these areas prefer processed foods to fresh foods because they are more “energy dense”, meaning they have a greater number of calories per serving (Pollan, 2013). Higher “energy dense” foods tend to “contain less water and fiber but more added fat and sugar, which makes them both less filling and more fattening”; this allows individuals to afford more calories per dollar of junk food compared to more wholesome foods (Pollan, 2013).
Areas that lack stores that sell fresh or healthy foods are often referred to as food deserts (“Freshmobile”, 2013). Food deserts occur in rural communities and inner cities with “low socioeconomic status” where residents are not in walking distance of a supermarket; this adds to the obesity epidemic in these areas (Pollan, 2013). Additional health problems such as dyslipidemia, high blood pressure, diabetes, and increased cancer risks can all be attributed to the “expanded sales of highly processed foods” (Neal et al., 2013, p. 49).
Food companies do recognize these problems; in 1999, 11 food industry leaders met in Minneapolis to discuss their roles in feeding America (Moss, 2013, xi). They agreed “it was society that had changed, changed so dramatically that these snacks and convenience foods had...