12 August, 2008

The Parable Of The Frozen Peas

Here's another thought for you, regarding what sorts of tricks "food" manufacturers will stoop to. I've now noticed in several "health" shows that the hosts are at great pains to compare frozen peas (for example) with "fresh" peas. And conclude that the frozen/tinned varieties are better for us.

On how many levels this is wrong, is almost difficult to quantify. First off, it's just bad pop-sci posing as legitimate science. Yes, they got a pet scientist or doctor to venture an opinion, but (and here comes the second level) they're comparing the wrong things, in every case. I'll go to the example of the peas, because that was the one that caught my attention and led to the title of this article.

The show presented the view that peas in a typical supermarket languished in freezers for weeks, and were pretty much a spent quantity by the time you bought them. Frozen peas, on the other hand, were frozen fresh, and thus actually fresher than "fresh" peas.

Can you see all the fallacies? One - calling supermarket peas "fresh" is a misnomer, and these shows confirm that if you buy fresh vegetables at a supermarket you deserve the ill health you'll garner. Supermarkets store "fresh" vegetables to spread the supply out, and thus have control over the buy and sell prices. If you have peas when there's a glut, you command the buy price. And if you have peas when everyone else has run out, you command the sell price. So supermarkets hoard and store.

Two. Before the supermarkets or the canning works get to them, the peas have been held in storage at the farm until they have enough to complete a decent load, or get a decent order together. So before they get frozen, the peas are already stored for some time.

Three. Why are they comparing stored peas with stored peas? There is a world of difference between real fresh peas and peas that have been on supermarket shelves, as much as there is between real fresh peas and frozen peas.

Four. Freezing does destroy nutrients and break down cellular walls, no way to avoid it. And quite often there is at least some level of preservative involved. And in tinned peas, definitely there is preservative needed to keep the peas from spoiling.

It's the same story as all other technology. There may be harm in it but the company or organisation that doesn't adopt it, they will lose. So they do it, and try and justify it. And your job, reader and (hopefully) survivor of the additive onslaught, is to keep an eye on these additives and chemicals, and make sure that the companies that think they see an economic edge in adulterating food, don't get that profit.

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