Processed Food Makers Cut Corners As Prices Rise

Do you read labels at the supermarket? If you do, you may soon notice changes in the ingredients of some of the foods you buy. Food makers are quietly substituting cheaper ingredients in processed foods to offset the high price of commodities.

The Wall Street Journal took note of this trend last weekend, reporting that Food Makers Scrimp on Ingredients In An Effort to Fatten Their Profits [1]. However, that may be overstating their intentions. With high fuel prices driving up the cost of basic ingredients such as sugar and wheat, food companies are are forced to make a choice: raise prices or cut corners. Because competition in the industry is so strong, raising prices is the last thing food companies want to do. Instead, they look to the quality and quantity of the ingredients they use [2]. For example:

  • Kraft Miracle Whip now contains more water
  • Nestle snack products now contain less milk
  • Sara Lee has switched to cheaper wheat for some breads
  • Mars Inc. is reducing the size of its Funsize candy packs
  • Hamburger Helper products have reduced the number of spice and ingredient pouches
  • Some of Hershey’s chocolates are now being made with vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter

Did You Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables Today?

Answering seems simple enough. For many people however, the need to avoid criticism and seek praise causes them to respond in a manner consistent with expected norms. Self-reports of dietary intake can be biased by these tendencies, tainting consumption data collected by the health community. Everyone knows they should eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, so that’s what they say when they’re asked — many even really believe it to be true.

The Upside of High Food Prices

As the price at the gas pump continues to climb, so does the cost of diary, grain and meat products. Why? Because increasing fuel prices make it more expensive to grow, harvest, transport, process and package food. Indeed, food costs rose by 4 percent in 2007, the highest annual increase since 1990 [1]. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts the consumer price index for all food will increase 4.5 to 5.5 percent as retailers continue to pass on fuel costs to consumers [1].

Remembering Lunch Can Help Reduce the Desire to Snack

Mind over matter may really work when it comes to managing appetite. Researchers at the University of Birmingham, U.K. have found that recalling foods eaten at lunch has an inhibitory effect on subsequent snacking later the same day. The study is currently in press and will be published in the journal Physiology & Behavior [1]. The effect was observed regardless of the type of snack eaten or palatability. The study also found that meal recall was only effective in decreasing the amount eaten if participants did not have a tendency to overeat.

Overeating Fast Food Carbs Causes Signs of Liver Damage

A recent study evaluating the effects of fast-food-based overeating on liver enzymes and liver triglyceride content has been making the news this week. However, most media sources have been incorrectly interpreting the results. The Swedish study, published in the British Medical Association journal Gut, suggests that eating too much fast food can cause liver damage [1].