Why is there Corn in Everything??
I remember the day well; I was living in England at the time and had just spent three weeks in America traveling around to visit friends and family. On my way to the airport, I stopped by my favorite used bookstore to pick up something for the long journey ahead. Lots of my friends had recommended I read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma but to be honest, as much as the farm-to-table and eating local movement was currently en vogue, there hadn’t been a moment where I felt compelled to learn more. Funny how much processed foods can affect your brain’s ability to give it up! Still, after much haranguing it went into my carry-on bag.
And there it happened, somewhere over the Atlantic, that my views on food were reshaped and changed forever. I knew about high-fructose corn syrup; I knew that corn-based products were inevitable given the massive amount of farmlands devoted to this golden crop. I had no idea, however, how far it stretched into so many seemingly non-related aspects of politics, economics, history and the self-interests of so many parties, least of all the farmers growing the crops.
As I read the never-ending list of products – not even all food products, by a long shot! – corn could be found in, I remember a distinct feeling of being lied to. Why on earth were salmon being force-fed corn? Why were farmers growing so much corn and why were scientists working so hard to find unnatural ways to shove this product into, well, everything?
Pollan’s example of the number of corn products present in a chicken nugget was mind-boggling. He notes “piles of piles upon corn: what chicken it contains consists of corn” as they are being corn-fed. Meanwhile, also to consider is “the modified corn starch that glues the thing together, the corn flour in the batter that coats it, and the corn oil in which it gets fried. Much less obviously, the leavenings and lecithin, the mono-, di-, and triglycerides, the attractive golden coloring, and even the citric acid that keeps the nugget ‘fresh’ can all be derived from corn.’’
While it takes time to change lifestyles and habits, the process of educating myself about corn, its many pseudonyms and the countless number of products it hides in has radically altered my buying habits. For anyone looking to learn more about all the products corn can be found in or reduce their intake, this website has a great guide that is updated quite regularly.