Eating Healthy? Think Again // Tim Powers

whole-foods-no-gmoThere is nothing that makes a shopper feel more satisfied with there purchases when they see they are buying ‘all natural’ or ‘100% organic’ food products.

With health climbing to the forefront of consumers minds like never before, these all-natural healthy products are being swiped from store shelves at an all-time fast pace. As all-natural organic foods start to take up a larger percentage of the total market in the United States, it is important to ask what these ‘health’ items truly are. More importantly, what exactly makes these items ‘natural’ or ‘organic’? Grocery distributors, such as Whole Foods Market, often make claims of only selling healthy natural products, but in reality these markets are selling products that are not truly organic, and in many cases, no different than the average processed product.

Many families, such as my own, find solace in shopping at healthy grocery stores like Whole Foods. By shopping at places like this, customers are guaranteed that they are not only receiving the freshest and most natural products, but they are buying products that do not contain harmful substances, particularly GMOs. Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are “plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology” (Hari). Studies show that both plant and animal products that contain GMOs are detrimental to people’s health. While the topic of GMOs in relation to health can be discussed in great depth, the fact of the matter is that people are willing to pay top dollar in order to receive products that avoid these unhealthy elements. It is because of this reasoning that grocery stores are able to falsely claim that their products are ‘all-natural’ or ‘GMO-free’ in order to not only attract more customers and charge higher prices as well.

Whole Foods Market was recently investigated by experts to determine whether their ‘GMO-free’ product claim was accurate. It was found that not only were there products not completely GMO free, but 20-30% of their products contained GMOs (Walton). What is worse than Whole Foods making false claims about their products is the fact that of the products that contained GMOs, very few of these products were labeled as containing GMOs. It is one thing to present deceptive and inaccurate advertising campaigns, but when the literal products are not containing proper information, that is when people should be alerted there is a serious problem. Without exaggeration, people’s health is being potentially put at risk so corporations such as Whole Foods can make extra profit.

Throughout the duration of this English course, I was able to take advantage of the college setting I live in by interacting with all of my peers in order to gain knowledge of their eating preferences and habits. I noticed that Santa Clara University students had a strong desire to eat not only healthy foods, but ethically grown and raised foods as well. This does not only include the quality of the food, but also other factors such as how the food was raised or how it was processed and brought to the shelf. After talking with and surveying my peers, I came to the realization that many students were paying top dollar in order to ensure their groceries were organic and avoided GMOs. I found that students were not only paying more for items that were claimed ‘natural’ and organic’, but they were also going a considerable amount out of the way to obtain food from these ‘health’ grocery stores. It was here that I realized that college students were being cheated out of their money in a sense. Spending more money to ensure quality food products is an admirable cause, however, knowing that these health foods are not always what they are advertised as should be concerning to everyone, especially college students who are often on a tight budget.

As mentioned previously, college students often want to make decisions when they are buying groceries that don’t only reflect the quality of the food but the processing of the food and its effect on the environment as well. On line with health grocery stores claiming to be ‘all natural’, many specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods imagesMarket claim to be environmentally friendly because they obtain most of there products from local farms. Common sense would prove that the less distance the products have to travel from the farm to the store shelves is better for the environment. For the most part, stores like Whole Foods do a good job at receiving locally grown items. However, it is important to know that these specialty organic stores often have exotic fruits that come from around the world. So not only are some products not being produced but locally, but some products have to travel close to halfway across the world to reach store shelves. This essentially erases any environmental progress made through buying local products. Along with the far distances some of the specialty items have to travel, upper class grocery distributors typically have all fruits and vegetables available year around. This means that items that are not in season in the local area must be transported in from another area, often meaning a journey from the other side of the hemisphere.

Unfortunately for college students, good intentions are not enough for them to keep themselves healthy. As evidence is being revealed that many foods that claim to healthy and organic are really false, it becomes imperative for consumers to educate themselves on what food they are buying. People often want to believe that shopping at certain places often means anything they consume healthy, but this is obviously not the case. When people have to take the extra step and investigate what they are buying, they are also gaining knowledge of the food system in the United States. This knowledge of our food system can help aspire the change that this country needs.

Works Cited

  • Hari. “A Collaborative Initiative Working to Ensure the Sustained Availability of Non-GMO Options.” The NonGMO Project RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.
  • Walton. “GMO Quick Facts: What, Why, Where | Whole Foods Market.” Whole Foods Market. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2014.
  • “The Dark Secrets of Whole Foods.” Slate Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2014.
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