By Jamie Weiss, HoneyColony
Attention Starbucks addicts! The following article will require a little independent brain activity. This is a different type of activity than the one you acquire from guzzling your first 20 ounces of piping hot Breakfast Blend. Although you feel awakened as this liquid speed fills your veins and synthetically opens your blood vessels, I am going to need you to wake up to an entirely new sense here.
Back when I was a vicious, cross-eyed Starbucks addict, I could barely speak, let alone act pleasantly, before my hands gripped the coveted and almighty morning cup. As the mud flowed down in me, I quickly cheered up and my snug blanket of cranky fatigue would slowly lift. At last I was free again. Awake, alive, invincible.
One afternoon on a particularly naughty double-dipping day, I noticed a strange sign on the front counter, quietly peeking out from behind the main display.
It read: “PROPOSITION 65 WARNING: Chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and reproductive toxicity, including acrylamide, are present in coffee, baked goods, and other foods or beverages sold here. Acrylamide is not added to our products, but results from cooking, such as when beans are roasted or baked goods are baked. As a result, acrylamide is present in our brewed coffee, baked goods, and other foods sold here in grocery stores or other retail locations. Your personal cancer risk is affected by a wide variety of factors. The FDA has not advised people to stop drinking coffee or eating baked goods that contain acrylamide. For more information regarding FDA’s views, see www.fda.gov. For more information about acrylamide and Proposition 65, visit www.oehha.ca.gov/prop65/acrylamide.html.”
Half hypnotized and possessed by coffee desire-driven tunnel vision, I was all at once consumed by agitation when I stumbled upon the long line of coffee craving zombies standing between me and my fix. Then suddenly I froze as I reread the long warning. When I finally arrived in front of the zippy coffee attendant, I said “Dude, what the f*** is up with that scary warning sign?”
To which he replied, “What warning sign?”
Proposition 65 And Starbucks
As stated on the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment website:
“Proposition 65 is a ‘right to know’ law approved by voters as a ballot initiative in 1986. It requires the State of California to maintain a list of chemicals that cause cancer or reproductive toxicity (such as birth defects or other reproductive harm). Businesses that knowingly expose individuals to listed chemicals above certain levels generally are required to provide warnings.
“Currently, there are more than 800 substances on this list, including acrylamide.
“Many of these listed substances are additives or ingredients in pesticides, common household products, foods, drugs, dyes, or solvents. The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment maintains the Proposition 65 list.
“Proposition 65 does not ban or regulate chemicals in consumer products – it enables consumers to decide whether they want to purchase or use products that expose them to chemicals that cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.”
In other words, the government requires businesses to inform consumers of carcinogens in their products but doesn’t force them to ban the items. This is some tricky loophole shit in my opinion.
It is basically up to consumers to decide whether to purchase warning-worthy items. And as long as we do, we’re silently consenting to this protocol and waiving our right to hold businesses accountable if we become harmed in the process.
Starbucks Addicts: Wake Up!
Scientists from the Swedish National Food Authority first discovered acrylamide in food in 2002. According to the National Cancer Institute acrylamide is “used primarily as a building block in making polyacrylamide and acrylamide copolymers. Polyacrylamide and acrylamide copolymers are used in many industrial processes, such as the production of paper, dyes, and plastics, and in the treatment of drinking water and wastewater, including sewage. They are also found in consumer products, such as caulking, food packaging, and some adhesives. Trace amounts of acrylamide generally remain in these products.”
You may be wondering how such an agent could wind up in your food. The answer is simple. “Acrylamide is a chemical that can form in some foods during high-temperature cooking processes, such as frying, roasting, and baking. Acrylamide in food, forms from sugars and an amino acid that are naturally present in food; it does not come from food packaging or the environment,” the FDA states.
The result? Well, it’s kind of like you’re eating plastic. When the amino acid asparagine (found in high concentrations in potatoes and grains) is heated to very high temperatures, generally above 248 degrees Fahrenheit, it combines with naturally occurring sugars to form acrylamide.
“In conclusion, … acrylamide is probably carcinogenic to humans,” states the Food and Agriculture Organization. The World Health Organization’s “Consultation on the Health Implications of Acrylamide in Food” from the Geneva 2002 summary report further, “The Consultation recognized the presence of acrylamide in food as a major concern in humans, given its ability to induce cancers and heritable mutations in laboratory animals.”
Most Americans probably consume more acrylamide than they realize. The highest concentration is found in fried potatoes — umm, French fries, anyone? A serious chemical change occurs in the constitution of many starchy foods when they are baked or fried, and it produces this cancer-causing substance. If you rarely indulge in things like cakes, cookies, toast, roasted nuts, cereal, French fries, or coffee, then you have little to worry about. But if these kinds of foods are staples in your life, it’s time to get savvy.
We know that big business, major conglomerates, and even government (think food and chemical lobbies) would stand to lose big bucks if these substances were banned. Therefore they pretend our civil liberties are at risk when it comes to regulating harmful food substances. A pretty slippery slope, if you ask me.
It’s up to us as collective individuals to spread the word and the love, to take these matters seriously. We can vote with our forks and our dollars by eating organic foods and purchasing products proven safe for humans. It’s possible to run unethical companies out of business by buying only products from companies that actually care about us.
We have to care enough about ourselves first, in order to make it matter and stop all of the lazy excuses that result in Big Mac wrappers in our cars and congestive heart failure in our bodies. This is no joke and no small matter to take lightly. Food poisons cause cancer, heart failure, and even death.
If we don’t, we risk our collective health. People everywhere are alarmed by the rising rate of unusual cancers that are still “unexplained.” But are they really unexplained? Or do we choose to look the other way because it’s easy? People who eat highly processed foods that undergo unnatural chemical changes through processes like frying are storing up cancer miles faster than you can say “chemo.” Death from food toxicity is slow and takes years to reach maturation.
Like wind eroding a mountain, the impact of food toxicity is hard to see. Just because we can’t see the daily effects of our eating doesn’t mean those effects aren’t happening. Over time food can destroy our bodies to the point of no return. Only after decades does wind remove a measurable portion of the mountain—a portion that cannot, mind you, be restored. The choice is always ours. Choose wisely.