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"Pandora’s Lunchbox" by Melanie Warner. Amy Goodman interview.

Democracy Now! / Interview by Amy Goodman March 1, 2013

Why America Has the Cheapest, Most Addictive and Most Nutritionally Inferior Food in the World

Author Melanie Warner talks about her new book "Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal.

AMY GOODMAN: As we continue deep inside the $1-trillion-a-year "processed-food-industrial complex," we turn to look at how decades of food science have resulted in the cheapest, most abundant, most addictive and most nutritionally inferior food in the world. And the vitamins and protein added back to this processed food? Well, you might be surprised to know where they come from. That’s the focus of a new book by longtime food reporter Melanie Warner, author of Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal.

Melanie, welcome to Democracy Now!... Vitamins, vitamin-added food. ... vitamins. What’s the problem with that?

MELANIE WARNER: You know, one of the things with processed food... vitamins and minerals and fiber and things like antioxidants. ...

I was really surprised to learn where some of these vitamins come from. ... But it turns out that they’re—these vitamins are not coming from the foods that contain them. Like vitamin C does not come from an orange, and vitamin A does not come from a carrot. It’s very far from that. They come from things that really aren’t actually foods. Vitamin D, for instance, was probably the most shocking. It comes from sheep grease, so actually the grease that comes from sheep wool. You have giant barges and container ships that go from Australia and New Zealand over to China, where most of—a lot of our vitamins are produced. About 50 percent of global vitamin production comes from China inside these huge factories, very industrial processes. A lot of vitamins are actually chemical processes.

AMY GOODMAN: Wait.

MELANIE WARNER: And they’re very technical and complex.

AMY GOODMAN: A lot of people, if they’re with someone, they’re looking at them right now. Wait a second. So, China gets all these shipments of sheep wool from Australia, and they’re pulling the sheep grease off of them to make vitamin D? ...