Here’s something that ruffles my feathers….

It kind of sounds like saline implants for chicken breasts. Whatever it is, it’s certainly not “natural.”

Apparently, Tyson Foods, Inc. and Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. have been calling their chickens — which are kept moist with injections of a salt water, seaweed concoction and “natural flavor” — “100% All Natural Marinated Fresh Chicken” or something like that. (Here’s the story in the WSJ.)

Gross.

Their claim is that the chickens have no “artificial ingredients” because salt and seaweed are both natural. ** So is the saline (sterile salt water) in some breast implants, but no one calls them natural. **

Anyway, this labeling is making real poultry farmers mad because their chickens are really natural.

“Seaweed occurs naturally in the ocean, — not in chickens,” said Lampkin Butt, president of Sanderson Farms.

Now, what does this have to do with health reform?

Here’s the nexus. Lots of people are suddenly calling for “healthier living,” which includes healthier eating. All this talk about personal responsibility needs to be coupled with changes in corporate behavior and policy to actually provide healthier choices to begin with.

The problem with the saline-breast chickens is that they contain more sodium than au’naturale chickens. More sodium means “potential health implications,” according to the American Medical Association. Mr. Butt (his real name) is right.

But the information about the exact “natural” content of the saline-breast chickens isn’t clear unless consumers read the really, really tiny print on the label. Most people don’t read the tiny print. They just read the “100% natural” and assume that it’s true.

This type of misleading labeling is pervasive in the packaged food industry. The same problem exists for labeling of trans fats, which are bad for reasons I won’t go into here. A person should not eat more than 2 grams of trans fats a day.

So, you could feel really virtuous and check the label on everything you eat and think you’ve hit the target. But if a food item contains less than .5 grams of trans fats, then it can be listed is zero. So if you have six items of food with .4 grams of transfats, you’ve exceeded your limit.

My rambling point is this, that there is broad complicity in our unhealthy lifestyles. Sure, we need to watch what we eat and exercise, but another part of reform and prevention is also changing the culture that enables companies to dupe consumers — whether it’s about food, or health insurance.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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