Ten Huge International Companies are Controlling our Food and Cheating the Consumers
By: George Kurzom
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons:
Several years ago, Oxfam International announced in a report entitled “Behind the Trademarks” the world's largest and most influential food and beverage companies. These mega-companies have tremendous power and they control the trademarks that people buy thus have a significant impact on their food and working conditions. The names of some of these companies are familiar; others are unfamiliar and less common especially in Palestine.
The top ten most monopolistic companies that control the food internationally and locally are “Nestlé, PepsiCo, Coca Cola, Unilever, Danone, General Mills, Kellogg, Mars, Associated British Foods and Mondiales”. Each of these companies employ thousands of employers and have revenues that reach billions of dollars annually, in other words, they control the food around the world.
These 10 largest companies were selected as the world's largest in terms of total revenues and monopoly of a few producers, as well as “Forbes 2000” annual ranking that classifies companies based on their sales, assets, profits and market share. The revenue of each of these companies reaches tens billions of dollars annually; noting that five of these companies have assets of at least 50 billion dollars and 4 companies have profit that reached more than 6 billion dollars each last year.
The promotion of these companies creates a sense of familiarity through commercial advertisements in an effort to persuade people to buy their "semi-food" products. Most of the processed foods we buy are considered "quasi-food" as the ingredients of “food products” manufactured by these companies are often artificial and originally come from chemical laboratories rather than natural sources which are harmful to the human body.
These "quasi-food" products may not be severely harmful when they are not frequently consumed. However, it is important to know that they often contain saturated fats that increase weight and cholesterol and thus lead to clogged arteries. These products also contain high levels of sodium, hydrogenated oils and refined sugar which increases weight, raises blood pressure and cholesterol and increases the risk of diabetes, especially the high-fructose corn syrup, in addition to containing starches and a large number of chemical additives (antioxidants, preservatives, pigments, flavors and artificial sweeteners). The rationale behind adding all of these ingredients that cause chronic and serious diseases is to increase profits even at the expense of consumer health. Companies achieve their huge profits by injecting their processed food with chemical additives (saturated fats, sugars, starches…etc.) aimed at marketing cheap products so that they appear fresh and high quality products, thus increasing their expiration period.
Chemical flavorings and fragrances are added to processed food products in order to hide the original taste and aroma of these low quality products. Chemical dyes are added to improve the appearance of processed foods that are poor in their nutritional values, but are flavorful and have a delicious appearance; most chemically processed "food" products are not made of natural ingredients. Orange, grapefruit, apple and mango juices, for example, do not contain natural fruits but are made of chemical flavoring materials. The term "natural flavoring" we read on food labels does not have anything to do with “natural”, because it is often flavors made in laboratories to hide the original taste of low-quality products.
Compared with natural food, most "processed" food is very poor in vitamins and natural minerals and is rich in artificial calories. In order for food companies to persuade consumers to buy their products, they add vitamins and minerals to their products knowing that if they were made of natural ingredients they wouldn’t need to add vitamins and minerals.
Ironically, chemical food companies may give their goods a friendly name, like "made from our countries wealth” “or "my grandmother's pastries," with pictures on the cover that increase the appetite. However, when we look at the ingredients and instructions on the cover, we may find the following: "Add salt, milk, egg, and sugar"; which means, the product we bought is made of chemical ingredients, and we consumers must add the natural ingredients.
Most consumers do not understand the "codes" printed on processed food labels, which are often incomprehensible and unclear. If one can read these "codes" (E numbers), they will discover that they refer to dangerous chemical compounds that cause many diseases; as if we are consuming chemical solutions instead of food. The companies know that most consumers are ignorant about the scientific meaning of these codes therefore writing them vaguely on the packaging (avoiding writing the full name of chemical compounds) is considered a form of misinformation.
A very small number of companies exert enormous influence, control the global food system, drain the natural resources of impoverished Southern countries at the lowest prices - at the expense of ordinary citizens – and dictate food choices, supply conditions and consumer quality. Nestlé, for example, is draining valuable groundwater in rural areas of Pakistan where it is packaged and sold; this is happening in areas close to villages suffering from the scarcity of clean fresh water.
Kraft, also one of the world's largest food companies, was accused in 2009 of buying beef from Brazilian suppliers involved in large-scale and illegal deforestation of the Amazon rainforest with the aim of using land to graze cattle. Coca-Cola is also involved in exploiting and employing children in countries such as India, the Philippines, Salvador and Colombia.
The most powerful food and beverage companies in the world have relied more than a hundred years on cheap labor force and land to produce cheap and inexpensive goods to accumulate huge profits at the expense of the environment and the local population around the world and thus aggravating the "World Food Crisis".
Translated by: Ghadeer Kamal Zaineh