In the 1980s, industrial baked goods lived like the Disneyland of food politics: a fantasy without any requirement for precise labeling of ingredients. Laugh, but this happened with European regulation back in 2016. There were also no restrictions on claiming health benefits: “Bolicao is a snack that nourishes,” some children sang in the ad that blew up the diet food project. profiles and children’s advertising of Minister Garzon.
These were different times. Neither the industry went halfway or subtle to market their products, and most consumers did not consider the dilemma of healthy eating. Who would doubt the nutritional impact of the soft, well-wrapped bun that finally puts an end to the childhood drama of crumbling sandwiches while playing? Just in case there was any doubt, the ad campaign presented it as a “whole snack”.
A few weeks ago, Dani Bordas’ tweeter asked if the industrial cakes of our childhood were better or worse than today’s. Food technologist Miguel Angel Lurueña, author of the blog Gominolas de Petroleo, picked up a glove and tried to analyze what those wonderful balls of our early childhood were like. In his analysis, those who are today have won by a margin, a verdict that many nutritionists and food experts agree with. “I saw Miguel Angel’s thread and can’t add anything to what he said. It’s very hard to know if they used to be better than they are now because before the ingredients weren’t listed the same way on the labels,” says Javier Sanchez Perona, CSIC senior scientist and researcher at the Institute of Fats in the Department of Food and Health. .
Here’s how fats have changed
For centuries, lard and butter have been the main ingredients in many confections: people ate them without remorse and died in wars, devoured by some kind of parasites in the forest or, how can I know, some kind of infection. In the 1980s, when Jane Fonda was selling aerobics videos like hotcakes, animal fats, and later saturated fats, fell out of favor. They were accused of being the cause of obesity in Westerners and replaced with “vegetable fats”. Which? The most manageable, read palm oil.
Since it was a vegetable fat, consumers were at ease: they could continue to eat the buns and clog their arteries without worrying anymore. “Many people learned when the legislation forced to declare the type of vegetable fat; but we food technologists already knew this, because to give texture you need a fat that is solid at room temperature, that is, rich in saturated fatty acids: and palm oil,” explains Prof. Sánchez Perona. Most of the crispy biscuits, Gallina Blanca’s Sopinstant, and up to two news releases of Kellogg’s corn flakes, contained palm oil.
This oil, now demonized, is the best-selling oil in the world. It is true that it is rich in saturated fatty acids and that this type of fat is not the most recommended in terms of cardiovascular health, but, adds Sánchez Perona, “it depends on the context of lifestyle habits.” In palm-producing countries, the incidence of cardiovascular diseases is lower than in our country. “It’s not the same as using palm oil for an industrial sweet, which also has a lot of sugar and possibly additives to make it more palatable to the senses than frying vegetables or fish,” the expert says.
Fearing a drop in sales, the industry sent palm oil to the locker room and hydrogenated fats rushed onto the field. “They’re really dangerous because of the presence of trans fatty acids, which physically behave like saturates,” says Sanchez Perona (our chief nutritionist, Juan Revenga, has also written extensively on the subject). Then came high oleic sunflower, an industrial invention that resembles olive oil but lacks the cardioprotective properties of olive juice.
Since they do not like half measures, in recent years there has been an increase in the number of cookies, pizza dough and all kinds of ultra-processed products “with olive oil”. With bacon, pepperoni or triple cheese and, in many cases, olive oil, which is nothing more than “olive pomace”.
Does the journey end here? Probably no. A recent issue of Madrid Fusión Verdeo featured a project to produce unsaturated vegetable fats from olive oil. It is solid at room temperature and aims to conquer the universe of the industrial bakery of the future: point in this story of fats and buns.
Sugar in the days of video games
Without nutrition labels, it’s impossible to know if there was more or less sugar in the buns from our childhood. Pablo Ojeda, a dietitian and obesity expert, thinks it’s likely they’re wearing more now. “Many of the foods that surround us contain sugar because it acts as a preservative and makes food more delicious and addictive: if ordinary things already have a bit of sweetness because they contain sugar, we can notice that the buns are sweet, it is possibly. which now contain more sugar because our sweetness threshold is higher than it was in the 1980s,” he states.
They also sweeten with dates or honey to sell the same products with a healthy patina. “It’s an industrial stance: from a metabolic standpoint, you’re suffering from a glucose spike because, after all, dates are removed from their food matrix and it’s still added sugar,” says Ojeda. Honey – Juan Revenga has already explained this – is a free sugar with the same metabolic effects as sugar. There are also preservative-free, gluten-free, lactose-free… “If you don’t have an intolerance and have to take them ‘without’, the only thing that’s favorable is the ‘halo effect’: you end up eating more because you convinced that they are good for your health.” “And it’s still industrial baked goods with a dose of sugar that contributes quite a bit to your diet,” Ojeda concludes.
Enriched with this and that
When the whole field was Bollycao and Donuts started coming in “two by two” there were no complaints that children weren’t eating well, but with the turn of the millennium, marketing convinced parents that their children weren’t eating well, but that those nutritional deficiencies could be alleviated. Eat more fruits, vegetables, and stews? No man no! With cookies and muffins fortified with millions of vitamins, minerals and essential iron: Nutritionist Pablo Zumachero reiterated a recent study that shows these ultra-processed foods reduce gut microbiota diversity to the point of causing gut inflammation.
In their obsession with children being well fed, parents cause just the opposite: they develop nutritional problems. “They believe that in this way they relieve the child of the desire to eat legumes, vegetables or fish, but giving him ultra-processed foods does not solve the main problem. If the child is already sick, on top of everything else, they even get angry and accuse you of wanting to deprive their child of a little joy, reproaching them for giving him an ultra-processed bun, ”adds Martha Tehon, a nutritionist from the city of Clinical pediatrics.
Those wonderful years (no information)
Take, for example, Bony, a strawberry jam bun from Bimbo, another youth favorite during the Naranjito era. According to Bimbo’s page in the 70s, the wrapper had a simple drawing with a photo of a bun and that’s it. In the 80s they added information as essential that it was “with jam.” Which child is interested in knowing more? As long as the chrome hasn’t “repeated”, everything is fine. At the turn of the millennium, “fortified with iron and vitamins” appeared, as well as double packs. A fantasy that allowed us to eat twice as much, because everyone knows that once an open bun dries out quickly; and that two is better than one.
In 2016, the laughs ended: the mandatory nutrition label reported that each 55-gram bun contains 228 kilocalories. In other words, 11% of the daily value for an adult, 16% fat and 24% sugar in a muffin that can be eaten in just five bites. The messages on the front of the package and some of the ads, by the way, are already aimed at adults, because according to the PAOS Code, children’s images should not be used to advertise unhealthy food. It came into force in 2005 and is not a law, but a kind of code of conduct in the industry; the same one that has been missing the bullfighter for almost two decades.
What about taste and size?
Some tweeters complain that today’s Bollycao are smaller or have less padding. On the other hand, his website reports that they are now “softer” and “with more padding”, without discussing the size. If it were smaller, they would not be alone: in recent years, many products have been shrinking almost imperceptibly in size. Chocolate, chips or crusts are now a few grams smaller: this is known as shrinkage or “shrinkage”: reducing the size of the product (for different purposes). In statements to the BBC, chocolate firm Cadbury’s justified it a couple of years ago as a way to fight excess weight.
Of course, this only affected chocolate bars sold in packs; the ones we buy in the supermarket and we can see them go up in price from time to time. With inflation soaring this year, many brands have decided to downsize their product to keep up with price increases. Without going into details, Doritos bags contain five units less. Cola Cao or Tulipán margarine also prefer to reduce weight to increase prices.
At least they are safer.
What ultra-processed foods have certainly won is food safety. “In the 1980s and before, food safety in Spain was a joke (if not a scary one). It gradually improved, especially with the accession to the EU (1986) and, above all, with the creation of EFSA and AESAN (2002),” technologist Miguel Angel Luruenha said on Twitter, who assures that now the control and additional restrictions, such as restrictions or bans on toxic compounds. A bun remains a bun and a pizza remains a pizza; but fortunately we are no longer in the crazy Disneyland that now seems like the one that Banksy imagined in that dystopian installation in 2015.
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