I’ve heard a lot of stories about how the two world wars forced innovation to happen at a rapid pace in many areas…

No doubt some great things came out of this “rapid innovation.” I have often felt that great pressure produces the best results because it either yields a pile of rubble, or a diamond.

Many of the war stories I have heard had to do with food items. Mushed meat going into cans, chocolate being coated by a hard candy shell, etc. The driving force behind these innovations was the fact that we had to take something that was perishable (fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, grains, etc.) and preserve them for long periods of time so they could get shipped to soldiers overseas.

Factories became incentivized during wartime to change their processes. Food packaging, preservatives, chemicals, processing, bleaching, etc. all became tools to create packaged foods that had a sufficient shelf life.

When the war ended, factories more than likely felt the incentive to keep their investment in their new technologies and methods, and create markets that they could continue to sell their new wares into. Thus, we entered the age of processed food.

Arguably, before WW1, a survey of the average American diet would probably show a much higher percentage of fresh natural organic foods than would be shown today. I haven’t done it, but I bet if I gathered statistics on health and disease and made a chart, we would see a decline in health that somewhat mirrors the increase in processed foods. I doubt any one of you would disagree.

Think about the societal and environmental factors that went into the processed food movement – a global emergency, special laws, and mass propaganda (remember the “uncle sam wants you,” “defend your country,” “we can do it,” “loose lips sink ships,” etc.). At the time, all efforts were pushing for a good thing. However, without most of us recognizing what was going on, the processed food industry was creating a “new normal” for themselves.

The sobering thought here is that it never ended. This is now the standard operating procedure for most of the food industry as we know it, growing to be the large monster that we see today. The downside is that the long term health effects on our population have been very detrimental to our citizens over the years, and there are so many people now that have no memory of what is was like to cook with fresh food and ingredients.

We implemented emergency procedures that inadvertently became the new norm, and human health has suffered as a result.

When you use the term “new normal” – be careful what you wish for.