Food Wars: Governmental Programs & Industrial Food

More and more,   it seems that money and corporate interests inextricably intertwine the giants of the food industry and politicians.   One glaring example of just how politicians and corporations work together for their own mutual benefit rather than to support public interests currently centers around the Illinois prison and school systems.

Industrial Soy-based Diet & Illinois Prisons and Schools

Since 2003, inmates of the Illinois prison system have   been fed a diet comprised largely of soy and soy protein isolate.   Inexpensive by comparison to beef, cheese and other animal-based foods, soy seems a simple and easy way to cut costs – especially on a large, institutional level.   Soy “cheese” replaced dairy cheeses.   Soy protein isolate was mixed with insubstantial amounts of meat and served daily.   Soy flour and soy protein were added to baked goods and other items.

Illinois prisoners were consuming upwards of 100 grams of soy a day according to a letter issued by Sally Fallon, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, to President Obama.   Note that even in Asian countries soy consumption rarely exceeds 30 grams a day and usually hovers at about 10 grams per day; moreover, the soy consumed is largely fermented as   in the case of miso, natto, tempeh and tamari.   It is not largely consumed as soy protein isolate – the form given to the Illinois prisoners as food.

Soy is linked with autoimmune disease, hypothyroidism and the development of goiter and a slew of other issues which negatively affect the endocrine and reproductive systems in particular.   Indeed, recent research has indicated that soy lowers sperm count and the FDA lists close to 300 studies illustrating the negative effects of soy.

Surely enough, consuming upwards of 100 grams of soy each day started to have deleterious effects on the men.   They suffered from myriad gastrointestinal, cognitive, emotional and endocrine distress and other symptoms of consumption of toxic levels of soy.   In 2008, prisoners began contacting the Weston A. Price Foundation – a not-for-profit that champions real food – detailing serious health effects of the soy-centered diet.   They suffered from diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, heart palpitations, acne, insomnia, anxiety, depression and symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Of course, cost-cutting measures didn’t end in Illinois prisons; rather, a pilot lunch program serves a similar diet to young children.   Again, soy protein replaces meats, cheeses and chicken.   A soy-based diet is particularly dangerous for young children whose immune, endocrine and reproductive systems are still developing.

The Political Connection: Rod Blagojevich and Archer Daniels Midland

In 2002, Rod Blagojevich succeeded George Ryan as governor Illinois as the first democrat to be elected governor of Illinois since 1972.   Blagojevich has since earned another first in Illinois politics: Rod Blagojevich is the first governor in the State of Illinois to be impeached.   While Blagojevich’s campaign promised an end to controversy, controversies littered his tenure as Illinois governor.   Since 2005, Blagojevich has been the subject of more than a dozen federal investigations that include fraud.   In a callous decision, Blagojevich even threatened to revoke funding for a children’s hospital after its CEO refused to contribute $50,000 to Blagojevich’s gubernatorial campaign.   He also owns the dubious honor of offering to sell President Obama’s vacated senate seat to the highest bidder.

Among the many who contributed to Blagojevich and reaped the rewards of his peculiar sense of ethics was Archer Daniels Midland – one of the agricultural industry’s giants. Archer Daniels Midland is a leader in ethanol production (think GMO corn), wheat and, of course, soy.   They spearheaded the inclusion of high fructose corn syrup into beverages and manufacture several soy-based meat substitutes.

Of course, Archer Daniels Midland is not unknown to controversy itself having been the subject of investigation by the Department of Justice in which its senior executives were indicted on federal charges related to price fixing.   Indeed, three of the executives were sentenced to prison while the company was fined $100 million.   Archer Daniels Midland, despite the lip service the company gives to sustainability on its website, has been the target of multiple federal lawsuits concerning air pollution and is listed as #2 among the top 100 corporate air polluters in the United States – ultimately responsible for nearly 13 million pounds of toxic air releases.

Archer Daniels Midland heavily contributed to Blagojevich’s campaign and is, incidentally, one of the top 100 biggest contributors to political campaigns according to Open Secrets a watchdog that allows the general public to see who is putting money into the pockets of American politicians (check out Archer Daniels Midland’s profile).   Summarily, Archer Daniels Midland became the primary supplier of soy-based products and meat substitutes to the Illinois prison system.

Action on Behalf of Sickened Men

The Weston A. Price Foundation has hired an attorney to begin legal recourse on behalf of the many Illinois inmates sickened by the soy-based diet that lined the pockets of Archer Daniels Midland and former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.   The suit also seeks an injunction against the continued use of the soy-based prison diet.   Should such an injunction be granted, it would represent a critical aspect in the fight against pursuing a similar soy-based diet in other governmental institutions like public schools.   Intentionally serving food that consistently sickens prisoners is negligent at best and inordinately cruel.   Everyone deserves wholesome food.

What to Do Next

If you recognize that 1) no one deserves to be sickened by the food they eat and 2) that the continued allowance of a clearly toxic diet opens the floodgate for that toxic diet to be instituted elsewhere please consider further action.

  • Share this post and spread the word.
  • Visit the Weston A. Price Foundation for more information: Are Children Next Targets for Toxic Meals?
  • Write a letter to Eric Holder, Attorney General and Patrick Fitzgerald, Special Counsel to the US Department of Justice (View Sample Letters).

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What people are saying

  1. Tracey R says

    Wow. In both cases, the victims were captive audiences. Literally. Never has the prison-like aspect of government schools been so easy to see.

  2. says

    Wow. In both cases, the victims were captive audiences. Literally. Never has the prison-like aspect of government schools been so easy to see.
    BTW I love your blog!

  3. Amy SF says

    It must be nice for our government to have guinea pigs in the form of a prison population. While I think many will avert their eyes from this, you would hope that we would care more for our future generations.

  4. Jenny says

    I echo your thoughts on this too, Amy. My fear is that people will shrug their shoulders because the victims in this instance are largely prisoners – and most of the American public couldn’t care less about their welfare or lack thereof. The real disconcerting aspect is how politicians and the big agricultural giants work together for their own fiscal benefit rather than for their constituents / consumers. That aspect of a broken system isn’t going to end with Illinois prisons and a pilot school lunch program.

  5. Dana says

    The worst part of this, next to the human rights violations, is that a lot of these guys in prison were probably violent in the first place at least in part due to malnutrition. Violent behavior is a symptom of deficiency of several of the B vitamins, and poor nutrition leads to neurochemical imbalances in other ways. So they’re going to compound the problem by malnourishing these poor people while they are behind bars–and most of them are not serving life sentences! They’re going to be out sooner or later. You would think that if people didn’t care about prisoners’ rights, they’d at least care about the rights of the rest of us who have to be neighbors and co-workers with these guys once they’re free again. Nah… thinking’s hard.

    I can’t help wondering how much of this is about propping up the prison industry, especially its private sector–when these guys can’t make it on the outside ’cause their prison diet screwed them up, then they’ll have to go back in, plus add in all the new guys coming up from juvie, and then it will be claimed we “must” build more prisons, but the state is broke… enter CCD or one of those other horrific outfits that routinely abuse prisoners in ways the public prison system never even thought of in modern times. I used to work relatively near a private prison that was located in Mason, TN and in the several months I was there–not even a year!–we had not one but two escapes involving violent criminals, and both times they headed in the direction of my mall. In a private juvenile prison in the same area, a boy tried to kill himself and almost succeeded. He’s paralyzed now. All they could offer his mother was stupid excuses. That’s where Illinois is headed if they don’t nip this in the bud.

  6. Dana says

    Oh, and I want to be very clear I’m not just accepting some prisoners’ rights outfit’s “excuses” about why offenders offend. I do not have a criminal history, but I do know what it’s like to be mentally ill, and I have experienced for myself how diet makes a difference in that. I still have some quirks that annoy me and people around me, but I am now functional. I went through a patch of varying degrees of badness from about ’98 to about 2007 or so when I could not always say that about myself.

    Just changing my diet made a huge difference. And I know what it’s like to be off the deep end and not entirely in control of oneself. Been there. Done that. My T-shirt went on backwards and had buckles.

    So I’d love to be able to say that mental illness is just shamming or that we should be able to control our minds as well as our bodies ’cause we’re just Beings Of Light Riding In A Meat Clown Car after all… but that is not my experience. My mind is me, and how well my mind works depends on how well I take care of me. These guys are at the absolute mercy of the system and they will be blamed every time the system fails them, just like I was blamed when others failed me, because I couldn’t know how to take care of myself properly when no one bothered to tell me.

  7. says

    It is this kind of stuff that really makes me upset. When food became industrialized it was given over to capitalism, which in my opinion is in a lot of ways evil. There is nothing wholesome about that. It makes me angry not only would they give this food to men in need of rehabilitation… and we know prisons are also homes for the mentally ill, but they would give it to growing children.
    I took a look at the yogurt section in the grocery at the “kids” yogurt. One brand Breyer’s had 3 types of refined sugars in it! They are selling this as a healthy food. Insane! It had Winnie the Pooh on it. It’s money is all it is.
    Thanks Jenny for passing this info along.

    • says

      “When food became industrialized it was given over to capitalism, which in my opinion is in a lot of ways evil. ” So socialism would be better?! No, it would be worse because all of us would be imprisoned and force fed this soy garbage. Only in a capitalist system do we have any kind of freedom of choice at all.
      As far as the prisoners are concerned, we do need to fight for them. As far as the pilot school programs are concerned, parents do have a choice to make their children’s lunches rather then dumping them on the school to feed.

  8. says

    O…M…G! Yep, that sounds like our former Gov. B. Just once, I want to vote FOR someone, not to keep an even worse choice out of office.
    Dana is so right–what you eat has a huge impact on how you feel and how you function. I wonder how many people wouldn’t be incarcerated or in psychiatric facilities just because of what they eat.

  9. says


    Great for biodiesel ( maybe not even that great for biodiesel either )…horrible for humans.

    The dairy industry really screwed-up for letting the soy guys use the word “milk” to describe their toxic white stuff. It could have all stopped years ago if the dairy industry had stood-up and said…..beans don’t have teats…cows do!!! So never use the word milk to describe bean juice. But that did not happen.

    Why…because the same industry that owns the dairy commerce owns the soy commerce. So…Why would they.

    They are all so disconnected from their consumers, they only care about one thing….lots of money and using the massive overproduction of soy in the highest valued added products.

    Makes me sick to think of this disaster. All the illness all the messed up people. All the sick kids. When people could not drink pastuerized milk they drank soy….when in fact they did not have Lactose intolerance with raw milk!!! What a circular man made greedy mess.

    We get hundreds of ex-soy consumers coming to us in CA with lumps in their breasts and thyroid disorders….they are all very angery with the lies they were told.

    Now they drink raw organic milk from grass fed cows and recover from their date with lies and nutritional disaster.

    Mark McAfee
    Founder OPDC

  10. Cindy Merrill says

    Treat someone like an animal, and they’ll leave prison worse than an animal.
    On a futuristic SCi-fi show, Babylon 5, prisoners were sentenced to Death of personality: All memories were wiped out of their minds then they were transported to distant locations, given new identification and carefully “rehabilitated”.
    Not a bad idea, really: Would save taxpayers Billions.

  11. says

    Your post really made a big impact on my knowledge about soy. I was shocked about this revelation and pitied the prisoners and little children. How I wish the government act about this before it is too late.

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