Yesterday I listened to an episode from one of my favorite podcasts, NPR’s Planet Money. This episode was titled Walmart’s Pickle. Intriguing, yes. it started out a little silly talking about this pickle Walmart is inventing called the Tro-pickle. Apparently its a pickle, pickled in Hawaiian Punch. 1. Ew. 2. WHY?! The “why” is the interesting part.
If you were not aware, Walmart and Amazon are competing to be the place where everyone buys everything. Walmart started with the upper-hand of course, then Amazon started to pull ahead because no one wants to leave their house anymore. (That’s another whole issue, in my opinion, but let’s stay on track here.) So then Walmart opens grocery stores which send them way ahead of Amazon at the time because now people can do their grocery shopping and get their random things like light bulbs and socks. Amazon continues to grow in popularity and then, as you may know, they purchase Whole Foods. Good news for consumers because now prices are dropping (allegedly… I feel like everything is still pretty darn expensive there), but bad news for Walmart. Now Amazon is in the food game. So what does Walmart do to try to stay ahead? Create the Tro-pickle.
Doesn’t make sense? I was confused too. Actually, the Tro-pickle is just one of the many foods Walmart is trying to invent so that they can have a product that is only sold at Walmart. Seems harmless on the surface, (other than the disgusting factor and Red Dye 40), but what is more concerning as a dietitian, are the other things they are inventing/invented: tomatoes that can hold up during shipping, sweeter watermelon with a yellow rind, birthday-cake-flavored oatmeal, to name a few. My mind was racing after I heard this and the term at the forefront of my mind: GMO. Durable tomatoes and yellow hyper-sweet watermelon don’t just happen in nature. And do we want to talk about the sugar and other questionable chemicals that go into making birthday-cake-flavored oatmeal? Oatmeal, as many consumers buy it today, is already very processed, so processed actually that it loses its nutritional value. (See the post below for more on that topic.) We need to be eating foods closer to nature, not messing with the plants’ genetic makeup so that it works better in our fast-paced, high waste society.
I can confidently assume that nearly all Americans have purchased things from Walmart. It’s true, buying your groceries and your socks at the same store is convenient. So if most Americans are going to be grocery shopping at Walmart, or at least buying some food products there, you can see my concern regarding the food quality, especially when we talk about produce. The food industry has already created copious amounts of processed foods, that we shouldn’t be eating, but now they are targeting our fruits and vegetables! GMO foods are certainly not a new concern, but when one of the largest companies in the world is inventing new food products, that’s where I lose sleep. And worse than that; no one knows! We should be putting these resources towards empowering local farmers, especially organic ones, and creating initiatives that make these crops more attainable, especially for lower-income families. We should not be genetically modifying produce to be more easily transported. The further the plant is away from how it was grown in nature, the less nutritious it is. That’s a proven fact. The nutrients just dissipate. They lack freshness and more food is wasted because we as Americans only like to eat perfect-looking produce.
We are moving in the wrong direction. It’s not good! As a dietitian, I fear for the health of our nation. We need to get back to nature.