On April 8, 1999, at the corporate headquarters of Pillsbury in Minneapolis, the ceos and company presidents from industrial food giants Nestlé, Kraft, Nabisco, General Mills, Proctor & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Mars and others held a secret meeting.
These ceos were fierce competitors, but the reason for this meeting affected all of them equally: The public’s health was at risk. Research was showing that their products were causing obesity and a myriad of other health problems. Kraft vice president Michael Mudd presented the facts:
• More than half of American adults were now overweight, and 40 million were obese;
• associated diseases like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis and cancer were all rising; health-care costs were ballooning; and
• more public scrutiny was coming down on the food manufacturers represented in the room.
Mudd said the food industry needed to be proactive in order to survive. These companies needed to reduce their heavy use of three “magical” ingredients—salt, sugar and fat—and promote exercise.
Probably the most powerful man at the meeting was the ceo of General Mills, Stephen Sanger.
Michael Moss writes in Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, “[Sanger] stood, his body tense, to address Michael Mudd, and he did so visibly upset. Sanger began by reminding the group that consumers were ‘fickle’ … their concerns about the health implications of packaged foods waxed and waned. Sometimes they worried about sugar, other times fat. But most often, he said, they bought what they liked, and they liked what tasted good. ‘Don’t talk to me about nutrition,’ he said, taking on the voice of a typical consumer. ‘Talk to me about taste, and if this stuff tastes better, don’t run around trying to sell stuff that doesn’t taste good.’ … [T]o react to the critics would jeopardize the sanctity of the recipes that had made his products so successful. General Mills would not pull back, Sanger said. He would push his people onward, and he urged his peers to do the same. Then he sat down.
“Not everyone at the meeting shared Sanger’s views. But his stance was so forceful, so persuasive and, yes, so comforting to the other executives that no one else sought to counter the position he voiced. Sanger’s response effectively ended the meeting.”
The result: None of those executives changed any of their products.
“A violent man enticeth his neighbour, and leadeth him into the way that is not good. He shutteth his eyes to devise froward things: moving his lips he bringeth evil to pass” (Proverbs 16:29-30). It’s no accident: Food manufacturing companies have intentionally, strategically and immorally ignored the reality that sugar-, fat- and salt-filled processed foods cause a range of health problems. They have lured you into succumbing to your sense of taste, sacrificing your dollars—and your health.
In warfare, ignorance is fatal. God warns Christians to know their spiritual adversary, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11).
Satan is like an enemy sniper, always looking for an advantage over us. We are far more vulnerable if we are ignorant of his tactics. The more you know, the better equipped you are to resist and fight!
Jesus was not ignorant of Satan’s devices. He knew what He was up against, which is why He fasted 40 days before facing him (Matthew 4:1-2).
In the titanic battle with Jesus Christ, Satan tempted Christ in three distinct ways. Study this passage, and you see how it exposes three main devices the enemy uses. For the purposes of this article, we’ll describe them thusly: 1) He appealed to vanity and desire for food, which are really two temptations rolled into one (verses 3-4); 2) he appealed to breaking God’s law and expecting Him to bail you out (verses 5-7); and 3) he appealed to immediate gratification—taking the easy way out (verses 8-10; Satan offered instant rulership that Christ would receive later, after much tribulation).
If you are ignorant of these devices, you are vulnerable to them. Do you recognize when Satan is using these devices on you? They come in many forms and thousands of variations.
Food is one specific battleground where Satan uses these three devices. God created the miracle of food as perfect, wholesome and good. But 6,000 years later, most of us are eating large amounts of foods that are not created by God. These foods have been processed by modern, industrial methods.
Looking at this one area shows how common these devices are and how easy it is to be ignorant of them and to fall prey to them. And this is an aspect of living that we engage in multiple times per day and that affects our energy, our appearance, our moods and our spiritual lives.
Let’s examine Satan’s use of these three tactics.
1) Pleasing the Self
Founded in 1886, Coca-Cola has worked hard to hook people to its product for 130 years. During World War ii, company’s ceo publicly declared that every soldier in uniform would get Coke for 5 cents a bottle, no matter where he was stationed, no matter what it cost the company to get it to him. This hooked an entire generation of men and women on this sugary, carbonated beverage.
This was not the only tactic this particular company deployed. Its executives devised countless ways of putting a Coke in people’s hands, especially when they’re kids. They tied Coke to places where people make happy memories, such as sports stadiums, movie theaters and amusement parks. They came up with fast-food combo meals: a burger, fries and Coke. They put coolers full of Coke next to supermarket cash registers. They developed all-you-can-drink beverage bars and soda fountains, Big Gulps and supersized beverages. For them, all this represents success. More guzzling means more sales means more money. One former executive summarized the strategy: “How can we drive more ounces into more bodies more often?”
Coca-Cola focused on two numbers: 1) market share (how to increase Coke’s proportion of world soda consumption); and 2) per capita consumption (how to increase the amount of Coke drunk by the average person). The health of the average Coke drinker simply does not fit into this calculus—in fact, it ruins it. Thus Coca-Cola seeks ways to increase the already stunning 54 gallons of soda a year drunk by the average American.
“He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he” (Proverbs 14:21). God expects us to love our neighbor. “Do they not err that devise evil?” (verse 22). Satan’s devices can be seen all over this industry.
This proverb talks about having mercy on the poor. For long periods in its history, one of Coca-Cola’s devices has been to specifically target the poor. It has marketed specifically to less-advantaged areas where people have fewer options and are more inclined to be hooked.
Eighty percent of the world’s soda is consumed by 20 percent of the people. These “heavy users,” as they call them, are extremely important to their business. According to one former executive, “If you lost one of those heavy users, if somebody just decided to stop drinking Coke, how many drinkers would you have to get, at low velocity, to make up for that heavy user? The answer is a lot. It’s more efficient to get my existing users to drink more.”
These are men—who do not even personally consume the products they sell—scheming devices to hook you on their product, increase your “velocity” of consumption, and make you a “heavy user.” Don’t be ignorant of what is really happening!
When you study their tactics, it gives you insight into how crafty Satan is in trying to play to our weaknesses, how aware he is of our tendencies, and how he will hit you where you are most vulnerable.
One of the soda companies’ most predatory strategies is to go after teens. They set up convenience stores on every corner near schools to catch kids coming and going. These stores are full of foods that are unhealthy and cheap.
“To nutritionists,” Moss writes, “these stores are to obesity what drug dens were to the crack epidemic. … Inside is a layout calculated to grab these kids at every turn. … Up front … are the stacks of soda bottles, joined by the racks of chips and pastries, with the soda cooler on one wall and inexpensive candies next to the cash register to snatch up any leftover change” (ibid). Teens are these stores’ most valuable target: They spend less, but they visit more.
“Unsurprisingly, teachers complain more and more about students with jittery nerves, short attention spans, rising obesity and declining health. ‘None of the players stop to think about whether people should really be eating a bag of chicken wings and a bag of potato chips and a 2-liter Coke,’ a former executive said. ‘They’re thinking, “Is this going to get me an increase in sales?”’”
Moss, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, wrote in his book, “It had taken me 3½ years of prying into the food industry’s operations to come to terms with the full range of institutional forces that compel even the best companies to churn out foods that undermine a healthy diet. Most critical, of course, is the deep dependence the industry has on salt, sugar and fat. … Salt, sugar and fat are the foundation of processed food, and the overriding question the companies have in determining the formulations of their products is how much they need of each to achieve the maximum allure. It’s simply not in the nature of these companies to care about the consumer in an empathetic way. They are preoccupied with other matters, like crushing their rivals …” (ibid).
“Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee. The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words” (Proverbs 23:6-8).
This remarkable proverb specifies consuming dainties—sodas, snack cakes, convenience foods, packaged meals, you might say. These dainties come from an evil man whose heart is not with you, but he says to you, “Eat and drink”—on television, movies, radio, the Internet, apps, billboards, scoreboards, electric signs, window decals, T-shirts, buttons, baby clothes and almost anything else you can see or hear.
Giving In to Cravings
It’s clear that Satan uses self-love and vanity to motivate these manufacturers. But he uses these weapons on consumers as well.
For example, many of the food conglomerates’ million-dollar advertising campaigns are aimed at convincing you that it’s “cool” to consume their products. People will actually sacrifice a bit of their virtue and health for that subtle hit they get from being seen with that (heavily advertised) fancy or trendy food product.
But the far bigger problem is how Satan plays to our desire to please our senses—no matter what it does to our health!
These food companies feed and stoke our cravings, and we have walked into their trap step by step, unaware of how we are enslaving ourselves to our appetites!
God created us to need food so we can learn to make wise choices. The number of Bible verses about food and drink proves that. Deciding to eat what is good rather than what tastes good is a tremendous area for building righteous character (e.g. Proverbs 25:16).
What happens if you live your life as if there are no consequences for what you eat? What happens if you do what food manufacturers have taught you to do: choose to eat whatever is cheap and tastes good?
Food industry chemists create tens of thousands of test versions of their product, constantly engineering, formulating and optimizing their sugar, fat and/or salt ratios and chemical compounds to yield what they refer to as the “bliss point,” the perfect formula to maximize customers’ desire for their product. These manufacturers are in the business of optimizing color, smell, packaging and taste to create cravings.
Satan’s devices for attacking your health and your character are elaborate and powerful. But they largely depend on you deciding, “If it tastes good, eat it.” If you look at this principle more broadly, it’s the same device Satan uses in other areas of your life in tempting you to sin: “If it feels good, do it.” If how something feels or tastes is your only criterion, you will do extremely destructive things to yourself.
One of Satan’s clearest yet most tempting food devices is sugar. It is so powerful in creating cravings that General Mills, Kraft, Nabisco, Nestlé, Proctor & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Mars, Cargill, Tyson and the others put sugar and other sweeteners in almost everything, even foods like savory condiments, spaghetti sauce, baked beans, granola, yogurt, bread and even meat. Eighty percent of the items in your standard supermarket contain sugar, and lots of it.
How do you avoid being entrapped in Satan’s devices? Don’t be ignorant of them! Read nutrition labels! And read them closely. Deception extends right onto these labels. One cereal’s nutrition label shows that it contains only 6 grams of sugar (1½ teaspoons) per serving. That doesn’t seem bad—until you read that the serving size is less than a third of a cup! If you eat just one cup of this cereal, you are consuming about 5 teaspoons of sugar. An actual bowl of cereal would contain about 12 teaspoons, or a ¼ cup.
You must especially protect your children from these devices. The more sugar you eat, the more you crave. Children seem to like it more than adults, but part of that may be because the foods that the industry markets to children are so sweet.
“It’s not that food companies are teaching children to like sweetness,” Moss writes, “rather, they are teaching children what foods should taste like. And increasingly, this curriculum has been all about sugar” (ibid). We have all been “educated” in this way. There are so many things about Satan’s world that we accept as normal but that are not normal.
Don’t be ignorant of Satan’s devices!
2) Willful Lawbreaking
The second device Satan used against Christ and uses against you in the food you eat revolves around breaking God’s laws willfully and then believing God will bail you out.
A lot of people, even in God’s Church, casually eat things they know they should not, but they feel like it is no big deal and everything will work out.
God created us to need food, but the most important part of food from God’s perspective is nutrition. The most important thing from the food industry’s perspective is profit—therefore taste, convenience and cost.
These industry executives are guilty, but the more helpful thing to consider is the guilt of the consumers. “Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you,” God says in Jeremiah 5:25. So many people are in ill health, yet they keep going after bad foods. They do not even know what good health feels like! They don’t realize how bad off they are.
“For among my people are found wicked men: they lay wait, as he that setteth snares; they set a trap, they catch men. As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore they are become great, and waxen rich. They are waxen fat, they shine: yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge” (verses 26-28). Those executives might not be physically fat, but they’ve certainly enriched themselves at the expense of some of the most vulnerable people in society! And God says, I’m going to judge you for this—you’re not going to get away with it!
But notice: “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?” (verse 31). Worst of all, the people love it! People want these things that are making them fat, unhealthy and sickly.
You can blame the companies, but if nobody bought their products, they would not make them. The real problem is the consumers—the people, you and me. The terrible foods that these companies are producing are what people want and will pay for. Even when confronted with the truth about these things, they still want them. Consumers punish companies that try to give them something healthier by buying their competitors’ products instead.
There has been a lot of pressure on food companies over the past couple of decades to take steps to correct the obesity problem, heart disease, etc. Around 2000, Kraft Foods decided to take responsibility and make some real changes. It started labeling real amounts of sugar, fat and salt on their products—for the whole bag. It tried cutting down those ingredients in their products. And sales tumbled! Through the summer and fall of 2003, stock prices dropped 17 percent; during that same period, their competitors’ stock increased 5 percent!
An Australian documentary titled That Sugar Film highlights a shocking example of how the ultimate responsibility lies with us, the consumers. Mountain Dew is a popular soda in Kentucky. One 1.25-liter bottle contains 37 teaspoons of sugar—and 40 percent more caffeine than the same size bottle of Coke. Many Kentuckians in the poorer eastern part of the state drink large amounts of Mountain Dew: Some kids drink 10 bottles a day; some parents put it in their babies’ sippy cups.
The film follows one dentist who converted recreational vehicles into mobile dental clinics to reach towns where people wouldn’t make it to the dentist and to treat people who have what he calls “Mountain Dew Mouth.”
The documentary showed one teen named Larry who needed 26 rotting teeth extracted and who was getting dentures at age 17. A lengthy segment showed the major ordeal of the dentist trying to numb Larry’s mouth enough to do the extractions. The anesthetic did not work because he had so much infection! Finally, the dentist said they would have to do it another time. Despite it all, the boy told the filmmaker that he still loved Mountain Dew and would continue to drink it.
How well are you keeping God’s laws of health? You cannot eat whatever you want, treat your body however you want, and then expect God to take care of you simply because you believe in Him or because you are in His Church. That is not treating Christ’s physical sacrifice with the respect we should! Don’t make this mistake for the sake of taste or convenience or habit. Recognize this wrong tendency to “let God work it out” for what it is: one of Satan’s devices!
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22). (Royal Vision editor in chief Gerald Flurry covers this subject in Chapter 2 of his How to Be an Overcomer booklet; request your free copy.)
Satan always encourages us to do as we please: Don’t worry about cause and effect. Don’t worry about keeping the law. It will all work out in the end. God will make up the difference. Christ said, No! You shall not tempt God!
God expects us to follow through and do what He teaches us. That means not only reading the many Royal Vision health articles that have been published over the years, but conquering your old habits and actually applying those articles. Escape this device of Satan’s by being a doer of the word.
3) Taking the Easy Way Out
Another device that is fascinating to consider with respect to processed food is Satan’s urgings for you to take the easy way out rather than subjecting yourself to God’s will. Satan offers instant gratification, even when it comes to food. This form of attack comes not only in terms of taste but also in terms of convenience.
During World War ii, American men went to war and women entered the workforce. After the war, women never really returned to the home. Leaving the home gave them more money than time, creating a perfect opportunity for food corporations to step in.
Moss calls this an “epic moment” in the food business: “The family-owned American grocery story was fast evolving into the supermarket, and food manufacturers were scrambling to fill the shelves with time-saving innovations that fed directly into the country’s frenzy to modernize” (ibid). One man in the marketing department of General Foods coined the term convenience foods, “a phrase that would galvanize the industry for decades to come.”
A premium was placed on saving time, and the price was nutrition. Ads described new food products as Quick! Easy! You can make and serve it at the very last minute! Such products made life easier for people stressed by modern life. One executive called convenience “the super-additive that is changing the whole face of competitive business.” Marketers embedded convenience in every product they made so that Americans could “buy fuller lives” as that General Foods marketer said.
People assumed that there would be no real cost: The wife can work outside the home—and we can feed our family good food! Win-win! But that isn’t reality. It goes against God’s design: God intends women to be “keepers at home” (Titus 2:5), which means working at home, caring for and keeping watch of the house, taking care of household affairs. A home environment that upbuilds, nourishes, encourages and revitalizes those who live in it does not happen by itself! It happens if and only if a skilled, diligent, dedicated woman is making it happen.
There is always a price to pay when you go against God’s design for the sake of convenience.
Moss writes that James Behnke—a chemist who worked for Pillsbury for 26 years and the company’s chief technical officer—helped create a lot of profitable products, including microwavable popcorn. Behnke said their inventions were originally intended only for occasional use. It was the buyers who had made their convenience foods a daily indulgence.
Once again, realize that the ultimate responsibility for resisting or falling into the convenience trap belongs to you.
Slave to Profit
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). If you decide to serve mammon, then that becomes your master. And it is a tyrant. These food companies know that firsthand. They are ruled by cost, revenue and profit: mammon.
The further you devote yourself to mammon, the more you embrace compromise and law-breaking. In a sense, you have no choice—you have to serve your master.
Competition is exceedingly fierce. Space on grocery store shelves is at a premium. Store managers have one rule: The most space goes to the biggest sellers. “Supermarket real estate is so precious, in fact, that consumer scientists have conducted experiments in which they place devices on the heads of shoppers to track their eye movements as they roam the store, and the gleanings from these studies has helped define the pecking order on the shelf,” Moss writes (ibid). When a company tries to market a better-for-you product, it doesn’t sell. With even tiny slippages in sales, the grocery stores get upset—and food company executives lose their jobs. The companies end up doing things that they never would have dreamed of doing when they started.
When you enter the supermarket, you are not browsing the offerings of a few bakeries and farms. You are entering a war zone between billion-dollar corporations. The objective is your wallet, and the collateral damage is your health, your quality of life and even your character.
A lot of the firms’ strategies involve creating the appearance of something healthy while maintaining the winning formula of sugar, salt, fat and chemicals that gets your taste buds coming back for more. They print “real fruit juice” on the box, even though 90 percent of the product is heavily processed. They apply the “fruit juice concentrate” label; the consumer doesn’t realize that this concentrate is made in the factory by basically stripping the fruit down to pure sugar, with no nutritional benefit over table sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. Yet they legally get to print “contains real fruit” and deceive people into buying.
Satan is a liar. Don’t believe him just because it would be so convenient if he were right.
Kellogg’s advertising campaign in 2008 claimed that Frosted Mini-Wheats would help your kids get better grades. One commercial showed a classroom where the teacher loses her train of thought: “OK, where were we?” The camera pans to show a room full of drowsy students. One boy shoots his hand into the air, “We were on the third paragraph of page 57, and you were explaining that the stone structures made by ancient Romans were called aqueducts. And as you were writing that up on the board, your chalk broke. Into three pieces.” The voiceover said: “A clinical study showed kids who had a filling breakfast of Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal improved their attentiveness by nearly 20 percent. Keeps ’em full. Keeps ’em focused.”
The Federal Trade Commission investigated Kellogg: Was it false advertising to claim that Frosted Mini-Wheats improved children’s attentiveness? Absolutely. In fact, the “clinical study” was paid for by Kellogg. It took the ftc a year to issue a decision barring Kellogg from using the claim. But by that point, the six-month ad campaign had run its course, and Frosted Mini-Wheats sales were up. One survey found 51 percent of adults believed not just that Frosted Mini-Wheats made kids more attentive, but that only Frosted Mini-Wheats did so!
“For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage” (2 Peter 2:18-19). This principle is at work everywhere!
Satan’s counterfeits have no substance, and that is true in a tangible way when it comes to processed foods. Remove the sugar, fat and salt from them, and what is left? “[One] of the biggest food manufacturers let me in to observe their efforts to cut back on salt,” Moss writes. “Kellogg, for one, made me a saltless version of their mega-selling Cheez-Its, which normally I can keep eating forever. Without any salt, however, the crackers lost their magic. They felt like straw, chewed like cardboard, and had zero taste. The same thing happened with the soups and meats and breads that other manufacturers, including Campbell, attempted to make for me. Take more than a little salt, or sugar, or fat out of processed food, these experiments showed, and there is nothing left. Or, even worse, what is left are the inexorable consequences of food processing, repulsive tastes that are bitter, metallic and astringent. The industry has boxed itself in.”
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-16). Christ gave the solution to escaping Satan’s devices: You shall worship and serve God alone. He has your best interests at heart. Obey Him and His laws!
Conquer Every Day
“They are knowingly designed—engineered is the better word—to maximize their allure,” Moss writes of food manufacturers’ products. “Their packaging is tailored to excite our kids. Their advertising uses every psychological trick to overcome any logical arguments we might have for passing the product by. Their taste is so powerful, we remember it from the last time we walked down the aisle and succumbed, snatching them up. And above all else, their formulas are calculated and perfected by scientists who know very well what they are doing. The most crucial point to know is that there is nothing accidental in the grocery store. All of this is done with a purpose.”
Don’t be ignorant of Satan’s devices, or he’ll get an advantage on you.
“It is, perhaps, not unreasonable in this scenario to think of the grocery store as a battlefield, dotted with land mines itching to go off.” This is from a man who saw the industry inside-out, from the top people in the business! “If you accept this,” Moss continues, “then it becomes all the more apparent why the food industry is so reliant on salt, sugar and fat. They are cheap. They are interchangeable. They are huge, powerful forces of nature in unnatural food. And yet, for us, knowing all this can be empowering. You can walk through the grocery store and, while the brightly colored packaging and empty promises are still mesmerizing, you can see the products for what they are. … They may have salt, sugar and fat on their side, but we, ultimately, have the power to make choices. After all, we decide what to buy. We decide how much to eat.”
It takes continual vigilance to not remain ignorant of Satan’s tactics. And it takes the Holy Spirit and God’s power to overcome these temptations.
Jesus conquered Satan’s three temptations in the wilderness, and Satan fled from him. But as Luke 4:13 says, he would be back at “an opportune time” (New King James Version). Jesus would face continual temptations from the devil throughout His ministry.
Conquering Satan’s devices when it comes to food is an ongoing battle. Satan will seek “an opportune time” to get you to fall back into old habits, to treat your and your family’s nutrition casually, to ignore future consequences. When you look into how the foods we rely on are produced, there is a tendency to be overwhelmed and not even try to do things right. But that is succumbing to Satan’s devices. It is worth the effort to get away from processed stuff and choose to eat simpler—eating foods in the state closest to how God made them.
They say every good story needs a villain, but we need to realize that these food industry executives aren’t the real villains here. They are part of an entire system—economic, industrial, societal—that has, step-by-step, over a period of generations, become an insane world with human nature thriving unchecked at every turn! It is a perfect storm of greed, self-concern and lust.
And at the center of it all is the devil. God wants to help us in our warfare against Satan. He knows we face a fierce enemy. Satan is so active on so many levels. “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31).
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
But you have God and His power on your side. “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). Christ is with us! Christ gave us the battle plan. He has exposed Satan’s devices, and He has showed us how to conquer them!