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Our Daily Bread (video)

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Welcome to the world of industrial food production and high-tech farming! To the rhythm of conveyor belts and immense machines, the film looks without commenting into the places where food is produced in Europe: monumental spaces, surreal landscapes and bizarre sounds – a cool, industrial environment which leaves little space for individualism. People, animals, crops and machines play a supporting role in the logistic of this system which provides our society’s standard of living. OUR DAILY BREAD is a wide-screen tableau of a feast which isn’t always easy to digest – and in which we all take part. A pure, meticulous and high-end film experience that enables the audience to form their own ideas.

Watch our Daily Bread.


FDA Halts Poisonous Orange Juice At US Border

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

U.S. health regulators detained three shipments of Brazilian orange juice and six from Canada that tested positive for the fungicide carbendazim, which is illegal in the United States.

Two other Brazilian juice shipments tested positive for the fungicide, but the companies decided not to import the juice into the country, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Friday.

Orange juice futures climbed almost 3 percent in reaction to the FDA testing results, which had been widely expected.

But the futures remained below a record high hit on Monday, after traders fretted that regulators may ban all orange juice from top grower Brazil, which supplies half of U.S. imports.

The FDA said 29 of the 80 orange juice samples it had taken since testing began on January 4 were safe, including two from Brazil and seven from Canada.

Canada does not grow its own oranges, but may process juice from other countries. The nation makes up less than 1 percent of U.S. imports.

The fungicide scare flared two weeks ago after the FDA announced that a company – later identified as Coca-Cola Co – had reported finding carbendazim in juice samples from Brazil.

Growers in Brazil widely use carbendazim to combat blossom blights and black spot, a mold that grows on orange trees.

The fungicide is illegal on citrus in the United States, although it does not pose a safety risk, the FDA said.

The FDA said it would begin testing imports for the fungicide and reject shipments that were above the legal limit.

Shipments that have more than 10 parts per billion (ppb) of the fungicide will be detained, and the importers will have 90 days to export or destroy the product, the agency said.

The FDA said it would test all shipments twice, and detain any that tested positive for carbendazim at least once.

Of the six shipments detained from Canada, none had levels of fungicide higher than 31 ppb, and most were below 20 ppb. The Brazilian shipments that tested positive had carbendazim levels between 20 ppb and 52 ppb.

All the levels of carbendazim found so far have been below the legal limit in the European Union, which allows juice imports with up to 200 ppb.

In the United States, trace amounts of the fungicide are still allowed in 31 food types including grains, nuts and some non-citrus fruits. It has been banned from U.S. citrus juice since 2009.

Source: Reuters

What You Need To Know About Mountain Dew.

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Brominated vegetable oil is patented as a flame retardant and it’s banned in food all over Europe and Japan, but it’s on the ingredient list of about 10 percent of sodas in the U.S. It’s not in Coca-Cola, but is in Mountain Dew, Fanta Orange, and in some flavors of Powerade and Gatorade.

What brominated vegetable oil (BVO) does to soda is, Coca-Cola explains, “prevent the citrus flavoring oils from floating to the surface in beverages.” The fruit flavors that are mixed into a drink would otherwise settle out. What BVO does when it’s acting as a flame retardant is not much different: It slows down the chemical reactions that cause a fire.

Safe For Consumption?
The FDA established safety limits for the substance in the 1970s, but Environmental Health News reports about growing concerns that the limit was informed by reports put out by an industry group containing outdated and, as industry-generated information tends to be, less-than-comprehensive data.

EHN has the details:

After a few extreme soda binges — not too far from what many gamers regularly consume – a few patients have needed medical attention for skin lesions, memory loss and nerve disorders, all symptoms of overexposure to bromine. Other studies suggest that BVO could be building up in human tissues, just like other brominated compounds such as flame retardants. In mouse studies, big doses caused reproductive and behavioral problems.


EHN explains that BVO was pulled from the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list for flavor additives in 1970, “bounced back after studies from an industry group from 1971 to 1974 demonstrated a level of safety,” at which point the Flavor Extract Manufacturers’ Association ”petitioned the FDA to get BVO back in fruit-flavored beverages, this time as a stabilizer, which is its role today.”

Interim Approval — For More Than 30 Years
Today, more than 30 years later, the approval status for BVO is still listed as interim. EHN reports that changing that status would be expensive and quotes FDA spokesman Douglas Karas saying it “is not a public health priority for the agency at this time.”

With BVO banned in so many countries, there are feasible alternatives. And that brings us to the unsurprising but disturbing note on which the EHN story ends:

Wim Thielemans, a chemical engineer at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, said since the alternatives are already used in Europe “their performance must be acceptable, if not comparable, to the U.S.-used brominated systems.” That means “the main driver for not replacing them may be cost,” he said.”It is a North American problem,” Vetter added. “In the E.U., BVO will never be permitted.”


Half Of Americans Taking Nutritional Supplements

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

As more than half of U.S. adults are popping vitamins and supplements, the question remains — has it made Americans healthier?

That depends on whom you ask.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that more of half of U.S. adults use dietary supplements — including multivitamins, minerals and herbs.

That rise, from 42% in 1988 to 53% in 2006, has fueled the growth of the supplement industry to a $27 billion behemoth, according to Consumer Reports.

Dietary supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the same way as drugs. The makers do not have to prove safety or effectiveness.

“There’s a false perception that supplements fall under the same regulatory umbrella as prescription drugs,” said Dr. Orly Avitzur, medical adviser for Consumer Reports. “That’s not the case.”

“We really don’t know what’s inside.”

The most popular supplements are multivitamins, used by 39% of U.S. adults in 2006.

Some consumers mistakenly view supplements as a way to make up for a poor diet.

“It’s a Band-Aid approach to think you can eat poorly and just take a vitamin and you’ll be equal to another person who eats well and exercises and takes care of their health and gets regular checkups,” Avitzur said. “There’s no substitute for a healthy lifestyle.”

While some are helpful, supplements can’t entirely replace proper nutrition, said Roberta Anding, an American Dietetic Association spokesperson.

“I will always say the reason to eat fruits and vegetables — it’s not vitamin C, it’s because of the colors, it’s the words you can’t pronounce,” she said, referring to nutrients like lycopene, quercetin or indoles. “That’s the reason you eat fruits and vegetables. To just throw vitamin C at it, it doesn’t do nutrition justice.”

Multivitamins can be an insurance policy if you don’t get enough of specific vitamins, but it can’t replace a healthy diet, she said.

Depending on the supplement, the money on supplements can be better off spent on food,” she said, suggesting wholesome fruits and vegetables that pack vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

Over two decades, researchers have seen increased use of calcium, vitamin D and folic acid.

About 61% of women over the age of 60 take calcium, compared with only 28% in 1988-1994. Also, 56% of women in that age group take vitamin D supplements, compared with only 30% in 1988-1994.

Scientific evidence shows that vitamin D and calcium help to treat bone loss. Folic acid can help pregnant women prevent major birth defects.

Jaime Gahche, main author of the CDC report, and her co-authors analyzed responses from a sample size of 37,596, using National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys. Participants were asked what supplements they had taken in the past 30 days and submitted the product label to National Center for Health Statistics nutritionists.

Gahche said it was unclear from the data whether increased supplement use has made Americans healthier.

“With this data, we couldn’t answer that,” she said. “We can’t make any causal relationships — this is providing the estimates. I don’t think we have any answers whether it’s made us healthier or not.”

Several epidemiological studies showed there was no significant difference between people who take supplements and those who do not, said Anding, a registered dietitian and director of sports nutrition at Texas Children’s Hospital.

Just because it might not make a difference in public health, “it doesn’t mean it’s universally true for everyone,” she said. Supplements could make a big difference for individuals who have certain vitamin deficiencies or food allergies.

Gladys Block, professor Emerita of public health nutrition at University of California Berkeley said, “I really believe that essentially everybody can benefit from a multivitamin.”

Block wrote a research paper comparing a sample size of 1,000. Those who used dietary supplements had lower blood pressure, better plasma levels, and stress status than those who did not.

“They were healthier, in those respects and so, that’s one piece of evidence,” she said. “It doesn’t tell the whole story. I believe there is evidence that people can be healthier as a result of taking vitamin and mineral supplements.”

“It used to be most of the scientific world was against most types of supplement. That has changed over the last 15 years. A lot of people recognize the benefit of multivitamins. There is increasing support in the science, like folate, like calcium.”

Certain dietary supplements such as vitamin D and fish oil have proven benefits, but others like bitter orange and vitamin B5 lack evidence.

Just because you can purchase it at a health store, it doesn’t mean it’s going to make you healthy, said Avitzur, neurologist and medical adviser at Consumer Reports said.

“By no means do I want to paint the industry with the same brush,” she said. “It’s important to look for sources. It’s important to read up about it.”

She advised consulting with doctors first about taking supplements.

“Consumers will hesitate sometimes when a doctor prescribes medications,” she said. “They want to know about side effects, safety, and they ask good questions. When it comes to supplements, you should ask the same questions. Those things apply — talk to your physician.”

Some supplements can interfere with prescription drugs and too much can cause neuropathy and in severe cases, organ damage.

“Too much of a good thing, even supplements that are safe, can be bad for you,” Avitzur said.

Chocolate Milk In Schools Stirs Controversy

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

It was once a staple of public school cafeterias that blended the indulgent and the nutritious, satisfying parents and children both. But chocolate milk is uncontroversial no more. Dozens of districts have demanded reformulations. Others have banned it outright.

At the center of these battles are complex public health calculations: Is it better to remove sugary chocolate flavorings at the risk that many students will skip milk altogether, missing out on crucial calcium and Vitamin D? Or should schools instead make tweaks — less fat, different sweeteners, fewer calories — that might salvage the benefits while while minimizing the downside?

However schools answer these questions, protest inevitably follows. When Fairfax County and D.C. schools banned chocolate milk last year from elementary lunch lines, officials heard not just from parents and students. They also received letters and petitions from a slew of nutritionists and influential special interest groups.

Most accused the districts of acting rashly, robbing students of a tasty drink and the vitamins and minerals that fuel bone and muscle growth.

“We got 10 to 20 e-mails a day,” said Penny McConnell, director of food and nutrition services for Fairfax. “It was a lot of pressure.”

This month — and partly because of that pressure — Fairfax officials announced that they would reintroduce chocolate milk in school cafeterias. The newer, low-fat version includes sucrose, which is made from sugar cane or beets, instead of high-fructose corn syrup, which some critics say is more heavily processed and, as a result, less healthy.

Such reformulations have satisfied some of chocolate milk’s critics. But most scientists and nutritionists, including those employed by local school districts, say that changing sweeteners makes little dietary difference if the total calorie content stays the same.

This is a view embraced by the Corn Refiners Association, which often finds itself on the losing side of such changes. “Why should school districts pay more for one sweetener when children’s bodies can’t tell the difference?” said Audrae Erickson, the group’s president.

Several other school districts in the Washington area are changing the formulations of their chocolate milk to switch sweeteners and lessen the amount of fat and sugar. But most are continuing to make it available to students. D.C. schools have resisted the push to restore chocolate milk to their cafeterias.

The stakes are high because more than 70 percent of the milk distributed in school cafeterias is flavored, according to the Milk Processor Education Program, an industry group. Fairfax alone serves 62,000 gallons of chocolate milk a year. And the formulations used in many cafeterias across the country have more calories, ounce for ounce, than Coke.

Such statistics have drawn the attention of those lobbying for healthier school lunches at a time of rising obesity among children. Parents in many districts have been vocal.

“If we want to fix childhood obesity, chocolate milk is just one of the things we need to get rid of,” said Jeff Anderson, a parent of three students at Wolftrap Elementary in Vienna and a member of Real Food for Kids, a Fairfax area advocacy group. “It’s a treat, not something you have every day with lunch.”

Nutritionists, meanwhile, have split between those who think chocoloate milk is worth the payoff in nutrients and those who don’t.

“Trying to get students to consume calcium by drinking chocolate milk is like getting them to eat apples by serving them apple pie,” said Ann Cooper, a leading advocate for healthy school lunches.

The catch is that when schools remove flavored milk, students drink less milk. The milk processors’ group puts the number at 37 percent less milk overall.

Based on such statistics, the National Dairy Council has launched its Raise Your Hand for Chocolate Milk campaign. “Chocolate milk is the most popular milk choice in schools,” according to the campaign’s pitch, “and kids will drink less milk and get fewer nutrients if it’s taken away.”

Sandwiched between concerned parents and vocal industry representatives are school districts such as Fairfax, which must also consider the tastes of their young consumers. In November, when trying to create a chocolate milk formula that satisfied as many parties as possible, the district held a “taste party” at Lane Elementary School in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County.

“Tastes really chocolatey,” one student wrote on the survey distributed to 24 child-testers.

“Really awesome,” wrote another.

Nearly all of the students liked the new milk, but school officials decided it was too much of a good thing. They cut two grams of sugar from the formulation — going from 24 grams per half-pint container to 22 grams — and decided against retesting it.

The new formula, created by Dallas-based Dean Foods, is complete. Fairfax will soon be joined by several other Washington area school districts in introducing the new milk this month.

Dean Foods, one of several chocolate milk suppliers across the country, sells 144 million gallons of chocolate milk in cafeterias across the country. It’s a relatively modest but symbolic part of the company’s sales, said company spokesman Jamaison Schuler. “This is not just a part of our business, it’s a part of our legacy.”

Jostled by the new politics of school lunch, Fairfax officials have vacillated over other staples. This year, for example, they removed salt from pretzels, but weeks later they were coaxed into putting it back.

“All of a sudden, everyone who eats is a nutritionist,” McConnell said. “It makes our job a lot more difficult.”

Source: Washington Post



19 Studies Link GMOs To Organ Disruption

Monday, April 11th, 2011

A new paper shows that consuming genetically modified (GM) corn or soybeans leads to significant organ disruptions in rats and mice, particularly in livers and kidneys. By reviewing data from 19 animal studies, Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini and others reveal that 9% of the measured parameters, including blood and urine biochemistry, organ weights, and microscopic analyses (histopathology), were significantly disrupted in the GM-fed animals. The kidneys of males fared the worst, with 43.5% of all the changes. The liver of females followed, with 30.8%. The report, published in Environmental Sciences Europe on March 1, 2011, confirms that “several convergent data appear to indicate liver and kidney problems as end points of GMO diet effects.” The authors point out that livers and kidneys “are the major reactive organs” in cases of chronic food toxicity.

“Other organs may be affected too, such as the heart and spleen, or blood cells,” stated the paper. In fact some of the animals fed genetically modified organisms had altered body weights in at least one gender, which is “a very good predictor of side effects in various organs.”

The GM soybean and corn varieties used in the feeding trials “constitute 83% of the commercialized GMOs” that are currently consumed by billions of people. While the findings may have serious ramifications for the human population, the authors demonstrate how a multitude of GMO-related health problems could easily pass undetected through the superficial and largely incompetent safety assessments that are used around the world.

Feed’em longer!

One of the most glaring faults in the current regulatory regime is the short duration of animals feeding studies. The industry limits trials to 90 days at most, with some less than a month. Only two studies reviewed in this new publication were over 90 days—both were non-industry research.

Short studies could easily miss many serious effects of GMOs. It is well established that some pesticides and drugs, for example, can create effects that are passed on through generations, only showing up decades later. IN the case of the drug DES (diethylstilbestrol), “induced female genital cancers among other problems in the second generation.” The authors urge regulators to require long-term multi-generational studies, to “provide evidence of carcinogenic, developmental, hormonal, neural, and reproductive potential dysfunctions, as it does for pesticides or drugs.”

Pesticide Plants”

Nearly all GM crops are described as “pesticide plants.” They either tolerate doses of weed killer, such as Roundup, or produce an insecticide called Bt-toxin. In both cases, the added toxin—weedkiller or bug killer—is found inside the corn or soybeans we consume.

When regulators evaluate the toxic effects of pesticides, they typically require studies using three types of animals, with at least one feeding trial lasting 2 years or more. One third or more of the side effects produced by these toxins will show up only in the longer study—not the shorter ones. But for no good reason, regulators ignore the lessons learned from pesticides and waive the GM crops-containing-pesticides onto the market with a single species tested for just 90 days. The authors affirm that “it is impossible, within only 13 weeks, to conclude about the kind of pathology that could be induced by pesticide GMOs and whether it is a major pathology or a minor one. It is therefore necessary to prolong the tests.”

GMO approvals also ignore the new understanding that toxins don’t always follow a linear dose-response. Sometimes a smaller amount of toxins have greater impact than larger doses. Approvals also overlook the fact that mixtures can be far more dangerous than single chemicals acting alone. Roundup residues, for example, have been “shown to be toxic for human placental, embryonic, and umbilical cord cells,” whereas Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate does not on its own provoke the same degree of damage. One reason for this is that the chemicals in Roundup “stabilize glyphosate and allow its penetration into cells.”

Furthermore, toxins may generate new substances (metabolites) “either in the GM plant or in the animals fed with it.” Current assessments completely ignore the potential danger from these new components in our diets, such as the “new metabolites” in GMOs engineered to withstand Roundup. The authors warn, “We consider this as a major oversight in the present regulations.”

It’s not the same stuff that farmers spray

Regulators claim that the Bt-toxin produced inside GM corn is safe. They say that the Bt gene comes from soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which has been safely applied as a spray-on insecticide by farmers in the past. But the authors insist that “the argument about ‘safe use history’ of the wild Bt protein . . . cannot, on a sound scientific basis, be used for direct authorizations of . . . GM corns,” without conducting proper long-term animal feeding studies.

In order to justify their claim that the wild Bt-toxin is safe, the authors state that it must first be separately tested on animals and humans and then authorized individually for food or feed, which it has not. And even if the wild variety had been confirmed as safe, the GM versions are so different, they must require their own independent studies. The paper states:

“The Bt toxins in GMOs are new and modified, truncated, or chimerical in order to change their activities/solubility in comparison to wild Bt. For instance, there is at least a 40% difference between the toxin in Bt176 [corn] and its wild counterpart.”

Even though the isolated Bt-toxin from GM corn has not been tested on animals, rodent studies on corn containing the toxin do show problems. Male rats fed Monsanto’s MON863 corn, for example, had smaller kidneys with more focal inflammation and other “disrupted biochemical markers typical of kidney filtration or function problems.”

Stop with the dumb excuses

If statistically significant problems show up in their studies, biotech company researchers often attempt to explain away the adverse findings. But the authors of this review paper describe their excuses as unscientific, obsolete, or unjustified.

When male and female animals have different results, for example, biotech advocates claim that this couldn’t possibly be related to the feed. Since both genders eat the same amount, they argue, both would have to show the same reaction in all of their organs, etc. And if the group of animals fed with less of the GMO feed exhibit more severe reactions than the group fed the larger amount, advocates claim that this discrepancy also means that the GMOs could not be the cause, since there mustalways be a linear dose relationship.

The authors of this paper, however, point out that effects found in a GMO animal feeding study “cannot be disregarded on the rationale that it is not linear to the dose (or dose-related) or not comparable in genders. This would not be scientifically acceptable.” In fact, most “pathological and endocrine effects in environmental health are not directly proportional to the dose, and they have a differential threshold of sensitivity in both sexes. This is, for instance, the case with carcinogenesis and endocrine disruption.”

What’s the culprit, pesticide or plant?

The shortcomings of the feeding studies make it impossible to determine whether a particular problem is due to the added pesticide, such as Roundup residues or Bt-toxin, or due to the genetic changes in the modified plants’ DNA.

Mice fed Roundup Ready soybeans, for example, showed numerous changes indicating increased metabolic rates in the liver (i.e. irregular hepatocyte nuclei, more nuclear pores, numerous small fibrillar centers, and abundant dense fibrillar components). Since studies on Roundup herbicide also show changes in the liver cells of mice and humans, the Roundup residues within the soybeans may be a significant contributing factor to the metabolic changes.

Similarly, rats fed Roundup Ready corn showed indications that their kidneys leaked. Such an effect “is well correlated with the effects of glyphosate-based herbicides (like Roundup) observed on embryonic kidney cells.” Thus, the rats’ kidney problems may also be caused by the Roundup that is accumulated within Roundup Ready corn kernels.

In addition to the herbicide, the Bt-toxin insecticide produced inside GM corn might also cause disorders. The authors state, “The insecticide produced by MON810 [corn] could also induce liver reactions, like many other pesticides.” Studies do confirm significant liver changes in rats fed Bt corn.

On the other hand, “unintended effects of the genetic modification itself cannot be excluded” as the possible cause of these very same health problems. The process of gene insertion followed by cloning plant cells (tissue culture) can cause massive collateral damage in the plant’s DNA with potentially harmful side-effects. In MON810 corn, for example, the insertion “caused a complex recombination event, leading to the synthesis of new RNA products encoding unknown proteins.” The authors warn that “genetic modifications can induce global changes” in the DNA, RNA, proteins, and the numerous natural products (metabolites), but the faulty safety assessments are not designed to adequately identify these changes or their health impacts.

Population at risk

In addition to the shortcomings mentioned above, the paper shows how GMO feeding trials are “based on ancient paradigms” with “serious conceptual and methodological flaws,” employ statistical methods that obscure the findings, add irrelevant control groups that confuse and confound the analysis, and rely on numerous assumptions that either remain untested or have already proved false.

Unlike drug approvals, biotech companies do not conduct human studies. They would therefore fail to identify both general human health reactions, and the potentially more serious ones endured by sub-populations. “If some consumers suffer from stomach problems or ulcers,” for example, the paper states, “the new toxins will possibly act differently; the digestion in children could be affected too.” The paper recommends the implementation of post market monitoring, which, among other things, “should be linked with the possibility of detecting allergenicity reactions to GMOs in routine medicine.”

But even if authorities wanted to conduct epidemiological studies on GMOs, the authors acknowledge that they “are not feasible in America, since there is no organized traceability of GMOs anywhere on the continent.” Not only is labeling of GMOs urgently needed to allow such studies to proceed, the study says:

“The traceability of products from animals fed on GMOs is also crucial. The reason for this is because they can develop chronic diseases which are not utterly known today…. Labeling animals fed on GMOs is therefore necessary because some pesticide residues linked to GMOs could pass into the food chain.”

They also point out that “even if pesticides residues or DNA fragments are not toxic nor transmitted by themselves” nevertheless, “nobody would want to eat disabled or physiologically modified animals after long-term GMOs ingestion.”

“New experiments,” they concluded, “should be systematically performed to protect the health of billions of people that could consume directly or indirectly these transformed products.”

In the meantime, for those not willing to wait for the new studies, we recommend consulting the Non-GMO Shopping Guide at

Source: Institute For Responsible Technology

F.D.A. To Consider Warnings For Artificial Food Coloring

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

After staunchly defending the safety of artificial food colorings, the federal government is for the first time publicly reassessing whether foods like Jell-O, Lucky Charms cereal and Minute Maid Lemonade should carry warnings that the bright artificial colorings in them worsen behavior problems like hyperactivity in some children.

The Food and Drug Administrationconcluded long ago that there was no definitive link between the colorings and behavior or health problems, and the agency is unlikely to change its mind any time soon. But on Wednesday and Thursday, the F.D.A. will ask a panel of experts to review the evidence and advise on possible policy changes, which could include warning labels on food.

The hearings signal that the growing list of studies suggesting a link between artificial colorings and behavioral changes in children has at least gotten regulators’ attention — and, for consumer advocates, that in itself is a victory.

In a concluding report, staff scientists from the F.D.A. wrote that while typical children might be unaffected by the dyes, those with behavioral disorders might have their conditions “exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to, synthetic color additives.”

Renee Shutters, a mother of two from Jamestown, N.Y., said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that two years ago, her son Trenton, then 5, was having serious behavioral problems at school until she eliminated artificial food colorings from his diet. “I know for sure I found the root cause of this one because you can turn it on and off like a switch,” Ms. Shutters said.

But Dr. Lawrence Diller, a behavioral pediatrician in Walnut Creek, Calif., said evidence that diet plays a significant role in most childhood behavioral disorders was minimal to nonexistent. “These are urban legends that won’t die,” Dr. Diller said.

There is no debate about the safety of natural food colorings, and manufacturers have long defended the safety of artificial ones as well. In a statement, the Grocery Manufacturers Association said, “All of the major safety bodies globally have reviewed the available science and have determined that there is no demonstrable link between artificial food colors and hyperactivity among children.”

In a 2008 petition filed with federal food regulators, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group, argued that some parents of susceptible children do not know that their children are at risk and so “the appropriate public health approach is to remove those dangerous and unnecessary substances from the food supply.”

The federal government has been cracking down on artificial food dyes for more than a century in part because some early ones were not only toxic but were also sometimes used to mask filth or rot. In 1950, many children became ill after eating Halloween candy containing Orange No. 1 dye, and the F.D.A. banned it after more rigorous testing suggested that it was toxic. In 1976, the agency banned Red No. 2 because it was suspected to be carcinogenic. It was then replaced by Red No. 40.

Many of the artificial colorings used today were approved by the F.D.A. in 1931, including Blue No. 1, Yellow No. 5 and Red No. 3. Artificial dyes were developed — just as aspirin was — from coal tar, but are now made from petroleum products.

In the 1970s, Dr. Benjamin Feingold, a pediatric allergist from California, had success treating the symptoms of hyperactivity in some children by prescribing a diet that, among other things, eliminated artificial colorings. And some studies, including one published in The Lancet medical journal in 2007, have found that artificial colorings might lead to behavioral changes even in typical children.

The consumer science group asked the government to ban the dyes, or at least require manufacturers to include prominent warnings that “artificial colorings in this food cause hyperactivity and behavioral problems in some children.”

Citizen petitions are routinely dismissed by the F.D.A. without much comment. Not this time. Still, the agency is not asking the experts to consider a ban during their two-day meeting, and agency scientists in lengthy analyses expressed skepticism about the scientific merits of the Lancet study and others suggesting any definitive link between dyes and behavioral issues. Importantly, the research offers almost no clue about the relative risks of individual dyes, making specific regulatory actions against, say, Green No. 3 or Yellow No. 6 almost impossible.

The F.D.A. scientists suggested that problems associated with artificial coloring might be akin to a peanut allergy, or “a unique intolerance to these substances and not to any inherent neurotoxic properties” of the dyes themselves. As it does for peanuts and other foods that can cause reactions, the F.D.A. already requires manufacturers to disclose on food labels the presence of artificial colorings.

A spokeswoman for General Mills refused to comment. Valerie Moens, a spokeswoman for Kraft Foods Inc., wrote in an e-mail that all of the food colors the company used were approved and clearly labeled, but that the company was expanding its “portfolio to include products without added colors,” like Kool-Aid Invisible, Capri Sun juices and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Organic White Cheddar.

The panel will almost certainly ask that more research on the subject be conducted, but such calls are routinely ignored. Research on pediatric behaviors can be difficult and expensive to conduct since it often involves regular and subjective assessments of children by parents and teachers who should be kept in the dark about the specifics of the test. And since the patents on the dyes expired long ago, manufacturers have little incentive to finance such research themselves.

Popular foods that have artificial dyes include Cheetos snacks, Froot Loops cereal, Pop-Tarts and Hostess Twinkies, according to an extensive listing in the consumer advocacy group’s petition. Some grocery chains, including Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s, refuse to sell foods with artificial coloring.

Source: New York Times


Why Refined Grains Are Harmful

Monday, March 28th, 2011

There is a jingle that goes: “The whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead!”

Bread has been called the “staff of life.” But because most folks consume grain in its refined state, this staple contains virtually no nutritive properties and cannot support animal or human life. “Fortified” grain products are also useless and deceptive.

Wheat is the key ingredient in the American diet. But after being milled, it is seldom utilized in its whole form with its components intact. Invariably, when we eat wheat, we get it in the form of bread, pies, cakes, cookies, biscuits, spaghetti, cream of wheat, cereals, and other forms that have been treated, heated, fractioned, and fragmented until it is next to impossible to recognize it for what it was originally.

A refined grain, or its product, is made by processing a natural, whole grain so that some or most of the nutrients are lost. Almost all grain products have been refined in some way or another.

White rice, cream of wheat, cookies, and bowls of snap-crackle-and-pop each morning are all examples of refined grain products.

Why are Refined Grains Harmful?

Refined grains and their food products are substandard foods for several reasons:

1. They are excessively starchy.

2. They are practically devoid of natural fiber.

3. There can be up to approximately 25 different chemicals that are added to refined grains and breads products.

4. Grains are fumigated..

5. They are “enriched” with synthetic vitamins.

5. Bleaching chemicals are used.

6. Artificial colorings and flavorings are used.

7. They are nutritionally imbalanced.

Because refined grain products are nutritionally imbalanced, they are responsible for contributing to several degenerative diseases. Calcium leaching from the bones and teeth occurs because of the altered phosphorous-calcium balance in these products. Sugar and refined grain products are primarily responsible for tooth decay in this country, as well as being the major cause of brittle bones in the elderly.

A Loaf of Chemicals

The making of bread and flour products took a real turn for the worse at the end of World War 2. Bakeries in America began using large amounts of chemicals, additives, bleaches, and preservatives.

The millers discovered they could make the flour very white by bleaching it. Other chemical oxidizers are added to bleach and “mature” the flour, such as nitrogen dioxide andazocarbonamide. Are these chemicals dangerous? Well, Germany banned all such oxidizers back in 1958, almost 40 years ago!

The next step in the chemicalization of bread is to add chemical dough conditioners to the dough to enable the resulting bread to stay fresh and soft for a longer period, without getting stale while standing on grocers’ shelves.

To give this softness and white-bread texture, mono- and diglycerides are added to the bread dough at the rate of about 1/4 pound per year per person consumption. This makes the bread more plastic or squeezable. Nobody knows the effects on those that eat such additives.

Some of the chemicals used as dough conditioners are similar to the anti-freeze mix used for automobile radiators. One of the chemicals used as a dough conditioner is polyexy ethelyne monosterate. Workers in factories where this chemical is made have been known to develop skin rashes from the fumes. polyexy ethelyne monosterate is also used in making peanut butter, ice cream, candy, and salad dressings.

The average person eats about 100 pounds or so of commercial bread each year. Besides eating the refined flour, the average person also eats these toxic items in the grain products: 2 pounds of salt, 3 pounds of sugar, 2 pounds of skim milk powder, 2 pounds of yeast, 1 pound of enzyme-activator, 1/2 pound of sulfate, chloride, and bromate chemicals, and 1/4 pound of other food additives. When all of these chemicals and nonfoods are eaten together, a multi-toxic effect occurs that has never been thoroughly studied by scientists. Surely, the cumulative effect of daily intake of such chemicals present in  bread must be disease-inducing over time.

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Your Favorite Brands? Take Another Look

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

My first introduction to natural, organic and eco-friendly products stems back to the early ’90s, when I stumbled upon Burt’s Bees lip balm at an independently owned health food store in the heart of Westport, Kansas City, Mo.

Before the eyesore invasion of ’98, when Starbucks frothed its way into the neighborhood, leading to its ultimate demise, Westport was the kind of  ‘hood I still yearn for. It was saturated with historically preserved, hip and funky, mom-and-pop-type establishments, delivering their goods people to people.

I was surprised more recently when I saw Burt’s Bees products everywhere — in grocery stores, drug stores, corner bodegas and big-box stores like Target and Wal-Mart. I thought to myself, fantastic; the marketplace is working, and good for Burt. He has made his mark, and the demand for his products is on the rise.

Needless to say, I was shocked when I recently found out that Burt’s Bees is now owned by Clorox, a massive corporate company that has historically cared very little about the environment, but whose main industry is directly associated with harmful chemicals, some of which require warning labels for legal sale.

Clorox; yes, that’s right — the bleach company with an estimated revenue of $ 4.8 billion that employs nearly 7,600 workers (now bees) and sells products like Liquid-Plumr, Pine-Sol and Armor All, a far cry from the origins of Burt.

I now understood. The reason Burt’s Bees products were everywhere was precisely because they now had a powerful corporation in the driver’s seat, with big marketing budgets and existing distribution systems.

The story of Burt is a charming one gone bad. Burt Shavitz, a beekeeper in Dexter, Maine, lived an extremely humble life selling honey in pickle jars from the back of his pickup truck and resided in the wilderness inside a turkey coop without running water or electricity.

In the summer of 1984, Shavitz was driving down the road and spotted a hitchhiker who needed a lift to the post office. He pulled over and picked up Roxanne Quimby, a 34-year-old woman who eventually became Shavitz’s lover and business partner. Quimby started helping him tend to the beehives, and that eventually led to the all natural-inspired health care products made with Shavitz’s honey and the birth of Burt’s Bees products.

Burt’s story and very powerful narrative gave Burt’s Bees products their legitimacy in my book. Creative entrepreneurs and knowledgeable consumers together working their magic; not the results of a corporate behemoth out to dominate the marketplace.

However, Quimby and Shavitz’s relationship became ‘sticky’ in the late ’90s for reasons unclear, yet probably having little to do with honey. Their romantic break up carried over to the split of their business partnership as well. In 1999, Quimby bought out Shavitz’s shares of the company for a small six-figure sum. Quimby then continued, becoming phenomenally successfully and growing sales to $43.5 million by 2002.

In 2003, a private equity firm, AEA investors, purchased 80 percent of Burt’s Bees from Quimby, with her retaining a 20 percent share and a seat on the board. In 2006, John Replogle, the former general manager of Unilever’s skin-care division became CEO and president of Burt’s Bees. The company was sold to Clorox in late October 2007 for $925 million.

Quimby was paid more than $300 million for her stake in Burt’s Bees. At the time of that deal, Shavitz reportedly demanded more money, and Quimby agreed to pay him $4 million. Quimby now refurbishes fancy, swank homes in Florida, travels the world and buys massive chunks of land in her free time. Our bearded man Shavitz, on the other hand, now 73 and unchanged, continues to reside amidst nature in his now-expanded turkey coop, which still remains absent of electricity or running water.

The Burt’s Bees story is disconcerting. I vaguely remembered long ago that one of my favorite ice cream products, Ben & Jerry’s, sold out. Unilever (which also owns Breyers), the giant conglomerate with an estimated market cap of $50 billion and close to 174,000 employees, bought Ben & Jerry’s in 2000 for $326 million.

I began to wonder about the other products I liked, trusted and respected for their independence and their social responsibility. How many were really owned by big corporations, who were going out of their way to hide the link between the big corporate company with the small, socially responsible brand? It didn’t take long for my list of disappointments to grow and grow.

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Boxed Cereal Is Not Food

Friday, February 18th, 2011

It is a FOOD PRODUCT. Don’t be fooled by the words “organic” across the top, boxed organic cereal is not food either! Don’t be fooled by the words “whole grain”. There isn’t a whole grain to be found in boxed cereals. All made into a slurry, all passed through an extruder at high heat and high temperature. (More information about the cereal extrusion process HEREand HERE.) I can’t find anything that looks like a “whole grain” in those boxes. Can you? Is it a wonder that our children have food allergies, blood sugar swings, mood swings, eczema, constipation, diarrhea, gluten intolerance, leaky guts?

Okay, more reasons. Nearly all the cereals have sugar listed as their second or third ingredient. Organic or not, SUGAR is NOT something your child needs. The grains in boxed cereal have not been properly prepared, so they are full of phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Phytic acid blocks the absorption of minerals in the small intestine, (minerals all bodies need) and enzyme inhibitors inhibit enzymes which we all need to digest our food. But worst of all, the delicate proteins in grains are damaged by the processing they have to go through in order to become boxed cereals. And damaged proteins equal toxins. And since organic grains are higher in protein than conventional grains, organic cereals are highly toxic. They are so toxic that it would almost be better for you to serve your children “conventional” boxed cereals, full of dyes and high fructose corn syrup, according to Sally Fallon Morell of the Weston A. Price Foundation. You know, like Fruity Pebbles or such. Can you believe it?

So…..if you are going to serve your child grains at all (and I strongly suggest that you refrain from serving grains until after all four back molars are in—could be 18 months to 2 years of age) that you serve them SOAKED grains. Start with soaked oats, and be sure to serve them with plenty of healthy fats (butter from grass-fed cows, coconut butter or coconut milk, raw cream or milk, ghee or coconut ghee). I like to add raisins while the oats are cooking to add a little sweetness. Just about a handful per cup of oats.

Source: Simply Being Well