September 2007 Archives
I'm not fond of energy drinks -- not even "natural" ones. I think "energy" and alertness should come from a healthy diet and daily exercise not from artificial stimulation induced through the consumption of energy drinks loaded with caffeine. As a psychoactive stimulant, caffeine, found in coffee, tea and energy drinks, give you a burst of energy only to later bring you way down. But given the popularity of 100% synthetic Red Bull Energy Drinks, which are full of chemical junk misleadingly sold as "healthy," I'm glad to see a healthier alternative coming out in the market. Syzmo, the first organic energy drink, is made with real ingredients, is 100% synthetic free, has no GMOs and is sweetened with blue agave nectar, which has the lowest glycemic index of all the sweeteners. And what a novelty, the caffeine in Syzmo is naturally derived from coffee unlike its counterpart Red Bull, which contains 100% artificial ingredients including harmful artificial sweetener aspartame. If you're a die-hard energy drink junkie, Syzmo might do a lot less damage to your body.
What baby food is best? Baby food freshly made from scratch using whole organic ingredients as close as possible to their natural states. But if you have to resort to commercially processed baby food, a new organic baby cereal that is the first to be fortified with probiotics and omega-3 fatty acids (from plant sources, naturally!) is launching. Happybellies dry cereals contain probiotics, which "aid in digestion and boost the immune system," and omega-3 fatty acids, which "aid the early infant brain and eye development while potentially protecting against the development of future allergies, including those leading to asthma, and eczema and, as the latest study shows, diabetes. Happybellies organic baby cereals come in three varieties: oatmeal, brown rice and multigrain made with oats, quinoa and amaranth and will be free of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetic engineering, soy free, dairy free and produced in a nut-free facility.
A study of almost 1,800 children by the University of Colorado and University of Florida finds that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids lowers risk of developing diabetes by preventing inflammation in the pancreatic insulin-producing cells. Omega 3 fatty acids keep the body from attacking the cells responsible for insulin production such as in an autoimmune response. According to the study, the amount of omega-3s in foods today is significantly less than the amount found in food a century ago; "the foods we are eating now are qualitatively much different than those produced on a 1900s-era farm." The scientists add that "animals commercially raised today, are often fed grains rich in omega-6 fatty acids, which can promote inflammation." Previous research studies on animals have shown that the inflammation in the insulin-producing cells triggers diabetes.
A new study by Kasier Permanente found that the correlation of alcohol consumption and breast cancer is linked to the quantity of alcohol, and not affected by the source -- hard liquor, beer or wine. The study of 70,033 multi-ethnic women, who received health examinations between 1978 and 1985, shows that 2,829 of them developed breast cancer by 2004. Researchers found that drinking three or more alcoholic beverages a day increases breast cancer risk as much as smoking an entire packet of cigarettes or more per day.
If you live in California and want to protect your right to know what's in the food you buy to eat, urge Governor Schwarzenegger to sign the SB 63 bill requiring clear labeling of meat and dairy products from cloned animals or their offspring. The bill is currently awaiting Governor's Schwarzenegger's signature "who has until October 15 to sign or veto the bill."
Step 1: Copy any of the following sample text to paste into the comment box on the Governor's website, or be prepared to write your own:
Dear Governor Schwarzenegger,
I am writing to urge you to sign S.B. 63 into law, a bill by Senator Migden to label any foods from animal clones or their offspring in the event FDA approves such products for sale.
Cloning carries unknown food safety risks, increases animal cruelty, and threatens the image of California dairy and meat products. Many Americans object to animal cloning on moral or ethical grounds, and there is no need for cloned foods.
Studies have shown the American public actively opposes cloning. Gallup Polls report more than 65 percent of Americans think it is immoral to clone animals and the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology found that a similar percentage say that, despite FDA approval, they would not buy cloned milk. In fact, FDA received over 150,000 comments opposing its proposal to introduce cloned animals unlabeled into the food supply. Californians deserve to decide for themselves whether or not to purchase such food, even if the FDA deems it "safe," yet FDA has failed to require labeling.
Given the many concerns and uncertainties around food from cloned animals and their offspring, it is essential that these foods be labeled as such so Californians have the right to choose what we feed ourselves and our families. California has always been a leader in consumer protection, and I hope we continue to lead on this issue. As a leading dairy state, California can not afford to ignore consumer demand. I urge you to sign Senate bill 63 into law and protect Californians’ right to know what it is our food.
City, State Zip
Step 2: Go to the Governor's website, make sure the "have a comment" radio button is selected, enter your information in the fields (First Name, Last Name, Email), then choose "Food and Agriculture" as the subject. Click "submit" to be taken to the page to leave your comment. Paste or type your comment urging the Governor to sign SB 63. I'm ready to go to the Governor's web site. Clicking on this link will open a new window, so you can keep this alert open in order to copy the text again if you need to.
You can also call the Governor at (916) 445-2841.
Aurora Organic Dairy, the largest private-label producer of "organic" milk in the U.S., has sent legal threats to sue the Cornucopia Institute, Organic Consumers Association and the Center for Food Safety. The letters demand that the public interest groups retract statements they made about Aurora's federal violations of organic food production and labeling laws as well as refrain from suing Aurora for consumer fraud. "The most serious finding, resulting from the USDA investigation, was that Aurora sold, labeled, and represented milk as organic when in fact it was not, in 'willful violation' of the law."
Kaiser Permanente has developed a free online game that teaches 9- and 10-year-olds about healthy eating and exercise. Called "The Incredible Adventures of the Amazing Food Detective," the game takes a novel approach. After playing for about 20 minutes, the game locks players out -- and won't unlock for another hour. The purpose is to get kids to stop playing computer games and go outside for some fresh air and exercise. The game teaches kids how to read food labels, how to measure the amount of sugar in drinks and other health skills.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will publish an article tomorrow about the growing and welcome trend of parents making baby food from scratch, instead of feeding babies out of a jar. Author Patti Ghezzi talks about how she buys "whatever looks fresh, is labeled organic and, ideally, grown locally." So far, she says, her 10-month-old daughter is loving everything -- except cottage cheese.
Dr. Rajesh Vishwanathan "explodes" myths about protein, including the myth that more is always better and that animal sources are superior. An excerpt:
1. Too much protein is harmful because it can shorten life; increase the risk of cancer, heart disease risk, increase the obesity and diabetes, osteoporosis, kidney stress, and lead to indigestion
2. High protein-diets bring about temporary weight-loss but at the expense of overall health. Sadly people quickly regain weight once they return to a normal diet
3. A varied vegetarian diet with a balance of protein, fats & carbohydrates, and adequate calorie intake provides more than enough protein
4. Animal protein is an inferior source of protein as compared to vegetarian sources of protein
5. Vegetarian proteins do not include the excess calories from fat and toxic residues, which are found in animal protein and are safe on the kidneys
Go here to read the rest!
The Frugal Living section of the About.com site is building up a collection of online, printable coupons for organic products.
Whole Foods opened a new 64,000-square-foot store in Silicon Valley's Cupertino, right across the street from an old Whole Foods. The new store is now the biggest in California. It features, according to reports, a tossed-to-order salad station; 400 cheeses; a dedicated olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting station; and a wide variety of hard-to-find Asian produce. (Via Organic Day)
When you go to the store, conventional foods are on average cheaper than organic. But when you weigh all costs associated with foods -- farm energy use, tax-funded subsidies for non-organic, etc. -- organic is cheaper for the public overall. One study noted, for example, that if U.S. organic food consumption grows by just 10 percent by 2010, we will eliminate the need to pay for, import, then later breathe, 2.9 billion barrels of oil per year.
In an effort to combat obesity in New York City, the board of health officials want large chain fast food restaurants, which already provide nutritional information when requested, to fully disclose the number of calories next to each meal on menu boards. But a judge has backed junk food restaurants in New York City to keep their meals' caloric information hidden from customers. This means that New Yorkers who go to McDonald's won't readily see that a Big Mac meal contains 1,430 calories or that a triple Whopper with cheese at Burger King contains 1,230. (The average person should consume from 1,800 to 2,000 calories for an entire day.)
Junk science degrades the public's ability to sort out facts from falsehoods. A recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine found that fat people are the cause of the obesity epidemic. That's right, the "researchers" from the highly acclaimed Harvard Medical School and the University of California found that fat people, not poor diet and sedentary lifestyle are to be blamed for making others fat. A recent article by Mike Adams of News Target.com perfectly illustrates the facts behind junk science and talks about how a manufacturer of aspartame funded its own research to show that aspartame is safe for consumption.
The Cornocupia Institute, an organic watchdog group, is taking further action against Aurora Organic Daiy, the largest "organic" milk producer in the U.S. The USDA failed to sanction it despite serious violations of federal organic labeling law. Accoding to this report, "Cornucopia alerted the Agency of Aurora’s irregularities with a legal complaint in January 2005. The USDA closed the case without investigation, for what Cornucopia describes as "political reasons" revealed in documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the watchdog group." In November of 2005 the USDA launched an investigation following complaints filed Cornucopia against Aurora for mismanagement practices, including confining their cattle to feedlots, depriving them of fresh air and healthy grazing conditions as required by law, and adding conventional cattle to their operation instead of organic cows that had been raised organically their entire lives. On August 29, the USDA, ruled that Aurora "had willfully violated 14 provisions of the regulations of Organic Food Production Act." But the USDA failed to take any significant action against this fraudulent company, which not only ripped off consumers for several years but also cause monetary and credibility loses to the entire organic dairy industry. Aurora operates a dairy processing facility in Colorado and five giant factory-farms in Texas and Colorado. If you buy the store brands of "organic" milk from Wal-Mart, Target, costco, Wild Oats, Safeway and many other grocery chain stores, then you have unfortunately been another victim of this unscrupulous and shameful company owned by Dean Foods, which also owns Horizon.
Senator Carole Migden's new Bill (SB 63) requiring clear labeling of dairy and meat products from cloned animals sold in California awaits Governor Schwarzenegger's signature. The bill is designed to protect California consumers in the anticipated and irresponsible move by the FDA to approve the sale of cloned foods, without any labeling, to unsuspecting consumers. "In February, the Center for Food Safety released a critique of the FDA's review of food from animal clones, demonstrating that the FDA's safety claims are based on virtually no food-safety studies." Despite the fact that 89 percent of Americans want labels on cloned food products, the FDA is expected to ignore what Americans want and what's in their best interest and instead side with the meat and dairy industries allowing cloned dairy and meat from cattle, pigs and goats in our food supply without our knowledge.
In a special issue of the medical journal The Lancet, scientists said that if global meat eating were reduced by just 10%, global warming would be slowed significantly. Food animals produce nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gasses, according to experts -- more than all cars and trucks in the world combined.
The United States spends more on heath care than any other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) country, according to a new study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Princeton University. Another study by the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that health care premiums have gone up by 79% since 2001.
Americans spend 15.3% of our gross domestic product on health care. The tragic irony is that both high health care costs and poor health result from overconsumption of junk food, which many people buy because it's cheaper. Here's an oversimplified summary of the problem:
1. U.S. taxpayers pay for subsidies to food companies (including farmers) that make the most unhealthy food much cheaper than healthy food.
2. In order to save money, the public eats cheap, subsidized junk food.
3. All this junk food creates an epidemic of preventable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and others.
4. These tens of millions of people, sick from bad food, overburden our health care system and needlessly drive costs through the roof
5. Meanwhile, doctors radically overemphasize drugs and technolgy, while neglecting advice about diet and excercise.
6. The end result is an unhealthy nation that spends more than anyone else on "health."
We have robots that assist surgery, incredible advances in drugs and probably more MRI machines than the rest of the world combined. But we don't have enough doctors qualified to advise patients on how to stop eating themselves to death.
Starbucks spokesman Brandon Borrman told MSNBC that "Starbucks is considering whether to add new drinks or drink sizes that better meet the needs of kids or teens." Borman also told the reporter that “While Starbucks hasn’t actively marketed towards that demographic, I think the Starbucks brand has appealed to teenagers, and so there’s certainly an opportunity there for the company to increase business."
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization whose slogan is "helping to build a world without hunger," has come out in support of organic farming as part of the answer to the challenges of global warming, hunger and health issues for consumer and farmers. Nadia Scialabba, an FAO official provided an articulate definition for organic agriculture: "A holistic production management system that avoids the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and genetically modified organisms, minimizes pollution of air, soil and water, and optimizes the health and productivity of plants, animals and people."
What do you get when a person is both a cheap-skate -- or should I say a value-oriented consumer -- and a vegan? A freegan. According to the article, “Free-Lunch Foragers,” the word freegan comes from combining the words "vegan" and "free." And it’s “a growing subculture of people who have reduced their spending habits and live off consumer waste.” They are typically well educated and financially well off. Freegans choose to stop shopping and producing waste and instead they forage and use others’ waste. At its most extreme, freeganism is unappealing -- for example, some freegans take an anti-capitalist approach that includes the advocacy of foraging food from trash and even shoplifting. However, the world would be a better place if more people embraced other freegan concepts such as food gardening (even in cities or instead of front lawns), reusing goods, buying used, sharing food and goods, and, of course, buying only organic food not sold in wasteful packaging.
My column for today's issue of the Vegetarian Organic Blog newsletter, about the dangers of common food additives, pointed to recent research in Britain about the dangers of -- and widespread overconsumption of -- these chemicals and substances lurking in our food supply. What I didn't mention was our own government's total failure to protect Americans from additives. An FDA Q&A page reveals how lax the government is about this vital health issue:
"Do color additives in food cause hyperactivity?
Although this theory was popularized in the 1970's, well-controlled studies conducted since then have produced no evidence that food color additives cause hyperactivity or learning disabilities in children. A Consensus Development Panel of the National Institutes of Health concluded in 1982 that there was no scientific evidence to support the claim that colorings or other food additives cause hyperactivity. The panel said that elimination diets should not be used universally to treat childhood hyperactivity, since there is no scientific evidence to predict which children may benefit."
This is yet another reason why you cannot trust the FDA. While the UK government is funding new research and discovering the facts about additives available in the supermarkets today, the U.S. government points to inadequate studies conducted a quarter of a century ago to support it's claim that additives are OK.
Food labels are supposed to help consumers make educated food choices. But while food labels provide some important nutrient content information and a list of ingredients, food labels fail to provide valuable information for consumers who really want to know the whole story of the food they buy.
With globalization the source of food products, especially processed or packaged foods, is becoming more blurry as even food products manufactured in the U.S. are often made with a cocktail of ingredients and additives produced in various parts of the world. For example, according to the article in the link above, Crest toothpaste uses additives from China and Finland; Sara Lee bread uses honey and vitamin supplements from China; and other "American" products are loaded with ingredients of un-tested quality from all around the world.
The problem is that for health-conscious consumers who are also eco-minded and want full disclosure, current labeling laws aren't good enough. Manufacturers are not required to disclose the source of the ingredients or where they were grown. More often than not, food products don't mention where the ingredients come from.
The ideal solution would be for the FDA to revamp current labels to reflect globalization with labels that provide the whole story including where ingredients come from. In the meantime, all we can do is buy as local as possible and only purchase food products from manufacturers that voluntarily disclose source of ingredients.
The City of Los Angeles is the latest city government to consider restrictions on new fast food restaurants. The City Council will consider this fall a two-year moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in South Los Angeles. An article in The Los Angeles Times says that "in just one-quarter of a mile near USC on Figueroa Street, from Adams Boulevard south, there are about 20 fast-food outlets." It also pointed out that "thirty percent of adults in South L.A. are obese," and, even more alarming, 29% of children. So while our federal government is subsidising junk food to make it super cheap, local cities have to ban restaurants in areas where overconsumption is the direct result of that cheapness. Why don't we just stop subsidizing it?
Several animal rights groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), plan to hold signs during a Denver talk next month by former Vice President Al Gore that say, "Too chicken to go vegetarian? Meat is the No 1 cause of global warming." The UK's Telegraph newspaper reported that "According to recent UN Food and Agriculture Organisation research, animal agriculture generates 18 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions - more than the 13.5 per cent produced by all forms of transport combined."
A pharmacy chain called the Pharmaca Integrated Pharmacy combines the sale of prescription drugs with natural medicines, cures and organic herbs. The chain has 17 stores, and just opened a new one in La Jolla, California. Pharmacists offer advice about how drugs might interact with herbs -- advice you're not likely to get at a conventional pharmacy. On-staff nutritionists give advice as well.
A research project carried out for the past 27 years, which compares two side-by-side fields -- one organic, one conventional -- has found that organic fields out-produce conventional ones, and are nearly drought-proof as well. The project, supervised by Dr. Paul Hepperly, research director of the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, found that an organic field with identical crops catches up with the conventional field in five years, and dramatically out-produces it in ten years. Best of all, the organic field becomes nearly drought resistant, while the conventional field remains vulnerable.
Prisoners worldwide may experience prison envy about Norwegian prisoners who enjoy life at the world's first eco-friendly jail. For murderers and rapists alike, going to Bastoey Prison is like going to a five-star summer camp where they get to enjoy not only first class accommodations and activities but also enjoy organic local cuisine -- very local.
Located just one and a half miles from mainland, this unconventional, first-rate minimum-security prison is one of a kind that supporters say is good for the inmates, Norway's economy and the planet. Inmates live in homes free of gates and barb-wire and can have their own TV, play tennis, swim and do horseback riding in the summer months. Criminals are given a chance to learn about self reliance and are trained on environmentally sustainable practices. Inmates are responsible for growing almost all of their food using organic practices. They catch their own fish on their own boat and tend to their own chickens, sheep and cows to provide dairy and animal protein. The prison has even strict energy conservation practices and employs the skills of inmates to install solar panels that cut their electricity bills by 70 percent. Additionally, they use wood waste for heating and recycle all they can. Now, that's I call a true commune of the idyllic variety. I can only imagine the possibilities, their carbon footprint could be almost zero if they took it the max by going vegan and could enjoy guilt free lives, at least when it comes to carbon emissions.
Researchers at Mayo Clinic have found that eating flaxseed can provide relief to postmenopausal women who don't take estrogen and experience hot flashes. Participants who completed the trial showed on average a 57% decrease in the frequency of hot flashes.