Vegetarian Organic Blog

News Archives

March 28, 2010 News

Living in California has its advantages for lovers of locally grown organic produce. Aside from the beautiful and warm sunny day, my visit to my local Farmer's Market this morning highlighted the fact the spring is really here! (Finally!) Asparagus and sugar snap peas are suddenly available in abundance. One of my favorite farmers at the Los Gatos Farmer's Market was selling the most enormous bok choy I've ever seen -- like bok choy on steroids. I asked about the gigantic size, and he said their soil in Watsonville is rich and fertile. Naturally, I bought some to have for dinner tonight. There are many reasons I'm thankful that spring is here -- more veggies (and bigger veggies, apparently) is one of them!
February 9, 2010 News

As I've told you before, I worked with the healthy-food innovators at Santa Barbara's Backyard Bowls to create some new menu items. (More coming soon, too!) The local paper there, the Santa Barbara News-Press, did a nice writeup on Backyard Bowls illustrated with one of my creations, called Spartan Muesli. I thought I'd share the picture with you. (Also: If you're ever in Santa Barbara, make sure you try Backyard Bowls. It's an incredible experience. Tell them Amira sent you!)
February 2, 2010 News

I was buying apples at the farmer's market Sunday (as usual), when my favorite apple farmer informed me that I wouldn't be seeing him until next fall (I try to eat seasonally and only locally grown fruits and vegetables). To my dismay, he said that the apple season is over in this area (San Francisco Bay Area). I did the only natural thing one can do; I bought more apples, of course! I ended up with a half of a case of fujis and pink ladies. Walking home for almost a mile with 22 pounds of apples in an awkward box, plus another 15 pounds of other produce in my basket hanging from my shoulder was a challenge (all part of the health plan though). I made it home and, although I was sad about the apple season ending, I was ecstatic to see so many apples in my kitchen. And what best way to celebrate the last harvest of apple season than to bake and eat lots of homemade and whole grain apple pie? I wish I could share some with you all.
November 25, 2009 News

The humble coconut is a truly incredible food. People lost at sea have survived by eating them, even including their husks. I feel lucky to be able to have them all the time (I usually buy a couple of coconuts every time I grocery shop).

I just enjoyed the most amazing coconut ever. Not only it was the most delicious coconut I have ever tasted, but it also broke the record for the quantity of water I’ve ever gotten from a single coconut. It contained a whopping 24 ounces of pure, refreshing and delightfully sweet-like-honey juice. I’m still in disbelief. And its meat was simply out of this world. It was flawless, white as snow, sumptuously sweet, and thick and luscious but still perfectly tender and supple. It was a coconut to remember!

November 24, 2009 News

While shopping at the Santa Barbara's farmer's market today for Thanksgiving dinner, I purchased two pounds of grapes. As I paid, the farmer said, "thank you, we'll see you next May." I was shocked and horrified and asked, "what do you mean next May?" He said that grapes season is over, and that I was buying from the very last and final harvest of the season. May is such a long time away and I had to ask again, "not until next May?" Naturally, there was only one thing for me to do. I bought some more grapes, three more pounds to be exact. I got home and my husband was shocked to see the large quantity of grapes I brought home with me. I explained that those were the last local grapes of the season. As the grapeaholic that he is, he was happy and equally delighted that we had five more pounds of grapes to enjoy with the knowledge that we won't have any more until nex May. At least we'll have raisins.
November 6, 2009 News

On a recent visit to San Francisco, I enjoyed the best meal and dining experience I’ve had at a restaurant in a long time—it happened at Millennium. From the mouth-watering food to the impeccable service, the innovation and attention to detail at Millennium is unparalleled.

I've eaten at Millennium many times over the years, and it's always great. But unlike most visionary restaurants I've enjoyed, Millennium just keeps getting better and better.

Millennium used to be a tiny restaurant located in some vaguely unfashionable hotel in the not-so-fashionable part of the San Francisco Civic Center. It’s been a few years since it moved to a nicer and trendier neighborhood in the outskirts of Union Square.

One of the many things I love about Millennium is that everything feels real, authentic and down to earth. And yet, seeing, smelling and eating the stunningly beautiful, organic and delicious plant-based food is out of this world.

Millennium strives to provide the most enticing and culturally diverse gourmet food, by taking you all the way around the world in one meal through the use of exotic spices, herbs and farm fresh produce. Millennium’s menu is based upon the seasonality of locally grown produce, but you can find a few signature dishes that are standard on the menu with just minor seasonal adjustments. Each dish is a masterpiece, not just in presentation but also in flavor, influenced by the many ethnic cuisines from around the world. The intricate composition of each dish is clearly a labor of love that took dozens of ingredients carefully selected and assembled to produce the perfect symphony of flavors, irresistible aroma and stunning presentation to engage all your senses.

Like its food, the décor at Millennium is testament to its commitment to sustainability, creating perfect balance between eco-friendliness and elegant upscale design featuring fishnet chandeliers (made from paper sacks) and curtains (woven from recycled plastic bags). Even the votive candles on the tables don’t produce smoke. They’re tiny, high-tech LED lamps that emit a nice soothing light mimicking real candles—and they’re rechargeable.

Strict vegans can visit Millennium entirely guilt-free. Not only the food is completely free of animal products, but at Millennium everything is cruelty-free by design. Even the upholstery has been done with fake leatherette instead of real animal skin. The space is splendidly pleasing and genuinely comfortable featuring earthy color tones of reddish brown hues. With high ceilings and beautiful wooden panels around the bar and kitchen area Millennium has a traditional and old-fashioned charm to it but with an exquisite and inviting modern accent providing a balanced, enjoyable and relaxed atmosphere.

We sat at the table closest to the open kitchen and just a few steps away from where Millennium’s brilliant executive chef, Eric Tucker, spun his magic. A true devotee of organic, plant-based, sustainable and seasonal cuisine, Chef Tucker deserves the highest recognition. He is dedicated to supporting organic food production, sustainable agriculture, local farmers as well as recycling and composting. His commitment to sustainability is uncompromising; the restaurant doesn’t even serve manufactured bottled water in an effort to reduce recycling waste. For one just one dollar, you can opt to drink unlimited fresh carbon & UV filtered water. It’s deliciously refreshing and clean tasting and you can choose still or sparkling water or even both—served nicely chilled.

Chef Tucker’s dedication to creating the world’s healthiest, most sustainable and delicious meals completely free of animal ingredients and without compromising flavor is admirable. His food and restaurant practices are not only the healthy for customers but also for the planet. Millennium deserves an award for being the best and most eco-friendly restaurant in the United States, possibly the world. Chef Tucker is a true organic and sustainable food hero.

My descriptions could never do justice to the incredible dishes I tried—the food is so elaborate and multidimensional that it’s impossible to capture all the details and put them into words. Nonetheless, I’ll mention a couple of the dishes.

The “Pomegranate & Fall Greens Salad” was simply delectable and exquisite. It had shaved fennel, red onion, colorful radishes and pistachios served lightly tossed with tahini dressing. Everything in it was truly seasonal and it tasted divinely.

As usual, I ordered one of my favorite dishes, the “Black Bean Torte.” It’s beautifully presented and made with whole wheat tortilla, caramelized plantain, smoky black bean puree, pumpkin-habanero papazul, cashew sour cream and pomegranate salsa. It still makes my mouth water.

One of the main entrees I enjoyed was the “Seared Macadamia Nut & Forbidden Black Rice Cake.” It was to-die-for. It featured the mild but enticing taste of lemongrass served with cauliflower and coconut cream, sautéed shiitake mushrooms, Asian vegetables and red miso glazed tofu over a kaffir lime and Asian pear salad and red cayenne chile sambal. It was mind-blowing.

The desserts were phenomenal—they took my breath away. But again, I simply won’t even attempt to describe them. Take my word for it. Whether you’re the strictest vegan or the most avid carnivore, next time you’re in San Francisco, treat yourself to the Millennium experience. It will dispel any preconceived notions and myths that vegetarian food is bland or inferior to any other food. It will certainly be the most memorable, meaningful and eco-friendly dining experience you’ll ever have!

November 6, 2009 News

Here is good clip of "Here We Grow," an interesting documentary film directed by Craig King, a natural food chef and entrepreneur. It looks at the current state of our food supply in an attempt to help change the way people think about food to make more socially responsible food choices.

November 4, 2009 News

A friend of mine recently opened a new organic raw vegan restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, called Rockin Raw. It sounds very interesting. The food has a Peruvian, Creole and New Orleans twist to it. I can't wait to try it.

The raw dishes are prepared below 115 °F to preserve proteins, enzymes, vitamins and phytonutrients. All menu items are prepared 100% gluten free, using local and organic ingredients with a few exceptions noted on menu (exotic ingredients imported from Peru).

The menu looks great and sounds fabulous! If you visit Rockin Raw before I do, drop me a line and let me know what you think.

October 19, 2009 News

Missouri's soybean factory farmers are about to harvest the largest soybean crop in history. The reason for the probable record high yields is, according to this article, "good weather and more farmers using genetically-modified seeds." Higher yields mean higher profits, but not without unintended consequences. These profits come at the expense of the long-term negative impact that conventional farming along with genetically modified crops have on human health, the local ecology and ultimately the planet. According to this article, more than 90 percent of soybeans are genetically-modified and "many things are made with (GMO) soybeans including beer, bread, biofuel, cosmetics and pet food." This is precisely the problem with soybeans and why soy gets such bad reputation as being a food that causes many health problems including allergies.

These modern biotech genetically modified soybeans hardly reflect the soybeans that have been consumed for thousands of years as part of the traditional Asian diet. Genetic modification can only take place in labs by scientist whose goals are mainly to create a version of a food that will withstand pests and plant diseases without any regard or consideration for human health.

Shockingly, eighty percent of all fats and oils consumed in the U.S. are made from soybeans. Some of these manufactured oils contain trans fats. The consumption of genetically modified soybeans is widespread, and most people don't even suspect this because, number one, GMO products don't require labels, and two, soybeans and soybean products including isolated soy protein and soybean oil are commonly found as ingredients in foods and beverages just like high fructose corn syrup is. It's hard to find packaged foods that don't contain soybeans, soybean oil or isolated soybean protein. And unless it's organic, it means it's definitely conventional and genetically modified.

The solution: Stick to organic foods and stay away from packaged processed foods. Make you meals from scratch using locally grown organic ingredients.

October 13, 2009 News

Omnivores, not to mention vegans, may be shocked--even horrified--to realize that animal byproducts can be found in the most unlikely foods and beverage. Such is the case for wines. Care for some fish guts or cow connective tissue in your wine? The process of fining conventional or organic wine usually involves adding a tiny amount of animal byproducts, including sturgeon bladder, egg albumin, gelatin or casein to the wine. This method makes the remnants of the wine making process (bits of grape skin, seeds or stems) settle at the bottom of the barrel. Fining, according to wine makers, also makes wine have a smoother "mouth feel."

Fortunately, though in the very minority, there are a few wineries that make vegan wines (free of animal ingredients) for those who are pure vegans or simply prefer to leave the fish guts out of their wine. Vegan-friendly wineries simply skip the fining process or employ other animal-free alternatives.

The bottom line is that like all everything else, it’s important to be an educated consumer to make sure that you’re getting what you really want. Always read labels and research manufacturers before you buy anything. And remember that organic doesn’t mean vegan and that goes for not only wine but also beer and other alcohol. There are plenty of resources in the Internet. Do your homework.

Here are examples of vegan wines:

Domaine Carneros makes a sparkling organic wine. They use a fining agent called Clarifiant S, a preparation of sodium bentonite, which is a clay-based product that's free of animal byproducts. (Brut sparkling wine, $26; Brut Rose, $36; Blanc de Blancs $85) All these bubbly wines are vegan and made using organic grapes.

Aum Cellars make their reds completely vegan. They’re also organic and biodynamic. (St. Helena Cabernet, $37)

Girasole Vineyards make their wines with organically grown grapes and processed using sustainable, animal-free processes. (Girasole Vineyards Pinot Noir, $16; Girasole Vineyards Chardonnay, $13)

Frey Vineyards claims to be the first biodynamic vineyard in the U.S. (Organic Merlot, $27; Organic Petite Sirah, $13.50)

October 12, 2009 News

I have a local food co-op that I don't take advantage of because it's not very close to where I live. I also have two amazing health food stores nearby and farmer's market I can go to six times a week. I also used to buy things in bulk through a local buying club, but I no longer have the room to store large quantities of anything. I downsized to a small studio to live a digital nomad lifestyle. Nonetheless, I'm determined to re-visit my local coop and explore the possibilities. Here is an interesting article that made me think about food co-ops again. For many of us, it's definitely worth a try.
October 8, 2009 News

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced Monday that it will require bloggers to disclose any "gifts" or payments from companies that make the products bloggers review. This would go for technology bloggers, health and fitness bloggers and any other blogger who gets paid to say nice things about products.

As a blogger who has never accepted payment to express any opinion, I love it! Great idea! Just one problem: The FTC is using a good rule to solve an almost non-existent problem. When someone is persuaded by what is essentially an "advertorial" in blog post format, they might end up spending money on a product that isn't really worthy. In extreme cases, it's possible that a paid post might persuade a reader to try a dangerous health remedy.

But of all the troubles that plague our troubled society, paid blog posts are way down on the list. Why not use the FTC's rule where it would really do some good? For example:


Whenever politicians advocate legislation or appointments that benefit contributors, they should be required by law to disclose "gifts" and payments during speeches and press releases, and on their official Web sites.

So, for example, when President Obama appoints Roger Beachy, formerly of Monsanto, to head the USDA’s newly created National Institute of Food and Agriculture, he should disclose the payments behind that sell-out. And likewise for all the other industrial food interests he's put in charge of America's food supply.

Companies spend vastly larger sums to influence government than they do to influence bloggers. And when politicians take money for services rendered, if affects all of us.

Children's TV product placement

The average American child watches several hours of TV per day. According to a study commissioned by the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, American children between the ages of 2 and 7 see an average of 12 food-related ads per day. According to the study, 34% of the ads are for candy and snacks, 28% for breakfast cereals, 10% for fast food, 4% for dairy products, 1% for fruit juices and none for fruits and vegetables.

And that's just the ads. A Michigan State University study found constant references to fast food in children's TV shows – some 2.6 references per hour of programming on children's shows. Many of those references are for the products of advertisers, or represent paid product placement.

During these shows, the FTC should require the actors to stop, address the audience, and explain to children in age-appropriate language that these items are being mentioned because of payments from the companies that make those products. (They should also be forced to disclose to kids that the products mention can lead to cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes, as applicable.)


Doctors are being constantly influenced by pharmaceutical companies. In 2007, the pharmaceutical industry spend $22 billion on drug samples, dinners (that include drug sales presentations), hand-outs and other things to influence doctors to prescribe their drugs. They don't do this because they're nice. They do it because they get back more than $22 billion in benefits when doctors are, in fact, influenced.

So the FTC should require doctors who write prescriptions to detail to the patient everything they've gotten from the company that makes the drug they're prescribing. "Pfizer bought my wife and I dinner four times, gave me $6,000 worth of free samples and even the pen I'm using to write this prescription. Just thought you should know."

The FTC's rule that bloggers must disclose payment for opinion or advice is a great one. The only problem with it is that it solves a practically non-existent problem. If applied where it really counts, the FTC might actually improve things. Let's start with the politicians, TV studios and doctors who contribute to the health crisis and skyrocketing healthcare insurance costs by giving bad paid advice.

October 7, 2009 News

The new Santa Barbara Whole Foods sure knows how to make an entrance—and a memorable one! I was there at opening time this morning, and I can tell you: It was quite the scene. The opening was more like a red carpet movie premiere, with a long line of people down the block anxiously waiting to enter the newest Mecca for health nuts, granola heads and gourmands alike.

Traffic jams clogged streets within a half-mile radius from the store, with nearby businesses guarding their parking lots with vigilance to keep the Whole Foods riff-raff out. Miraculously, I found one spot in the Whole Foods parking lot. It was located near the main entrance marked as “reserved for low emitting vehicles.” Yes! I thought that would be me, or rather my beloved hybrid Prius. One fellow foodie asked me, “had you been waiting to park for a long time?” No, I smiled, “the spot was free because it’s reserved for low emitting vehicles, which my Prius is,” I told her, still smiling. Other people standing in line and in other cars were looking at me with envy and I walked by them gloating unapologetically.

I walked to the back of the long line to join all the die-hard foodies, who were clearly ecstatic to be at the grand opening of Whole Foods in Santa Barbara after years of waiting. I took a shiny, never-used shopping cart and made my way into the store—but still took the free EO sanitary wipe scented with essential oils, located by the entrance, available for germophobics who like me are into disinfecting everything. Don’t judge! It’s flu season—you can’t be too careful.

Upon entering the building you could immediately feel the positive energy vibrating through the crowded store. Even the local farmers, whom I usually shop from at farmer’s market, were there soaking it all in. I saw at least three of them, and they seemed to be having a good time.

The store is not very big. At just over 40,000 square feet, they’ve done well with the lay out, creatively making the most of it. They have a nice bulk foods section, though I do think they should have more of their bins filled with healthier foods (more grains, beans, nuts and seeds and fewer sweets). I bet CEO John Mackey, who recently admitted that Whole Foods sells "a bunch of junk," would agree with me.

I was also disappointed to see that the store doesn't have freshly ground almond butter. They have two nut grinders for freshly made nut butters, unfortunately, they use both for peanut butter: one for regular peanut butter and the second one for honey-roasted peanut butter. At Lazy Acres, the other big health-oriented grocery store in town, you can make your own freshly ground peanut, almond and even cashew butter. Lazy Acres even offers both conventional and organic almond butters in the grind-it-yourself bin section."

The produce section is surprisingly small, though it might be because Santa Barbara is blessed with an abundance of locally grown produce. We have local farmer’s markets within driving distance almost seven days per week, year round. The prepared cold food section features fresh salads and cooked proteins, including tofu, chicken, fish and beef free of hormones and antibiotics. All of their freshly made salads feature produce from local growers. They had a sign indicating that all their salads are made with locally grown produce from John Givens Farm, which is just about six miles from the store. It doesn’t get much more local than that. Givens farm is one of my favorite organic farms, and they grow just about every kind of vegetable (too many to list) and the sweetest and juiciest strawberries you'll ever taste. You can always find them at the farmer’s market, and they offer some of the lowest prices.

Not surprisingly, Whole Foods in their eagerness to provide customers with a delightful experience, does it again. There were team members (employees) everywhere attentively helping customers. My shopping cart, along with the food in it, disappeared somehow. I picked up a few other items and was carrying them in my arms. A team member ran to get a hand basket and brought it for me to use. And boy, did I need it. Their thoughtfulness is unparalleled.

They were serving samples galore, and quite generous size portions—I ate a couple of meals worth before leaving the store. The food was out of this world. I’ve been to a lot of Whole Foods, but they were serving a few things I’ve never seen anywhere else. The vegan black garlic pizza with apples and red cabbage tasted divine. I also enjoyed a delicious vegan beet salad and a fresh corn and arugula salad, also fabulous. My favorite items from their “make-to-order” sandwich section are the vegan grilled Portobello mushroom with red onions and the vegan grilled tempeh sandwich with baba ghanoush—my mouth is watering just writing about them. I ordered a tempeh sandwich to bring home to my husband to try, and a curious thing happened. They were having technical difficulties with their price label printer. Rather than writing the price by hand or making me wait, they wrote something on it, which the cashier told me meant it was free. That’s what makes Whole Foods stand apart. They really provide a memorable experience to their customers whom they actually consider their “guests.” It's a smart policy because they’re creating customer loyalty.

I also had the pleasure of meeting the store manager, who seemed to be everywhere making sure things were running smoothly. The marketing manager was doing the same. All hands were on deck, and they all seem enthusiastic and happy to be there. From my vantage point, everything seemed to be going well. And I think there is enough room in Santa Barbara for both Whole Foods and Lazy Acres to serve all the enthusiastic foodies and health nuts here. My request to Whole Foods: add chia seeds to the bulk food section, have a nut grinder for freshly ground almond butter and carry the Wildwood Sproutofu, I’ll be a doubly happy camper. Welcome to Santa Barbara, Whole Foods! Glad to have you.

October 7, 2009 News

I'm extremely excited because the new Whole Foods Santa Barbara store opens today at 9:00 AM! I have been waiting for this to happen for many years now. Whole Foods had to jump through hoops to make this happen, and had to offer many concessions to the city. But at last, Whole Foods is here and hopefully they'll give Lazy Acres, the largest health food store in town, a run for the money. Although many have the false impression that Lazy Acres is a locally owned store, it's actually owned by a Minnesota-based mega corporation called SuperValu, Inc. According to Wikipedia, SuperValu, Inc. is the third largest food retailer in the United States, and #51 on the Fortune 100. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to do some shopping!
September 28, 2009 News

I buy fresh, young coconuts all the time, the ones with white, thick soft husks that come wrapped in clear plastic and are sold at many health food stores. Their outermost layer or skin has been removed and been shaped to have flat bottoms and pointy tops ready to cut open and drink.

Fresh coconuts are delicious and good for you. They're an excellent source of potassium and other minerals, which makes coconut water or juice a superior electrolyte source to other sports drinks. I love to drink the coconut water and also eat the coconut meat.

I had a holistic health counseling client asked me once if pink looking coconut meat and water were okay to eat, but I had never experienced it myself. Yesterday, however, when my husband cut one open, both the coconut meat and the water looked pink, almost purplish. I smelled them both and they smelled normal. I tasted them both and they tasted not as sweet or buttery as usual, but okay (not spoiled). They were clearly safe to ingest, so I drank the water. The meat was not much like meat, so there was not much to eat. It just looked like a translucent, slimy gel like substance.

In doing a bit more research, I confirmed that very young coconuts can look pink, but are okay to eat despite the pinkness. On the other hand, coconuts should not be eaten if they smell bad and look spoiled. When gone bad, they can look gray in color and can really smell bad. But when they’re good, not too young or too mature, they are refreshing and super tasty. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to enjoy the (not pink) coconut in this picture.

September 24, 2009 News

Although I avoid eating dairy products, I've always liked the dairy co-op, Organic Valley, because of their great organic production practices, compare to, say, cheaters like Horizon, who were pretending to be organic and got caught in the act. Organic Valley just launched the first of its kind online calculator called Organic Counts!. It will enable each of us to measure the personal impact of our food choices. What a concept! This online calculator will reveal detailed data to consumers about "the toxic burden prevented by their choices of organic vs. non-organic and "natural" foods." All you have to do is go to their web site and select the Organic Valley products you buy to see the amount of toxic waste you're saving us all, and the planet, from. "The Organic Valley calculator invites visitors to put their favorite Organic Valley dairy products into a simulated shopping basket to weigh the positive impact of their organic food choices. As each food product is placed in the basket, the calculator automatically adds up and displays the amounts of pesticides and synthetic nitrogen fertilizers avoided by that product, as opposed to a comparable conventional product. The numbers are derived from a calculation of USDA conventional agriculture data compared with twenty years of parallel data from Organic Valley member-farms." That's cool!
September 15, 2009 News

The new farmer's market near the White House is set to launch this Thursday, September 17th. So far it's been reported that 18 local farmers will participate. They'll sell their locally grown fruits and vegetables, as well as locally produced, baked goods and pasture-raised meats, diary and eggs. But don't get your hopes up about buying produce from the White House organic garden. Most of Farmer Michelle's crop will be donated to local food banks. I look forward to checking it out when I go to the D.C. area next month before it closes on October 29th.
August 14, 2009 News

Although I’m not particularly fond of riding bikes, Tour d’Organics makes me want to hop on one. This is an annual organic and zero-footprint bike-riding event taking place in Sebastopol, Calif., this Sunday, August 16. You can ride the 16, 35, 65 or even 100 mile course that winds its way through the breathtakingly beautiful Sonoma County countryside. The rest stops are the most refreshing ever, featuring local organic farms where local farmers share the fruits of their labor -- literally. Imagine biking hard, feeling out of breath, hot and sweaty and being handed a fresh, just picked, tree-ripened nectarine! Another motivation is the meal that awaits: a fully organic and vegan meal made from scratch using locally grown fresh and wholesome ingredients. I think I just may have to re-think my aversion to bike riding...
August 12, 2009 News

Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey publicly admitted that his company has lost sight of Whole Foods’ health-first roots, according the Telegraph, a UK based newspaper. In a candid moment, Mackey said: “We sell a bunch of junk." He went on: "We’ve decided if Whole Foods doesn’t take a leadership role in educating people about a healthy diet, who the heck is going to do it?”

The report adds that Whole Foods' UK stores plan to drop sugar and fat laden junk food and employ in-store nutritionists. My favorite Whole Foods store, which is the Kensington store in London (and all London stores) will get the "healthy eating" makeover, which is designed to educate customers on the company’s renewed commitment to health food. (The picture shows me at the entrance to the Kensington store last year.)

The company is also developing an employee incentive program to inspire employees to lose weight, quit smoking and lower their cholesterol or blood pressure. Upon meeting target weight, employees will be rewarded with greater discounts when shopping at Whole Foods. Mackey has not specified whether these initiatives will be extended to U.S. stores as well.

July 30, 2009 News

One of my favorite food-oriented journalists, Michael Pollan, is publishing a new essay this Sunday on the New York Times Magazine called "Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch." Pollan talks about how cooking has changed from what used to be -- a daily practice -- to what it is today -- something we watch other people do on TV. The article is fascinating, but sad.
June 1, 2009 News

Choosing a restaurant in Los Angeles can be a maddening experience, simply because the city has so much wonderful food to choose from. Do you want modern or traditional? European or Asian? Familiar or exotic? Elegant or earthy?

A small handful of innovative restaurants in the city actually combine all these qualities into a single menu. It's very difficult to pull off, and most don't do so successfully. The restaurant with the best reputation in this class is Sona, on La Cienega. I have been excited to try it for some time, and Saturday night my husband and I finally did so.

Before arriving, my expectations for Sona were both high and low. They were high, because Sona is an extraordinarily well regarded restaurant. According to the Sona Web site:

Sona and [Chef] David Myers have received numerous accolades including a Michelin star and a James Beard nomination for Best Chef - Pacific Region. Previously, Angeleno named Sona “Restaurant of the Year”. The October 2005 Gourmet magazine featured David and his team. Chef Myers was a James Beard Rising Star Chef nominee and was named Best New Chef by Food & Wine Magazine. Sona is a Wine Spectator “Grand Award” winner.

But at the same time, my expectations were low. Those who sing the praises of Sona emphasize the restaurant's brilliance at wine selection and pairing. But I don't drink. The restaurant is famous for its unconventional preparations of both conventional fish and meats, and also for wild game, such as venison. But I don't eat meat. And I have been disappointed again and again by restaurants that emphasize preparation over the quality, freshness and healthfulness of ingredients.

So there I was, a teetotaler vegetarian ingredient purist entering a restaurant famous for (among other things) its wines, meats and innovation.

The exterior of Sona is nondescript, and the interior is a sophisticated LA Zen. All colors are light and muted, except for three things in the room that explode with color: The giant flower arrangement atop a center wine station; the colors of La Cienega Blvd. traffic, which are transformed into moving art by textured opaque glass windows; and the food.

Oh, the food! Sona’s brilliant and talented young chef and owner, David Myers (along with his excellent staff) don’t compromise quality, flavor or service -- they do it all, and from scratch! Their commitment to serving food that’s seasonal, local, organic and free-range made the entire culinary experience an unforgettable event that far exceeded my expectations.

Never before have I seen contradictory qualities merged into incredible dishes so masterfully. The sweet and the savory. The herbs and the produce. The French and the Japanese. The smooth and the substantive.

From their freshly and daily home-made breads to the divine and succulent entrees followed by an array of very unique desserts, the food was made with the finest and freshest ingredients. Every dish was extraordinary, and looked as beautiful as it tasted.

Knowing that our preference was vegan food, they surprised us with many vegan delights that truly burst with flavors. And since we don’t drink alcohol, we were surprised again with a wonderful non-alcoholic, freshly made raspberry spritzer.

We lost count of the courses after a while, but each brought the experience to a new level of awesomeness. Two of the many courses that stand out for me are the fresh sweet pea vegan soup and the couscous risotto with nori and mushrooms. The fresh split pea soup was delicate, smooth and full of flavor. The couscous risotto was exquisite. Made with a hint of ginger, this fusion dish was bursting with flavors from Asia and Europe.

As fast as we were devouring each course served to us, for almost three hours, we didn’t have enough time or room in the stomach to complete all the courses that had been planned for us.

This feast was made of a very large number of very small dishes, including two palate cleansers (which were more like courses in their own right) and several desert courses, the last two of which we took to go and enjoyed later.

Note that Sona is not a restaurant you go to on your way to the theater. The restaurant is the theater, and the evening. Expect to enjoy 3 to 4 hours of culinary shock-and-awe.

One of the evening's highlights was meeting Chef Myers, and going back to the kitchen for a tour to meet the rest of the gifted crew.

You should know that Sona is a very expensive restaurant, more along the lines of what you might pay for a wonderful meal in Tokyo, rather than LA (a few hundred dollars per person if you drink wine).

While the cost may seem high, in my experience you get what you pay for. Besides, the cost is roughly equivalent to what you might pay for an evening that included a lesser restaurant and a good play or good seats at a concert or basketball game. The difference is that the food is the main event, not a precursor.

Sona’s dedication to the quality of food and outstanding service is in the end a great value. Sona represents a perfect harmony between the best of what an excellent farm can produce, the best of culinary innovation and the best service and atmosphere. Sona is a one-of-a-kind experience. As a bonus, Sona will surprise your palate and delight your other senses as well.

If you live in, or ever travel to, LA, do yourself an big favor: Experience Sona.

May 21, 2009 News

A new documentary from filmmaker Robert Kenner and co-produced by author Eric Schlosser (who wrote Fast Food Nation) hits theaters June 12. It's called Food, Inc., and it exposes the horrible reality about the foods we eat, and provides clear guidance about what we can all do about it. Check out the trailer here, and don't miss this film!
March 22, 2009 News

An iPhone application called Locavore tells you which fruits and vegetables are in season at any given time in your area. Just tell it where you live, and then select the "currently in season" option for the list of foods. You can also see foods that will be in season soon, and get a listing of local farmers markets.
January 12, 2009 News

About 367,000 American children are vegetarians, according to a new study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the number is reportedly rising. Part of the rise is cause by videos on YouTube that show cruelty to animals on farms, and young viewers choosing vegetarianism based on that awareness. The 1 in 200 figure, which represents .5% of the child population, counts all minors, but older teen vegetarian rates "could be four to six times" that percentage.
January 6, 2009 News
January 5, 2009 News

Today is the first day of school for Malia and Sasha Obama, daughters of President Elect Barack Obama and future first lady Michelle. The kids' new school is the prestigious Sidwell Friends school in Washington, D.C. The school, which costs $30,000 per year per child to attend, serves all-organic lunches, according to a report this morning on "Good Morning America." Michelle Obama has made it clear in interviews that she feeds her family organic foods whenever she can.

Meanwhile, at nearby Washington, D.C., public schools, the children of less wealthy, less powerful parents are being served toxic, industrial, non-organic foods. And likewise at nearly every public school across the nation.

During the campaign, all candidates, including Obama, talked endlessly about what was always categorized as "healthcare," when in fact it was all about healthcare insurance. "Health" almost never came up during the campaign, nor did the US government's massive corporate welfare program, which subsidizes the most toxic and unhealthy foods, while leaving healthy and organic food producers to fend for themselves on this uneven playing field.

Nevertheless, I and many others remain hopeful that the Obama's awareness about the superiority of organic foods will lead to actual policy changes that put organic food in every school and every home, and stop the obesity, diabetes and cancer epidemics where they start: with our diets.

Barack Obama: We applaud your good parenting, and your desire to take care of your kids. But starting January 20, you're our president. And we're counting on you to take care of our kids, too.

November 20, 2008 News

Having learned nothing from the harm done by factory farming (which many would argue has damaged public health, animal welfare and the environment) the USDA is now giving a green light to industrial producers to meddle with our food system, once again. Against opposition from consumers as well as consumer advocates and environmentalists, the USDA has given way to industrial aquaculture to label farmed fish that doesn't feed on 100% organic or wild feed as "organic." I guess this is just business as usual--laxed regulations designed to promote big business at the expense of public interest. What's next, "organic" genetically modified, cloned fish?
November 8, 2008 News

An inspired blog post I read recently, shows that U.S. households spend a higher percentage of their dollars on cheap packaged junk foods than anything else. The blogger observed people's shopping carts full of foods and decided to add up some data gathered by Nielsen about Americans' grocery shopping habits. Not surprising, the data reveals the food choices behind the pandemic of lifestyle related diseases caused by the cheap calories we consume. According to the data, the average American spends $1,321 on packaged foods (snacks, soda, etc.), $309 on frozen foods, $112 on meat, $215 on alcohol but just $91 on fresh produce.

I buy the majority of my food at my local Farmer's Markets, the health food store and through my food-coop group. While the health food store sells a lot of processed and convenience foods, they carry healthier versions of what their conventional counterparts sell, even when these carry some organic options also.

In my experience, most people's carts at the health food store contain a combination of produce, grains, beans and also quite a few processed, packaged and canned items. Some time ago, I was looking for ripe avocados and found myself looking in the local conventional super market. It was a surreal experience. I was almost in tears because it was so schocking and painful to see that the majority of people, with children, had shopping carts full of cheap toxic foods that come laden with artificial additives. It was truly overwhelming for me to witness this and I was overcome with sadness because I'm sure that in most instances, these peope simply don't know how harmful these "dead" foods are. They don't know how bad what they are buying is.

I decided to take a walking tour through the isles of the grocery store and noticed that the food prices, in many instances, are even higher than, for example, Whole Foods Market's 365 Organic Everyday Value® brand foods. Conventional grocery stores teamed up with industrial food manufacturers really stick it to uninformed consumers who pay a higher price -- both in food costs and in poor health.

November 3, 2008 News

I spent 5 hours yesterday making a 10-dish, 100 percent plant-base, farm fresh, homemade Thanksgiving meal from scratch in honor of my sister-in-law and her family who will be departing for an African adventure Saturday. They won't be back until after Thanksgiving and I really wanted them to enjoy a Thanksgiving celebration in advance.

I've also had clients asking me about preparing a vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving, so I took this opportunity to develop and test new holiday recipes I’ve been working on. And I must say, they turned out really well. My guests, who are not vegetarians, absolutely loved the food and were raving about it.

October 27, 2008 News

Despite the frightening economic woes we're facing, and although not as vibrant as I hope some day it will be, the organic movement is alive and well. Pursuing organic is not a fad, a luxury or a practice reserved for the elite, like some claim, but rather a matter of health for consumers and sustainability for the environment. More than a matter of health, it’s a matter of survival. I feel optimistic when I see that, despite efforts of big conventional corporations, government agencies who cater to corporate America and our broken food system that's dependent on fossil fuel, organic is more relevant, and to some extend, more prominent than ever before.

With just about one week left to the presidential election, the issue of the U.S. Farm Bill has not been discussed by either candidate. But sometimes the actions of a presidential candidate's wife can provide important insight. I was pleased to learn that Michelle Obama mentioned in an interview that she buys organic foods and fresh fruit for her family. This might be an indication that her husband may share her same value system. And, the fact that Barack Obama drinks organic tea might be further hint that he is aware of the superiority of organic food. Having any other new president will be a step in the right direction. But having a president that at least knows that organic is better gives me hope.

Recently, Michael Pollan, author of the best selling book, "the Omnivore's Dilemma," wrote an open letter called, "Farmer in Chief," to the next President of the U.S. in, which he eloquently and articulately outlines a proposal with strategies for sustainable agriculture. Pollan effectively makes the point that food policy is in many ways the underlying cause of what's wrong with all the challenges that the next administration will face, not unlike how processed foods are the underlying cause of the top four killer diseases in the U.S. Pollan systematically shows the connection between the outdated farm bill (providing subsidies to rich corporation in the food commodity industry), the food policy (responsible for our broken food system responsible for cheap toxic calories), the dependency on oil for the entire industrial food system (from growing methods to production and transportation), the crisis in health care (unaffordable and focused on treatment rather than prevention) and national security (how terrorists could easily attack us using our food supplies).

Pollan proposes what he calls the Sun-food diet, food that's grown with sunlight rather than fossil fuel. His insightful solutions include using the power of the sun to grow food, decentralizing the food system and changing America's food culture through education about why and how to grow and cook food. I applaud Pollan’s efforts to plant seeds.

October 10, 2008 News

Ten Surprising Ways Food Affects Health; How to choose and care for healthy cookware; Grow food instead of a lawn; and the Vegetarian Organic Blog recipe of the Week: Morning Muesli! (If you'd like to get this free newsletter in your e-mail inbox, click here to subscribe!

September 24, 2008 News

Native to South America, pineapple guavas (also know as feijoa sellowiana and guavasteen) are newly in season. I picked some up at my local Farmer's Market yesterday. These egg-shaped fruits are green in color and feel firm to the touch, so it's hard to tell that they're ripe and ready to eat. The farmer I bought them from waits for the fruit to drop on its own from the tree as that means they're ripe. She was giving samples and I liked the tangy flavor. She told me that most people scoop out the pulp, but that it's good also to eat the skin. I tried that, and found it chewy and kind of gritty but with good flavor. If you can get your hands on pineapple guavas, give them a try -- and give your palate a chance to become acquainted with new exotic flavors.

August 12, 2008 News

So much of our health science seems to seek as the ultimate goal a pill that will reverse the effects of junk food without making the patient actually give up that junk.

The subtext of this cultural reductionism is that altering, extracting from, isolating, adulterating and fabricating foods is not to be questioned. We just need to keep trying to reverse-engineer nature so that we can get the benefits of healthy foods without having to actually eat them.

Instead of trying to reverse engineer, adulterate, modify, isolate and "enhance" natural foods, all we really need to do is enjoy them -- and the wonderful health they give us when we don't tinker with them.

July 20, 2008 News

Can you feel it? The season for fresh peppers is just around the corner. Peppers season officially begins in August. But you can already find green bell peppers, Anaheim peppers and jalapeno peppers (in small quantities) at your nearest Farmer's Market. So start planning what succulent and yummy dishes you'll be preparing to take advantage of the wonderful and unique flavors you can enjoy for the great variety of peppers.

Recently, government inspectors have determined that the recent salmonella outbreak can be traced to "a single Mexican-grown jalapeno pepper handled by a small Texas produce shipper." That means your local Farmer's Market jalepenos are safe.

Recently I've been buying a lot of jalapeno peppers to put in all my meals. I have discovered that you don't have to limit their use to just salsa or pico de gallo. You can cook with them in recipes that call for bell peppers, for instance, and they're not really all that spicy if your remove the seeds and white membranes completely.

I'm even adding them to my raw salads. I seed and derib them completely, then I chop them very finely and add them to my salads and dressings. They add lots of fresh flavor and texture to meals, cooked and raw.

Try them and let me know what you think!

July 10, 2008 News

Whole Foods is reading the writing on the wall. As consumers look for way to cut spending costs across the board, Whole Foods implements a value program called "The Real Deal" designed to provide special discounts to thrift-oriented customers. The 28-page quarterly value guide will be available in stores starting July 17, and will feature money-saving coupons, product discounts, meal plans and low-cost recipes. Hopefully "The Real Deal" will also feature real discounts for real foods, not just overly processed organic foods.

July 9, 2008 News

On my semi-weekly visit to the Santa Barbara Farmer's Market yesterday, I was buying some wonderfully fresh and moist Thompson seedless raisins (shown in picture above) and some delicious and amazing Sugar Lady white peaches from the Peacock Family Farm stand when I noticed that they also sell eggs. And as a curious writer, of course, I decided to inquire further about their egg production and how they care for their chickens. Debbie, one of the farmers, who was handling the sales at the stand, informed me that the hens roam freely around the farm eating and behaving according to their natural instincts. Although the farm is not certified organic, they do use only organic farming methods and are in the process of getting certified, which is an expensive and lengthy process. Debbie also told me that the hens have been laying very few eggs lately, which she attributes to the stress that the chickens are feeling as a result of the Gap fire near Santa Barbara. That's right. Chickens get so stressed out by distant fires they stop laying eggs. Since the fires started a week ago, the chickens are not behaving like their old selves, Debbie said. I can relate to that; I'm pretty tired of the power outages, the ashes all over my car, the house and fruit trees in my back yard. I've been feeling tired and the fact that I have to breathe the nasty air when I go on my speed-walks is definitely trying my patience. I don't usually eat eat eggs, but if I did, I would want my eggs to come from chickens that live their natural lives in pesticide-free farms where they can run around freely, eat what they want, stretch their wings when they feel like it and dust bathe just like they love to do.

July 8, 2008 News

The Organic Center has just released a free pocket guide, which lists fruits and vegetables that pose the greatest risks from pesticides. All conventional produce is grown with pesticides and chemical fertilizers. But some are more heavily sprayed with pesticides than others. Pesticides can cause developmental problems in children and other long term health effects on adults. It's important to eat organic when possible. If you must purchase conventional produce be aware that the following fruits and vegetables are laden with pesticides and should be avoided or simply opt for other produce not on the list of highly toxic fruits and vegetables.

Here is the list of fruits and vegetables that pose the greatest pesticide exposure:

Domestically Grown Conventional Fruits

1. Cranberries
2. Nectarines
3. Peaches
4. Strawberries
5. Pears

Domestically Grown Conventional Vegetables

1. Green beans
2. Sweet bell peppers
3. Celery
4. Cucumbers
5. Potatoes

Imported Conventional Fruits

1. Grapes
2. Nectarines
3. Peaches
4. Pears
5. Strawberries

Imported Conventional Vegetables

1. Sweet bell peppers
2. Lettuce
3. Cucumbers
4. Celery
5. Tomatoes

April 24, 2008 News

The disappearance of honeybees is having significant negative impact on California agriculture, where the majority of the world's almonds, avocados, berries, melons and many other agricultural crops are grown. One major culprit contributing to the destruction of honeybee colonies is the U.S. farm bill, which subsidizes conventional agribusiness programs that are directly propagating the destruction of honeybees and other wild pollinators with their growing methods. While the Bush administration is trying to cut those subsidies and increase funding for environmental and nutrition programs as part of the farm bill, congress is doing its utmost to increase subsidies that have a direct correlation with everything that’s wrong with our overly processed and industrialized food supply as well as widespread obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and now, the annihilation of honeybees and other wild pollinators.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "Domesticated honeybee colonies suffered a 35 percent decline last winter. Wild pollinators such as native bees, wasps and butterflies are suspected to be in sharp decline, too, according to scientists, beekeepers and others at a symposium organized by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who is struggling to get $20 million in the bill to research the cause of the honeybee decline." Pesticides used in conventional farming, consider “safe” for humans, cause severe damage to insects. It’s believed that these pesticides seriously affect bees causing memory loss and navigation failure driving bees to their destruction. Moreover, the expansion of monocultures of single crops, sophisticated pests and other diseases, are suspected to also exacerbate the bee problem as well as the decline of other wild pollinators including bumblebees, butterflies, bats and hummingbirds.

We elect officials who vote and act in the interest of big corporate America. Capitol Hill lobbyists spend millions of dollars effectively luring our politicians to do their employers’ bidding. It’s no surprise to have a congress that supports the expansion of factory farming and industrialized crop production and do so by trying to cut existing farm conservation programs designed to keep pollinators alive. It is a disturbing notion, however, that it is our own lack of awareness about our food chain and the politics around it that makes this possible. Contrary to popular belief, ignorance is not bliss—knowledge and awareness are what can help our own preservation. Our existence as human beings depends on other living things, including plants and animals. Naturally, all plant life, upon which we depend, requires pollination for reproduction. Plants cannot survive without pollination and we cannot survive without plants. The possible extinction of pollinators caused by our own hands could be the demise of our future generations if not our own.

April 17, 2008 News

EXCLUSIVE: A fairly new chocolate company called Fine & Raw will soon be offering online sales, according to the owner of the company, Daniel Sklaar. Most available chocolate is junk food, but Fine & Raw chocolate is a superfood! It's made using raw techniques, processed only at very low temperatures to retain all the natural health properties in cocoa. It's lightly sweetened with low glycemic blue agave nectar, and contains virgin and cold pressed coconut oil. Fine & Raw chocolate is vegan, organic and fair trade. The chocolates are currently available in a small number of stores in New York City. Stay tuned, and I'll give you the details about how to buy online when that information becomes available.

April 6, 2008 News

"Natural" products you should avoid; Rapadura and diabetes; and this issue's Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week: Homemade Savory Baked Tofu! Go here to read it online, and go here to subscribe free!

March 9, 2008 News

In this issue: Your action plan for times of crisis; romanesco cauliflower; purple potatoes; pots and pans; and this week's Vegetarian Organic Blog Recipe of the Week, Vegetable Comfort Soup! Read it here!

February 16, 2008 News

I told you in November about the pleasures and benefits of "cauliflower of color" -- green, yellow, orange and even purple cauliflower. Now, it appears, the colorful-cauliflower craze that started in California has spread to the UK, according to an article in the Daily Mail. It's now a popular item in some UK grocery stores.

February 9, 2008 News

A report in The New York Times today says a caterer working for the United States Olympic Committee (U.S.O.C.) bought a half a chicken breast in a Chinese market that measured 14 inches. After testing it, they found that it "was so full of steroids that we never could have given it to athletes. They all would have tested positive."

January 22, 2008 News

As expected, and despite insufficient research, the FDA officially deemed food from cloned animals and their offspring safe for consumption. And not surprisingly, given their track record as the biggest supporters of agribusiness and corporate America such as the powerful meat and dairy industries, labeling of cloned food is not required. What that means is that you will be buying milk or eating a steak from cloned animals or, most likely, their offspring -- but won't have any way to know. Let's get this straight, conventional food is not only laden with pesticides, chemical fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) but now also franken-clones. What's one to do? Naturally, stay informed and buy only organic. Don't let the FDA force you to eat cloned foods.

December 23, 2007 News

How to cultivate a healthy attitude; all about mung beans; researchers conclude that most cancers are preventable; and Mung Bean Soup for the Soul -- this issue's Vegetarian Organic recipe of the week! Click here to read it online. Click here to subscribe free!

December 23, 2007 News

All beans fall into the super food category, but one of my favorites is mung beans -- also known as moong dal, among other names. Native to India and more commonly eaten in India, Japan, China, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam, these tiny little green beans are not commonly found in American kitchens. Fortunately, most health food stores are beginning to offer them.

Mung beans are highly cherished in ayurveda for their balancing power, high nutrient content and ease of digestion. Anyone who typically avoids beans because of digestive difficulties might find that mung beans are friendly to the digestive system and more importantly, they have cleansing and detoxifying properties. Mung beans are rich in potassium beneficial for the cardiovascular and nervous systems and are also a good source of high quality protein for vegetarian and meat eaters. Mung beans contain lots of fiber, which is essential to keep healthy cholesterol levels. Mung beans are rich in iron, thiamin, magnesium and folate, which help many other bodily functions for optimum health.

Mung beans are versatile and can be cooked in many different ways including hearty soups, casseroles and salads. Mung bean sprouts, which can be eaten raw in salads even contain vitamin C.

December 20, 2007 News

It's best not to over-indulge in holiday sweets. But if you must, try Pure Fun's candy canes. They're organic, vegan and all-natural without artificial colors, preservatives or other nasty junk you'll find in conventional candy canes. Pure Fun Candy Canes have just five ingredients: organic evaporated cane juice, organic brown rice syrup, organic citric acid, natural beet extract and natural peppermint oil.

December 7, 2007 News

A new U.S. Department of Agriculture survey found that only 7% of all Americans meet the department's minimum recommendations for whole grains, which is three ounces per day. The people who fall into this small group are the same people who "buy organic, read product labels and generally watch what they eat." A incredible 40% of Americans don't eat any whole grains at all.

December 7, 2007 News

A vegetarian restaurant in New York City called Counter sells an "organic martini" for a whopping $665. The Martini is called the Organic Iridium Martini. It's made with four pomegranate seeds, sugar water, Square One vodka, peach juice, ice peach oolong tea, rose pedals and one drop of Liquid Manna Iridium. The drink has more to do with creating buzz around a publicity stunt, and less to do with organics or health or anything else. The drink is extremely unhealthy, so why bother making it organic?

November 17, 2007 News

All organic cauliflower is healthy and loaded with fiber, folate and vitamin C. Most people think of cauliflower as having white or off-white curd. But more nutritious varieties are available in orange, green and purple colors. Orange cauliflower comes in "cheddar" and "orange bouquet" varieties (this picture shows the "cheddar" cauliflower I bought this morning at the farmer's market), and contain 25 times as much vitamin A as white cauliflower. Green cauliflower is available in "alverda" and "green goddess" varieties. Purple cauliflower is available in "graffiti" and "purple cape" varieties, and contains the antioxidant group anthocyanin. (Note that true purple cauliflower is different from a vegetable sold as "purple cauliflower" in the UK, which is actually a variety of broccoli.)

November 17, 2007 News

Lose weight the healthy, natural and sustainable way -- not with quack diets! Plus, celebrate life with gratitude; new study proves superiority of organic foods; and my new Autumn Pumpkin Pie Cake recipe (shown here)! Click here to read it online. Click here to subscribe!

November 17, 2007 News

I learned a bit of tomato trivia this morning from my favorite tomato farmer at the Santa Barbara Farmer's Market: The Saturday after Thanksgiving is the nation's biggest tomato-buying day of the year. Why? Because just about every family is making sandwiches with Thanksgiving left-overs, and they need tomatoes for the sandwiches.

November 17, 2007 News

I told you back in April that the USDA imposed new rules that require all almonds grown in California to be pasturized with either heat or toxic chemicals, a rule that threatens to wipe out organic almond farmers (California produces some 80% of the world's almonds). But look what I found this morning at my local farmer's market -- raw, whole, organic, unpasteurized California almonds! It turns out that farmers who sell directly to consumers are exempt from the pasteurization rule. So if you live in an almond-growing area, check the farmer's market for unpasteurized almonds.

November 8, 2007 News

A recent article written by Sean Armstrong, the husband of the co-owner of Wild Chick Farm provides a revealing account of what's really behind "organic" egg labels. Although organic egg production is definitely a step up from conventional egg production, there is a huge disparity between what misleading labels imply and the awful conditions organic hens are subjected to. For instance, even when not raised in battery cages, tens of thousands of hens are still crammed into large warehouses where they cannot practice their most basic natural animal behavior. Hens go crazy and undergo extremely painful debeaking. Up to half of the chickens' beaks are cut off with hot knives to keep them from eating each other. Additionally, labels such as "natural," "hormone free," "free range," and "cage free," are far from what any consumer might imagine from the false images implied by phony labels and even the names of companies. Many people become vegetarian because they don't want to endorse animal cruelty but the sad reality is that eating eggs and dairy products supports an industry where animals greatly suffer and live painful and tortured short lives and cruel deaths. But most consumers are clueless about factory farming (organic and conventional)—it is what greenwashing is all about. Read the full article to find out some of the specific companies you might be buying your eggs from, their awful practices and how they cheat and lie to you.

October 20, 2007 News

Food chain Trader Joe's announced Friday that the company plans to stop selling single-ingredient products made in China over customer concerns about food standards in that country. The chain will continue to sell products that have multiple ingredients when some of them are from China. I applaud the company for taking this step, call on Whole Foods and other chains to do the same, but I also call on these stores to stop selling all products made with any ingredients from China until some credible, accountable organization can be set up to verify food quality and safety there. At present, there is none.

October 20, 2007 News

20 Ways to Eat Healthy On a Budget; Why Healthy Food is the Least Expensive; Quinoa: The Mother of All Grains; Golden Twinkie Award for Dieticians of Canada; and the Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week: Ejotes Deliciosos (pictured). All that and more in this week's issue!

October 20, 2007 News

(From the Vegetarian Organic Blog newsletter) Quinoa (KEEN-wa), my favorite grain and possibly the most nutritious on Earth, is an ancient Incan food from the Andes in South America. This wonder grain was considered sacred by the Incas, who referred to it as “chisaya mama,” which means “the mother of all grains.” I agree. It’s certainly revered in my kitchen and often reigns on my dinner table.

This super grain contains complete protein, providing a good balance of amino acids including lysine, methionine and cystine. Quinoa provides more calcium, magnesium and potassium than most other grains. It’s also high in fiber and rich in iron and vitamins B. Quinoa is a great addition to a healthy diet and is super easy to make. No need to complement it with beans but you can to boost protein content for body building.

Quinoa provides complete protein meal all by itself -- a perfect gift from Mother Nature. It has no gluten, it’s easy to digest and makes an excellent substitute for other grains -- especially rice. Any meal that includes rice can be made better, faster, cheaper and more nutritious by substituting Quinoa.

Quinoa should be staple food of every kitchen and should be part of healthy eating plan. I’ve written about it before. But I just can’t stress enough about how delicious, nutritious, simple and quick to make it is. Everyone can benefit from eating this amazing grain -- even diabetics. Need I say more?

A quarter of a cup of Quinoa has 160 calories, 2.5 grams of fat (20 calories from fat and 0 grams of saturated fat), 5 mg of sodium, 29g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 0g sugars, 6g protein. Most health food stores carry Quinoa in individual packages or in bulk. I buy it through my food coop buying club in bulk (5 or 25 pound bags).

You can eat Quinoa as hot cereal, in salads, in soups or on its own. To cook, rinse 1 cup of Quinoa thoroughly or pre-soak in a bowl with water for 15 minutes then rinse and drain. Add to 2 cups of water or vegetable stock in a small pot or pan. Cook over medium heat until it begins boiling, reduce heat to low, cover with lid and simmer for 15 minutes or until most of the water has been absorbed. Add seasoning if desired and fluff with fork (not spoon).

October 20, 2007 News

(From the Vegetarian Organic Blog newsletter) The conventional wisdom that healthy food is more expensive than "conventional" food (adulterated, mass-produced, junk and industrial food) is a myth. Don’t believe it.

On the societal level, unhealthy food is far more expensive than healthy food.

Hidden costs come in the form of pollution and harm to the environment caused by artificial fertilizers and contaminated water systems from conventional agriculture and animal factory farms.

If you haven’t already, I recommend that you read Michael Pollan’s book, the Omnivore’s Dilemma. Although I have some issues with the book, I believe Pollan has made some important contributions in raising the public’s awareness about our food chain, factory farming and how corn is in everything we eat and drink. Even the animals raised for meat are fed corn, with 80 percent of corn produced in the U.S. ending up as livestock feed. The rest is added to soda, burgers, chicken nuggets, chips, white breads, candy and all junk food in fast food restaurants and processed foods in grocery stores.

Many don’t realize the importance of the U.S. Farm Bill, which is a nasty form of corporate welfare responsible for providing tax-funded subsidies to giant conventional agribusiness corporations. The government takes billions of dollars from you and me in the form of taxes, and uses that money to artificially lower the price of industrialized or conventional food -- much of it supporting low prices for the junk food that causes our many epidemics of cancer, obesity and diabetes. This transfer of wealth from the public to the junk food giants makes us lose sight of the fact that we are not paying the true dollar cost at the store. For junk food, we pay for part of it at the store or restaurant, and the rest we pay at tax time.

There are hidden costs not obvious to the general public or the uninformed consumer. If you’d like to learn more about the cost of real whole foods versus the cost of conventionally produced foods that are subsidized by the Farm Bill, I strongly recommend you read an insightful article written by Pollan for the New York times on this subject. This article is incredibly eye-opening, and will change forever the way you look at our food supply.

We are paying a very heavy price for unhealthy food -- and will pay even more over time.

Healthy food is cheaper on the personal level, too.

If you define "food" based only on one metric of nutrition -- calories -- then it's possible to argue that junk food or unhealthy food is cheaper than healthy food. Yes, if you want to maximize calories per dollar, junk food is the way to go. But why use calories as the metric? Are you really trying to maximize your calories?

What about vitamins and minerals per dollar? Antioxidants per dollar? Fiber content per dollar? Phytonutrients per dollar? Using these more desirable metrics, healthy, organic, vegetarian food is the cheapest food you can buy.

It’s vital to accept that food is central to health and overall well being. Being healthy without eating healthy is just crazy talk. The negative effects of unhealthy foods may be minor in the short term, but the cumulative effects are devastating.

People eat junk food to save money. But what's the cost of chronic fatigue? Obesity? Heart disease? Cancer? Early retirement? Early death?

You will pay far more in the long run for unhealthy food than you will for good food.

We seem disconnected from the reality of what real food is. Burgers, deep fried chicken, hot dogs, deli meats, fries, chips, soda, donuts, white bread, white pasta, white flours or any other of thousands of processed foods filling the shelters at grocery stores looks like food, but is really a global science project. Such "food" is cheap because it is garbage. It provides little or no nutritional value and it’s usually loaded with sugar, bad fats, preservatives, artificial flavors, artificial colors, GMO’s, pesticides and more, all of which are seriously detrimental to our health.

Healthy food is inexpensive when you consider the hidden cost of adulterated conventionally grown food. Seitan, for example, is typically sold in 8 oz packages for $3.49 or so per package. One pound comes to $7 making it the single most expensive vegetarian protein available. But higher-quality lean meats and other animal proteins are also expensive and often cost more than $7.00 per pound.

The total cost of the seitan meal I featured in a previous issue, for instance, would cost roughly $15 to make but would also provide six generous serving or eight smaller ones. One meal made with one of the most expensive vegetarian proteins comes to $2.50. That’s not expensive. Going to McDonald’s costs you more at the cash register -- plus more at tax time and more at the doctor's office.

Organic tofu is also a great vegetarian source of protein and is significantly cheaper than any type of meat at only about $1.50 to $2 per pound. You can’t beat that -- lots of nutrition for little money.

Soybeans are subsidized by the government but only the ones mainly used to feed animals raised for human consumption. Organic (not genetically modified) tofu is not subsidized.

Tempeh is also very inexpensive. All vegetarian unprepared protein sources made from whole food sources are far cheaper than animal protein.

Some of my recipes also call for quinoa, which is about $1.50 per pound at Trader Joe’s. One pound will give you about 16 servings, that’s less than .09 cents per serving! Other recipes call for beans; again, depending on the type of beans, the price per pound varies between 0.70 cents to $1.79 per pound.

Nutrition education and meal planning are essential in making healthy food choices as well as fiscally responsible ones. As consumers we have to keep abreast of how our food system really works to have clear understanding of not only the role food plays in our lives but also the role we play in our own health.

Is healthy food expensive? It doesn't have to be. And, in the final analysis, is really the least expensive food you can buy.

October 20, 2007 News

A recent and hilarious "Dilbert" cartoon mocks corporate management attitudes about health. Click here for the rest of the strip.

October 15, 2007 News

The National Park Service and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have collaborated with the non-profit organization,, to make four acres of the National Mall in Washington, DC, ORGANIC AND SUSTAINABLE -- as a demonstration of how everyone with a lawn can help protect the environment by going organic. (Note: This post supports Blog Action Day!)

October 12, 2007 News

A new documentary called King Corn tackles one of the central realities of what's wrong with our food supply: subsidised corn. As the movie's Web site says, "The breadth of the problem is now clear: the American food system is built on the abundance of corn, an abundance perpetuated by a subsidy system that pays farmers to maximize production.... In 2005, federal subsidies spent $9.4 billion in taxpayer money to promote corn production." As a result, the site says, "Almost everything Americans eat contains corn: high fructose corn syrup, corn-fed meat, and corn-based processed foods are the staples of the modern diet..." The movie opens today, but will reportedly be broadcast in the U.S. on PBS in April, 2008. Enjoy the movie trailer!

October 11, 2007 News

am New York has published its top picks of vegetarian spots in New York City. The list includes Candle 79, Angelica Kitchen, Maoz, Counter and Gobo.

October 11, 2007 News

According to a recent article, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) says that ten percent of American schoolchildren are vegetarians. The ADA says that "a vegetarian diet can lead to deficiencies in vitamin b12, calcium, iron and protein -- nutrients vital to growing children" and that "parents need to make sure their kids eat a varied, balanced diet and get regular checkups." according to the ADA's spokesperson, "If you're deficient in protein it would impede your height, your muscle mass, your bones and the way your body functions, your ability to fight disease." All true. But the potential nutritional deficiencies possible in vegetarian diets is not what’s plaguing American children. Obesity is. Obesity among school age children is growing at an alarming rate. For the first time in history, many parents are likely to survive their obese children, who develop diabetes and heart disease at very young ages. Kids spend less time exercising and more time in front of the TV eating larger amounts of food they see advertised while watching TV. And that’s not including the additional time they spend in front of computers and video-game consoles. The ADA needs to get real, and spend more time advocating vegetarianism and less time scaring people about its so-called dangers.

October 10, 2007 News

A company called EDS described a vision of the shopping cart of the future, which could help shoppers buy food more mindfully. The cart would have a built-in screen and barcode scanner. By scanning foods as they are placed into the cart, the screen would display not only nutrition information, but also the environmental impact of that food.

October 9, 2007 News

The California Department of Public Health has issued warning against consuming contaminated Soy Deli tofu products as part of an earlier recall in September of products from manufacturer Quon Hop and Co. The contaminated products may have been distributed to supermarkets and health food stores in the Midwest and West Coast including Albertsons, Andronico's, Lunardi's, Mollie Stone's Market, Pavilion's, PW Markets, Ralphs, Safeway, Save Mart Supermarkets, Stater Bros., Vons and Whole Foods Market. The recall includes "baked tofu in five spice, hickory, honey sesame, teriyaki and savory flavors, mesquite smoke tofu, Hawaiian style fried tofu, nigari vacuum-pack tofu, original, garden, barbeque, teriyaki and Cajun burgers all with date codes on or before Jan. 28, 2008. It also includes water-packed tofu in orange, blue and red, Quong Hop water-packed tofu in red and nigari tofu all with date codes on or before Nov. 28." There are no reported illnesses thus far but an "infection from the bacteria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women" and symptoms include fever, headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

September 27, 2007 News

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.

September 27, 2007 News

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.

September 27, 2007 News

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."

September 26, 2007 News

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.

September 26, 2007 News

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.

September 26, 2007 News

In a recent newsletter, I wrote a column called "Mixed Marriage?" about how vegetarians and meat eaters can learn to live together. Today, Newsweek is exploring a similar issue -- about "mixed relationships" involving vegans and vegetarians.

September 26, 2007 News

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s first book, The Joy of Vegan Baking: Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets, is now available. (Thanks to Green Options.)

September 24, 2007 News

A company based in Solana Beach, California, provides its YoZone vending machines to schools, hospitals, health clubs, companies, and tourist attractions. But unlike most vending machines, these are stocked with natural and organic drinks and snacks. (Thanks to TreeHugger)

September 24, 2007 News

Prince Charles' new book, called The Elements of Organic Gardening, arrives in U.S. bookstores Tuesday. The book details what he learned on his organic Highgrove estate and after 26 years of gardening. (Via EcoRazzi)

September 24, 2007 News

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!

September 15, 2007 News

The Frugal Living section of the site is building up a collection of online, printable coupons for organic products.

September 14, 2007 News

Our favorite cartoon, CounterThink, which features concepts by Mike Adams and art by Dan Berger, hits another home run with this piece. (Via Organic To Be)

September 14, 2007 News

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)

September 14, 2007 News

The Slashfood blog sings the praises of the healthy and delicious -- but weird-colored -- world of green smoothies, and points to four green-smoothy recipes at A Veggie Venture to try out. (Via Slashfood)

September 13, 2007 News

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.)

September 13, 2007 News

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.

September 13, 2007 News

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.

September 13, 2007 News

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.

September 11, 2007 News

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."

September 11, 2007 News

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."

September 11, 2007 News

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.

September 10, 2007 News

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.

September 10, 2007 News

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?

September 10, 2007 News

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."

September 9, 2007 News

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.

September 4, 2007 News

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.

August 19, 2007 News

The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to send auditors to China to investigate just how organic the "organic" farms are there in the wake of global and growing concerns about toxic Chinese products, from pet foods and toothpaste to toys and clothing. Currently, U.S. producers buy "organic" foods from China, basically, on the honor system.

August 2, 2007 News

Failing to fix an archaic, deadly and irresponsible system of farm subsidies, House Democrats passed the big agribusiness bill, I mean, the farm bill.

July 31, 2007 News

Vegetarians and fish eaters are getting a 6% discount on life insurance premiums by Animal Friends Insurance. The company's managing director told The Guardian that "The risk of vegetarians suffering from some cancers is reduced by up to 40% and from heart disease by up to 30%, but despite this they have to pay the same life insurance premiums as meat eaters. We believe this is unfair and the life insurance industry needs to acknowledge the fact that being a vegetarian can have a very positive impact on life expectancy and reduce premiums accordingly."

July 30, 2007 News

An unhealthy alcoholic, junk-food addicted meat eating reporter for the UK's Daily Mail tried going vegan for one month -- a kind of "Supersize Me" experiment in reverse. Despite the fact that he cheated a little, leaned toward unhealthy processed vegan foods, kept on drinking alcohol and didn't exercise, his health was transformed in just one month. He lost weight. His cholesterol dropped by 23 percent, started sleeping better and feels much better. His experiment had nothing to do with the new documentary, Raw for 30 Days.

July 16, 2007 News

The farm bill, in which every five years Congress pays billions to subsidize the most unhealthy foods and give them an advantage over healthy foods, is getting a lot more attention this year. "We have adopted this high-calorie, low nutrition diet," said Daniel Imhoff, author of "Food Fight: A Citizen's Guide to the Food and Farm Bill." "Maybe advertising is part of it. Maybe TV is part of it. Maybe it's our sedentary lifestyle. But you can't ignore that these subsidies make cheap the ingredients for the refined and processed food industry." One of many interesting tidbits about all this -- The farm bill gives more money to landowners who aren't farming their land than it does to farmers growing foods to be sold as fresh fruits and vegetables.

June 29, 2007 News

Italian law requires schools in Italy to serve only organic foods. Many don't comply. But one article estimates that about one quarter of the school children in Italy eat only organic food, and most other schools serve some organic foods.

June 24, 2007 News

The Parappana Agrahara prison in Bangalore is becoming dangerously overcrowded. The reason is that the food is so good, inmates are refusing to apply for bail and arrested juveniles are lying about their age to get in. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness won a contract to provide food for the inmates, and they serve three delicious vegetarian meals per day.

June 17, 2007 News

After a seven-year battle involving organic farmers, consumers and the USDA, a huge, 10,000-cow dairy in Central California called the Case Vander Eyk Jr. Dairy had its organic certification suspended. The organic industry watchdog Cornucopia Institute filed a series of legal complaints against the dairy starting in 2005, saying that the dairy kept cows in pens and sheds instead of grazing them, as is required for organic milk. The dairy was also accused of shady recording keeping relating to food quality, drugs and and other factors affecting certification.

June 9, 2007 News

The USDA is considering a list of 38 non-organic spices, colorings and other ingredients to continue to be included in food products that would still get the USDA's "Organic" label. The list includes hops (used for beer) sprayed with both chemical fertilizers and pesticides as well as "19 food colorings, two starches, casings for sausages and hot dogs, fish oil, chipotle chili pepper, gelatin and a host of obscure ingredients (one, for instance, is a "bulking agent" and sweetener with the tongue-twisting name of fructooligosaccharides)." The USDA is proposing that up to 5% of a food product could be made with these ingredients and still get the "USDA organic" label. Obviously, if the public allows the USDA to get away with this, it will invalidate the label. The organic industry would have to start over, and develop a meaningful organic label to be used in parallel with the government's bogus one.

May 26, 2007 News

The UK's Soil Association, which decides what foods get the "organic" label in Britain, may remove foods imported via airplane from eligibility. The possible move would promote less polluting methods of import and boost domestically grown foods.

May 18, 2007 News

The UK's plans to require by law that bread-makers add folic acid, also known as folate, to all bread is yet another example of a government clumsily experimenting on the public by medicating our food. The requirement, which is designed to make sure pregnant women get enough folic acid without having to actually educate them, may put the rest of the population -- especially the elderly -- at risk. Like the requirement for B1 in baby formula, fluoridated drinking water, and other similar government-mandated supplementation, the folic acid requirement punishes those who want to choose which and whether our diets are supplemented by various chemicals and also puts millions at risk while safeguarding only a few dozen pregnancies.

May 17, 2007 News

European scientists have created a portable electro-chemical biosensor that detects and identifies traces of toxic chemicals such as pesticides and antibiotics in food including milk, produce, water and orange juice. The biosensor can detect even small amounts of atrazine, a commonly used herbicide in conventional agriculture in the United States, antibiotics used to promote the growth of animals raised for food and sulphanilamides used to treat sick animals in factory farming. Now that's a wonderful invention that should keep factory farms and food manufacturers honest.

May 16, 2007 News

To find out the origin of your Dole organic bananas and learn about the farm that grew them go to and enter the farm ID number found on the label.

May 10, 2007 News

Cargill launches two organic sweeteners claimed to be free of sugar, calories, aftertaste and artificial ingredients. Zerose organic erythritol and organic glucose syrup are designed to provide the organic alternative for "no-calorie, natural, organic sugar-free products." It's hard to believe that because the starting product is organic sugar, an ingredient that can only result from the work of scientists in a laboratory can be called organic. What's next, organic Diet Coke?

May 6, 2007 News

Mark Di Ionno writes in the San Francisco Chronicle how junk food companies have motivated Americans to literally eat ourselves to death: "Spend $12 billion a year on advertising. Put product on every corner. Don't stop until you've changed the American lifestyle." These are the "two main ingredients for the pervasiveness of junk food in our culture: advertising and availability." He lambastes children's TV ads for pushing hard for kids to see junk food as "cool." And he illustrates the "availability" issue thus: "Drive down any stretch of any highway and count the number of gas stations that sell soda and snacks. Then count how many can actually fix a flat tire."

May 5, 2007 News

Charles, the Prince of Wales, has written a book on organic gardening, which will hit U.S. bookstores in the Fall. The Prince is well known for using only organic gardening techniques for the gardens of his 1,000-acre country home at Highgrove in Gloucestershire.

May 5, 2007 News

Europeans may wonder why some Americans are so crazy about Whole Foods Market. But starting June 6, they can wonder no more, as the ginormous 80,000 square foot Whole Food Market is set to open in West London's Kensington as Europe's first. The 300 or so Whole Foods Markets in the United States have helped countless American shoppers escape from toxic, dead-foods grocery chains like Vons, Safeway, Ralphs and others. Even more impressive is that they've thrilled shoppers in America's natural-foods and gourmet foods Meccas from Manhattan to Manhattan Beach. What's so great about Whole Foods? An article in the Times will give you a pretty good idea.

May 4, 2007 News

India's new MDLR Airlines advertises itself as India's first exclusively vegetarian airline. They fly to multiple cities inside India and "provide a wide variety of multi-cuisine vegetarian specialties." (Thanks to SuperVegan)

April 30, 2007 News

The number of vegetarian restaurants in the United States has doubled since the year 2000, and more than a dozen very upscale, gourmet vegan restaurants have opened (including my favorite, San Francisco's Millennium). The vegetarian and vegan restaurant revolution is being embraced even by non-vegetarian "foodies" and chefs!

April 28, 2007 News

Organic baby food is still a small part of the overall baby food market, but the category is growing fast, thanks for skyrocketing demand by parents. Sales of organic baby food grew 16.4 percent in 2005, and 21.6 percent in 2006.

April 25, 2007 News

Virgin Atlantic is purchasing 15 eco-friendly aircraft from Boeing, making it a total of more than 500 orders of the new 787 Dreamliners for Boeing. What is even better news is that Virgin and Boeing are engaging on a partnership to do environmental research to develop sustainable fuel sources for the aviation industry including commercial jet engines. Both companies along with GE Aviation will be conducting a joint biofuel demonstration in 2008 using a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400. Details to be released later this year. Moreover, Virgin Atlantic and Boeing are joining forces to innovate ways of reducing fuel burn and aircraft carbon emissions on the ground during aircraft operations at airports. Their goal is to reduce fuel consumption and cut carbon emissions by up to 50 per cent by implementing new procedures such as towing aircraft to starting grid. The 787-9 Dreamliners are promised to be quieter when taking off and landing. Best of all , they'll use 20 per cent less fuel for every passenger on board than other existing aircraft of similar size. Passengers will start enjoying these new and more spacious airplanes in the next few years, which will provide better air purification, humidity and lighting for reading and also larger windows and more stowage space. Kudos to Virgin Atlantic for taking some leadership in the new green frontier!

April 24, 2007 News

"You Are What You Grow," is the very appropriate title of the luminous and evocative article Michael Pollan recently wrote for the New York Times. Pollan, whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, is the author of the best selling book "The Omnivore's Dilemma." Pollan’s article offers great insight into the iniquity inner workings of the United States farm bill. This article should be read by everyone who dares to know the truth about how the farm bill couldn’t possibly go more against the health of our children, our own health and that of the environment. It's even bad for the economy.

April 21, 2007 News

How to say "No!" to "Greenwashing; safe cookware; the best tahini; what's wrong with salt; and the Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week -- all in the current issue of Vegetarian Organic Blog!

April 20, 2007 News

At their meeting in Washinton D.C., the National Organic Standards Board voted 12-0 (one abstention) to exclude meat, milk and food products derived from cloned animals or their offsprings from the organic industry. Will Fantle of the Cornucopia Institute, an industry watchdog group said, "This is a victory for farmers, consumers and retailers who want to protect organic food and agriculture from a highly controversial and experimental technology". To submit comments to the FDA, the deadline has been extended until May 3rd.

What To Do?

1. Say no to cloned products. Never buy meat or dairy product from any company that has not publicly taken a stand against cloned animals.

2. Stop the FDA. Find a sample letter to the FDA here. And make sure you write a letter by May 3rd demanding that cloned products be labeled as such. Also: Demand that the president and the congress force the FDA to protect the public at the very least through labeling. Go here to contact your elected representatives.

April 16, 2007 News

"Team Vegan," a cycling team based in the San Francisco Bay Area and part of the nonprofit organization OrganicAthlete, is the nation's first all-vegan cycling team. Team member Bradley Saul (with microphone) says he wants the team to turn pro.

April 5, 2007 News

Beginning in 2008, Discovery Communications will launch Discovery PlanetGreen, a new TV network created for the green at heart exclusively showing "green lifestyle" programming 24-hours a day in the U.S., including eco-design, organic food and green architecture. The core programs will cover sicience, technology, transportaition, engineering and ecotourism focusing on sustainable practices, such as home greening and healthy organic living. A new special series called "Ten Ways to Save the Planet" will cover important issues such as global warming working with leading eco-scientists who will test innovative ideas to counter global warming. And to show that they really walk the walk, Discovery Communications is working on making their headquarters completely carbon neutral and obtaining certification from the green building council. Major kudos to Discovery Communications for not being afraid to go after big corporations, who generally have a lot of power over TV programming.
April 5, 2007 News

As our society's eco-friendliness begins to boom, every aspect of our lives and even traditions are changing in ways we never imagined. For a high school girl about to go to the day she's been waiting for years; "the Prom", the dress is arguably the most important thing--ever. She knows every other girl will be judging her based solely on her looks predominantly determined by what she wears that day. And of course, there are those Prom pictures that will never let her forget such eventful and--for better or worse--memorable day. Never mind that parents shell out hundreds of dollars for a dress that will only be worn once in a lifetime and only for a few hours. But eco-conscious parents, fear no more, if the thought of a synthetic dress ending up on a landfill that will not biodegrade in the next several centuries is a concern, there are green solutions. Thanks to eco-friendly designers, green Prom dresses that come in many shades of color are an option. According to co-designer Wendy Traas of Passenger Pigeon, "You can be environmentally aware without sacrificing style for it." Passenger Pigeon is an eco-friendly clothing company that uses natural organic fabrics, which are chemical-free and biodegradable.
The Prom Queen you see above "was photographed at H. Salb International, a textile and recycling warehouse, wearing a vintage Betsy Johnson dress, $125 from Dennis’ House of Vintage; pink fair-trade wood beads, $25 per 16-inch strand, The Beadery; pink clutch, free, donated by Fashion Crimes to the Corsage Project; organic and locally grown peony corsage, Eco Flora, $15; vegan and union-made No Sweat high tops, $70, Left Feet.

April 5, 2007 News

Many of us often wonder if the organic fruit and vegetables we buy and pay a premium for are truly organic. Thanks to a newly developed test, the unequivocal answers are coming. British scientists have created a test that can find the differences in the nitrogen isotope composition of foods. This new test detects chemical residues such as a synthetic nitrogen fertilizer in produce banned in organic farming but allowed in conventional agriculture. This is a great tool to protect consumers and keep growers and distributors honest and accountable. The only question is whether or not U.S. agencies will act on behalf of the public or the food industry. To find out more about this and other issues subscribe to my newsletter Vegetarian Organic Blog.

April 5, 2007 News

Organic To Go, the first "fast casual" cafe certified as an organic retailer in the U.S., had a net loss of 7.97 million last year but enjoyed a revenue increase of 58 percent. Through its retail, delivery and wholesale operations, Organic To Go's mission is to become the nation's top provider of certified organic and natural food products and convenience foods such as salads, soups and sandwiches. This multi-faceted company does it all. Look for it in your area -- and drop me a line to let me know how you like it!

April 2, 2007 News

As consumers become more conscious about how they spend their dollars, hoteliers have read the writing on the wall. Many independent and nonindendent hotels have opted to retrofit and build green properties using environmentally friendly construction methods, recycled building materials and efficient energy conservation systems. "To achieve true green classification, buildings must adhere to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards set forth by the U.S. Green Building Council. Those standards apply to sustainable site development, water and energy conservation, selection of materials and the quality of the indoor environment." Currently there are LEED standards for construction of schools, homes, neighborhoods and college campuses but no specific standards exist for construction of hotels. Despite the lack of specific standards, The Orchard Garden Hotel in San Francisco, which opened its doors in 2006, was the first hotel built in California in accordance to the green building council's standards earning bragging rights for being certified as truly green. The hotel's 86 eco-friendly guestrooms are cleaned with chemical-free cleaning products and include custom recycling bins, organic bath products, compact flourescent light bulbs and even iPod docking stations.

March 21, 2007 News

Organic vending entrepenuer Larry Macera thought outside the box and now has a company devoted to offering organic vending machines to schools, corporations and now some Y.M.C.A. health clubs. According to Macera the demand for organic snacks is high and his machines are hard to keep stocked. His criteria for the snacks placed in those machines is that "they have to be all natural -- no preservatives, no artificial food coloring. They can't have high fructose corn syrup in them."

March 13, 2007 News

Sugar-water seller Coke, and cosmetics giant L'Oreal, are reportedly working on a new beverage currently called Lumaé, which they will sell as a soft drink that promotes healthy skin via some yet-undisclosed ingredient. The beverage may be sold in department stores, rather than convenience and grocery outlets. Both soft drink and cosmetics companies in general want to cash in on what they see as a coming boom in "nutraceutical" beverages. "Pretty soon there will be a drink for every part of the body and every mood you're in," said Larry Trachtenbroit, head of Brain-Twist, New York. My view: If you want healthy looking skin, then be healthy all over, inside and out. And that means eating a healthy diet -- and drinking plenty of water.

March 10, 2007 News

A Hong Kong health club chain called California Fitness is retrofitting exercise machines, such as stationery bikes, so they generate power to keep the gym lights on as people use them. The excess power is stored in batteries. California Fitness plans to press equipment makers to build power-generating fitness machines, so they don't have to build that capability themselves. (via Engadget)

March 9, 2007 News

Some 75% of all Americans use their doctors as health counselors, seeking advice on diet and other lifestyle choices that affect health -- but doctors underestimate their role in this capacity and don't always suggest lifestyle changes that might control high cholesterol, blood pressure, obesity and other health problems, according to a report in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine (AJLM). Although not covered in the report, it is my belief that, although very well trained in the drug and other interventions that can control lifestyle diseases like cardiovascular illness, obesity and others, doctors do not have training in the food-related and other lifestyle choices that cure and prevent such diseases. This is the sickness that afflicts our healthcare system. Our choices make us sick, and our medical system offers drugs instead of help with our choices.

March 8, 2007 News

With daylight savings beginning this Sunday, we'll enjoy longer daytime hours a whole three weeks earlier than usual. Lowe's recommends homeowners use the 21 hours of additional daylight wisely doing green projects that will "make Mother Nature smile." Although Lowe's is out to drive sales, there is no question that their green project ideas really are good for the environment. Studies show that American homes are the huge energy wasters. Simple changes in the home can make enormous differences not only in the conservation of energy but also your bank account.

I certainly appreciate a company with innovative marketing technique that is not just about greenwashing, but green advocacy. Check out Lowe's "affordable" green projects "that every homeowner can tackle in one hour or less:"

  1. "Install a dimmer switch -- the bathroom is a great place in the home that many people forget about when it comes to installing dimmer switches. Who likes bright light in the morning, anyway? Dimming lights can save big on electricity bills."
  2. "Prep the lawn and garden beds for spring with all-organic products, such as Miracle Gro(R) Organic Choice Lawn Fertilizer (#40582, $17.97).
  3. "Install solar powered landscape lights such as the Malibu 6-Light Tier Solar Light Kit (#100229, $19.98)."
  4. "Attack unsightly weeds Old Man Winter left behind with Woodstream's organic Weed Prevention Plus (#193811, $9.97).
  5. "Install an ENERGY STAR approved ceiling fan, which uses up to 75 percent less energy."
  6. "Replace the thermostat with a programmable one and enjoy up to 33 percent year-round energy cost savings."
  7. "Design a new outdoor living space using Trex(R) decking available now at Lowe's, which is made out of post-consumer recycled materials and does not require preservative treatments or sealing. Visit to begin designing your deck today".
  8. "Replace standard light bulbs with compact florescent ones -- it's an easy way the entire family can help save energy."
  9. "Add a fresh coat of Olympic Premium Interior Paint (Latex Flat, #52839, $16.92 a gallon). It has no VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which can be harmful to both your health and the environment's. Or, try Valspar's line of Signature Interior Paint which is has low VOCs ($28.98 a gallon) and features Martha Stewart's all-new color palette available this spring exclusively at Lowe's."
  10. "Get a jump start on spring cleaning. Spend an hour each day cleaning and organizing the garage. Mop the floor with Simple Green(R) All Purpose Cleaner (#214388, $9.46), which is non-toxic and biodegradable or Method cleaning products, which are also eco-friendly and now available at Lowe's."
  11. "Tackle mowing and save on CO2 emissions by purchasing an electric mower for trimming the lawn this year. Check out Black & Decker's(R) 12-Amp Lawn Hog Electric Push Mower (#147398, $229)."
  12. "Replace single-pane windows with ENERGY STAR qualified models to keep cooling costs down this spring and summer."

March 7, 2007 News

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo reach new levels of absurdity in a new, misleading greenwashing campaign to sell sodas as healthy. Pepsi and Coke have come up with new diet sodas, "Tava" and "Diet Coke Plus," which are fortified with vitamins and minerals and will be sold as healthy "sparkling beverages."

Coke and Pepsi realize that people accurately associate soda with poor health and obesity. Their solution? Change the association, without making sodas significantly healthier. Although soda sales declined in 2005 for the first time in history, it's still a good money-making industry with a $68 billion market share.

Coke and Pepsi don't want to lose the significant profit margins they make by selling you liquid candy and diet sodas laden with harmful artificial chemical sweeteners. Natural beverages made with sparkling water sweetened and flavored with real fruit juices are not only more difficult to manufacture and handle, but also not as profitable.
Brace yourself, because this is just the beginning. As people become increasingly knowlegable about health and its link to foods and beverages, they'll increasingly turn away from products asocciated with poor health. So the junk food companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo will transform the branding and marketing of their products, but not the products themselves. Buyer beware!
March 6, 2007 News

Vice President Al Gore told some 1 billion TV viewers of the Oscars of the need to stop global warming. "We have everything we need to get started, with the possible exception of the will to act." Right you are, says PETA. Gore received a letter from the animal rights organization suggesting that if he really wanted to help the environment, he would become a vegetarian. PETA points out that, according to a recent United Nation's report on global warming, "raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined."

Gore has also been slammed in the press recently for wasting energy on his enormous house and swimming pool. Gore uses more electricity in a month than the average American does in a year -- 20 times more than the average American, and Americans are the biggest consumers of electricity in the world. Gore paid in 2006 some $30,000 in electricity bills for using 221,000 kilowatt-hours to power his 20-room house -- a 10% jump over the previous year. (Contrast this with President Bush's ranch, which recycles its water for irrigation and uses solar power for its energy-efficient geothermal system for heating and cooling.) In his own defense, Gore says he purchases "carbon offsets." Is that what Gore means when he says we can all do our part? We can burn greenhouse gases like crazy, then buy carbon offsets?

Gore has also been criticized for traveling constantly all over the world to promote the cause of global warming, and burning millions of gallons of jet fuel in the process.

Gore's PR blitz might be good enough for Hollywood. But for the rest of the world, Gore is a global poster child for a lifestyle that causes global warming, a serial waster of electricity and a massive producer of green-house gases.

He's right about one thing, though. We do have everything we need to stop global warming. But we, especially, need people like Al Gore to develop the will to act.

March 6, 2007 News

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK has just launched a TV ad campaign to raise consumer awareness about the new traffic light front-of-pack food labelling system. The aim is to allow rushed shoppers to quickly make informed and healthier choices by glancing at the traffic light label, which "signals" to shoppers whether a product is low, medium or high in sugar, fats, saturated fats and salt with green, amber and red color coding respectively. Naturally, junk food manufacturers responsible for producing overly processed empty-calorie foods are severely exposed because their products would, predominantly if not exclusively, show nothing but red traffic light labels. Not surprisingly, food manufacturers such as Danone, Kellogg's, Kraft, Nestle and PepsiCo are working together to launch a £4 million counter campaign to oppose the traffic light labels in favor of a system that is less clear and harder to use for consumers. The fact that junk food companies are working hard to fight the new system is a good sign that the labels are likely to be effective in helping consumer make healthier choices.

February 28, 2007 News

John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods, and Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore's Dilemma” and professor of journalism at UC Berkeley, shared the stage at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. I flew out for the event, and will cover points raised in this short blog posting and also in future issues of Vegetarian Organic Blog.

Pollan is best known for his bestselling book, in which he slammed Whole Foods Market. Pollan and Mackey have been debating points raised in the book in a series of online arguments and counterarguments, which began with a persuasive “Open Letter” by Mackey.

Though last night’s public encounter symbolizes the culmination of the ongoing debate since the publication of “The Omnivore's Dilemma,” it also marks the birth of a new "beyond organic" food movement.

Mackey's multimedia presentation, called "The Past, Present, and Future of Food," was captivating, persuasive and powerful. He gave a brief history of food (starting with hunting and gathering) to the present. Mackey offered his insightful perspective of where we are and where we are headed.

It was also newsworthy: Mackey announced several new programs that Whole Foods is adopting and implementing in an effort to take a more proactive approach in social and ethical issues, as well as in the quality of food available to consumers (see post below).

Mackey also said we are now at a tipping point. The organic industry faces a challenge because the companies that have made money with the industrial food production system won't want to give up their power.

Mackey believes the agent of change will be what he calls “conscious capitalism.”

Mackey also advocates change in Washington. The first step: Stop government subsidies of agribusinesses. He believes that in 20 years feed lots could be illegal.

Mackey's overarching perspective is that organic foods in general and organic standards in particular are inadequate. We need to go beyond organic.

He said that the problem with our current industrial food is that it's designed to maximize quantity -- often at the expense of quality.

Change is coming, and it will be driven by shoppers. This is where conscious capitalism comes in. We need to educate ourselves and eat with intelligence and education. (For example, in our desire to cut food costs, we should think in terms of eating seasonal organic foods, rather than saving money with non-organic.)

(I will cover his initiatives and ideas in much greater detail in the upcoming issue of my Vegetarian Organic Blog newsletter.)

February 28, 2007 News

EXCLUSIVE: Whole Foods Market co-founder and CEO John Mackey announced last night during a special talk at UC Berkeley three new initiatives that, if successful, could dramatically improve the quality of food available to Whole Foods customers – and to the customers of other stores as well. (Note that at post time this news has not yet been announced or reported anywhere.)

1. Whole Foods is starting a $30 million venture to fund food artisans around the world who have unique methods of making unique and healthy foods.

2. The company is now working to develop an organic farm rating system that’s similar to the ranking system for hotels and restaurants, with each producer given a number of stars, from one to five (five being best). He noted, alarmingly, that most organic livestock farms currently could receive probably only a 1. The company is already working directly with a farm that could probably be a 4.

3. Whole Foods is forming a partnership with Fair Trade and will develop a new seal of approval called the "Whole Trade Guarantee."

Additional details on the initiatives will be posted on this blog and explored in depth in my Vegetarian Organic Blog newsletter.

February 25, 2007 News

Beef and milk producers can legally sell you cloned foods without telling you. Here's what to do about it. Plus, Oscar goes green; good things -- and bad things -- from your local healthy market and this week's Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week! It's all in the current issue of Vegetarian Organic Blog!

February 23, 2007 News

Dean Foods, the largest producer of milk in the U.S. and the company that owns Horizon Organic, Land O'Lakes, White Wave and Silk says "NO" to milk from cloned animals. Deans Foods states that it will not sell milk from cloned animals because surveys have shown that Americans don't want to consume dairy products made using cloned cow’s milk. Not surprisingly, the Food and Drug Administration has sided with the meat and dairy industry whose only goal is to increase their profitability by cutting corners and shafting consumers. According to the Food and Drug Administration, meat and milk from cloned animals and their offspring are safe to eat and do not require extra labeling. There is something fundamentally wrong on having to rely on companies like Deans Foods to act responsibly and in the best interest of the public while our government not only fails to protect us from science experiments by greedy industries but it also exacerbates the public confusion about food and health with its policies and actions.

February 22, 2007 News

The Oscars will feature a special eco showcase called "The Ultimate Green Room" presented by Christie Communications, a Santa Barbara-based company. At "The Ultimate Green Room," celebrities and VIPs can enjoy natural healthy food and other products and experience full spectrum lighting. "The Ultimate Green Room" will host eco-friendly companies that promote natural living, environmental sustainability and eco awareness. I'll be covering this personally, so make sure you're subscribed to my newsletter, "Vegetarian Organic Blog," to get my report.

February 21, 2007 News

Whole Foods Market has bought Wild Oats Markets for approximately $565 million. Wild Oats Markets is the second biggest organic food retailer (after Whole Foods Market), with a family of 110 stores including Wild Oats Natural Marketplace, Henry's Farmers Market, Sun Harvest and Capers Community Markets in 24 states and Canada.

February 20, 2007 News

When I say Mr. Bush's ranch is green I don't mean in color, but green as in "eco-friendly". Yes, you read it correctly. Among other things, the President's real home located in Crawford, Texas recycles its water for irrigation and uses solar power for its energy efficient geothermal system for heating and cooling.

February 19, 2007 News

Whole Foods Market is coming to London. The world's largest organic and natural foods grocery store will make a big splash in London in June when it opens a giant, 80,000 square foot flagship store in Kensington High Street .

February 18, 2007 News

Chinese consumers are increasingly embracing organic food -- which can cost ten times more -- as pollution, fatalities and the exposure of shoddy practices create fear about "conventional" foods. New research shows more than 60 percent of urban Chinese are willing to pay more for organic foods. "In the past three months, state media reported a government crackdown on meat processed from sick or dead animals, a ban on duck eggs found to contain a cancer-causing dye, and the arrest of a factory manager for allegedly making lard from sewage and recycled industrial oil...Pesticide poisoning already affects half a million Chinese a year, causing more than 500 fatalities, the government says. The World Bank blames the country's air pollution for more than 400,000 premature deaths annually."

February 14, 2007 News

I had a great trip to New York recently. Not because New York is new to me -- I lived there for a decade and travel to the Big Apple more than once a month. And it wasn't because of random celebrity sightings (I saw Joan Rivers, Patricia Heaton and Cuba Gooding Jr.). It was a great trip because I lost my wallet. Click here to find out why -- and what all this has to do with Valentine's Day -- along with a new recipe and more in the current issue of Vegetarian Organic Blog.

February 12, 2007 News

Are the flowers you plan on giving your sweetheart conduits of poisonous chemicals? The answer is most likely: yes -- especially for the workers who grow them. As beautiful and fresh as your roses may seem, they may be contributing to the spread of not-so-beautiful toxins. Fortunately, there is a safer alternative, such as a bouquet of organic flowers -- and they're not that much more expensive than the toxic ones. Show your sweetheart that you love them -- and show flower growers that you love them, too. Give organic flowers!

February 9, 2007 News

While flipping through my TiVo'd cooking shows last night, I was horrified to see Rachel Ray -- once again -- agressively pushing junk food, confusing people about what's healthy and generally making the world a worse place. Why have we made a celebrety out of a cooking show host who makes "food" with dough in a can? She tells how easy it is to make pepporini pizza twists and actually suggests that it's a fun and good meal to prepare with your kids. We need a cooking show to tell us that junk food is good?

Then she introduced a guest who shared time-saving tips including the gem that disposable dishware helps you not only save time, but is good for the environment because it saves water and the plates can be recycled. Seriously, are we being punk'd? Disposable dishes are now good for the environment? Does she not know that it requires petroleum to make, package and distribute plastic dishes and that if every household in America followed her advice we would only accelerate global warming?

Because of her enormous popularity, Ray's constant dispensation of such ignorant drivel -- actively preaching the gospel of disease-causing junk food and promoting the most vile, consumer-culture practices as "good for the environment" is beyond irresponsible. Here is one bloggers' view of Rachel Ray and other Food Network Celebrities.

January 29, 2007 News

The New York Times Dining & Wine section published a nice piece earlier this month that takes a look at the marketing trend of "Greenwashing" -- using packaging and imagery to cash in on the combination of desire for natural and organic foods with ignorance about foods. "Greenwashing" basically means packaging food to look like health food. Companies are finding that it's a lot easier to just redesign the packaging to make foods look and "feel" organic and healthy than to actually make healthier foods.

January 29, 2007 News

Junk food makers, especially those marketing to children, often use fruit to sell foods that contain no fruit at all. The Prevention Institute and the Strategic Alliance for Healthy Food and Activity Environments says in a new report that more than half the foods advertised toward children contains zero fruit. Some 51 percent of "fruit" foods for kids contains no fruit, and 16 percent contained only token quantities of fruit, according to the report.

January 20, 2007 News

Solar panel maker Premier Power and home developer KB Home are collaborating on the construction of a community of track homes in Woodland, California, that will get most of its power from the sun. Called Woodshire, the housing development is being constructed 20 miles northwest of Sacramento. Solar panels on every house will give buyers "30 years of nominal electric bills" and "a $2,000 federal tax credit."

November 26, 2006 News

Vegan fashion and accessories designer Stella McCartney offers cool and schick looking styles for those who prefer not to wear animal skins. You can buy online or visit one of her flagship stores in London, Manhattan or West Hollywood. I think I know what I want for Christmas.

November 21, 2006 News

Martial artist actor, Jackie Chan, has launched his own line of organic skin care products in Hong Kong. As an advocate of preserving and protecting the environment, Mr. Chan's organic products's packaging are also made from recycled materials.

October 23, 2006 News

A survey accross the U.S. shows that professional chefs don't care about the number of calories in the food they serve. Their main concern is pleasing diners by providing large portion meals that taste and look good. It's up to consumers to monitor how much and what they eat. Both large portions and high fat content in meals lead to weight gain. The most effective way of controlling how much and what you eat is by cooking your own meals.

October 20, 2006 News

The Bush administration is reviewing the Food and Drug Administration plan to regulate production of cloned animals and their derivative food products. According to the FDA, the studies they reviewed show that meat and milk from cloned animals are as safe as the meat and milk produced from their conventionally bred counterparts. The biotech industry argues that cloning enables breeders to select what (they) consider the "best animals from the herd for reproduction." Additionally, the biotechnology industry is fighting to not have any special labels on meat and other products that come from cloned animals. Biotech producers fear consumer reaction to "Clone-Free" labels, arguing that there is no difference between regular meat and cloned meat. I guess they don't want to bother giving consumers a choice in the matter. We have to be kept in the dark--our role is to shut up and buy the stuff--forget about having the right to know what we buy with our own money and the right to choose what we put in our bodies. It's all in the interest of corporate America, of course.

October 19, 2006 News

Mike Adams has compiled a set of informative and revealing videos available on the internet for hungry minds who are interested in ethical, healthy and earth-friendly consumer practices. The first video, featuring Tom Hanks, is a documentary about the conspiracy of auto and law makers in the interest of profits. The second video, called "Meet Your Meat" and narrated by Alec Baldwin, shows grahic information in gruesome detail about the horrific conditions of animals raised for food. The third movie, called "Black Gold," depicts how coffee farmers are being exploited and squeezed into poverty by big corporations. The fourth video is an animated short film, called "Be Careful What You Eat," starring the Animaniacs who cheerfully sing and dance as they shop. And the fifth is called "Vending Machine," (still being edited) and it will expose how junk food and soft drinks are behind the downfall of health accross the spectrum of the population. It also shows how these companies target children and adolescents, who may be outlived by their parents for the first time in history as result of junk food consumption.

October 19, 2006 News

Despite the fact that Wal-Mart is trying to portray itself as an environmentally friendly company, according to Cornucopia Institute's latest press release, Wal-Mart is "declaring war on organic farmers." Wal-Mart announced previously that they will carry more organic products pricing them at ten percent above conventional products. Mark Kastel, senior farm policy analyst for the Cornucopia Institute says that “organic family farmers in this country could see their livelihoods disintegrate the same way so many industrial workers saw their family-supporting wages evaporate as Wal-Mart and other big box retailers put the screws to manufacturers — forcing a production shift to China and other low-wage countries.” Wal-Mart is also facing criticism for the substandard conditions of the confinement of the dairy cows used for the production of its own private label organic milk in a dairy farm in Boulder, Colorado.

October 17, 2006 News

The Organic Trade Association seeks congress to provide equality of benefits and support to organic farmers by incorporating provisions in the 2007 Farm Bill. The objective of Farm Bills is to have laws to support programs that promote U.S. agriculture to produce safe and affordable food. Farm Bills determine the overall direction of agriculture in the U.S., are regulated by the USDA and renewed only every five or six years. OTA would like organic agriculture to receive it's fair share of government support for research, conservation and risk management that the U.S. Department of Agriculture currently provides to conventional agriculture. OTA states that the organic market is the fastest growing sector in the food industry and that in order to meet increasing consumer demand, it is necessary that organic farmers receive government support to overcome production hurdles. One of OTA's recommendations is for congress to provide funds to the USDA to "foster transition to organic agriculture and trade by providing technical assistance to aid in the conversion of farmland from conventional to organic."

October 16, 2006 News

A new survey conducted by Mintel, a market research group in England, shows that one third of British consumers seek to buy more ethically produced food including organic, free range and Fairtrade. The survey found that Bristish shoppers are increasingly demanding and willing to pay higher prices for foods they consider higher quality and healthier.

October 14, 2006 News

College Students are now persuing leading a healthful and wholesome lifestyle in college dorms where living substance-free is the new trend. Virginia Wesleyan College now has a "Wellness hall" for these enlightened students who shun alcohol and wild parties in the interest of practicing peaceful, physically active and socially conscious activities in a healthy environment.

October 14, 2006 News

Dieticians are finding Coca-Cola's fat-burning beverage claim hard to swallow. Coca-cola plans to launch a green tea and caffeine loaded beverage called Enviga, which they claim will help people burn calories.

September 28, 2006 News

The Washington-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) filed a lawsuit today in California against McDonald's, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Chili's, Applebee's, Outback Steakhouse and TGI Friday's, saying that every sample tested of grilled chicken from every chain "tested positive for a dangerous carcinogenic compound called PhIP" during analysis at an independent laboratory. A staff attorney with the PCRM said the restaurants are in violation of a 1986 California law that requires them to give a "clear and reasonable warning" about carcinogens in their food. The law carries a fine of 2,500 dollars per violation per day.

September 24, 2006 News

A hospital in Portland, Oregon, called Good Shepherd Medical Center offers patients organic food made from scratch. Instead of serving special meals, such as fat-restricted or sodium-restricted, to individual patients based on their medical problems, it just "serves healthy food to everyone." Hospital food staff shop at farmer's markets and health food stores. The hospital is just one of many going organic and healthy in an effort to actually promote health.

July 18, 2006 News

The City of Chicago -- proclaimed by Men’s Fitness magazine to be the fattest city in the nation -- is talking about becoming the first state to make it illegal for restaurants to use trans fats.

June 17, 2006 News

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which last week sued KFC over the use of trans fats to fry its chicken, plans to file a lawsuit against Starbucks, saying that its high-fat, high-sugar products promote cancer and obesity. (photo shows Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz)

May 20, 2006 News

In an effort to reduce the growth of obesity, junk food has been banned in English schools.

April 25, 2006 News

A fatal lung disease linked to chemicals used in artificial butter commonly used on popcorn has killed three workers and sickened 200.

April 12, 2006 News

"Pharmaceutical companies are systematically creating diseases in order to sell more of their products, turning healthy people into patients and placing many at risk," according to a new report in the journal Public Library of Science Medicine. Normal conditions, such as menopause and even shyness, are increasingly medicalized, requiring drug prescriptions.

March 25, 2006 News

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is "throwing its weight" behind a wide variety of organic and environmentally friendly products -- including organic cotton baby clothes, organic produce and others -- that should dramatically transform the organic marketplace. Wal-Mart recently opened a new "Supercenter" near Dallas that offers more than 400 organic foods.

March 2, 2006 News

"Tests conducted on 230 drinks on sale in Britain and France have identified high levels of benzene, a compound known to cause cancer, according to the Food Standards Agency. There is a legal limit of one part per billion of benzene in British drinking water. The latest tests revealed levels of up to eight parts per billion in some soft drinks."

February 22, 2006 News

A Houston school district has installed a Web-connected, computerized cash register system that enables parents to monitor and restrict what kids can buy in the cafeteria. They can visit a special web site, and click on menu items their kids won't be allowed to buy. It also allows parents to set up pre-paid accounts, so the kids don't have to bring lunch money. The system is called Primero Food Service Solutions and is made by Cybersoft Technologies, also in Houston.

February 8, 2006 News

McDonald's said Wednesday that its french fries contain a third more trans fats than it previously knew. The new estimate is based on a new testing method. The total trans fat in a portion of large order of fries is eight grams, up from six, with total fat 30 grams instead of the previously published 25.

February 4, 2006 News

A poll of British doctors found that about 40 percent believe the obese, smokers and those who drink too much should be excluded from certain clinical treatments.

January 29, 2006 News
January 23, 2006 News

Concerned about reports that synthetic antibacterial soaps promote, rather than reduce, bacteria, Delta Airlines plans to switch to a new soap that derives its antibacterial properties from Wasabi, a green Japanese horseradish commonly associated with sushi. Lemongrass Wasabi Hand Wash is made by a Pasadena, California-based company called Lather, and will be offered starting in February in Delta airplane lavatories, Crown Room Clubs and retail outlets.

January 21, 2006 News

A $799 handheld gadget from HealtheTech called the BodyGem measures resting metabolic rate (RMR), the number of calories your body burns each day at rest. (Eating more than that number of calories means you're gaining weight.) All you have to do is breath into it, and it tells you how many calories you can eat with your existing diet and no exercise. It does this by measuring how much oxygen you consume while at rest. To use the five-ounce device, you plug it in and wait about 30 seconds for it to calibrate itself. It takes about ten minutes to complete the whole process.

January 17, 2006 News

A young man in the UK who refused to eat any fruits or vegetables, and subsisted on a diet of french fries, white bread and canned beans died this week at the age of 20 from complications related to his diet.

January 12, 2006 News

U.S. government statistics published today show that about half of all American women and about 40 percent of American men are currently or have recently used prescription drugs.

January 11, 2006 News

Whole Foods Market said today that it plans to get all its electricity from wind power. Whole Foods will buy wind farm "energy credits" equaling the company's total electricity use.

January 10, 2006 News

A British TV documentary on what happens to a woman when she becomes a binge drinker for 30 days reveales rapid aging and weight gain. Taking its cues from Morgan Spurlock's film Super Size Me, the documentary follows 39-year-old Nicky Taylor as she descends into temporary alcoholism.

January 9, 2006 News

Consumer Reports will publish in their February issue a helpful article on buying organic foods.

January 9, 2006 News

Deaths related to excessive alcohol consumption have been skyrocketing in the UK during the past few decades.

January 9, 2006 News

"Women who eat large quantities of garlic and onions are possibly less likely to contract Fallopian tube cancer, according to the results of a Europe-wide study evaluated by the German Institute for Food Research in Potsdam near Berlin."

January 9, 2006 News

Atlanta's Grady High School was the first in the country to offer high school students an entirely separate vegetarian lunch line -- and other high schools around the country are following their lead.

January 5, 2006 News

A mother in Kennewick, Washington, has created a photo blog based entirely on the awesome vegan lunches she prepares for her son to take to school! Bravo! (Thanks to Slashfood for the link)

January 5, 2006 News

Sales of organic food in the UK rose by a whopping 11% last year, surging way past the £1 billion mark. But don't give the credit to supermarkets -- the percentage share of supermarket-sold organic food actually dropped last year.

January 3, 2006 News

"A survey of young people aged 15 to 26 found that for each additional alcohol advertisement viewed per month, there followed a 1 percent rise in the average number of drinks consumed, said study author Leslie Snyder of the University of Connecticut in Storrs."

December 23, 2005 News

"The European Commission has adopted a proposal for new regulations for organic production and labelling, which makes the use of the EU logo or wording obligatory for all organic food products sold in EU member states."

November 28, 2005 News

Half of all young Australians are likely to be overweight by 2025, so Australian doctors are calling for nationwide bans on school junk-food vending machines; desert fund-raising drives; unhealthy food in school cafeterias; and junk-food advertising aimed at children.

November 27, 2005 News

The pesticide methyl bromide destroys ozone and causes convulsions, neuromuscular and cognitive problems -- even death -- in farm workers and others directly exposed to it. It also causes unknown damage to children who attend schools near fields where the pesticide is used, and equally uknown damage to people who eat foods grown with the pesticide. The U.S. has signed an international treaty banning all but the most critical uses by 2005, yet the government is working hard to allow exemptions that keep the poison in use indefinitely.

November 23, 2005 News

Americans currently buy about $14.5 billion worth of organic food per year. That represents only two percent of total food and beverage sales, but it's growing fast.

October 28, 2005 News

Junk food giant McDonald's plans to offer Newman's Own Green Mountain Coffee, which is organic.

October 13, 2005 News

Junk food giant Burger King has pulled out of talks with the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA), which were designed to find ways to make fast food less deadly. Meanwhile, the chain continues to introduce new menu items that are more unhealthy than even previous meals. For example, Burger King recently introduced a new product called the "Enormous Omelet Sandwich," which has eggs, American cheese, bacon, sausage and ham and which totals 740 calories, nearly five grams of salt, 46 grams of fat -- 16 grams of which are saturated fat -- and 330 milligrams of cholesterol.

September 29, 2005 News

Legislation to ban junk food in Northern Ireland schools will be introduced in the wake of a ban that will go into effect in England this month.

September 17, 2005 News

An advertising blog called AdRants posted a photograph showing an interesting combination of billboard advertising.

September 12, 2005 News

The world's first-ever vegan, organic, frozen baby foods were announced today. Called BOBOBABY, the product line is available in three phases offering four recipes for each phase. All are certified organic and kosher and contain no salt, preservatives, sugar, color, peanuts, nuts, soy, wheat, dairy, eggs, fish, shellfish, poultry or meat. BOBOBABY products are available at

September 10, 2005 News

The U.S. has for the first time ever banned a veterinary antibiotic. After a five-year battle between the FDA and the drug maker, Bayer, farmers will now not be able to legally use the antibiotic Baytril, known generically as enrofloxacin, on poultry. Use of the drug in chickens may have resulted in strains of bacteria called campylobacter, which is very dangerous to humans, that no antibiotic could defeat.

September 5, 2005 News

Buyers of organic food in the UK do so because it tastes better, according to a recent survey by the Soil Association.

September 3, 2005 News

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wrote an open letter to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino urging him to lose weight by going on vegetarian diet for one month. The organization promised to donate $500 worth of high-protein, low-fat vegetarian food to the Boston Public Schools for every pound he sheds.

September 2, 2005 News

The California State Assembly approved a bill that bans carbonated beverages in high schools -- both in vending machines and cafeterias. The state senate and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger need to approve the bill before it becomes law, but have already indicated that they will do so. The ban will be phased in gradually from 2007 to 2009.

September 2, 2005 News

Organic Style, launched 4 years ago by Rodale as a mainstream title on organic living, will shut its doors after the October issue. The most likely cause of its demise was a bad decision by Rodale made about a year ago to transform the publication into a bland, mainstream women's magazine featuring celebrities and other subject matter unrelated to organic living. What's strange about the move is that Organic Style had been a moderate success, with recent increases in both advertising revenue and paid circulation. The magazine had enormous potential at a time when interest in organic food has never been higher. A corporate memo to staff announcing the closure said, "The magazine was deemed not to be a viable long-term business for us to pursue." Now magazine watchers are concerned about the fate of the company's related title, Organic Gardening.

August 31, 2005 News

Researchers at MIT are working on the development of a robot dog that watches what you eat and how much you exercise, and that motivates you to stay on track with your heath program. The robot is a modified Sony Aibo dog that monitors your pedometer and food diary wirelessly, so it knows if you're walking enough and eating right. The system is being designed by Cynthia Breazeal and Cory Kidd at the MIT Media Lab, who have also written a brief paper on the idea. When you ask the robot, "how am I doing," it responds by acting happy, sad or somewhere in between based on, well, how well you're doing with your weight management program. If you have met your exercise and nutritional goals, the robot will wag his tail, play music and jump up and down. The concept will be rolled out September 11 at the UbiComp conference on 11 September in Tokyo, Japan, and will begin a study on 30 overweight Boston residents in the spring.

August 29, 2005 News

Surfing the Internet and playing video games are just two more sedentary activities in modern life that contribute to ill health, muscle weakness and even obesity -- but not for people who buy a new exercise bicycle. A company called NeXfit Technologies Inc. introduced recently a home fitness bike that connects to computers and gaming systems like Xbox and Playstation. Controls on the handlebars move your PC's mouse pointer or control the action on video games. (via MedGadget)

August 27, 2005 News

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has asked for a court order that would force McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Frito Lay and other companies to warn consumers that their french fries and chips may contain acrylamide, a chemical the state says causes cancer. Junk-food chain french fries and mass-produced chips are extremely damaging to health, and acrylamide is just one of the reasons. I'm in favor of the warning label. It's a good start to educating the public on what's causing our rapidly growing epidemics of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

August 22, 2005 News

Insurance companies are jumping on the healthier-kids bandwagon, with programs specifically targeted at dumping junk food, eating fruits and vegetables and getting kids to exercise more.

August 18, 2005 News

In the past few years, newspaper articles and news reports have pointed to research that shows the health benefits of chocolate. However, a new report today shows that, although cocoa beans are loaded with health-promoting flavanols, many candy makers remove them to reduce the natural bitterness of chocolate. So "regular" chocolate is just a lot of sugar and fat, and without any health benefit. The lesson here, as always, is that you can't expect health from mass-market food producers. They will always find ways to add toxins and remove healthy ingredients for reasons that benefit their profit margins and that leave the general population riddled with disease. My recommendation: Buy pure organic cocoa powder and make your own hot chocolate (make it strong, with soy milk and a little sugar and cinnamon). It will taste far better than any chocolate you can buy, and will be extremely good for you. You can also buy organic dark chocolate bars at the health food stores.

August 17, 2005 News

A funny new Starbucks ad, designed to sell coffee beans for roasting at home, pokes fun at how "grumpy" customers are before they get their coffee. In reality, it's an admission that caffeine is a drug much like any other form of "speed," and its users are crazed, desperate addicts.

August 17, 2005 News

The American Beverage Association's "solution" to the obvious problem of soda machines in schools is to recommend the addition of other unhealthy drinks in middle school and high school vending machines, including "sports drinks, no-calorie soft drinks and low-calorie juice drinks," according to an AP story today. They also advocate that elementary school vending machines should contain only bottled water and 100 percent fruit juice, which should be the recommendation for all schools.

July 24, 2005 News

Organic farming is being taught to ag students in Oregon because of its money-making potential.

July 12, 2005 News

A demonstration of the growing popularity of, and ongoing opportunities for organic ingredients, successful Swedish retailer IKEA said it will replace standard foods with organic varieties.

June 13, 2005 News

Tea growers in northeastern India are experimenting with organic farming to improve quality and help the country, the world's largest tea producer, regain market share by promoting its organic tea as a 'health drink'.

June 12, 2005 News

The nation's organic milk producers have stumbled into a problem that most companies only dream about: Their product is too popular. As diet-conscious consumers step up their purchases of healthier foods, organic milk suppliers are grappling with the first shortages since organic products made their way out of natural-food stores and into mainstream supermarkets. Some stores have been getting only 70 percent to 80 percent of their regular orders.

June 3, 2005 News

Treating obesity-related disorders costs as much or more than illnesses caused by aging, smoking and problem drinking. A review of research into the economic causes and consequences of obesity presented at the 14th European Congress on Obesity showed that in 2003 up to $96.7 billion was spent on obesity problems in the United States.

June 3, 2005 News

When Annette Evanson sends her son off to elementary school each day, she packs him a lunch stocked with carrot sticks, whole-grain bread and fresh fruit. She considers it a defensive move. "They serve the kids corn dogs and hot dogs at school," said Evanson, who lives in suburban Overland Park, Kansas. "It just mimics fast food. What kind of example are we giving to the kids?" Indeed, concerns about unhealthy eating at schools and evidence of mounting obesity and illness in America's young people has triggered a new kind of food fight in U.S. school cafeterias.

June 1, 2005 News

The American diet, under more scrutiny than ever, continues to be debated, even as newly released federal nutrition guidelines attempt to codify for the confused how much of what foods we should eat. There are concerns about cholesterol and high-fat foods, reports on the glycemic index, a renewed emphasis on whole grains and a return to recognizing that calories do count. One of the latest discussions to emerge centers around milk and dairy products as key sources of calcium needed to build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis.

May 31, 2005 News

The idea that animals live longer if they eat less has been shown to be not entirely correct - at least in fruit flies. For these insects, it is the type of food and not just the quantity that controls their longevity.

May 25, 2005 News

Walk into any supermarket and you'll see an array of "better for you" promises on the packages. They may make the foods seem healthier, but are they? "These terms are more about food safety and consumer perceptions than about nutritional quality," says Jane Kolodinsky, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition economics.

May 24, 2005 News

Public elementary and middle schools would be prohibited from selling soda and junk food under a package of measures approved Monday by a state Senate panel taking aim at a growing epidemic of childhood obesity.

May 24, 2005 News

Julie White has heard the stories about simpler times. They were the days nearly every family tended a garden with a little rain, a little sunshine and a lot of hard work. No herbicides. No pesticides. And when it comes to food, White of Terre Haute believes there are plenty of lessons to be learned from days past. "I think we need to get back to that," she said Wednesday afternoon, clutching a bag of organic lettuce in one hand and rhubarb and herbs in the other as she stood under a tent at a local farmers market. "I think it's healthier." White's not alone.

May 23, 2005 News

If you're among the millions of Americans currently consumed with the low-carb craze, you could unknowingly be harming your child. Children today hear a lot of diet talk and model what they see and hear. Besides being bombarded with diet messages from television, movies and radio, kids also get influential messages at home.

May 19, 2005 News

One of the major barriers to the widespread adoption of organic produce by consumers has lack of easy identification: A pesticide free cucumber looks pretty much the same as a non-organic one. So, when the USDA introduced its "Certified organic" labels in 1990, it was a major victory for green-eaters everywhere.

May 16, 2005 News

After the American Diabetes Association received a large gift from major manufacturer of sugar-sweetened beverages, its top medical official is claiming that sugar has nothing to do with diabetes. In an interview published in today’s Corporate Crime Reporter, Richard Kahn, the chief scientific and medical officer with the American Diabetes Association said "What is the evidence that sugar itself has anything to do with diabetes? There is no evidence."

May 16, 2005 News

Whole Foods is aiming to reduce its waste to zero. The company is trying to reach this goal by composting its unusable food, floral and food-soiled paper waste. According to Whole Foods, it hasn't been easy, the company officials say they have had to search out the right haulers, composting facilities, and enough space in the stories to pack and store compostables. They hope that composting could reduce the company's waste stream, and improve its bottom line.

March 23, 2005 News

Lisa Johnson, a homemaker with two children, protects the air in her Brighton home by avoiding anything artificial. She uses area rugs, natural flooring, cloth shower curtains, low-impact cleaning products and has a personal ban on pesticides. So it came as a shock when a laboratory test of the dust in her house turned up traces of 35 industrial chemicals — all of them hazardous.

February 24, 2005 News

A consumer group sued the federal government Thursday, saying that salt is killing tens of thousands of Americans and that regulators have done too little to control salt in food. Despite advisories to take it easy on sodium, Americans are now consuming about 4,000 milligrams a day -- nearly double the recommended limit to keep blood pressure under control, the Center for Science in the Public Interest said.

September 17, 2004 News

One of the simpler ways to curtail the obesity epidemic could be to cut the volume of sweetened soft drinks and fruit drinks Americans are increasingly consuming, authors of new study say. The study, conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, showed that energy intake from such drinks in the United States increased 135 percent between about 1977 and 2001. Over the same span, energy intake from milk -- a far more nutritious beverage -- dropped 38 percent.

September 13, 2004 News

Dalia Isicoff knows pain. A lifelong sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis, she has had seven hip replacement surgeries. Since leaving the hospital in February following her latest operation, however, she hasn't taken any painkillers. Not because the pain isn't there — it is. But Isicoff, 52, said she has learned to accept the pain, the disease, and herself, thanks to meditation.

August 23, 2004 News

Governments may have to persuade people to eat less meat because of increasing demands on water supplies, according to agricultural scientists investigating how the world can best feed itself. Currently up to 90% of all managed water is used to grow food. "Western diets, which depend largely on meat, are already putting great pressures on the environment. Meat-eaters consume the equivalent of about 5,000 litres of water a day compared to the 1,000-2,000 litres used by people on vegetarian diets in developing countries. All that water has to come from somewhere."

August 5, 2004 News

Although the Legislature repealed the state snack tax three years ago, a health panel wants lawmakers to consider imposing what could be construed as a "fat tax" on certain products perceived as contributing to obesity in Maine.During their Tuesday morning meeting, the 28-member Commission to Study Public Health affirmed more than two dozen recommendations to combat obesity through public policy and legislation. In addition to four legislators, the commission's members represent a range of interests, including health care, the soft-drink industry, physical education, dentistry, school administration, health insurance, the dairy industry and food-service workers.

July 23, 2004 News

Manchester Metropolitan University is working with a cutting edge technology firm to find a treatment for the hospital superbug MRSA which kills 5,000 patients each year.
MMU scientists and North West company Micap have spent two years researching antimicrobial agents to tackle the infection, known as a "superbug" for its resistance to antibiotics. The outcome is a blend of yeast and essential oils, including tea tree oil, which attacks and kills the bug.

July 16, 2004 News

Cinnamon oil shows promise as a great-smelling, environmentally friendly pesticide, with the ability to kill mosquito larvae more effectively than DEET, according to a new study. The researchers also expect that cinnamon oil could be a good mosquito repellant, though they have not yet tested it against adult mosquitoes.

July 15, 2004 News

So much for the low-carbohydrate lifestyle. More than half of all U.S. consumers that have tried following diets that eschew carbs such as bread and sugar have given up, a survey released on Wednesday found, and interest in the popular regimens appears to have plateaued. According to research firm InsightExpress, which conducted the survey online, fewer than 10 percent of Americans are currently on popular low-carbohydrate diets such as the Atkins, South Beach and The Zone.

June 4, 2004 News

KFC can no longer claim that its fried chicken is compatible with popular low-carb diets, federal regulators said Thursday in settling complaints about the restaurant chain's ads. KFC also may not run advertisements saying that eating its food is healthier than eating another food unless it can back the claims up scientifically, the agreement with the Federal Trade Commission stipulates. The settlement stemmed from a complaint filed with the FTC by the Center for Science in the Public Interest over two KFC television advertisements. KFC pulled the ads in November.

June 1, 2004 News

What sort of potentially toxic chemicals are floating around in your body? Four parts per billion of pentachloronitrobenzene, perhaps? Trace amounts of dibutyl phthalate? And can they make you sick? Scientists aren't at all clear on the last question yet. But California lawmakers are considering a bill that wades deep into the national debate over biomonitoring - and asks chemical manufacturers and distributors to pay for it. Knight Ridder

May 28, 2004 News

A man who blames his heart disease on the Atkins diet said on Thursday he is suing the privately held Atkins Inc. to force it to disclose what he called the risks of the popular high-fat, low-carb regimen. Reuters

May 28, 2004 News

Removing additives and colourings from school dinners has transformed the lives of a group of pupils. Kids at Ysgol Deganwy Primary, in Conwy, North Wales, took part in a year’s trial in which processed meals were replaced by healthier treats including home-made pizzas. Teachers found the children's behaviour and concentration improved. And the trial, which cost the school nothing extra, was so successful that all 63 primary schools in Conwy County Borough have now changed to the healthier menus. The Sun

May 28, 2004 News

The list of diseases linked to smoking grew longer Thursday. Add acute myeloid leukemia, cancers of the cervix, kidney, pancreas and stomach, abdominal aortic aneurysms, cataracts, periodontitis and pneumonia. The Associated Press

May 27, 2004 News

The Agriculture Department is dropping new organic food guidelines that allowed limited use of pesticides and antibiotics and drew criticism from some consumer groups and organic farmers. The Associated Press

May 27, 2004 News

Cable network MTV refused to air advertisements for documentary "Super Size Me," a critical look at the health impact of a fast-food-only diet, its distributors said on Wednesday. Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn Films said in a statement the cable TV channel targeted to young audiences told them the ads are "disparaging to fast-food restaurants." Reuters

May 27, 2004 News

The death of a three-year-old girl from heart failure brought on by her excess weight was highlighted in a damning report by a British parliamentary committee examining a feared obesity epidemic. One expert quoted in the report by the House of Commons Health Committee told of four children who required ventilatory assistance at home for a respiratory condition because of their obese condition. AFP

May 6, 2004 News

Women's magazines should dump diet stories, a magazine associate editor told a body image conference in Melbourne today. Sarah Wilson, a former model who battled poor body image in her teens and 20s and now campaigns publicly on the issue, said her magazine Cosmopolitan had consciously dumped diet stories despite commercial pressure to include them. "As (Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief) Mia Freedman says, if she ran a 'Lose three kilos in a week' diet in the magazine, circulation would jump 10 per cent at the very least," Ms Wilson told a conference on International No Diet Day in Melbourne. "But Cosmopolitan, in the face of this truth and in spite of the incredible commercial pressure to do otherwise, does not do diets. The Australian

April 19, 2004 News

A weekly yoga class is a new and mandatory part of the Bengals' three-month off-season strength and conditioning program that started March 22. And even once-skeptical 300-pound men who make their living in a violent sport are seeing the benefits of this peaceful undertaking. Cincinnati Inquirer

April 9, 2004 News

Golden, greasy and oh-so good, french fries are the guilty staple of the American diet. But in California, a strict right-to-know law could soon force fast-food restaurants to tell customers that the ubiquitous fries may pack something worse than fat and cholesterol: a potential carcinogen. The Mercury News

March 18, 2004 News

"Lose That Extra Weight ... While Eating the Foods You Love!" For decades, such headlines were fixtures of supermarket checkout lanes, to be taken no more seriously than claims of alien abduction. But times have changed. High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets have become wildly popular because they help adherents lose dozens of pounds without having to gnaw on rice cakes. It seems too good to be true, and some critics say it is. The debate over the long-term health effects of Atkins and similar weight-loss plans might grind on for years with no satisfactory conclusion. But whenever we're faced with a fast-growing trend on this shrinking planet, scientists should look beyond human health to weigh ecological consequences as well. That's what we decided to do for Atkins-style diets. Grist Magazine

March 18, 2004 News

According to Manhattan-based dentist Dr. Jose Souto, many low-carb dieters have been coming in complaining of stinky breath, which he says is caused by a number of factors. First of all, a low-carb diet is low on tooth-cleansing foods like apples which can rid the mouth of yucky plaque. The eating regimen also inhibits the production of acid in the mouth, which leads to the growth of offensive-smelling "volatile sulfur compounds." Wireless Flash

March 11, 2004 News

The Environmental Protection Agency is studying the chemicals released into the air when a bag of microwave popcorn is popped or opened. Exposure to vapors from butter flavoring in microwave popcorn has been linked to a rare lung disease contracted by factory workers in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has said it suspects the chemical diacetyl caused the illnesses. Associated Press

March 10, 2004 News

If Nicolas Cage lights a cigarette in a movie, Hollywood's ratings board should respond as if he used a profanity, according to authors of a new study that criticizes glamorous images of smoking in movies rated for children under 17. Salon

March 9, 2004 News

Three South Korean professors sat in a small office at the American Sports Institute in Mill Valley recently to talk about fat children. South Korean children have gotten so fat in the past few years, you'd think they were Americans. "Along with a Westernized diet, South Korea is No. 1 or No.2 in the world in terms of Internet use,'' said Seongho Lee of Chungang University in Seoul. "More than 90 percent of students spend more than four hours a day on the computer.'' San Francisco Chronicle

March 9, 2004 News

Global hamburger giant McDonald's latest line in healthy looking salads may contain more fat than its hamburgers, according to the company's Web Site. Reuters

March 8, 2004 News

In an effort to combat struggling sales, McDonald's plans to introduce a low-calorie tofu sandwich that will be marketed to women. BusinessWeek

March 7, 2004 News

Smokers are up to four times more likely to go blind in old age, according to research. A study in the British Medical Journal says cigarettes increase the chances of developing age-related macular degeneration. BBC

March 7, 2004 News

The issue of obesity will loom larger than life on Capitol Hill this week with the House expected to approve the so-called ‘‘cheeseburger bill,'' which would prevent Americans from suing fast-food giants such as McDonald's for making them overweight. Independent Record

March 7, 2004 News

The parents of children who aren't eating the recommended five portions of fruits and vegetables a day may not be setting them a good example, according to new research published on Sunday. Youngsters have innate likes and dislikes and can be incredibly stubborn about what they will and will not eat, but a study of the behavioral aspects of their eating habits showed parental example has a major influence. "Parental consumption was the strongest predictor of children's consumption," Lucy Cooke, a psychologist at University College London, said in an interview. Reuters

March 7, 2004 News

Deep-fried fritters and whole milk are on the way out, and baked chips are in at Texas public schools. In an effort to fight childhood obesity, the Texas Agriculture Department is revamping the rules on what foods public schools can serve to their 4.2 million students. Schools have until August to adapt. Associated Press

March 3, 2004 News

Parents of cranky children with ear infections be warned: Antibiotics may no longer be what the doctor orders. Two leading medical groups are expected to recommend this spring that doctors stop treating most ear infections in children with antibiotics, federal health officials said Tuesday. Associated Press

March 2, 2004 News

Obese Americans who take drastic, expensive action to lose weight under a doctor's orders will at least be able to lighten their tax load. The Internal Revenue Service allows taxpayers who are forced to spend thousands of dollars because of obesity to deduct expenses for stomach-stapling surgery, approved weight-loss drugs and nutritional counseling. Associated Press

February 26, 2004 News

Rynn Berry wants to set the record straight about Adolf Hitler. "There's absolutely no evidence he was a vegetarian. It simply isn't true." Mr. Berry, a 54-year-old raw-foodist and "vegetarian historian" who is the author of Food for the Gods: Vegetarianism and the World's Religions, is on a mission to dispel the commonly held view that the 20th century's most notorious mass murderer was also an adamant herbivore. Slate

February 25, 2004 News

There are 131 trademarks listed, most of them clearly created by McDonalds - Big Mac, or the Golden Arches logo, for example. But can a hamburger chain really have cornered the market in the use of the words: Healthy Growing Up, or You Deserve a Break Today? BBC

February 24, 2004 News

The US town of Slaughterville has no plans to change its name despite a broadside by animal-rights activists. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals proposed that the town, south of Norman in Oklahoma, change its name to Veggieville. Ananova

February 21, 2004 News

She charges that his group is like the Taliban. He claims that her group's dangerous message has "spread like a virus across North America, Europe and elsewhere." The issue inspiring such invectives? Not religion, but diets. The latest spat is between Veronica Atkins, widow of Robert Atkins, the doctor who promoted a low-carbohydrate diet, heavy on the meats, and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a group that advocates vegetarianism. The New York Times

February 13, 2004 News

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine today called on the nation's schools to drop beef from their lunch programs because of the threat posed by mad cow disease. In a letter to the country's 50 biggest school districts, PCRM Nutrition Projects Coordinator, Jennifer Keller, RD, urged school food service directors to replace beef and other meaty items with safer -- and healthier -- vegetarian fare. Press Release

February 13, 2004 News

US natural and organic food retailer Wild Oats Markets has announced that it has removed all products containing hydrogenated oils (trans fats) from the shelves of its 75 Wild Oats stores. Press Release

February 10, 2004 News

Defenders of the carbohydrate are fighting back against the surging popularity of the Atkins and other high-protein diets. Potato and citrus-grower groups have launched multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns after studies showed demand for their products declining due in part to the low-carbohydrate diet craze. And the pasta industry is also raising money to fight back by advertising. Reuters

February 10, 2004 News

The viruses that cause bird flu, Sars, and Ebola formerly affected only animals. For some reason, they crossed the border between species, and infected humans in Asia, particularly. But the mad cow disease that affected Americas traveled in the opposite direction. It crossed from humans to animals and back again. When man eats animals, nature fights back. Exotic diseases are nature's vengeance. The Daily Star

February 10, 2004 News

Christina Witwer, a student at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Fla., was hit with a sudden pop quiz one afternoon. Asked how many servings of fruits and vegetables she eats each day, Witwer considered briefly and answered: ''Probably none.'' The Herald Tribune

February 10, 2004 News

These mommies serve organic apple slices instead of Oreos. They might share a bed and nurse their offspring well into toddlerhood and refuse to have them vaccinated. They approach every aspect of care and feeding - before, during, and after birth - from a "whole child" viewpoint, in the firm belief that contact parenting and natural foods not only quell tummy aches and temper tantrums but also produce physically robust, emotionally responsive human beings. Maybe their own moms and neighbors and sisters-in-law used to make them feel isolated and a little weird, but not anymore. Holistic parenting has edged closer to the mainstream, and its adherents are finding their voices.

February 10, 2004 News

Half of all Europeans may be suffering from some sort of allergy by 2015 if the escalating epidemic, which is responsible for millions of children missing school and being hospitalised and for adults staying off work, remains unchecked, scientists believe. The Guardian

February 10, 2004 News

Dr. Robert Atkins, whose popular diet stresses protein-rich meat and cheese over carbohydrates, weighed 258 pounds at his death and had a history of heart disease, a newspaper reported Tuesday. Atkins died last April at age 72 after being injured in a fall on an icy street. Before his death, he had suffered a heart attack, congestive heart failure and hypertension, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing a report by the city medical examiner. Associated Press

February 8, 2004 News

Health concerns over the Red Bull energy drink were fuelled yesterday after Europe's highest court upheld a French ban on the product. The fizzy drink has been linked to several deaths and some experts have criticised its high levels of caffeine and other stimulants. Red Bull is Britain's best-selling energy drink, with 213 million cans consumed last year. It has been dubbed the "clubbers' drink", and is often mixed with vodka. The popular adverts claiming that Red Bull "gives you wings", have led to the brand being described as "the Porsche of soft drinks". It contains caffeine, vitamins, and sugar which, the company claims, kick-starts the body's metabolism and keeps people alert. But France has refused to authorise its sale, along with other vitamin-fortified foods such as Danone yoghurt and Kellogg's cereals. The Independent

February 8, 2004 News

Ed Lidzbarski, New Jersey's largest organic vegetable wholesaler, started farming organically in 1976, before many consumers even knew what that meant. Now, even as the market for organic products explodes, he is on the verge of losing his livelihood. His plight is hardly unique. Organic farmers in New Jersey are struggling, even though food scares and chemical fears have helped organic sales grow at five times the rate of conventional food sales in the past few years. The New Jersey Star Ledger

February 7, 2004 News

JESUS would be a vegetarian if he was alive today and be appalled at our treatment of animals in factory farms and slaughterhouses, according to a controversial new Christian doctrine sweeping the United States. Bruce Friedrich, the movement’s figurehead, was rated fifth in Details magazine’s 2003 list of the 50 most influential people under the age of 38, ranked just behind Eminem and ahead of Tiger Woods and Leonardo DiCaprio.

February 7, 2004 News

For an upstart food retailer that aims to provide a local alternative to the traditional supermarket, The Root Cellar is looking more and more like one these days. Root Cellar owner Walker Claridge in the North Providence road market he has run for over three years that specializes in organic and local foods, and now features an in-store deli. Started in 2001 as a way to link local farmers and customers, the business at 21 N. Providence Road is now a thriving year-round operation where fresh greens are available even in the dead of winter. Columbia Daily Tribune

February 7, 2004 News

We're fat and we know it. So says a recent Minnesota Poll on the state of our weight. Unless you've been eating in a cave this past year, you've heard the alarm that we are an overweight nation: More than 127 million American adults tip the scale with excess pounds, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Star Tribune

January 29, 2004 News

Fumes given off by cancer-causing chemicals used to make non-stick frying pans are killing hundreds of pet birds every year, environmentalists say. The Worldwide Fund for Nature says it is hearing reports that many US caged birds are being killed by the fumes. It says the chemicals, perfluorinated compounds, are also contaminating both people and wildlife with grave effects. The chemicals industry says it doubts that birds exposed to ordinary levels of the compounds could die from them. BBC

January 18, 2004 News

In the nineteenth century it allowed cartoonists to poke fun at portly old gents with throbbing big toes. Now, however, gout is no laughing matter for a growing band of much younger men and women. Rates of the incurable disease, once synonymous with outrageous, upper-class over-indulgence have more than doubled since the 1950s and experts are predicting a further surge as more people enjoy excessive lifestyles at an early age. While carrying too much weight greatly increases the risk of gout, shedding weight quickly can also spark the condition. Rapid action weight loss plans such as the Atkins diet, which cut out entire food groups, are already precipitating attacks. The Guardian

December 7, 2003 News

Male school children exposed to the pesticide endosulfan showed delayed sexual maturity compared with similar children who were not exposed, according to a study published today in the December issue of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP). Endosulfan also appears to interfere with sex hormone synthesis, according to results of the study of males aged 10-19 years in a community of cashew plantations in northern Kerala, India. Although endosulfan is no longer made in the United States, an estimated 1.4-2.2 million pounds are used in the United States on crops including squash, pecans, and strawberries. EHP Press Release

November 20, 2003 News

A nutrition advocacy group warned on Thursday that the popular Atkins diet may cause heart disease and could have killed a teen-age dieter. Reuters

November 3, 2003 News

Hoping to address a nationwide epidemic of obesity, the Food and Drug Administration is considering a proposal to require restaurants to label menus with nutrition information. The Kansas City Star

October 29, 2003 News

With sales declining and competition exploding, KFC Corp. today is going on the offensive with a defensive-minded strategy aimed at educating the public that fried chicken can actually be part of a healthy diet. "Consumers should no longer feel guilty about eating fried chicken," Scott Bergren, KFC's executive vice president for marketing and food innovation, said in a statement. AdAge (Here's the ad.)

October 28, 2003 News

Obesity is the No. 1 health threat in the United States today, the head of the leading U.S. federal health agency said on Tuesday. While much of her time is spent preparing to fight anthrax, smallpox, and biological threats, and diseases like SARS and West Nile virus, Centers for Disease, Control and Prevention Director Dr. Julie Gerberding, said Americans are much more likely to die from cancer, heart disease, and diabetes caused by smoking, eating too much and exercising too little. "Unfortunately, poor diet and a lack of exercise have almost caught up with tobacco as being the leading cause of death in the United States," Gerberding told a meeting of the National Health Council, which groups companies and non-profit health advocacy organizations. Reuters

October 26, 2003 News

A vegetarian chef is cooking up a mess of "seitanic" vittles at her Southern California restaurants for Halloween.
Seitan isn't the ruler of the underworld, it's a wheat protein which has the texture of thinly sliced beef and it's a mainstay in chef Tanya Petrovna's cooking and her book "The Native Foods Restaurant Cookbook" (Shambhala Publications). Petrovna uses the stuff because it has the same texture and taste as meat, which she says is important to satisfy the tastebuds of meat-eaters-turned-vegetarians. Her Native Foods restaurants will be preparing devilish dishes for Halloween using seitan in foods like "Vampire Blood Soup," "Transylvanian Ghoulish." Wireless Flash

October 26, 2003 News

U.S. infants are eating fattening foods such as french fries and drinking soft drinks instead of milk, which may help explain the country's growing obesity problem, researchers said on Saturday. A survey of the eating habits of 3,000 youngsters aged four to 24 months found their diets were surprisingly similar to that of older children -- heavy on soft drinks, sweet candy, and other junk foods, and light on vegetables and fruits. "French fries are the most popular vegetable eaten by children 19 to 24 months old," researcher Dr. Kathleen Reidy said at an American Dietetic Association conference. "Twenty to 25 percent of these kids did not eat a single healthy vegetable on the day of the survey, and 25 to 30 percent did not eat a single fruit." Reuters

October 21, 2003 News

Apples, peppers, celery and cherries top a list compiled by an environmental research organization of the 12 fruits and vegetables it considers the most contaminated by pesticides. The report from the organization, the Environmental Working Group, ranks pesticide contamination for 46 fruits and vegetables and is based on more than 100,000 laboratory tests conducted from 1992 to 2001 by the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. The most-contaminated list also includes imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach and strawberries. The New York Times

October 16, 2003 News

Campbell Soup Co., the world's largest soup maker and one of the bigger food producers in the U.S., plans to market an organic tomato juice. Tomatoes for the juice, which began shipping in September and should be in stores next month, are grown from Campbell-developed seeds at certified-organic farms in California. Associated Press via Salon

October 13, 2003 News

What exactly is it that vegetarians eat? That's a question asked by researchers in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which devoted much of September's issue to the study of those who eat no meat, poultry or fish. Or, at least profess that they don't. It turns out that a number of people who report being vegetarians actually consume meat, poultry and fish regularly. They just eat these foods less often than the rest of the nation's omnivores. In a study of daily food records from more than 13,000 Americans collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Loma Linda University researchers discovered that fewer than 1 percent of those surveyed (including self-described vegetarians) reported eating no animal flesh when quizzed in detail about their eating habits. The Washington Post

September 15, 2003 News

Dairy farmer Robert Howe was on the fence about selling his milk to another company. But that decision became much easier - a "yes" - when he learned that his sole buyer, the Horizon Organic milk company, had been bought by Dean Foods. Dean, the nation's largest milk producer, purchased Horizon, the nation's largest organic-milk producer, for $216 million. The acquisition is the latest example of the evolution of the organic-food industry. The Christian Science Monitor

September 13, 2003 News

Increased findings that weeds are developing resistance to Roundup, the world's most popular herbicide, have some scientists urging new planting practices. The product's manufacturer says the problem is being overblown. Roundup, whose generic name is glyphosate, has been on the market for more than 30 years. It long has been a favorite of farmers, home gardeners and golf course greenskeepers because of its effectiveness in killing weeds. It allows growers to cut back on tilling, a more labor-intensive and expensive method of controlling weeds, and does not pollute the environment. Associated Press

September 3, 2003 News

A new kind of machine could soon be coming to your local gym - one that requires you to stand perfectly still. In 30 motionless seconds, the machine locates and measures your body fat. It could then tell you exactly where you could do with losing a few pounds and even advise you on exercises for your problem areas. If the body fat scanner turns out to be accurate enough, its makers hope it could one day help doctors spot disease. The scanner works by simultaneously building up an accurate 3D image of the body, while measuring the body's effect on an electromagnetic field. Combining the two measurements allows the researchers to work out the distribution of fat and water within. Neither method is new on its own, says Henri Tapp, at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich in the UK. "The smart thing is that we've put them in one machine."

August 26, 2003 News

More than 300 million people worldwide are at risk of developing diabetes and the disease's economic impact in some hard-hit countries could be higher than that of the AIDS pandemic, diabetes experts warned on Monday. In a report released at the International Diabetes Federation conference in Paris, experts estimate the annual healthcare costs of diabetes worldwide for people aged 20 to 79 are at least $153 billion. "In some countries with a higher incidence, diabetes has a higher economic impact than AIDS," Williams Rhys, professor of clinical epidemiology at the University of Wales, told a news conference. According to the Diabetes Atlas report, total direct healthcare spending on the disease worldwide will be between $213 billion and $396 billion by 2025, if predictions are correct that the number of people with diabetes will rise to 333 million by 2025 from 194 million. Reuters

August 23, 2003 News

Worrying about the health of California children, the state Assembly voted to ban soda sales to elementary school students and restrict sales of the drinks at junior high schools. If passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, the bill approved Thursday would make California the first state to adopt a soda ban, said Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that supports the bill. CNN

August 20, 2003 News

Some of the nation's top researchers, alarmed about the rise in childhood obesity, are calling for Americans to demand a complete overhaul of the way unhealthy foods and drinks are marketed to kids.
They want:

• Food companies to stop bombarding children with ads on TV, radio, in magazines and movies for junk food, fast foods and soft drinks.

• Schools to quit selling these kinds of foods and drinks in the cafeteria, vending machines and school stores.

• Celebrities to stop hawking these foods. (Some examples: Beyoncé Knowles touting Pepsi; Shaquille O'Neal endorsing Burger King.)

• Companies like Disney and Nickelodeon to quit letting their characters represent sugary cereals, junk food and fast food. (Example: Kellogg's Disney Mud & Bugs cereal features The Lion King's Timon and Pumbaa on the box.)

• Fast-food chains and food companies to stop pushing huge portions.


August 16, 2003 News

For Maynard Kaufman, organic farming is more than a way to grow food. It's a lifestyle. "It's a different attitude toward the land and the process of raising food," he says. "Instead of shaping it into our image and controlling every aspect of it, including the genetic structure, the organic farmer would cherish variety and biodiversity." The 74-year-old retired Western Michigan University professor raises all his own food without pesticides or herbicides. He lives in a home powered entirely by wind and the sun. CNN

August 7, 2003 News

An Indian drug company has launched what it claims is Asia's first vegetarian insulin. The new insulin is derived from yeast, as opposed to pigs or cows, as most insulin in India is at present. The company which has manufactured the drug, Wockhardt, says that this type of insulin will also avoid other viral infections such as BSE and CJD associated with insulin derived from animals. Until now nearly 90% of the insulin available on the Indian market was derived from pigs or cows which are proscribed respectively in the Muslim and Hindu communities. BBC

August 7, 2003 News

British scientists said on Wednesday they had found a link between a common bowel disorder and a type of bacteria that can be passed to humans in milk. Reuters

August 4, 2003 News

The McDonald's Corporation wants to be everywhere that children are. So besides operating 13,602 restaurants in the United States, it has plastered its golden arches on Barbie dolls, video games, book jackets and even theme parks. McDonald's calls this promotion and brand extension. But, a growing number of nutritionists call it a blitzkrieg that perverts children's eating habits and sets them on a path to obesity. Marketing fast food, snacks and beverages to children is at least as old as Ronald McDonald himself. What's new, critics say, is the scope and intensity of the assault. Big food makers like McDonald's and Kraft Foods Inc. are finding every imaginable way to put their names in front of children. And they're spending more than ever $15 billion last year, compared with $12.5 billion in 1998, according to research conducted at Texas A&M University in College Station. "What really changed over the last decade is the proliferation of electronic media," says Susan Linn, a psychologist who studies children's marketing at Harvard's Judge Baker Children's Center. "It used to just be Saturday-morning television. Now it's Nickelodeon, movies, video games, the Internet and even marketing in schools." Product tie-ins are everywhere. There are SpongeBob SquarePants Popsicles, Oreo Cookie preschool counting books and Keebler's Scooby Doo Cookies. There is even a Play-Doh Lunchables play set. While the companies view these as harmless promotional pitches, lawyers are threatening a wave of obesity-related class-action lawsuits. Legislators are pressing to lock food companies out of school cafeterias. And, some of the fiercest critics are calling for an outright ban on all food advertising aimed at children. The New York Times

August 3, 2003 News

Some scientists hope blueberry burgers will be coming to a restaurant, supermarket or school cafeteria near you. Al Bushway, a food scientist at the University of Maine, says his lab has been stirring blueberry puree or blueberry powder into beef, chicken and turkey patties. The researchers are trying to boost the nutritional value of burgers and help farmers improve their berry sales. Salon

August 3, 2003 News

When a group of obese teenagers sued McDonald's, claiming that it made them fat, the widely publicized case drew howls of derision. But the burger giant and its competitors aren't laughing anymore. When Federal Judge Robert Sweet threw out the teenagers' case last February, reasoning that customers knew the dangers of eating Big Macs and supersize fries, he went on — in less noted parts of his ruling — to set the stage for future lawsuits. He noted that "Chicken McNuggets, rather than being merely chicken fried in a pan, are a McFrankenstein creation of various elements not utilized by the home cook," including ground chicken skin, hydrogenated oils and dimethylpolysiloxane, an antifoaming agent, and he questioned whether customers understood the risks of eating McDonald's chicken over regular chicken. TIME

August 2, 2003 News

From the late 1970s, when he planted elaborate gardens in front of Tristate Waffle House restaurants that he and his father owned, Marvin Duren has been passionate about growing plants organically. About three years ago, the former restaurateur opened a nursery and garden center called Marvin's Organic Gardens along U.S. 42 in Lebanon. In late July, his company received its organic certification for plants and operations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are about a dozen organic-certified nurseries in the Tristate. "My main goal is to help promote things that are safe for the environment," Duren says. "With organics, it's safer. We don't use anything that would hurt a bug, a reptile, a bird or a worm in the ground." The Cincinnati Enquirer

August 1, 2003 News

An Internet guide listing the ingredients of more than 4,000 household products from shampoo to ant spray went online on Friday. The site, put together by the National Library of Medicine, also lists details about the potential health effects of more than 2,000 product ingredients. The site,, can help users find out what chemicals are in specific brands of products and give links to the manufacturer. A search of a certain dishwasher detergent, for instance, gives the telephone number of the maker, warning label information and links to a separate database containing toxicity information on the fragrances and detergents it contains. Reuters

July 30, 2003 News

The next time you order a salad out, ask if the greens are organic. Chances are the answer is no, but chef Michel Nischan wants you to ask anyway. The kitchen might take enough notice to start giving more business to local farmers who make the effort to grow organic fruits and vegetables.

"Asking for organics is not about being a pest," says Nischan, a Fairfield resident at the forefront of the New American Farming Initiative, a national organization intended to encourage the use of organic produce, meats and dairy in restaurants.

"Consumers vote with their dollars," Nischan says. "And the good restaurant is going to take note if their customers start asking for something."

The Hartford Courant

July 30, 2003 News

While organic farming research has increased significantly over the last two years, the amount of land delegated to that research still lags far behind the demands of the growing certified organic industry, according to a recent report by the Santa Cruz-based Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF). Zwire

July 30, 2003 News

In a risky reversal of marketing tactics, some of the world's best-known packaged-food companies have planted their brand names smack-dab onto organic versions of their products. Until recently, big food makers looking for a foothold in the growing organic industry have made it a point to keep their names and logos off organic offerings. Last year, when General Mills Inc., Minneapolis, introduced Cascadian Farms organic cereals, the Big G logo was conspicuously absent from the box. The rationale has been that consumers who try to avoid pesticides and additives may not trust big corporate brands. The Wall Street Journal

July 27, 2003 News

Children who are healthy but abnormally short will be able to have injections of growth hormone in hopes of gaining 1 to 3 more inches of height, the Food and Drug Administration said Friday, deciding an emotionally charged issue. The drug, called Humatrope, is not for normal kids yearning for a few extra inches, the FDA cautioned. It's for the shortest 1.2 percent of children. Salon

July 25, 2003 News

Government and news-media scrutiny recently has focused on trans fatty acids as the latest food villain, but many food companies are steering clear of drawing attention to their efforts to reduce trans fat in their products, in part because they're not sure consumers actually care. AdAge

July 23, 2003 News

"The Hunt For Red October" actor has narrated a new documentary short for the activist group People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals that shows images of animals raised for food. In a grass-roots bid to disseminate the short, neither PETA nor Baldwin copyrighted the film, hoping people who buy a DVD or VHS for $5 from the group's Web site will make bootleg copies for friends or post it on the Internet, said PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich. The Associated Press

July 23, 2003 News

For Dave Jakubowski, vice-president of business development for Internet service provider United Online (UNTD ) Inc., the job isn't what it used to be. Instead of an unlimited expense account and stays at the plush Chateau Marmont, the 31-year-old Manhattanite now brown-bags his lunch and stays at a Hyatt when he's in Los Angeles on business. He logs 18-hour days to help his Westlake Village (Calif.)-based company hit its quarterly sales targets of around $8 million. How to cope? Jakubowski is no breathe-like-a-tree kind of guy. "I'm in business," he says, "and I need results." So he recently turned to a mat and 60 minutes of silence. "It's amazing," he says of his new meditation practice. "I'm able to sort through work challenges in this state of calm much faster than trying to fight through it. And I make fewer mistakes." Increasingly, the overstretched and overburdened have a new answer to work lives of gunning harder for what seems like less and less: Don't just do something -- sit there. Companies increasingly are falling for the allure of meditation, too, offering free, on-site classes. They're being won over, in part, by findings at the National Institutes of Health, the University of Massachusetts, and the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Harvard University that meditation enhances the qualities companies need most from their knowledge workers: increased brain-wave activity, enhanced intuition, better concentration, and the alleviation of the kinds of aches and pains that plague employees most. BusinessWeek

July 18, 2003 News

A Norfolk, Virginia, woman has taken her love of vegetarianism to the extreme by changing her name to The-vegan-formerly-known-as Karin Robertson changed her name to the same as that of a vegetarian information website to encourage meat-eaters to become vegetarians.

July 14, 2003 News

Genetically engineered corn and soybeans are becoming so widespread that organic growers - who count on selling their crops for two to three times as much as conventional varieties - say they are having trouble keeping biotech contamination out of their crops. DesMoines Register

July 14, 2003 News

Two British mothers frustrated with the lack of wholesome baby food on supermarket shelves have launched their own line of high fruit content organic yogurts. AP

July 14, 2003 News

A widely read natural products trade publication, The Natural Foods Merchandiser (NFM), is printing fraudulent "organic" cosmetics ads while refusing to run an ad that exposes the deceptive practices of these companies, according to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a nonprofit watchdog group for organic shoppers and retailers. Press release

July 13, 2003 News

CROPP, also known as the Organic Valley Family of Farms, broke ground Saturday for a new $4 million, barn-shaped headquarters on the north side of La Farge. CROPP, the nation's largest organic farmers cooperative, hopes the new headquarters will be completed by March 2004. It has more than 150 employees in La Farge and expects to have about 250 there by 2008 because of continued growth. La Crosse Tribune

July 12, 2003 News

Vegetarians are unwittingly eating GM-contaminated food, including certain products which claim they are GM-free. Some of the most popular brands for Britain's 2.2 million vegetarians and vegans, food safety authorities have found, contain GM soya beans and maize - a fact rarely disclosed on the label. The Independant

July 11, 2003 News

"Type 2 diabetes used to be called adult-onset diabetes because kids didn't get it," says Dr. Catherine Davis, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Georgia. "Now, kids are getting it in record numbers." In fact, 10 times more kids have diabetes today than in 1990, she says. HealthDay

July 10, 2003 News

After a dozen years of hearings and deliberation, the U.S. Agriculture Department issued official standards for organic foods last October. And -- surprise, surprise -- a government agency actually did a pretty good job. Unfortunately, there's been some bad tinkering... BusinessWeek

July 10, 2003 News

William Straus, a pioneer in land conservation and co-founder of one of the country's first organic dairy farms, has died. He was 88. Associated Press