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If you had trouble pronouncing the last word in the title of this article, you are not alone. It’s quite the tongue twister. In fact, it sounds like the name of an industrial chemical used in the plastics and rubber industry. Oh wait, it is. So why do I care about it? Because the same chemical is also used in the baking industry for things like hamburger buns and bread.

foodbabe subway image

Commercial bakeries use azodicarbonamide to bleach the flour, making it whiter.  In addition, this additive changes the structure of the dough, strengthening it and adding elasticity. Apparently, these are desired traits for Big Food companies like Subway, Sara Lee, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Arby’s and Starbucks. This issue with this chemical is whether or not it’s actually safe to consume. The US FDA (Food & Drug Administration) classifies this additive as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) and allows it in baked goods and flour up to the limit of 45 part per million. Sounds like a miniscule amount; but then again, if this additive might cause respiratory issues and possibly even be a carcinogen, should there really be ANY of it in my food? The European Union, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand all think this food additive is not worth the risk and have banned it’s use as a bleaching agent.

Vani Hari, aka The Food Babe, did a little investigation and found that Subway uses the additive in at least eight of their popular sandwich breads including: 9-Grain Wheat, 9-Grain Honey Oat, Italian White, Italian Herbs & Cheese, Parmesan/Oregano, Roasted Garlic, Sourdough, and Monterrey Cheddar. It is interesting to note that Subway does NOT use this additive in their restaurants overseas because they can’t (because they’re banned!). This really got under the Food Babe’s skin, but what really pushed her over the edge was when the First Lady, the American Heart Association and several Olympic athletes began touting Subway as “fresh” and “nutritious” meals. After repeated requests for a response, she decided to launch a full-scale petition to get Subway to remove azodicarbonamide from their breads.

We give kudos to the Food Babe for launching this campaign and for pointing out the hypocrisy of Subway having two versions of the same breads (the crappy one from all us Americans and the “clean” version for those abroad). Click here to sign the petition and ask Subway to  remove azodicarbonamide from their breads.

 

 

 

Unless you’ve been living far away from civilization, you’ve probably noticed a trend of folks avoiding grains or more specifically, gluten. While we can debate the merits or harmful effects of gluten/grain consumption, one thing is certain, there are those that simply can’t eat gluten. Who are these people? Well, two of them are my friends; a mother and daughter, who for years suffered from unexplained stomach, digestive, and other “IBS” systems. Last year, they were finally tested and and low and behold, were diagnosed with celiac disease.  For those of you who may not be aware, here is what celiac disease is:

Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. What does this mean? Essentially the body is attacking itself every time a person with celiac consumes gluten…Left untreated, people with celiac disease can develop further complications such as other autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, and cancer.

- National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

Um, I don’t know about you, but the thought of a bagel causing my body to “punch itself” sounds downright miserable. My friend on the other hand, is feeling better than she has in years.  Even though it is difficult finding her way through living a life and raising her daughter without gluten (aka pasta, beer, bread, pastries, cookies, cake and essentially every other addictively delicious carb), finding an explanation for all her intestinal issues is such a relief. Note that people with celiac cannot tolerate any gluten. Even a few crumbs can have an effect and trigger an internal attack.

I have a family member who is also gluten-free. He doesn’t have celiac disease, but notices a marked difference when he eats gluten and when he doesn’t. He’s always been prone to having nose-bleeds and won’t have one for months, accidentally eats some gluten and voila, his nose starts dripping.  He has chosen to skip the gluten completely and since he visits regularly, I’ve gotten used to checking packaging for hidden gluten.

Apparently, I’m not there quite yet. We needed some more garlic salt and picked up this jar at Whole Foods. It is their store brand, 365. On the label is says “Garlic Salt,” which to me, should be mean garlic and salt. One would think it would be so simple (remember my Lawry’s Garlic Powder post awhile back? What is it with this seasoning!). Here is the actual ingredient list on the Whole Foods 365 Garlic Salt jar:

Ingredients: sea salt, garlic, breadcrumbs (unbleached wheat flour, calcium carbonate, salt, leavening [ammonium bicarbonate]), onion, silicon dioxide (to prevent caking), parsley.

Sea salt – check. Garlic – check. Breadcrumbs – check…wait, what the heck? Why oh why would there be breadcrumbs in garlic salt? The only reason I can think of is it is cheap. It’s a filler, one that makes this 6oz jar look like a great value. Except, I’m not really getting garlic salt, it’s more like I’m buying ground-up garlic bread. While it irks me that I’m getting bread in my seasoning, it makes me more annoyed that people like my brother and especially people like my dear friend and her daughter, could be eating gluten without realizing it due to sneaky practices like this. The Whole Foods garlic salt is only one example of hundreds of “hidden” gluten sources in packaged foods. This reminds me yet again, that the only true way to know what you are eating is to make it from scratch, grow it from seed, and only buy from farmers/vendors/sources you trust and always, always read the label.

Quick Tip: Buy plain garlic powder (be sure to check the label!) and mix in your own sea salt to make basic garlic salt.

 

The original article was published on October 31, 2011.

Witches, pumpkins, trick-or-treating, and lots and lots of candy. Today is Halloween. Worried about your kid’s candy consumption? Me too. With all the crazy additives from food dyes and preservatives,to partially hydrogenated oils and the 18 million different types of sweeteners out there, it sucks. Oh, and don’t even try to pretend that you’re not worried about all the candy YOU’LL be eating. So what to do? Turns out there are some creative ideas out there to deal with the candy issue: Continue reading…
 

A few years ago, a family member made a delicious cookie ball that required no baking and instead, a little freezer time. I ate them with great gusto and told myself, “I need to try making those myself.” I was emailed the recipe and then, like most things, I promptly forgot about it. I’m not sure what made me think of this recipe again. Maybe it was a random search of my Gmail account? Perhaps something I saw on Pinterest? I blame mommy-brain for my complete lack of memory on how I came up with this recipe again.

It was my daughter’s birthday and I needed something simple to make with a group of ten preschoolers. I figured, no bake, what could be easier? I adapted the recipe considerably to make things much healthier and was absolutely astounded at how good these cookies turned out when we were done. No seriously…best dessert I’d had in a VERY long time and that was saying a lot. Continue reading…
 

India’s Miracle Crops

When the words ‘miracle’ and ‘crops’ show up in the same sentence, some type of genetic modification is typically involved. However, when it comes to the story of Sumant Kumar and his rice crop, only all-natural, non-genetically modified processes were used. By applying only manure and no herbicides, Kumar was able to produce the largest amount of rice on one hectare of land in history.

A modest farmer in the village of Darveshpura, Sumant Kumar never expected to create world records with his rice crop. He anticipated a good season due to the heavy rains his village had experienced, but he never could have imagined producing the amount of rice that he yielded. Through all-natural means, Kumar grew 22.4 tons of rice on just one hectare of land. To prove just how wild this amount is, this farmer typically yielded 4 to 5 tons of rice per hectare previously. Continue reading…
 

Hidden Chemical Sweetener In Your Dairy Products

The dairy industry is in the process of making an attempt that may or may not surprise you: asking that the “artificially sweetened” label be dropped from dairy products when they contain sweeteners such as aspartame. In this day and age, it seems as though companies and industries are becoming sneakier and sneakier with the ingredients placed in their products. However, if this specific measure is approved by the FDA, serious implications could occur. Continue reading…
 

Whole Foods Requires GMO Labeling by 2018

As one of the top grocer chains when it comes to natural and organic products, Whole Foods has finally taken action in regards to labeling for GMOs. But what exactly is a GMO, and why is this important?

A GMO, or genetically modified organism, has been manipulated via genetic engineering. In doing so, changes to the structure of the DNA have been made. Products of all kinds can contain GMOs. While there are advocates for GMOs out there, much of the population remains concerned about their safety. To be fair, we should be aware of what is in our food and whether it’s natural or not.

Whole Foods has finally announced that all products in their stores in the U.S. and Canada must be labeled if they contain GMOs by 2018. Of course, this change in production comes at a very interesting time. In November, a vote occurred for Prop 37 which would mandate the labeling of GMOs. However, the initiative didn’t pass to the dismay of many. Even still, a recent poll conducted by The Huffington Post revealed that 82% of Americans would like to see products labeled if they contain these genetically modified organisms. With this outstanding number of people who appear to be concerned or at least curious as to what their foods contain, I think it’s safe to say Whole Foods is the first national grocery store to be taking a step in the right direction.

According to the President of Whole Foods, A.C. Gallo, products with a “non-GMO” label have increased by 15-30% in sales in recent times. Gallo also states that organic products and those without GMOs are the two fastest growing areas when it comes to non-perishable grocers. Again, this shows interest in this kind of labeling as well as non-GMO products in general. And as a chain which boasts natural and organic products, it only seems fitting for Whole Foods to be taking a stance.

While it’s news to us living in North America, the United States and Canada are not the first Whole Foods stores attempting to mandate this type of labeling. In fact, seven stores based in the United Kingdom already require labeling of GMO products, and as a result, most products do not contain those type of genetically modified add ons.

Patty Lovera, a representative of Food and Water Watch (a group that advocates for the environment and consumers), has stated her opinion in that this change by Whole Foods was a “smart move.” She continued to state that, “We’re continuing to work to make this label mandatory because everyone deserves to have that label, not just Whole Foods shoppers…but I think it’s smart on their part to start giving consumers what they want, which is more information.”

So, for Whole Foods, this may be a direction they are heading in. While the grocer is recognized as one containing many organic and natural products, there are items which contain genetically modified organisms at the store. With this labeling initiative, we may soon see results such as what has occurred in the United Kingdom. Products with GMOs may slowly fade away, and Whole Foods could truly go all-natural.

- Elizabeth K.

Image courtesy of Flickr.