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Archive for March, 2012

Updated 4/19/12: Starbucks has announced that due to the controversy surrounding the use of cochineal extract, that they will use lycopene to color their Strawberry & Creme Frappuccino and Strawberry Banana Smoothie.  Starbucks is also dropping cochineal extract in their Raspberry Swirl Cake, Birthday Cake Pop, Mini Donut with pink icing and Red Velvet Whoopie Pie.

Starbucks Stawberry Frappuccino

Virtually every news outlet is reporting that Starbucks is using cochineal extract in their popular strawberry beverages.  When I read this, my first thought was, how did people find out? Starbucks doesn’t post or provide any of their ingredients to consumers (only allergy information and the required nutritional information). Apparently, a vegan Starbucks barista notified the site, www.thisdishisvegetarian.com, that Starbucks had changed the formula of their Strawberries & Cream Frappucinos and Strawberry Smoothies to contain cochineal extract. The barista also included a few cell phone pics of the packages to show the ingredient lists.

So what’s all the fuss about cochineal extract? It’s made from…bugs.  It’s used as an alternative to artificial dyes and can be found in many foods including yogurt, candy, applesauce, baked goods, and other red processed foods. Here is an excerpt from our Cochineal Extract Ingredient Report on exactly what this dye is and how it’s made:
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Today is a historic day. The Just Label It (JLI) Campaign announced this morning that a record-breaking one million Americans of all political persuasions have called on the FDA to label genetically engineered (GE) foods.

The campaign also announced a new national survey revealing that Americans across the political spectrum stand united in support of labeling food that has been genetically engineered. “Pink slime, deadly melons, tainted turkeys, and BPA in our soup have put us all on notice that what we eat and feed our families is critically important,” said Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group, a JLI partner. “Americans overwhelmingly demand safety, transparency and labeling of genetically engineered foods. It’s time for the FDA to come clean and restore public confidence in our food system.”

Since October, JLI, (www.justlabelit.org), the national campaign to require GE-food labeling and its more than 500 partner organizations have spearheaded an historic number of public comments for a GE-foods labeling petition (Docket #FDA 2011-P-0723-001/CP). Be Food Smart is proud to be one of these 500 partner organizations. March 27 is the date when the FDA is required to respond to the petition. It took less than 180 days to accumulate the record number of comments.
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I must admit, when I first saw Daniel Klein walk by me during the conference breakfast, I was a little starstruck (just like most celebrities, I expected him to be taller!). There he was in the flesh instead of in some barn in the middle of nowhere interviewing a farmer.

Klein is a true mover and shaker in the food movement. He is extremely passionate, open and kind. Oh, and a little crazy. You see, he and his love, Mirra Fine (aka the cameragirl), travel around the country creating mini documentaries about sustainable food. For almost two years they’ve released a new film every week. I’m not even sure how you drive to some far away destination, film for hours, edit for hours, add cool music (from unknown and unsigned bands no less!) and release a film that showcases a tiny part of sustainable America. Klein and Fine are The Perennial Plate.

Daniel Klein & Mirra Fine of The Perennial Plate. Photo by Fran Collin

I’ve been following this dynamic duo for 8 months or so and genuinely enjoy their work. Meeting them in person at the 2012 Edible Institute earlier this month brought my admiration for what they do to a whole new level. It was amazing to hear them speak and tell their story.
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This week we are showcasing films shown at the 2012 Edible Institute (“EI”).

 

The Dark Side of Chocolate Title

“In your lifetime, you have eating something produced by child labor” – U Robert Romano

 

U Roberto Romano does not shy away from a challenge. On the contrary, he takes subjects that no one wants to talk about and makes them into story-telling art. This award-winning photographer and producer, was at the EI 2012 to show two films, both of which center on the grim issue of child labor. Romano is a champion for children’s rights and I feel so fortunate to have heard his passion in person.

The biggest tragedy surrounding child labor in other countries is that it isn’t news anymore. What does it say about humanity when we’ve almost come to expect that miniature hands from Indonesia, India and Cambodia sew our clothes? It is estimated that there are 215 million child laborers in the world and, just so you can understand the magnitude of this number, the entire population of the Untied States is 313 million people. This is an epic, worldwide issue that affects not only children abroad, but also American children in our own back yards.
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This week we are showcasing films shown at the 2012 Edible Institute (“EI”).

 

The first time I saw Back to the Start, I almost started crying. I couldn’t believe that a mainstream company, even one as progressive as Chipotle, would release something like this. Sometimes I get lost in my little bubble of foodie-Santa Barbara where people discuss GMOs, CAFOs, Monstanto, and the Farm Bill at dinner parties. Then, I’ll visit friends out of town and realize that the American food norm is far, far away from my little world. A corporate company making a video about factory farming is abnormal.

I honestly thought that everyone had seen it (make sure to scroll down to the bottom for the making-of video too!). Except, when I asked my dad, brother and best friend, they hadn’t heard about it. Perhaps airing the video during the Grammys wasn’t enough?

I want all eaters to see this movie! Why? Because in 2 minutes and 20 seconds, Chipotle manages to tell a simple story of a farmer who moves from a sustainable family farm to an industrial animal factory and then realizes he needs to go back to where he started. I believe in baby steps. I believe that everyone needs to understand where their food comes from and how it’s made. That’s why my brother and I started Be Food Smart in the first place. In the food movement, there is so much talk about reaching those beyond “the choir.” The beauty of this mini movie is its simplicity and ability to reach the mainstream with a message they are not hearing right now. While Chipotle is certainly not perfect, they are a tiny stride in the right direction and, quite frankly, the food movement needs all the help it can get.

Watch now:
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Photo from WhiteOakPastures.com

 

It should be a rule never to have a Spring-forward, daylight savings time change in the middle of a two-day conference. I was exhausted from both the information packed day on Saturday and the evening gala, and didn’t expect 9:45am to feel so early. I was determined to ignore the tiredness and focus as it was day two of the Edible Institute (“EI” – click here to read Part 1 and Part 2 of this three-part series).

Note: The second day of EI, included several video and film viewings. Rather than include them all in this already too long blog post, we’ll be devoting next week to videos. Visit each day to watch these fabulous food-related video clips.

Telling Sustainable Meat Stories

I have to admit that the title of the first panel, wasn’t rocking my world. I was, however, impressed that the EI staff had managed to secure Chris Arnold, the Director of Communications for Chipotle. Also gracing the panel was Jeff Tripican, CMO & EVP of Sales for Niman Ranch, Will Harris who is president of White Oak Pastures and finally, Whole Foods Markets’ Meat Coordinator, Dave Ruedlinger. Boy was I in for a meaty treat.

The Chipotle story is truly fascinating. Founder Steve Ells essentially threw out the fast food restaurant model and started from scratch when he opened the first Chipotle restaurant in 1993. Over the years, the chain has grown and evolved to include: organic black beans, no dairy (sour cream and cheese) from cows treated with rBGH growth hormones, only antibiotic-free chicken, and are working towards a higher percentage of naturally raised beef and local suppliers. Arnold notes that, “We have the highest food cost of any restaurant [chain] in the industry and the highest profits…while we’re far from perfect, it’s surprising that more restaurant companies haven’t followed our model.” In 2000, Chipotle decided to move to all sustainably-raised pork and this meant a $1 increase to the carnitas for the customers. Arnold explains that many of their customers eat at Chipotle because they like the food, not because of any social message.
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One of my favorite aspects of the Edible Institute (EI) is that it’s still a small and intimate affair. You know a conference rocks when virtually every speaker and presenter sticks around to listen to the other panels. It’s interesting to hear their questions and sit with them at lunch. I know they are just regular-ole people, but it’s special to have the opportunity to actually talk to “food movement celebrities” at an event.  If you’ve been following along, this is the second post in the EI 2012 recap (click here for Part 1).

After lunch, conference participants lingered outside the Hyatt Santa Barbara attempting to absorb every last drop of sunshine possible before going inside. Our bodies were fed and it was time for more thought-provoking panels.

“Basically any food company that has enough money to advertise is evil” – Darya Pino

Darya Pino, photo from Summer Tomato

I was particularly interested in the Creating Food Communities on the Web panel (hmm…wonder why). I’d been following one of the panelists, Dayra Pino of Summer Tomato for a few years and was excited to see her name on the agenda. Pino’s background is nothing short of impressive with a degree in molecular & cell biology and a PhD in neuroscience. This woman is smart, skinny, well-spoken, very attractive, successful, and young. It’s hard not to feel a wee bit jealous.

“I didn’t want to preach to the choir.” Pino said that she appeals to people’s selfishness and desire to be thin with blog post titles like, 20 Ways to Eat Dessert and Stay Skinny! These posts draw all types of people in and by the end of the article they’ve learned a few things about industrial food. Pino reveled that even with her high website traffic rates, that it is still very difficult to monetize a site. “Basically any food company that has enough money to advertise is evil” she joked. I spoke with her for a few minutes at the evening gala event where she divulged that it was just 6 months ago that she was able to quit her day job and live off Summer Tomato. I’m not sure if this is helpful or super depressing news!
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