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Archive for 'European Union'

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.

 

 

 

Here are a few recent headlines that caught my eye:

‘Organic Water’ is a Thing Now

In rather comical news, a German bottled water company, BioKristall, has gotten the official approval to market itself as organic water. Yes, you read that correctly, organic water. Read Grist’s comical take on this news.

Twinkies for Breakfast? Kids’ Cereals Fail Industry’s own Lame Nutrition Guidelines

The Environmental Working Group, most known for their sunscreen reports and the Dirty Dozen list, just put out a report on the amount of sugar in many popular breakfast cereals. In this blog post, Michele Simon writes, “Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, at nearly 56 percent sugar by weight, won the top prize,  packing more sugar (20 grams per cup) than a Hostess Twinkie.” Is it really any wonder our kids have a weight problem? Parents, please read this article and realize that MOST breakfast cereals should be treated like dessert. Read the full story on Appetite for Profit.

The Ultimate Olive Oil Guide

There has been a bit of a brouhaha over olive oil as of late. Put this one down on the if it is good for me, food producers will come in and create a crappy version of it to make more money and confuse consumers page. Olive oil has consistently been touted as the ultimate healthy oil and the demand for the oil has created a slew of sub-par products. Governments in the US and Europe are trying to create/reform olive oil standards, but with mixed success. Nutritionist and food activist, Andy Bellatti, tries to set the record straight and educates consumers so we can all shop EVOO smart. Read the full story on Small Bites. 


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I’m guessing you know that Americans consume a ton of a calories. You may also have heard that we spend less of our income on food than other countries. But to actually see on a world map how we compare, yields a quite shocking realization of how wide the disparity is.

A visualization of the 20 highest and lowest calorie consuming countries compared with those same countries’ percent of income spent on food. Built by Food Service Warehouse.

Source: Food Service Warehouse

Visualizing the World’s Food Consumption takes 40 countries and compares two important data points: daily calories consumed and percent of income spent on food (average per person). The findings are striking. The countries at the low-end of calorie consumption spend almost half their income on food, whereas the high calorie countries generally spend less than 25%. That’s all fine and dandy until you see that Americans consume an average of 3,770 calories per day but spend only 6.9% of our income on food. No, that’s not a typo: 50% vs. 6.9%. Angolans? They are eating only 1,950 calories per day but spend a whopping 80% on food.

A few other highlights noted in the study:

  • 14 of the 20 lowest-consumption countries are located in Africa
  • Romania is a big outlier for the high-consumption countries, spending almost 35% on food
  • Not one of the lowest-consumption countries is located in Europe

The fact that Americans are consuming an average of 3,770 calories a day is just crazy. I know we have a weight problem, but seeing the issue outlined in one simple stat really brings it home.

There are numerous reasons for the differences between food consumption and food spending, and the deeper you dig, the more complicated the issue becomes. But know this: The next time you find yourself complaining that the price of cheese has risen dramatically, count your blessings because it could be way worse. Click on the image above to launch the interactive infographic (hover over the numbers to see the stats).

 

Note: I was confused as to why some continents were so poorly represented (Asia anyone?) in the infographic. After checking out the accompanying info, the source notes that they wanted to “…create an interactive display of daily calorie consumption for the extreme 20 countries in the world…” Apparently, India, Brazil, or China for that matter, didn’t factor on the ‘extreme’ meter.

 

In rather surprising news today, Food Safety News is reporting that most honey sold in US grocery stores is not really honey. What?? Apparently, our honey is undergoing a process called ultra-filtration to remove the pollen. The problem with no pollen is that there is no way to tell where the honey came from since the honey’s “footprint” is gone. In fact, according to the report, even the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) says that any product that has been ultra filtered and no longer contains pollen isn’t honey. Food Safety News explains the process of ultra-filtering and why it is being done:

Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey – some containing illegal antibiotics – on the U.S. market for years.

Food Safety News purchased more than 60 types of honey sold in 10 US states. The honey was analyzed for pollen. The results are rather shocking:
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I keep seeing articles claiming that many organics are a waste of money. Even health guru Dr. Mercola (whom I tend to agree with on most issues) wrote an article on it. The advice is to buy conventional (non-organic) for the EWG’s Clean 15 list or for fruits & veggies with thick skins/those you peel to save money. What this advice says is that the rate of pesticides found on produce should be the ONLY determining factor when deciding between organic and non-organic. While pesticide levels are extremely important, it is concerning that people may automatically choose conventional for the “cleaner” foods. The writers, many of whom are nutritionists, are failing to point out the OTHER reasons why organic makes sense.

Contemplating between organic and conventional?  Here are 6 OTHER reasons why organics make sense:

ONE:  More Vitamins & Minerals – There is evidence suggesting that conventionally grown produce may be less healthy than it once was due to the “dilution effect.” Why? Produce is grown with fertilizer for desirable traits (firmness, color, increased size, etc.) instead of optimal vitamin & mineral content. Essentially, produce is larger with more “dry matter,” but doesn’t proportionately contain as many nutrients. You have to eat more to get the same amount of nutrients.
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Here are a few food headlines that caught my eye this week:

Change in season: Why salt doesn’t deserve its bad rap
If you follow our blog, you may remember a recent post, Is ANYTHING Good For Me?, where salt was a source of much contention. It appears I’m not the only one trying to understand the sodium dilemma. In this article, Kristin Wartman explains why sodium is not all bad and why you should mainly consume unrefined sea salt. Read the full story on Grist.org

Pediatricians Warn Against Energy and Sports Drinks for Kids
Gatorade commercials are pretty compelling. Picture the mega athlete dunking a basketball and then sweating out droplets of brightly colored “dew.”  Healthy? Many moms think so. Unfortunately, sports drinks are loaded with sweeteners, artificial colors and extra calories and are not suited for children. Don’t even get me started on energy drinks.  If parents are allowing their children to drink something, that by definition, will give them “energy,” the kids need more sleep. Read the full story on NPR.org
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Have you seen this symbol on foods recently?
What does it mean and how is it different than certified organic products?

In 2009, 93% of soybeans, 93% of canola, 86% of corn, and 95% of sugar beets (in 2010) grown in the United States were genetically modified. Stop for a moment and absorb that information; these are staggering numbers. In the US, a certified organic crop must be grown from non-GM (genetically modified) seeds. One of the major concerns with GMOs (genetically modified organisms) is cross-contamination. When you have a soybean farm on one side of a road using GM seeds and an organic farm on the other side, you can begin to understand how organic crops can easily become contaminated.

The Non-GMO Project was started to create a set of practices for manufacturers and growers to follow to avoid GMO contamination.  The seal means that an independent third party has tested all ingredients (which grow in GM form) in a food product to ensure it falls below a 0.9% contamination level (in line with laws in the EU). According to the Non-GMO Project website:

“…what our seal means is that a product has been produced according to rigorous best practices for GMO avoidance, including testing of risk ingredients…The Non-GMO Project is the only organization offering independent verification of testing and GMO controls for products in the U.S. and Canada.”

- Answer to the question, “So what does ‘Non-GMO Project Verified’ mean?”

The label appears to be catching on. Big players in the industry are participating in the project including: Whole Food’s 365 brand, Annie’s Homegrown, Barbara’s Bakery, Bragg, Eden, Garden of Eatin, Grimmway Farms,  Kettle Foods, La Tolteca, Lundburg Family Farms, Nature’s Path, Nutiva, Organic Valley, San-J, and Yogi. All of these companies and many more are either in the process of becoming non-gmo verified are have already been verified. See full list of brands here.

While it is great for consumers to have another layer of protection under this seal, ultimately,  we deserve to have labeling of all foods that are genetically modified. If they can do it in Europe, they can do it here. When you start looking at the statistics – 93% of all corn is GM – you begin to see how much money and power is at work to prevent this from ever happening. However, even if GM labeling was required, it would not address the concern of GMO crop contamination. Having organizations and growers committed to keeping contamination at a minimum will be important for as long as GM crops exist.

We want to hear from you. Is a non-GMO seal such as this one important to you? Does it influence your buying decision?


Sources:
Non GMO Project
Food Navigator