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.
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.
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.
Being diagnosed with a food allergy can be very overwhelming. You know that you have to avoid certain foods in order to feel better, but reading food labels and cutting out foods you’ve always eaten can be confusing. Let’s talk a bit about why and how you need to avoid certain foods in order to live a healthy lifestyle.
A food allergy is an autoimmune disorder. What does that mean? It means that your body’s immune system produces antibodies (which normally protect against infectors) in reaction to a food which is normally found and tolerated by the body. According to the FDA, each year 30,000 Americans go to the emergency room; 2,000 of those are hospitalized and 150 deaths occur each year from severe food allergies. I’m not using these numbers to scare or intimidate, but the avoidance of food allergens is the best preventative way know to curb these sometimes serious reactions. The symptoms of an allergic reaction can range from non-existent, to gastro intestinal disorders, to anaphylaxis (which can be life- threatening). Whatever the symptoms are, it’s very important to avoid your allergen and the foods that contain it.
Newsflash: Corn sugar will not be the new name for high fructose corn syrup.
Back in 2010, the Corn Refiners Association (“CRA”) filed a petition with the FDA asking them for permission to use the term “corn sugar” as an alternate common name for high fructose corn syrup (“HFCS”). After 20 months of waiting, the FDA finally responded and surprisingly, they gave the CRA a big fat no.
Regardless of how you feel about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), it’s hard to argue that consumers shouldn’t have the right to know if we’re eating them. Monsanto, big ag scientists, and our government keeps saying GMOs are perfectly safe and that GMO labeling would only “confuse” consumers. In national surveys, it’s something like 93% of Americans are in favor of GMO labeling. No wonder big ag and food manufacturers don’t want to label because they know people may think twice before buying foods with GE ingredients.
Dairy, dairy quite contrary
How does your bacteria grow?
With metal grates and heated plates,
And filthy cows all in a row.
Ever wonder how your milk gets from the cow to your bowl of cereal? Grist.org just did a great story on dairy. Essentially, milk goes through a 3-step process of pasteurization, homogenization and fortification. Here is a list of must-know terms from today’s milk production.
Pasteurization is the process of using heat to destroy microorganisms in foods. Do you know the difference between pasteurized, ultra-pasteurized, and raw? Here are the 4 main ways dairy is pasteurized:
High Temperature Short Time (HTST)
This is the most common method of pasteurization in the U.S. HTST uses metal plates and hot water to raise milk temperatures to at least 161F/72C degrees for a minimum of 15 seconds, followed by rapid cooling.
Ultra Pasteurized (UP)
Milk or milk product is heated to 280F/138 C degrees for two seconds. UP results in a product with longer shelf life, but still requires refrigeration. Most organic milk is ultra pasteurized to extend the shelf life.
We at Be Food Smart, are constantly telling and teaching people to read the nutrition facts and ingredient lists. It is, by all accounts, the only way to know what’s in packaged food. Many argue, however, that the current labeling system is confusing and doesn’t allow Americans to quickly tell if the food they are about to buy or consume is good for them. Ingredient lists are a pain too. Have you ever noticed the the smallest possible font size is used in combination with leaving Caps Locks on? This is not by accident. They’d rather you not read the 45 ingredients on that box of crackers. The good news is that the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is in the process of updating the required nutritional facts. It will be interesting to see how consumer friendly the new labels turns out. Yes, I am a bit cynical when it comes to the FDA siding with the consumer and not the food industry.
A few weeks ago I stumbled upon the Rethink the Food Label project which is put on by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism’s News21 program and Good Magazine. Here is how they describe the project:
We asked the public, food thinkers, nutritionists, and designers to redesign the Nutrition Facts Label to make it easier to read and more useful to people who want to consume healthier, more nutritious and wholesome food. Designs could incorporate the nutrition label’s existing break down of fats, sugars, vitamins, calorie counts and percent daily values. Or, they could re-imagine the label to include geography, food quality, food justice, carbon footprint, or lesser-known chemosensory characteristics. Above all, we asked for designs that were informative, instructive and memorable.