Sunday, November 30, 2014

Top 12 Worst Food Additives in American Meals

The first "Dirty Dozen List of Food Additives" was released last month by the Environmental Working Group. 

The new guide-list of  chemical-based food additives is based on extensive scientific studies and on  EWG's massive new database, Food Scores: Rate Your Plate, which catalogs "more than 80,000 foods and 5,000 ingredients from about 1,500 brands."  

"The guide covers food additives associated with serious health concerns, ingredients banned or restricted in other countries, and other substances that shouldn't be in food. It turns the spotlight on some of the worst failures of the federal Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory process for additives...
" 'With thousands of ingredients lurking in food, EWG wanted to bring attention to additives that may have implications for human health, and we wanted to expose how the food regulatory system has failed us,' Johanna Congleton, Ph.D., EWG senior scientist, said."
Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives

"Food should be good for you. But some is not. More than 10,000 additives are allowed in food.  Some are direct additives that are deliberately formulated into processed food. Others are indirect additives that get into food during processing, storage and packaging... 

"The guide covers ingredients associated with serious health concerns, additives banned or restricted in other countries and other substances that shouldn’t be in food."

1. Nitrites and nitrates -  "Used as a color fixative in cured meats, bacon, bologna, frankfurters, deviled ham, meat spread, spiced ham, Vienna sausages, smoked-cured tuna fish products, and in smoke-cured shad and salmon."  (Source - "A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives", 2009) 

"In 2010, scientists at the World Health Organization... declared that ingested nitrites and nitrates are probable human carcinogens...  Studies have linked nitrites to stomach cancer. Some data also suggest an association with cancer of the esophagus; one study showed an increased risk in people who eat cured meats more often. There is also evidence that nitrites may be associated with brain and thyroid cancers... (Source - Environmental Working Group)

2. Potassium bromate - "This dough conditioner and bleaching agent, which was once widely used in bread baking, is considered... possibly carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.  In 1993, the World Health Organization recommended its removal from all food, and though it's banned in many countries, it's still permitted in the United States and Japan, where it continues to be used in buns at Burger King, Arby's, and Wendy's, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest...

"Very toxic when taken internally. Burns and skin irritation have been reported from its industrial use.  In toothpaste, it has been reported to have caused inflammation and bleeding of the gums.  

"The JECFA said in 1993 that new data about potassium bromate showed long-term toxicity and carcenogenicity including kidney tumors, tumors of the lining of the stomach, and thyroid tumors in rats..."  (Source - "A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives", 2009) 


3. Propyl paraben - "Parabens are... widely used as preservatives in foods, cosmetics, toiletries and pharmaceuticals... In a previous study, it was demonstrated... that exposure of post-weaning mammals to butyl paraben adversely affects the secretion of testosterone and the function of the male reproductive system. In the present study, it is shown that propyl paraben also adversely affects the hormonal secretion and the male reproductive functions." (Source - National Institutes of Health, 2002 study

"Of greatest concern is that parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity... Parabens are also linked to cancer, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity and skin irritation." (Source - The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics)

4. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) - "Here's a question for you: What food additive does the Food and Drug Administration deem 'generally recognized as safe,' while the National Institutes of Health, says it's 'reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen?'

"Here's a hint: It's a preservative, and you can find it in (drum roll, please): potato chips, lard, butter, cereal, instant mashed potatoes, preserved meat, beer, baked goods, dry beverage and dessert mixes, chewing gum, and other foods. Oh, also: rubber, petroleum products, and, of course, wax food packaging.  
The molecule in question is butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)... "  (Source - LiveScience.com

"BHA is a petroleum-derived food additive that reduces the rate at which food spoils. It... is now used in a wide range of foods to prevent fat from going rancid. BHA is used in beverages, ice cream, snack foods, breakfast cereals, dehydrated foods and mixes, beer, chewing gum, candy, baked goods, instant mashed potatoes, and sausage.

"California’s Proposition 65 recognizes BHA as a carcinogen. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances lists BHA as a suspected gastrointestinal or liver toxicant, neurotoxicant, and respiratory toxicant. The Japanese National Institute of Health Sciences’ World Wildlife Fund lists BHA as a suspected endocrine toxicant. The Relational Database of Hazardous Chemicals and Occupational Diseases lists BHA as a suspected immunotoxicant and skin or sense organ toxicant."  (Source - Nutrition411.com, "Where Health Care Professionals Go for Information"

5. Butylated Hydroxtoluene (BHT)"BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) is a lab-made chemical that is added to foods as a preservative. People also use it as medicine. BHT is used to treat genital herpes and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Some people apply BHT directly to the skin for cold sores."  (Source - WedMD.com)

"Extensive research has shown high doses of this ingredient to cause significant damage to the lungs, liver and kidneys. Oral consumption of this ingredient has also been shown to have toxic effects on the body's blood coagulation system...

"Because there lies a significant amount of conflicting research regarding the carcinogenic effects of BHT, it remains a controversial ingredient around the world. The US has banned it from being used in baby food because of its potential association with hyperactivity in children. It's also banned from food in Japan." (Source - TruthInAging.com)


"The FDA says that the possibility that BHT may convert other ingested substances into toxic or cancer-causing additives should be investigated. BHT is prohibited as a food additives in the United Kingdom."  (Source - "A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives" by Ruth Winter, 2009)

6. Propyl Gallate - Propyl Gallate is "a preservative that is often used in conjunction with BHA and BHT. It is used as a food preservative in foods that contain oils and fats, to stop food from spoiling. Some foods that commonly contain Propyl Gallate include... vegetable oil, meat products, soup bases, cereals, chewing gum...

"Propyl Gallate can cause allergic reactions in the form of an asthma attack in some people. It can also cause stomach and skin irritation, liver damage, kidney damage and has the potential to increase your chances of having cancer." (Source - StopKillingMyKids.com)


"New research suggests the dog food preservative, propyl gallate, may be responsible for causing a potentially dangerous health issue for dogs. That’s because of the chemical’s unique ability to mimic the negative effects of the female hormone, estrogen.

"... recent studies have linked propyl gallate with a special group of hormone-like compounds known as xenoestrogens (which) have the potential to adversely affect reproductive health.3 In humans, they have the ability to transform a normal breast cell into a cancer cell. Propyl gallate can also affect a developing fetus as well as decrease the sperm count in males." (Source - DogFoodAdvisor.com)
7. Theobromine - "A study conducted in Utah between 1983 and 1986, and published in 1993, showed a possible association between theobromine and an increased risk of prostate cancer in older men.... Prenatal and infant exposure to theobromine appeared possibly associated with hypospadias and testicular cancer in one population study.

As with caffeine, theobromine can cause sleeplessness, tremors, restlessness, anxiety, as well as contribute to increased production of urine. Additional side effects include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and withdrawal headaches."  (Source - Wikipedia)
"...closely related to caffeine.  It (theobromine) is used as a diuretic, smooth muscle relaxant, heart stimulant, and blood vessel dilator. "   (Source - "A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives" by Ruth Winter, 2009)
Hundreds of American foods, most containing processed cocoa or chocolate, include theobromine. Click here for a list of the 189 Foods Highest in Theobromine. (Source - Nutrition Data at Self.com: Know What You Eat) 
Other Top 12 Worst Food Additives
8.  Secret flavor ingredients
9.  Artificial colors
10. DiacetylDiacetyl is a butter flavoring used in some food products like butter, butterscotch, butter flavored popcorn and some alcoholic beverages, especially beer and chardonnay wines.  
"The United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has suggested diacetyl, when used in artificial butter flavoring, may be hazardous when heated and inhaled over a long period. Workers in several factories that manufacture artificial butter flavoring have been diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans, a rare and serious disease of the lungs. The cases found have been mainly in young, healthy, nonsmoking males.
"Two bills in the California Legislature seek to ban the use of diacetyl. A 2010 U.S. OSHA Safety and Health Information Bulletin and companion Worker Alert recommend employers use safety measures to avoid exposing employees to the potentially deadly effects of butter flavorings and other flavoring substances containing diacetyl or its substitutes."  (Source - Wikipedia)
11. Phosphate-based food additives - "Recently, a high-normal serum phosphate concentration has also been found to be an independent predictor of cardiovascular events and mortality in the general population. Therefore, phosphate additives in food are a matter of concern, and their potential impact on health may well have been underappreciated."  (Source - National Institutes of Health, 2012)
12. Aluminum-based food additives - "There are six aluminum salts that have been approved as food additives in the United States. The salts most commonly used are sodium aluminum phosphates. They are added to cake mixes, frozen dough, pancake mixes, self-rising flours, processed cheese and cheese foods and beer (in aluminum cans). Just one slice of individually wrapped processed cheese can contain up to 50 mg of aluminum. It is thought that the cheeseburger may contain one of the highest aluminum contents of any food...
"Dangers of Aluminum Toxicity -
  • It is particularly poisonous to the nervous system with a range of symptoms that can include disturbed sleep, nervousness, emotional instability, memory loss, headaches, and impaired intellect.
  • It can stop the body's ability to digest and make use of calcium, phosphorus and fluoride. This prevents bone growth and reduces bone density...
  • Toxicity can also result in aching muscles, speech problems, anemia, digestive problems, lowered liver function, colic and impaired kidney function."                  (Source - Dr. Anita Pepi)
"Many... question the safety of these (aluminum-based) food additives, however. The group known as the Department of the Planet Earth petitioned the FDA in September 2005 to rescind the GRAS (acceptable) rating for these additives, citing studies linking aluminum food additive ingestion to Alzheimer’s disease." (Source - LiveStrong.com)
What Should You Do?
Study up!  Start by reading the Environmental Working Group's  "Dirty Dozen List of Food Additives."  

Lose processed and packaged foods from your food choices, and from that of your loved ones.  Now. Today. If not fully feasible, become an avid label reader. Make informed food choices.

Do it for your health. Please!

More from the Environmental Working Group

Top 15 Most Pesticide-Free Fruits, Vegetables

Pesticide-Ridden Produce: The 12 Most Infected Fruits, Vegetables


Friday, October 31, 2014

Carl's Jr. Salt-Bomb Wins Vote for Most Disgusting New Fast Food

Driving home from our son's wedding in Northern California last weekend, we were hoping to find fast, healthy food offerings near the freeway. Foolishly hoping, it seems. 

Healthy options were scarce, and limited to sugary yogurts and a few sandwiches on whole grain bread (Starbucks), and several carb-and-salt-heavy 6-inch subs loaded with fresh-like veggies (Subway)

Culinary weapons-of-human-destruction were easy to spot, though, at all the usual fast-food suspects... and were garishly hawked by Taco Bell, Jack-in-the-Box, McDonald's, and Carl's Jr, among others.

We voted Carl's, Jr's brand-new (introduced on October 22) Double Loaded Omelet Biscuit our most disgusting fast-food sighting of this road trip.  And for good reason... 

Brad Haley, chief marketing officer for Carl’s Jr., boasted "The new Double Loaded Omelet Biscuit, packed with three different breakfast meats... We make them fresh every morning by folding crumbled sausage, chopped bacon, diced ham and shredded Jack and cheddar cheeses into an egg omelet. Then we stack two of them inside one of our signature Made from Scratch Biscuits that we make by hand and bake fresh every morning. That great combination of eggs, sausage, bacon, ham and cheese – times two – will be sure to fill you up in the morning in an absolutely delicious way.”

Mr. Haley failed to mention the 1,960 mg of sodium (salt) in one of these drippy concoctions. That's equal to the salt in 15 small orders of McDonald's fries.  Equal to the salt in 9 servings of Doritos Nacho Cheese tortilla chips

He also failed to mention the 820 calories (equal to 4 two-packs of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups)  and 58 grams of fat (equal to 2 Big Macs) found in Carl's Jr.'s oozing Double Loaded Omelet Biscuit.  

And, of course, he failed to mention more than 100 chemicals, emulsifiers, additives, fillers, and artificial flavors and colors included as ingredients in this salty-fatty food bomb. 

Clearly, and by a wide margin, Carl's Jr.'s fevered bid to build and proudly sell an astonishingly unhealthy breakfast product wins our vote for the most disgusting fast-food last week along Highway 101.  

My question continues to be... why the heck does our government allow this and similar addictive, poisonous fake foods to be sold to hook the American public into ruining their health?   

Why does our government, which is tasked to protect Americans, allow mega-corporations to deliberately fatten and poison people in order to fatten corporate profits?

Related Reading
"Salt Sugar Fat" - Stunning Big Food Tactics to Hook, Trick, Harm Americans

Walmart, Target Fatten Profits by Fattening Football Fans, Children


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Walmart, Target Fatten Profits by Fattening Football Fans, Children

This recent Walmart "Game Time" ad colorfully promotes a party meal of:
  • Red Baron Pepperoni Pizza, frozen
  • Lay's or Doritos "Party-Size" Bag of chips
  • Great Value Chicken Wings "Sections," frozen  
  • Gatorade Sports Drinks, 8 20-oz bottles
  • Velveeta (a "Pasteurized Recipe Cheese Product
  • Nabisco Ritz Crackers, Oreo and Chips Ahoy! cookies in "Family-Size" packs
  • M&M's Peanut Candies, 42-oz package
  • Football-topped cupcakes
And Ro-Tel, canned tomatoes and green chilis (plus salt. calcium chloride, citric acid, and unidentified "spices") presumably to be mixed with Velveeta, and then dipped with Doritos chips.  

Walmart's fun "Game Time" meal is a time-bomb of salt, sugar, and fat cleverly engineered by industrial mega-corporations to maximize sales and profits.  

(For details, read  "Salt Sugar Fat" - Stunning Big Food Tactics to Hook, Trick, Harm Americans.) 

Problem is... that time-bomb will detonate in your body. In most countries, this highly-processed industrial-concocted "meal" would be viewed as an inedible morass of amped-up salt and sugar flavors. Disgusting fake food. 

This "meal" is guaranteed lethal to your health. A diet of salt, sugar, and fat, laced heavily with hundreds of chemicals...preservatives, fillers, emulsifiers, artificial colors and flavors... has been scientifically linked over and over to diseases including diabetes, heart disease, even cancers.  

A massive new study by the American Association for Cancer Research found that 25% of cancer diagnoses are directly related to "poor dietary habits" and "obese or overweight," usually stemming from poor diet and exercise.  

I don't mean to call-out Walmart as singularly responsible for ruining Americans' health. Most major U.S. food retail corporations are to blame for fattening profits by selling products that fatten customers.  

Take, for instance, this Target ad, which was wrapped around a late August "Back-to-School" promotion.  

The Target ad prominently pushes the big three of highly processed, intentionally addictive U.S. junk food favorites of children... Kraft macaroni & cheese, Coca-Cola soft drinks, and Doritos chips.  

Convenience foods for cheap prices.  At back-to-school time when time and money are scarce for lower-income parents.  

The solution?  Don't buy this junk.  And as much as possible, don't buy from corporate retailers who sell this junk.  Buy from farmer's markets and green grocers.  Buy from stores that specialize in higher quality products. In my neighborhood, that includes Sprouts, Whole Foods, and often, Trader Joe's.  

Remember..  Products that don't sell will be dropped by markets and ultimately discontinued by manufacturers.  And retailers with sale drops will respond by changing their product lines.

We, the consumers have all the power.  Let's use it to dump highly processed fake-foods from our football parties, from our childrens' palates, and from our tables.  

Let's use our power as consumers to take back our health.

Related Reading

"Salt Sugar Fat" - Stunning Big Food Tactics to Hook, Trick, Harm Americans



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Lattes: To Drink or Not to Drink?

Summer is over, and so is my two-month sabbatical from Fake Food Watch. 

(I spent my hiatus developing a sister project, LostAmericanRecipes.com, which features U.S. heritage recipes, both homespun and  hoity-toity, all without highly processed ingredients.  But I digress... )

For Starbucks aficionados. the demise of summer means the aromatic return of Pumpkin Spice Lattes, my favorite Fall concoction.  


Apparently nearly everyone's favorite Starbucks fare, judging by how early PSLs seasonally reappear at the coffee shop retailer with $15 billion in U.S.sales in 2013. (Yes, that's billion, not million!)

But this year, the burning PSL question is: To drink or not to drink?

Recently, a top health blogger shrilly berated Starbucks to "Stop putting toxic chemicals in your Pumpkin Spice Lattes," and sharply warned all of us to "think before we drink."  Her message went semi-viral in food digital circles.  

Are the blogger's complaints credible? She makes some good points. Other points, though. seem obvious and severely overstated.   Among her objections to Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes (and my brief reactions) are:

No actual pumpkin in PSLs - Someone thought there was actual pumpkin in PSLs? They didn't realize that flavored, sweet syrups are commonly used in beverages? The syrups openly displayed in every Starbucks on planet Earth?

"Toxic" dose of sugar - A grande (16 oz) PSL contains about 12 teaspoons (50 grams) of sugar.  That's a lot of sugar for anyone. But toxic?  Medically, maybe for diabetics.  For non-diabetics, depends on how loosely "toxic" is defined, and on each person's daily diet.  

Made with "Monsanto Milk" - Starbucks' suppliers use milk from "cows fed GMO corn, soy, and cottonseed."  All non-organic milk in the U.S. is from cows nurtured on GMO feed.  In fact, unless bearing the USDA Certified Organic label, organic milk might also trace back to cows fed GMO crops.  ("Monsanto Milk" is quite the slick phrase, I must admit.  Sounds scary but it's actually the norm in the U.S.)

Possible Pesticide Residue  - Always true for any crop, including coffee beans, that are not organic.  True of every non-organic coffee, which is most coffee sold worldwide.  Eating only organic is a personal choice. 

Caramel Color Level IV - Artificial food coloring is brewed from chemicals, and never carries nutritional benefits. Caramel food coloring is no exception.  Per this blogger's tiniest fine-print, "It's the most widely used food coloring in the world, which makes it easy to consume excessive amounts."    

She's correct that artificial coloring in anything can cause allergic reactions. Also, if ingested in inhumanly extreme amounts, some artificial ingredients can prove carcinogenic.  And indeed, "there are safer alternatives available to food manufacturers."

But toxic due to an occasional Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte? Hogwash. Near impossible

Ambiguous Natural Flavor -  The blogger gratuitously adds, "... that can be made from substances like petroleum." The same can be said for more than 95% of all processed foods, which represents about 90% of foods sold in supermarkets and 99% of fast food outlets.

Preservatives & Sulfites - Again, she's piling on scary superlatives.  The same can be said for more than 95% of all processed foods, which represents about 90% of foods sold in supermarkets and 99% of fast food outlets.

To Drink or Not to Drink?

I'm an unabashed supporter of organic foods, free of chemicals, additives, fillers, preservatives, and artificial colors and flavors.  I'm a staunch supporter of freedom of both informed choice and clear labeling of all ingredients.  

I'm also a supporter of commonsense, fact-based journalism.  I don't know much about this particular blogger, who glamorously prides herself on leading "investigations" to help "show you how to get the healthy body you want.

Others do hold strong views on this blogger though. Click here for an article by Science-Based Medicine.org, The Jenny McCarthy of Food: Enter the Font of Misinformation that is The Food Babe.

As for me, will I treat myself to an occasional Pumpkin Spice Latte? Of course. In fact, I'm heading to Starbucks right this moment for my delectable first PSL of the season!

Related Fake Food Reading

Starbucks: Trying Harder than Taco Bell to Do the Right Thing

Brouhaha in a Strawberry Frappuccino: Starbucks Tries to Get It Right But Falters


Monday, June 30, 2014

Top 15 Most Pesticide-Free Fruits, Vegetables

For freshest taste, always choose organic produce over non-organic grocery store produce, which is lavishly treated with chemicals to prolong shipping time and shelf life.  

Fifteen fruits and veggies grown conventionally, though, are largely free of pesticides, per the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) annual survey of the dirtiest and cleanest produce grown in the U.S. 

(The EWG publicly ranks results of USDA and FDA testing each year of 32,000 samples of 48 non-organic fruits and veggies commonly found in the U.S.  Click here for  "Pesticide-Ridden Produce: The 12 Most Infected Fruits, Vegetables.")

For these 2014 Clean Fifteen, there's no need to spend your hard-earned money on organic if your goal is to avoid ingesting the poisons of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.  

Noted the EWG about Clean Fifteen vegetables. "Detecting multiple pesticide residues is extremely rare... only about 5.5 percent... had two or more pesticides."  About fruits, the EWG reported, "No single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen tested positive for more than 4 pesticides."   (Yes, some of the dirtiest produce tested positive for up to 13 pesticides. One grape was found with residue of an incredible 15 pesticides...)

The Good News: Top 15 Produce Least Likely to be Infected with Pesticides

1.  Asparagus

2. Avocados - "Avocados were the cleanest; only 1 percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides."

3. Cabbage

4. Cantaloupe - 61 percent of cantaloupe tested had no pesticide residue.

5. Cauliflower

6. Eggplant

7. Grapefruit

8. Kiwi - 82 percent of kiwi tested had no pesticide residue.

9. Mangoes - 88 percent of mangoes tested had no pesticide residue.

10. Onions

11. Papayas - 80 percent of papayas tested had no pesticide residue.

12. Pineapples - 89 percent of pineapples tested had no pesticide residue.

13. Sweet corn

14. Sweet peas

15. Sweet potatoes

Avocados. Mangoes. Sweet corn. Pineapples.  Cantaloupes. Cabbage for cole slaw.  Sounds like the makings for a scrumptious summer party! 

Enjoy!!!  And pass the guacamole to me... 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Pesticide-Ridden Produce: The 12 Most Infected Fruits, Vegetables

Americans can slash most pesticide residue from their foods by replacing only the most pesticide-ridden produce with organic fruits and veggies, per the medical and public health communities.  

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently released its annual Dirty Dozen list, which publicly ranks results of USDA and FDA testing of 32,000 samples of 48 non-organic fruits and veggies commonly found in the U.S.  

(Note: The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit devoted to "research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability." The 22-year-old group's mission is "to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment.")

"Two-thirds of produce samples in recent government tests had pesticide residues," writes the EWG. "Don't want to eat bug- and weed-killers?... We highlight the cleanest and dirtiest conventionally-raised fruits and vegetables."  

Without further ado, the EWG's 2014 Dirty Dozen are listed below. 

Next week, check back for the EWG's 2014 Clean Fifteen, listing the most pesticide-free non-organic produce currently sold in the U.S. (Hint! Avocados are #1 cleanest.  Bring on that guacamole...)


EWG's 2014 Dirty Dozen - "Each of these foods contained a number of different pesticide residues and showed high concentrations of pesticides relative to other produce items."

1. Apples - "99% of apple samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue."

2. Celery - Single samples "tested positive for 13 different pesicides apiece."

3. Cherry TomatoesSingle samples "tested positive for 13 different pesticides apiece."

4. Cucumbers

5. Grapes - "A single grape tested positive for 15 pesticides."

6. Nectarines (imported only, not grown in the USA) - "Every sample of imported nectarines tested positive for at least one pesticide residue."

7. Peaches

8. Potatoes - "The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other food."

9. Snap Peas (imported only, not grown in the USA) - Single samples "tested positive for 13 different pesicides apiece."

10. Spinach

11. StrawberriesSingle samples "tested positive for 13 different pesicides apiece."

12. Sweet Bell Peppers

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Real Food" Diet Dilemma: Of Michael Pollan and the California Drought

The results are in, and to no thinking-person's surprise, the best diet is no diet at all.  The best diet is real food.

The top "best diets" were tested by Dr. David Katz of Yale's Prevention Research Center, and published in  scientific journal Annual Reviews:

"In it, they compare the major diets of the day: Low carb, low fat, low glycemic, Mediterranean, mixed/balanced (DASH), Paleolithic, vegan, and elements of other diets. Despite the pervasiveness of these diets in culture and media, Katz and Meller write, 'There have been no rigorous, long-term studies comparing contenders for best diet laurels using methodology that precludes bias and confounding. For many reasons, such studies are unlikely.' 
"They conclude that no diet is clearly best, but there are common elements across eating patterns that are proven to be beneficial to health. 'A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.'" (source - The Atlantic, March 24, 2014)
Just like Michael Pollan advised when he penned simply "Eat food. Not too much. Mainly plants." in slim best-seller Food Rules: An Eater's Manual.


Just like New York Times columnist Mark Bittman reiterated when he recently proclaimed "Butter is back!" in response to an Annals of Internal Medicine article comparing 72 nutrition science studies:
"... the real villains in our diet — sugar and ultra-processed foods — are becoming increasingly apparent. You can go back to eating butter, if you haven’t already.
"This doesn’t mean you abandon fruit for beef and cheese; you just abandon fake food for real food, and in that category of real food you can include good meat and dairy." (source - New York Times, March 25, 2014)

All well and good. Americans seem to finally be grasping that good food supports good health. And that highly processed industrial-made fake foods have a negative impact on health. 

But Houston, we still have a problem.  


Just as Americans relearn to appreciate real food, especially fruits and veggies, a profound shortage of US-grown produce is developing... and for a reason that most Americans selfishly believe doesn't affect them: the massive California drought.  


California produces the vast majority of U.S.-grown produce, including:  

  • 99% of walnuts
  • 99% of almonds
  • 99% of artichokes
  • 97% of plums
  • 97% of apricots
  • 96% of nectarines
  • 96% of olives
  • 95% of celery
  • 90% of broccoli
  • 89% of cauliflower
  • 89% of strawberries
  • 88% of lemons
  • 76% of avocados
  • 71% of spinach
  • 69% of carrots
The  U.S. Midwest mainly farms three crops... corn, soybeans, and grains... to be used for highly-processed industrial-made foods. Midwest farmers are richly rewarded by mega-corporations and subsidized by Congress for focusing on fodder for fast and processed foods manufactured in the U.S. 

So most of America is heavily dependent on California for its harvest of fruits and vegetables in order to chow-down a "real food" diet.  

"The loss of California’s output would create a dire situation for at least a decade" observed Slate.com.

And this week, NBC News reported, "California's severe drought is causing a drastic increase in food prices."

What's the Solution?
What's the solution to make a "real food" diet reality for all Americans?  The long-tern solutions are political, simple and painfully obvious:
  • The federal government should stop spending billions annually to subsidize crops for the processed food-like products made by mega-corporations.
  • Instead, the federal government should put its money where its health-conscious mouth is, and subsidize fruits and vegetables, and high-quality dairy and meat  intended for direct sale to U.S. consumers.
  • California farmers should receive maximum possible government support to help stay afloat and hydrated during this drought crisis. 
In the short term, what's a smart consumer to do to afford a healthier "real food" diet for her loved ones?
  • Buy real foods, rather than processed food products, as much as practicable. Prices are often lower at farmer's markets. 
  • Conserve,don't waste foods.
  • Grow a garden in your yard, in balcony and patio pots and planters,  or community patch. 
And remember: ""Eat food. Not too much. Mainly plants." 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Lucky Charms: Poster Child for Industrial Junk Food? Fat Profits, Fat Kids

Lucky Charms manufacturer, General Mills, is celebrating the sugar-laden cereal's 50th birthday this year. 

Well, why shouldn't mega-corporation General Mills celebrate? Lucky Charms is the 10th best selling cereal in the U.S., a stand-out milestone in a lucrative product field of hundreds upon hundreds of breakfast cereals. Very few fake foods have achieved such lofty sales volumes. 

And after half a century on supermarket shelves, Lucky Charms sales are surging.  Reported Businessweek about first quarter 2013:
"IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, estimates that Lucky Charms sales this year are up 14.5 percent to $145.9 million so far. By contrast, the company’s overall U.S. sales were up just 2 percent in the latest quarter and 1 percent in fiscal 2013."
A reason for the newest upsurge in Lucky Charms' popularity? Adults, who were targeted in clever new marketing campaigns. "The company claims more than 40 percent of Lucky Charms eaters are adults," per Businessweek.
"'We know that adults have always loved Lucky Charms and by reconnecting them with the brand, we have reignited their love of one of their favorite things from childhood,' says Carla Vernon, General Mills’ marketing director for Lucky Charms." (source - Businessweek)
Exuded another marketing guru about Lucky Charms' 50th birthday:
"For 50 years, Lucky Charms has been delighting kids and kids at heart with our wonderful combination of frosted toasted oats and magical marshmallows," Jenny Zechmeister, marketing manager for Lucky Charms, told HLN" (source - HLNTV, a Time-Warner Company)
What was General Mills thinking?
 As I pondered the appalling public health impact of this beloved "cereal" fake food comprised of 37% sugar and a plethora of artificial colors and flavors, I wondered... 
  • What was General Mills ("GM") thinking when it created Lucky Charms? 
  • Was child nutrition or public health ever seriously considered? 
  • Or is Lucky Charms the perfect poster child for industrial-made junk food aimed solely at maximum corporate profitability? 
Seems that Lucky Charms was created on a dare in 1962 by GM Research Labs to Vice-President John Holahan. A business dare to create a new product in six months, rather than the usual two to three years, and for that product to use existing manufacturing  capacity at its Cheerios or Wheaties plants.  

While perusing supermarket aisles, Holahan conjured the idea of combining Cheerios with bits of Brach's bright orange Circus Peanuts marshmallow candy.    Per Dr. Tracy Tuten, marketing professor at East Carolina University:
"The General Mills cereal scientists worked with the Kraft marshmallow scientists to develop a cereal marshmallow with the right properties. The Circus peanuts had much more water content than most cereal pieces. They had to develop a marshmallow with low water content that would last on the store shelves for months... The new extrusion process also allowed them to form shapes and different colors..." (source - TracyTuten.com, July 5, 2013)
Three enthusiastic focus groups of mothers and their young children, and GM ignored its normal product-development protocol process to rush Lucky Charms into supermarkets across the nation.  Exuded one mother, "If it keeps the kids quiet and happy at breakfast, bring it on!"

Marbits, short for marshmallow bits, are and always have been 25% of Lucky Charms cereal. But that apparently wasn't enough sugar to "keep the kids happy at breakfast."  
"The oat cereal was not originally sugar coated. After initial sales failed to meet expectations, the oats were sugar coated, and the cereal's success grew. The recipe for the cereal remained unchanged until the introduction of a new flavor: Chocolate Lucky Charms, in 2005...
"Following the product launch, the General Mills marketing department found that sales performed dramatically better if the composition of the marbits changed periodically. Various features of the marbits were modified to maximize their appeal to young consumers. In focus groups and market research, more brightly colored charms resulted in better sales than did dull or pastel colors. Holahan called Lucky Charms a 'lesson in creative marketing.'" (source - Wikipedia)
The answers to my three questions appear to be... 
What was General Mills ("GM") thinking when it created Lucky Charms? 
  • Cut product development time by 70%
  • Not incur additional manufacturing facilities costs
  • Long store shelf life
  • Something super-sugary to please the palate
  • Something fun to attract and amuse kids
  • "Creative marketing" to spur sales
Was child nutrition or public health ever seriously considered?  No, apparently neither played any role whatsoever in GM's creation of Lucky Charms cereal.

Is Lucky Charms the perfect poster child for industrial-made junk food aimed solely at maximum corporate profitability? That's the logical conclusion

What is General Mills celebrating?
So what, exactly, is General Mills celebrating when it joyously marks the 50th birthday of its Lucky Charms cereal product line?    

Clever marketing, especially to children. Very long sales life. Addictively sugary taste, ensuring repeat buyers. Fast-track product development. Hefty profits for mega-corporation General Mills.  

Nutrition for kids be damned. Public health be damned. Mere impediments to corporate profits from Lucky Charms, perfect poster child for industrial-made junk food.  

Happy Birthday to Lucky Charms for 50 years of fat profits and fat kids! 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Starbucks: Trying Harder than Taco Bell to Do the Right Thing

Give Starbucks credit for offering options to the public for better quality fast food. 

Starbucks really does try harder than most fast foodies to offer some fare that's healthier, and less laden with sugar, fat, and salt.  

I'm not talking about Starbucks' endless array of delectable cakes, muffins, pastries, doughnuts, and super-sized cookies, of course.  Coffee culture will always serve sweet bakery goods with aromatic java, thankfully regardless of the Food Police.  

Consider Starbucks' newest menu offering, the Vegetable & Fontiago Breakfast Sandwich,  a 470-calorie vegetarian meal made of:

  • a fried egg
  • a fusion of Asiago and Fontina cheeses
  • small amounts of fresh spinach and caramelized onions
  • sun-dried tomato spread
  • all on a multigrain ciabatta roll

Contrast that with Taco Bell's new breakfast concoction set to debut on March 27:  a sugary waffle, tucked taco-style around a greasy sausage patty, topped with scrambled eggs, then drizzled with Taco Bell's orange liquid cheese.  Optional "syrup" packet for dipping. No nutritional info has yet been released publicly, for good reason. Although anyone ordering this fat-sugar-salt bomb is unconcerned with balancing their diet... 

I tasted Starbucks' Vegetable & Fontiago Breakfast Sandwich, and thought it satisfying and delicious with Mediterrenean flavor. The bread was fresh, the cheese was evenly melted, and the veggies and sauce tasted tangy, not dull.  

This is hardly farm-to-table fresh produce, mind you, much less organic or non-GMO foods. The pale-yellow egg was obviously pre-formed. And at 910 mg of sodium, this new menu item contains nearly 40% of recommended daily salt intake for an adult. 

Cooking this breakfast at home, using organic produce, farm-fresh eggs, and artisan cheese and bread, is certainly a better and more additive-free choice.  But on busy weekdays, who has time for toiling in the kitchen?

Give Starbucks credit for offering the public options for better quality fast food.  

U.S. public health would be greatly improved if all fast food mega-corporations... especially Taco Bell, McDonald's, and Carl's Jr/Hardee's... made more serious attempts at higher quality menu options, as does Starbucks.  

I say, when faced with a choice, take your fast food business to Starbucks. Let's reward those corporations trying harder to do the right thing nutritionally.