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,, 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, 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

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 -, 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. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Taco Bell Salad: Why No Warning Label for Lethal Salt Content?

"Beware the killer salad" sounds like the title of a bad movie or shrill invective from yet another annoying Food Puritan. 

Hear me out, though.  For children, aging seniors, and sensitive and ailing individuals, heavy doses of some fast and processed foods can be downright deadly. 

Take, for instance, Taco Bell's Fiesta Taco Salad, my 86 year old father-in-law's favorite go-to fast food.

He relishes the dish because it tastes delicious to him. Because it satisfies his hankering for salty and savory. Because a "salad" seems healthier. Because eating fast food dotted with shreds of tomato and lettuce feels more nutritionally virtuous than quaffing other Taco Bell choices. 

Recently, Dad was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and experienced pulmonary edema (i.e. fluid in his lungs).  After a five-day hospital stay, he's home and on the fragile mend. But he must make vital lifestyle changes, especially a rethinking of his food choices.  

Salt is his nemesis. He must radically curtail his salt intake or fluids will again overtake his lungs and hijack his health.    This for a man who's enjoyed blessedly robust health for 86 years. Who's never needed to learn about nutrition, or been advised to cut back on... well, anything. 

He believes that cutting back on salt means not salting food at meals, and using less salt in cooking.  Like most Americans, Dad is blissfully unaware of massive amounts of salt hidden in fast, processed, and restaurant foods.  

Sure, he understands that his beloved nacho-flavored Doritos are salty. But a salad?  Salads are good for you, right? 

Under the guise of healthy, restaurants and fast food outlets rely on public ignorance to push a panoply of salt-laden "salads" dripping with fatty condiments and sugary-filled dressings.  (See KFC, Jack-in-Box, McDonald's: Legal Deception on "Healthy" Choices .)

And, for Taco Bell's Fiesta Taco Salad, nestled in a scrumptious, deep-fried pastry shell.   The Fiesta Taco Salad - Beef boasts 1,590 mg of salt, equal to:
  • 10 orders of McDonald's small fries, or
  • 5 Jack-in-the-Box crunchy tacos,or
  • 3.5 large servings of movie theater popcorn
If Dad now regularly partakes of his favorite Taco Bell Fiesta Taco Salad, his health will deteriorate. And yes, he has been cautioned by doctors and nurses that too much salt intake can be deadly for congestive heart failure patients.  

 For children, aging seniors, and sensitive and ailing individuals, heavy doses of some fast and processed foods can be downright deadly. 

I ask you....

Why are these salt-bomb weapons of human-health destruction not required to carry warning labels? 

Why are industrial mega-corporations allowed to knowingly hawk unhealthy food products to the public, with no accompanying public warnings?

How is this different than legally mandated warning labels for cigarettes or alcohol? 

"Beware the killer salad" may sound like the title of a bad movie or shrill invective from yet another annoying Food Puritan. But for some people, deceptively salty, sugary, fatty fast-food salads can prove lethal.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Chick-Fil-A, Subway, Kraft, Cheerios: Changes Made at Public Demand

More good news that public opinion is working to force mega-corporations to make their highly processed food products healthier. 

Last month, I reported that public sentiment recently pressured manufacturers and retailers to begin taking bold steps to label or halt using GMO ingredients and foods

  • Target quietly introduced its "Simply Balanced" brand of USDA-certified organic products.
  • General Mills altered original Cheerios to include only non-GMO ingredients
  • Whole Foods will no longer sell Chobani yogurt because of "the yogurt maker’s use of milk from cows whose feed is derived from genetically engineered crops."
Now comes terrific news of dozens more changes to highly processed foods... changes to remove ingredients that never belonged in healthy foods.  Among these welcome changes...

Kraft Singles, manufactured since 1949 by Kraft Foods. will shed artificial preservative sorbic acid, to be replaced by natamycin, which Kraft dubs as "natural." The European Union, which has notoriously higher food standards than the USDA, has approved natamycin for use in cheeses.  

"Consumers are looking for those less artificial cues and messages. Those messages are more meaningful to consumers than they have been in the past." observed Gavin Schmidt, manager of cheese research and development at Kraft.

Eliminating artificial preservatives won't make Kraft Singles devoid of chemicals or a real, rather than fake, food. But it's a definite step in the right direction for Americans' health. 

Subway, the world's largest fast food restaurant, is removing a chemical, azodicarbonamide, from its breads, in response to public outcry started by one astute blogger's petition. The chemical is used as a dough conditioner, but is  also found in yoga mats, shoe rubber, and synthetic leathers.  

Azodicarbonamide is banned from foods in Europe and Australia, but classified as "safe" by the USDA. Per the World Health Organization:
"Case reports and epidemiological studies in humans have produced abundant evidence that azodicarbonamide can induce asthma, other respiratory symptoms, and skin sensitization in exposed workers."    
Center for Science in Public Interest studies show that when the chemical is baked in bread it creates the carcinogen urethane and "leads to slightly increased levels of urethane in bread that pose a small risk to humans."

Removing one chemical from the many dozens hidden in Subway sandwiches doesn't make its fare much healthier.  But removal does make their bread less of a risk for health-sensitive consumers.  (Read Subway's Chemical-Laced Sandwiches: Fooled by the Look, Taste of Freshness.)

Chick-Fil-A announced that within five years, they will serve only chickens raised without antibiotics. This commitment will command extraordinary effort since more than 90% of all chickens destined for U.S. consumption are grown in factory farms heavily dependent on antibiotics. Chick-Fil-A sales topped $5 billion in 2013.  Enthused management:
"When the people who matter most to you ask you to do something important --- you listen. So when our customers started asking us about antibiotics in chicken, we began exploring our options....
"This is why we are collaborating with national and regional poultry suppliers to build a supply chain based on chickens raised with no antibiotics. We are asking suppliers to work with the USDA to verify that antibiotics are never administered from the hatchery to the processing plant...Changes like these take time, but we believe this is the next step in honoring our heritage and our continued commitment to service and quality."
Change Dictated by People, Not Political Leaders

Federal and state political leaders have failed to keep the U.S. food supply clean of chemicals, additives, emulsifiers, stabilizers, and artificial flavors and colors deemed unsafe and unfit for eating in much of the world, and certainly in all other developed, democratic countries.

But business market forces, fueled by public buying decisions, are exerting massive pressure on industrial fake-food mega-corporations to change their highly processed ways.    

McDonalds, for instance, rang-up surprisingly sluggish sales for the fourth quarter of 2013, amid reports that it's "losing customers, as the world's largest hamburger chain struggles to attract diners with its higher-priced sandwiches and new offerings like Mighty Wings." 

Cited as the reason for falling sales at McDonald's? "A shift in eating habits toward foods people feel are fresher or healthier," per AP. "We've lost some of our relevance" lamented McDonald's CEO Don Thompson

So far, healthy changes have been minuscule to the U.S. food supply by major corporations. A mere French fry on a mountain of McDonald's finest fried GMO spuds. 

But the trend is good news! And made all the more good and powerful because, we, the people, are in charge. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Fake Food Products Endorsed by Doctors: Bogus Claims, Empty Promises?

Be wary of food products endorsed by doctors. Very wary!

"When you see a product that's endorsed by a doctor, keep in mind that the doctor is probably being paid for that endorsement, just as if he were an athlete or an actor, so take it with a grain of salt," warned one local TV station

The medical establishment can be seduced by money to hawk all manner of questionable products, from dangerous prescription drugs to processed breakfast cereals, quasi-useless supplements, and genetically modified foods. Yes, even cigarettes, years ago. 

Not all in the medical establishment can be enticed by all-expenses-paid junkets, pricey speaking engagements, meals and gifts, scads of free samples, and various forms of direct payments.  

But sadly, far too many succumb to financial temptation from vendors with something to sell.

Ensure Drinks, Supplements
For example, take Ensure "nutrition drinks" and "meal supplements," which are manufactured by Abbott Nutrition, part of Big Pharma corporate giant Abbott Laboratories.   Abbott Labs  is the maker of addictive painkiller Vicodin and dozens of other highly profitable drugs.

"#1 doctor recommended brand" blares on the label of every bottle of Ensure's various nutrition drinks.  Yet, Ensure is formulated mainly of sugar and water, spiked with innumerable chemicals, and loaded with preservatives, additives, and artificial flavorings and colors. 

Writes the editor of of Ensure:
".. the top two ingredients in Ensure are almost identical to the top two ingredients in soft drinks! ... the top four ingredients (are): water, sugar, corn syrup and maltodextrin. That's basically three sweeteners and water. So if you were trying to be funny, you could call this product 'sugar-sugar-sugar-water,' because that is primarily what it's made of, according to the ingredients label... So essentially, what you have here with Ensure, is a predominantly sugar-water product that has been fortified with a few vitamins and minerals. 
"The phrase, 'Complete, balanced, nutrition,' in my personal opinion, is an outright lie. This product has nothing resembling complete, balanced nutrition..."

In 2012, sales of Ensure and Glucerna, its diabetic alternative to Ensure, were almost $2 billion.... thanks mainly to credibility lent to the products by many in the medical establishment. 

(Read Ensure Drink: Sugary Fake Food Pseudo-Wonder Tonic by Vicodin Maker for more.)

Wheaties Fuel Cereal
Another example is Wheaties Fuel cereal, introduced by General Mills in 2009, which based its appeal on endorsement by "Dr. John Ivy, a world-renowned expert on the role of nutrition and exercise performance." Commented Dr. Ivy, a professor at University of Texas, Austin who is associated with many consumer products:
"We’ve learned a lot about the bond between nutrition and performance over the years and as today’s athletes continue to get bigger, faster and stronger, it was important to develop a cereal that evolved along with them,”
Five years later, Wheaties Fuel is hard to find, and for good reason: this cereal aimed at athletes is more costly, and yet, is essentially no healthier than run-of-the-mill Wheaties cereal. Maybe less healthy for most people... 

Critiqued in 2010:
"As someone who is big on nutrition and an obsessive label-reader, one thing is obvious: Wheaties Fuel is basically Wheaties with more fat and sugar.
"Regular Wheaties is a pretty simple cereal with only five ingredients: Whole grain wheat, sugar, salt, corn syrup and trisodium phosphate. One serving (3/4 cup) has 100 calories, .5 grams of fat, 4 grams of sugar, 15 grams of other carbs, 3 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein, along with some added vitamins. Wheaties Fuel, in contrast, loads up on the sugar, with some added fat.... Fourteen grams of sugar per serving is a lot for anyone who cares about their nutrition."
Miracle Foods from Obscure Ingredients
You've heard them hawked on infomercials and the internet, via multi-level marketing orgs... Acai berry, olive leaf extract, raspberry ketones... 

Here's another: Skyfruit, touted as...
"... only largely found in tropical areas in the South Pacific where its cleanest and unspoiled places like Solomon Islands. The people there have consumed Skyfruit internally for over 1000 years. It is known as the queen of plants and knowledge of its healthful properties has been handed down from generation to generation to the present day. Common in the South Pacific, Sky Fruit is also found in small quantity in other tropical areas of the world." promotes  that its "Herb Food Concentrate is made from 100% natural Skyfruit that is being advanced bio-technologically processed and prepared. The quality of XKLCare?products has earned worldwide recognition.? 

Testimonials? Of course, with claims of relief from inflammation, hypertension, backache, skin peeling,  asthma, even diabetes. 

Doctor endorsements? Absolutely. Five, including glowing statements:
  • "We desperately need XKLCare™ product. Instead of waiting for your health care ship to come in, with this product you're already aboard."
  • "It is with joy and pride that I endorseXKLCare™ product, the world's most potent natural food supplement."
  • ""If you think XKLCare™ product is expensive, try disease. Based on the preventive effect and strong antioxidant activity of XKLCare™ product, I would like to say that it is indeed the most incredible dietary supplement I have ever come across."

Be wary of products endorsed by doctors!  Don 't buy into the credibility lent to quasi-healthy fake-food products by doctors and other medical professionals seeking to fill their coffers.  

If tempted, do your homework. Check out both the medical professional and the product via a simple Google searches. And read the labels, friends. Be your own informed advocate.