Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Autism and GMO Foods, Pesticides, Industrial Foods

Many scientists and experts, and a 2011 medical study, have connected the accusatory dots from the alarming rise of autism in U.S. children to the explosive growth of genetically modified foods, industrial-made foods, and pesticides in U.S. diets and homes.  

Scientific American reported in 2009:
"California's sevenfold increase in autism cannot be explained by changes in doctors' diagnoses and most likely is due to environmental exposures, University of California scientists reported Thursday.
"The scientists who authored the new study advocate a nationwide shift in autism research to focus on potential factors in the environment that babies and fetuses are exposed to, including pesticides, viruses and chemicals in household products..."
Facts and Statements - Autism, Diet and Bt-toxins
  • "The average rate of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among eight year olds is now 1-in-88, representing a 78 percent increase between 2002 and 2008. Among boys, the rate is nearly five times the prevalence found in girls."  (Source - Center for Disease Control)
  • "It is known that children on the Autistic Spectrum suffer from fragile immune systems, significant digestive and brain inflammation, and the environmental toxin overload. Putting foreign entities such as GMO foods into such a fragile child may indeed cause further deterioration..." (Source - Dr. Janelle Love of the Autism Relief Foundation)
  • "The five main GM foods are soy, corn, cotton, canola, and sugar beets. Their derivatives are found in more than 70 percent of the foods in the supermarket. The primary reason the plants are engineered is to allow them to drink poison... Some GM corn and cotton varieties are also designed to produce poison...called Bt-toxin, in every cell of the plant. " (Source - HuffPost Healthy Living)
  • " A 2011 Canadian study... discovered that 93% of the pregnant women they tested had Bt-toxin from Monsanto’s corn in their blood. And so did 80% of their unborn fetuses."  (Source - Institute for Responsible Technology)

  • "GMOs have been shown to adversely affect the digestive and immune systems of animals in laboratory settings. Lyme and autism, on the rise in the US, are also associated with digestive and immune system dysfunction. Therefore, patients with Lyme and autism should avoid GM foods." (Source - Dr. Amy Dean of The American Academy of Environmental Medicine)

In a well-researched 2012 article, The Center for Responsible Technology reported:

"What is it that is damaging the health and well-being of so many of our children? Don Huber, PhD, professor emeritus from Purdue University, has an idea.
"In October 2011, Dr. Huber gave a talk in Germany about the physiological, neurological, and behavioral symptoms of pigs, cows, and rats fed genetically modified feed. After his lecture, a physician and autism specialist approached him and said, “The symptoms you describe are exactly what we are finding in our autistic children.”
"The animals in those studies were fed the same GM soy and corn eaten by children and adults in the US. Both crops are outfitted with bacterial genes that allow them to survive being sprayed with herbicide, which kills plants. As a result, higher residues of toxic weed killer end up inside our food...
Although the biotech seed companies like Monsanto claim that their genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are harmless, that’s not what the independent scientists are finding."
A peer-reviewed medical study, released in April 2012, clearly linked the "autism epidemic" with industrial food-product ingredients, especially high fructose corn syrup. Such ingredients were found to exert toxic influences on developing brains in unborn and young children.  

(Read study results HERE at the National Institutes of Health website, and a detailed explanation HERE at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

Blaming Parents and Genetics, Ignoring Environmental Factors

Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a University of California, Davis epidemiology professor, agrees with millions of parents of autistic children that federal officials and industrial food corporations over-blame genetics and parenting, while virtually ignoring environmental forces as contributing factors to the astonishing spread of autism in U.S. children.

"There's genetics and there's environment. And genetics don't change in such short periods of time," commented Dr. Hertz-Picciotto to the press.

Dr. Arden Andersen, physician as well as author, soil scientist,  and former farmer, states it more bluntly:  "It appears there is a direct correlation between GMOs and autism." 

  • Why does the U.S., via the USDA, condone, protect, and support GMO crops and foods?
  • Why has the US not joined more than 50 other countries in mandating that GMO foods be clearly labeled for consumers?
  • Why does the U.S. Congress provide tens of billions in annual cash payments mainly to farmers who grow five GMO crops that comprise the basic ingredients of U.S. industrial foods?  (Read What Are U.S. Farm Subsidies?)
Why is the U.S. government not actively investigating links between the alarming rise of autism in U.S. children and the explosive growth of genetically modified foods, industrial-made foods, and pesticides in U.S. diets and homes?

Why is our elected government protecting industrial food corporations over public health? Over the very health of our children?    

America's ailing children desperately need solutions, and answers to these terrible questions.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Gaudy New Frito-Lay Chips Embody Wrongs of U.S. Industrial Foods

Three gaudy new Lay's potato chip shock-and-awe flavors embody all that's destructive and wrong and seductively delicious about U.S. industrial foods. 

Frito-Lay, Inc. is betting millions that these taste-exploding snacks will be the next red-hot must-buy in grocery markets, convenience stores, and gas stations nationwide.  If U.S. culinary history since the 1950s is any guide, Frito-Lay is likely correct.  

These chips, the brash embodiment of fake food in all its tasteless glory, would be an addictive party-and-a-half for junk food aficionados.  I should know... I sampled all three flavors after my son picked-up giveaways pushed this past weekend at a major supermarket chain.  (Click here for Lay's "Vote to Save Your Fave" contest at Facebook.) 

In extraordinary new bestseller "Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us"Pulitzer Prize journalist Michael Moss writes of two corporate suppliers of key ingredients to American junk-food manufacturers:
"These were no run-of-the-mill ingredients... These were the three pillars of processed foods, the creators of crave, and each of the CEOS needed them in huge quantities to turn their products into hits. These were also the ingredients  that, more than any other, were directly responsible for the obesity epidemic.  Together, the two suppliers had...
  • the salt, which was processed in dozens of ways to maximize the jolt that taste buds would feel with the very first bite;
  •  they had the fats, which delivered the biggest loads of calories and worked more subtly in inducing people to overeat;
  •  and they had the sugar, whose raw power in exciting the brain made it perhaps the most formidable ingredient of all, dictating the formulations of products from one side of the grocery to the other."
Author Moss recounts in lurid, well-documented detail how Kraft, Nestle, General Mills, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Mars, and other industrial food corporations used tobacco industry marketing tactics to addict Americans to radically unhealthy foods laden with salt, fat, and sugar.   

Moss also describes the extreme addiction of industrial food corporations to rich, near-endless profits reaped by junk foods that are making Americans fat and sick... and how the U.S. government is too cozy with industrial food executives and lobbyists to stop the sickening of America. 

Notes the New York Times review of this book:
"Virtually everything you can buy in a supermarket that’s not an outer-aisle pure food like milk or kohlrabi has been fiddled with to make you shiver with bliss — which will in turn make you buy the product again and again."
I'm awestruck by the shameless, in-your-face brass of Frito-Lay in testing and releasing these three grotesquely over-the-top junk foods in the face of First Lady Michelle Obama's courageous three-year campaign to urge American children to eat more veggies and fruits, and less unhealthy fare.   

Yes, I'm awestruck at the corporate gall of unleashing these aggressively unhealthy snacks. 

But I'm also quite awestruck by the absolutely awesome taste of Lay's Chicken & Waffles flavored potato chips.  (I confess: see my empty bag, at right!)

Therein lies the deadly diet dilemma for us and our children and grandchildren. For the very vitality of our nation. 

Something needs to be done. Something needs to change. 

My suggestion? Make better food choices. Don't buy these scrumptious snacks that are intentionally designed to hook you and yours into a deadly, delicious cigarette-like habit. Just say NO. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mayor Bloomberg's Silly, Arbitrary Ban on Soft Drinks: Public Health Politics Run Amok

Mayor Bloomberg is wrong, and State Supreme Court Judge Tingling is right: Bloomberg's New York City ban on sales of certain sugar-loaded drinks larger than 16 ounces IS "arbitrary and capricious." His ban is also ineffective and unenforceable.

Besides, governments have no damn business dictating what Americans drink, much less mandating drink quantities allowable for public consumption. 

Mind you... I detest soft drinks, which are little more than chemicals, additives, fillers, food coloring, caffeine, salt (sodium), and sugar or a chemical sugar-substitute. I neither buy nor consume soft drinks, nor serve them in my home. To me, they taste harsh and metallic... Soft drinks are the ultimate industrial fake food.  

We've known for decades that sugar-loaded soft drinks are a key contributor to the U.S. obesity epidemic, as well as weight-related diseases as diabetes Type 2,  dental decay, heart ailments, even cancers.    (Recent studies have linked sugar-free soft drinks to health concerns, too, including weight gain and metabolic syndrome, which is pre-diabetes.) 

The Mayor is obviously correct: soft drinks are bad for human health. But his ban is sillly, and it's insanely arbitrary and capricious. 

As I wrote in June 2012 in Silly Food Facism Mayor Bloomberg's edict banning large-size soft drinks is a classic case of arbitrary bureaucratic silliness and of patronizing nanny-state law-making.  Public health politics run amok. 

The Mayor wants to make it a minor crime for restaurants,  theaters, sports venues, fast-food purveyors, even food carts and kiosks to sell sugar-laced drinks... soft drinks, sports and energy beverages... in containers larger than 16 ounces. 

But Mr. Bloomberg provides a plethora of bewildering exceptions, including: 

  • Convenience stores, including 7-Eleven, home of the Big Gulp and Super Big Gulp
  • Grocery stores and markets of all types
  • Vending machines
  • Newsstands
  • Soft drinks with fewer than 25 calories per 8 ounces
  • Fruit drinks
  • Beverages containing dairy products
  • Beverages containing alcohol
No bans are planned for buying more than one 16-ounce cup, for refilling your existing cup, or for filling to the brim your own mega-size non-disposable drink holder. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

New Nabisco Triscuits: We Made a Real-Food Dent in Industrial Fake Foods!

Holy healthy foods!!!  They hear us. And they're making  product changes to appease and please us! 

Our Real Food movement is apparently having an impact on at least one  industrial fake-food manufacturing mega-corporation.

Just imagine! A brand-new Nabisco cracker line obviously created to appeal to shoppers looking for products made with real foods, and not concocted with chemicals, additives, fillers, stabilizers, and dozens of fake-food  industrial ingredients.  

I found this box (see at right) in a special display at Stater Bros, a major 167-store grocery chain. Not at a health food store, not some expensive specialty-foods store. A typical chain grocery store, albeit one that does try a bit harder to also stock better-quality fare (expanded organic produce sections, La Brea Bakery breads, a to-go salad bar).  

Mind you... Triscuits are a snack food, and not equivalents of fruits and veggies, which are better food choices.  These crackers are not fortified with vitamins and minerals essential to anyone's health. Nutritionists would still apply the "empty calories" tag to Nabisco's Brown Rice line of Triscuits. (Three sugars are among the ingredients, below.)

But all Americans indulge in snacks. These particular snacks appear to be largely free of the cheapest, nastiest non-food chemicals and fillers, unlike almost all processed snack foods. 

That, alone, would be huge health news. That, alone, is a signal that the Real Food movement is starting to impact the U.S. food supply.

Invoking a "Health Halo" Effect
Per the requisite Nutrition Facts label,  ingredients of Brown Rice Triscuits Baked with Sweet Potato are:

  • Long grain brown rice
  • Soybean oil
  • Whole grain soft white wheat 
  • Dried sweet potato
  • Onion powder
  • Brown sugar
  • Sweet potato powder
  • Sea salt
  • Sugar
  • Garlic powder
  • Dried molasses
  • Dried parsley
  • Yeast extract
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Citric acid
The ingredients sound appealing, like ingredients you and I might use in our kitchens. Which, of course, is Nabisco's whole marketing point: to invoke a much-desired "health halo" effect for this new Brown Rice line of Triscuits, thereby achieving their sole goal of increasing sales and profits. 

The box of Brown Rice Triscuits Baked with Sweet Potato is festooned with Real Food marketing goodness:
"Triscuits... delicious... real food snacks. Made with delicious real food ingredients."
"We start with 100% WHOLE GRAIN BROWN RICE & WHEAT and bake in real food ingredients such as pieces of delicious golden SWEET POTATOES or savory RED BEANS."
I sheepishly confess... the new cracker tastes terrific, although a tad too salty.  I like the lighter texture and crispier crunch better than traditional Triscuits.  I'm sure the four other flavors available at Stater Bros also taste terrific. Industrial-made snack foods are always engineered to taste absolutely terrific.  

 Is this the entire ingredient list? I don't know. 

Are any of the ingredients laced with chemicals, additives, fillers, stabilizers? I don't know. Probably yes, since the box has no spoilage date and does not indicate "no preservatives."
Is this a healthy snack? No, of course not.  Nuts, fruits, veggies, cheeses are far healthier snack choices.  Nutritionists lament "health halo" snacks because they fear that...
"...people eat so much more of the ever-so-slightly less awful, so-called 'better for you' choice that they actually eat more in the way of calories, or salt, or sugar than they would have had they chosen that food's blatantly junky brother." (Source - U.S. News and World Report Health: Why Baked Chips are Worse Than Fried)
As a Real Food advocate, though, I celebrate Nabisco's new Brown Rice product line of Triscuit crackers.   

This new product that sounds seemingly near-free of industrial ingredients means we are that having an impact on industrial fake-food manufacturing mega-corporations... in this instance, Nabisco, which is owned by Kraft Foods, conveniently renamed recently as Mondelez International. 

Making one tiny dent in product formulation strategies for industrial fake-food corporations is cause for celebration. 

Certainly, it's only the very beginning of what will be a long crusade to clean-up the health-shattering morass of U.S. industrial-made foods... but I feel encouraged. They hear us. And they're finally making  product changes to appease and please us! 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

How to Avoid Eating Horse Meat, Other Mystery Meats

Surprised by horse meat in the world food supply? Then you're not paying attention...  

If you eat frozen or processed dishes, whether at home or restaurants, chances are good that you consume mislabeled mystery meat with murky, unappetizing origins. 

U.S. meat inspection laws have been diluted over the past few years for imported meats.  And U.S. loopholes for stealth use of imported mystery meats are larger than a truckload of cattle headed for the slaughterhouse. 

Europe's 2013 horse meat scandal may be the proverbial "canary in the coal mine" for processed foods in the U.S., signaling troubling revelations to come about the "meats" in frozen entrees, processed meat products, and your favorite fast food fare.  

Food fraud in meat is nothing new, although we rarely learn the sordid details hidden from the public. Irish Times newspaper recently recounted:
"Most people thought we were entering uncharted territory when it emerged that horse meat had been found in burgers and other beef products. But there was a sense of deja vu for anyone who remembered the Australian meat scandal of 1981.
"It was revealed by an alert food inspector in San Diego who thought that three frozen blocks of Australian beef looked darker and stringier than they should. His instinct was right: it emerged that horse, donkey and kangaroo meat, masquerading as beef, were being exported to the US.
"Papers released last November after a 30-year freedom-of-information battle by the journalist Jack Waterford showed that the scandal was bigger than originally thought, with meat destined for pet food being sold for human consumption.
"'The flesh of donkeys, goats, kangaroos, buffaloes and horses, killed in the field and without regard to any consideration of hygiene . . . was used indiscriminately to produce food for human consumption,' said an appendix to a report into the issue."
IKEA meatballs, Taco Bell tacos, Birds Eye spaghetti bolognese, frozen entrees as lasagnas, moussakas, and shepherd's pies... the list of horse-meat tainted foods found in 2013 in Europe grows daily. 

Of course, that's because European countries are intentionally testing for improperly labeled meats, and publicly releasing results of testing.  

Is the U.S. Testing Imported Meats?

Is the U.S. testing for mislabeled meats at U.S. grocery stores and food purveyors?   Uh... sort of. Sometimes. 

Are we consuming horse or other horrifying meats of murky origins in our fast-food crunchy taco supremes and deluxe veggie works burritos, or in freezer-section pot pies, lasagnas, enchiladas, and those delicious egg rolls?  Maybe. Likely sometimes.