Thursday, January 31, 2013

Olive Leaf Extract: Industrial Food Quasi-Scam with Clever Story

"Olive leaf...take olive leaf!" exuded a neighbor to my sniffing, coughing husband. "I take olive leaf extract whenever I feel a cold coming on. Cures it every time!" Smiling serenely, she added, "Olive trees can live 2,000 years. That's good enough testament for me!" 

Olive leaf extract?  What's this... another miracle-food fad placebo that the industrial food world is gearing up to make millions by cleverly hawking it to you and me?   (See Raspberry Ketones: Another Industrial Food Quasi-Scam?

But olive leaf extract? It sounds kind of bona fide. After all...
  • Extra-virgin olive oil is proven to be laden with omega-3 fatty acids that can provide heart health benefits.   
  • Olive trees hail from the Mediterranean. Isn't the Mediterranean diet good for us?
  • Olive trees are so feel-good biblical... The Mount of Olives in Israel is mentioned often in the Old Testament. The Mount of Olives is where Jesus wept, prayed, taught, and from where he descended into heaven.  Olive trees feel vaguely holy by association. 
Olive Leaf Extracts and Supplements: The Claims
The cover of an Amazon-sold book, Olive Leaf Extract, by Morton Walker, a former podiatrist, boasts that olive leaf extract is "The Natural Way to Treat:
  • Viral infections
  • The common cold
  • Arthritis
  • Skin diseases
  • Heart trouble
  • And more!"
"We all live in the Hot Zone now," blares the book's intro, then scaremongers on:
"Antibiotics have failed. With the coming of exotic new viruses, and the evolution of microbes resistant to the drugs we've used for the last fifty years, we have never needed an alternative therapy more. 
"Olive Leaf Extract-- effective, natural, and nontoxic-- has been used as a folk remedy for thousands of years. Only now has scientific research shown that the active ingredient, oleuropein, has vast healing powers because it practically eliminates the viruses, fungi, bacteria, and other parasites that cause disease.
"From immune disorders to the common cold, from athlete's foot to malaria, olive leaf extract can be an adjunct to any program of healing, health, and wellness"
Alert the Gates Foundation! A cure for malaria has been found; Bill and Melinda can stop  wasting hundreds of millions in attempting to treat and prevent malaria in Africa and other developing countries. 

Not! These three ultra-slick, finely worded paragraphs are worthy of any slimy, All-American snake-oil pitch, including those for acai berry and raspberry ketones supplements.  

My brief internet perusal finds claims that olive leaf extract also lowers blood pressure, boosts bone health, eliminates yeast infections, and, of course, has been "shown to eliminate cancer tumors.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Ugly, Angering Reality of Obama's New Food Safety Regulations

President Obama's sweeping Food Safety Modernization Act ("FSMA") regulations are likely destined to be the No Child Left Behind Act of 2013. Both... 
  • Were conceived to address draconian public problems;
  • Are voluminous, with over 1,000 pages of rules and guidance;
  • Require massive government oversight and enforcement efforts
And both face(d) radically inadequate funding by the federal government, to disastrous public detriment.  Underfunding which will undoubtedly weaken the "enforcement teeth" of FSMA, just as it undercut the effectiveness and precast the failure of NCLB.  

Here's brief background of the Food Safety Modernization Act, to refresh your mind:

  • Introduced in Congress in March 2009, and passed by both Houses in late 2010.
  • Signed into law on January 4, 2011 by President Obama.
  • Actual FSMA rules, requirements, mandates were rolled out by the Obama administration on January 4, 2013, an astonishing two-year delay presumably caused by fear of pre-election political fallout over more government regulations.  (And fear of losing Big Ag political donors?)
  • For more, read Obama Burying Food Safety Rules for Political Gain?
The purpose of the FSMA is to stem the shocking level of foodborne illnesses in the United States. Explained the Center for Food Safety in 2012:
"FSMA is the first major piece of federal legislation to overhaul food safety since 1938. Continuous high profile outbreaks related to various foods, ranging from spinach to peanut products to eggs, underscored the need for serious legislative and regulatory reform.
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every year, as a result of foodborne diseases, 48 million people (1 in 6 Americans) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die.
"... FSMA enables FDA to better protect public health by strengthening its ability to regulate and granting the agency enhanced preventative and mandate authority. The law also provides FDA with new enforcement capacity, such as mandatory recall authority, and the ability to require that imported foods comply with U.S. inspection and preventive safety standards."
Where FSMA Stands in 2013 - The Ugly, Angering Reality
About 1,200 pages of farm-to-table food safety regulations were rolled out by the FDA amid self-congratulatory hoopla and a plethora of admiring press.  

"'It’s a big leap forward in applying modern, preventive measures across the whole food supply. It’s important to see these rules as setting the standards for food safety,” cooed Michael R. Taylor, an FDA deputy commissioner in a Washington Post article, FDA Begins Implementing Sweeping Food-Safety Law.   

Except that it's not. Not being implementing, I mean.  

The FDA's rollout of massively elaborate FSMA regs seemed semi-misleading, and the press stupidly swallowed the public-pleasing bait. 

The ugly reality of where implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act stands in 2013 is this: 

 Merely proposals, issued for public comment FSMA regs rollled out by the FDA on January 4, 2013 are merely proposals, issued for public comment, and won't be in effect for several more years, at best.

Innumerable exceptions have already been granted to FSMA, exceptions that are  estimated to exempt nearly 80% of all growers and producers.  Included among the exempt are producers with annual sales of $500,000 or less, and producers growing "products that are rarely consumed raw."

Monday, January 14, 2013

Farmers Markets to Multiply, Expand in 2013, Thanks to New California Law

In 2013, Californians enjoy new access to millions of handcrafted, artisanal "real" foods, thanks to the Homemade Foods Act signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. 

California is the 26th state, to date, to join the cottage-food movement, which eliminates most red-tape blocking micro-businesses and home cooks from selling their chemical-free deliciousness directly to the local public. 

As the nation's largest state, California is estimated to boast an astonishing 11.5 million home-kitchen entrepreneurs... all now newly freed to earn a living from their homes, with minimal regulations. 

Under state law before 2013, it was a misdemeanor for Golden state home-cooks to make money off their culinary creations, except on a small-scale to benefit charities. 

I wish this smart legislation had occurred in the late 1990s, when I naively started a fledgling home-business baking and selling our family's in-demand caramel fudge brownies, created with the finest, purest ingredients. One holiday season, we worked tirelessly to bake, package, and deliver our divine goodies to friends, family, neighbors. We made decent money for a brand-new product, and our customers were happily sated. 

Then the county health department came calling... and for lack of minimum $25,000 to lease or build a commercial kitchen, we were out of business:
  • A small business squashed. 
  • Sales and income tax revenue for the state ended. 
  • A product free of chemicals, additives, preservatives, and fillers killed. 
Like our caramel fudge brownies, most home-made foods offered for public sale are devoid of the chemicals, emulsifiers, fillers, additives, preservatives, artificial colors and flavorings commonly found in highly processed, modern industrial Fake Food products.   

California's Homemade Foods Act excludes only foods containing cream or custard fillings, or meat, all which require refrigeration. Foods newly eligible to be created and directly sold by home entrepreneurs include breads, jams and preserves, fruit pies, cookies and cakes. tortillas, honey, dried fruits, roasted nuts and nut mixes, chips, and granolas.  

A few important, necessary rules do apply, including:
  • A county "Class A" permit
  • Enrollment in a food handling course
  • Adherence to basic food-handling procedures (hand-washing, hair nets, etc.)
  • Only one non-family employee
  • Creation of the food products in the primary residence kitchen
  • Maximum gross sales of $35,000 in 2013, $45,000 in 2014, $50,000 in 2015.
  • Items must be sold from the home or at local events as farmer's markets, bake sales, or agricultural subscription sales such as CSA services. 
A Class B permit requires an inspection, but also allows for sales to restaurants, food trucks, and retail grocers.  

Cottage food laws, such as California's Homemade Foods Act, are tremendously empowering to the American people to...
  • Buy handcrafted, artisanal food products, unadulterated by chemical-laden industrial processes
  • Support small, family-owned businesses 
  • Allow small farms to supplement crop incomes with additional food products
  • Inject more commerce into local economies
  • Generate more taxes for state coffers
As a result, farmer markets are expected to gloriously multiply and expand in 2013 with enticing new products. Who knows? Maybe we'll revive our unbelievably scrumptious caramel fudge brownies. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Obama Eliminates Life-Saving Produce Inspection Program

I fully agree with Food Safety News that the most egregious food safety story of 2012 was the killing of the USDA's Microbiological Data Program ("MDP") that performed "80 percent of federal testing for foodborne pathogens of fresh fruit and vegetables," including:
  • E. coli 0157:H7 - A bacterium that can produce a deadly toxin and causes approximately 73,000 cases of foodborne illness each year in the U.S.
  • Salmonella - Most common bacterial cause of diarrhea in the United States, and the most common cause of foodborne deaths. Responsible for 1.4 million cases of foodborne illness a year. 
  • NorovirusThe leading viral cause of diarrhea in the United States. Poor hygiene causes Norovirus to be easily passed from person to person and from infected individuals to food items.
  • Shigella Causes an estimated 448,000 cases of diarrhea illnesses per year. Poor hygiene causes Shigella to be easily passed from person to person and from infected individuals to food items. 
Death by Produce
"CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases." (Source: Center for Disease Control website)

In 2010 the National Institutes of Health acknowledged "fresh fruits and vegetables as major vehicles of foodborne illness." 

"MDP was killed because the produce lobby wanted it killed."
"The program’s demise likely means there will be more illnesses and deaths in 2013 from foodborne pathogens associated with fresh fruits and vegetables," per Food Safety News. 

"MDP was killed because the produce lobby wanted it killed. The Obama Administration went along by not asking Congress to renew MDP’s funding of about $5 million a year, and lawmakers were content to let it expire."  (Source - Food Safety News) 

A highly effective $5 million dollar federal program killed for political expediency. A $5 million program that annually can save thousands of American lives. 

$5 million is an microscopic portion of the $3.8 trillion 2013 United States federal budget. A tiny fraction of the Defense Department's $600 billion annual budget. 

$5 million is expendable pocket-change compared to the $20 billion in annual farm subsidies (i.e. government handouts) paid by the federal government to certain certain farmers and agribusinesses.... the very growers of fruits and veggies that will no longer be inspected under MDP auspices for dangerous foodborne contaminations.

What Can You Do? 
1. Complain loudly and clearly to your elected representatives in Congress. Now. Restoring one $5 million public safety program should be an easy task. 

2. Be very, very careful about where you buy your fruits and veggies. My advice is to either buy directly from local, reputable, certified organic sources, or from the largest grocery chains that presumably have in place quality control procedures. 

Please note that organic produce is not immune from foodborne contamination. However, organic certification does denote a very high-bar for quality control of a grower's produce. 

3. Grow your own.