Practice safety when it comes to protecting yourself from the sun, and let the FDA know they need to study sunscreens further
Is that green lawn worth compromising the health of your family – furry, or otherwise?
BY LINDA BONVIE
Reaching the milestone age of 17 is a feat for any dog, but to do so with vitals such as heart, lungs, liver and kidneys in tip-top shape and a hearty appetite is a real achievement.
This is the case with my pup, Bumby. You could say he’s in amazingly good health for his age… except, that is, for his brain, which has been seriously damaged by repeated seizures. Bumby’s senior years certainly aren’t what they could have been.
Like his veterinarians (who have conducted numerous tests on him), you could label his seizures as “idiopathic,” another way of saying “for unknown reasons.” And that would be a valid diagnosis. But I have my own idea of what might have been the cause – Bumby’s frequent exposure to lawn chemicals, notably pesticides and herbicides.
These chemicals, by their very nature are meant to poison living things. Sure, the intended targets may be bugs or weeds, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be collateral damage. In fact, a quick look at some recent research tells us that this chemical arsenal we employ to keep our surroundings neat, green and insect-free is doing us much more harm than good.
And that’s especially true for the most vulnerable members of the family – kids and pets.
One especially frightening report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Environmental Health found that although “acute” (where you know fairly quickly that something is wrong) pesticide poisonings in children in the U.S. are relatively “uncommon,” constant low-level exposures (including from food) are not. And a “growing body of epidemiologic evidence” points to “associations between exposure to pesticides in young children and a range of diseases from childhood cancers to autism.”
Landmark research from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health discovered through pre-natal MRIs that when a fetus has been exposed to “low levels” of the commonly used pesticide chlorpyrifos, they observed “changes in brain structure.” (Although the EPA banned household uses of chlorpyrifos in 2001, it continues to be widely used on food crops, especially corn and other vegetables, fruit and nut trees, and can also be commercially applied on grass).
One of the central findings of these and numerous other studies is that exposure to such toxins can be very, very low – far below what the EPA considers to be “safe” – for harm to occur.
If you’re living in a condo, however, with most outdoor areas considered “common ground,” trying to tell such things to the powers that be will fall on deaf ears. “Just wait a few hours for it to dry and it’s safe,” is a common response. But that’s not exactly true, either.
Research by Purdue University scientists found that dogs were still excreting lawn chemicals in their urine a full 48 hours after grass areas they had walked on had been treated, and that exactly how long you need to wait before allowing your dog on sprayed grass “remains to be defined.”
Certainly, an acute poisoning makes it much easier to point to a specific cause. But as the AAP doctors reported, constant low-level pesticide exposure can do plenty of damage.
For Bumby, condo life meant a steady parade of gardeners armed with tanks of chemicals making sure that any dandelion daring to rear its golden head would soon wilt in a brown heap.
Of course not all the neighborhood dogs suffered from seizures (although a number of his canine pals developed cancer). But I believe that this ongoing chemical exposure (which can enter your home on shoes, and via “drift” through open windows) lowered Bumby’s seizure threshold enough that, despite being blessed with rather robust health, he reached a tipping point.
It seems, however, that no matter what news comes to light it will do little to damper the enthusiasm for spraying these poisons. On a trip to the Home Depot last summer I observed a towering display of on-sale Roundup (long known to be a carcinogen, and just recently found to up your cancer risk by more than 40 percent) being snapped up like a rare wine.
Now that Spring has arrived the TruGreen (formally ChemLawn!) trucks will be cruising around your neighborhood and putting brochures in your box. But if you really want to go green why not cancel the lawn or the stone spraying? Pick them, whack them, or just let them grow. Do it for your dog.
Bumby and I have since left the spray-happy condo life behind, but the damage was done.
He tries his best to stand tall on his short Bichon legs, but a lot of the time his head will tilt down and to the right and he’ll fall or start going in circles. He’s mostly or all blind, and either doesn’t care to hear what I have to say anymore or is deaf as well.
But every so often when someone visits he’ll wake up from a deep nap, point his nose upward and give his very best “woof, woof,” before nodding back to sleep.
Good boy, Bumby. Good boy.
Linda and Bill Bonvie are regular bloggers for Citizens for Health and the co-authors of Badditives: The 13 Most Harmful Food Additives in Your Diet – and How to Avoid Them.
Here’s the best New Year’s resolution you can make
BY LINDA BONVIE
If you made a New Year’s resolution, probably by now the enthusiasm in following this self-improvement ritual has slowly faded into the humdrum of daily life.
But I’m here to help revitalize things. It’s not too late to make one of the best New Year’s resolutions of all. In fact, this idea is one that will benefit the entire family – young, old and in-between.
I’ll cut right to the advantages: Putting this resolve into action can significantly improve your health, especially protect the youngest – and oldest – members of your family from brain damage, get some nasty carcinogens out of your diet, protect your heart and eyes, and help you keep your weight under control. Actually, that’s just the tantalizing top five of the pluses this resolution has to offer.
So, you’re probably wondering what this magic, life-altering secret of staying healthy could be? Well, here it is: Simply keep as much processed free glutamic acid out of your diet as you possibly can.
Not sure what processed free glutamic acid is? Hint — it commonly goes by the acronym “MSG,” a sort of food-additive slang to stand for toxic ingredients added to processed foods to zip up the flavor. But here’s the most frustrating part – while plenty of folks are checking food labels so they can avoid MSG, they won’t find it listed. Sure, monosodium glutamate is required by the FDA to be labeled, but this problem extends way beyond that sole ingredient to over 40 different additives that are routinely dumped into everything from infant formula, to meals for invalids, to protein drinks, to everyday foods literally ranging from soup to nuts.
Industry hype gets hyperactive
During the past year I’ve been noticing a widespread media campaign on all levels, much of which is disseminated by the “International Glutamate (dis)Information Service” that’s laser- focused on convincing you that MSG is totally harmless… and, unbelievably, even beneficial!
This propaganda, appearing on Facebook, in the news, and flowing from press releases, is stunningly similar to a campaign several years ago created and funded by the Corn Refiners Association to try and salvage the image of high fructose corn syrup. The main goal in that marketing mission was twofold: (1) present as gospel-truth “facts” about HFCS that trashed years of scientific findings as to the danger of ingesting free (unbound) fructose, and (2) make anyone who attempted to tell family or friends about the health risks of HFCS seem like a nitwit who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
Thankfully, the many millions put into that effort by the CRA wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. Consumers know by now that HFCS is bad news. And food manufacturers know that consumers know.
But with MSG, the situation is a bit more tricky. The monetary stakes are higher, the products that contain processed free glutamic acid are much more numerous, and industry has the full and unbridled support of the FDA.
And it seems that when it comes to “proving” their point, anything goes.
Take, for example, a “study” that came out last year from none other than the prestigious Harvard Medical School and its affiliated hospital, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
Apparently the goal of this absurdity was to generate cool headlines such as “Monosodium glutamate could actually be key to healthy eating.” Yep, that must have been it, as the study wasn’t much to write home about, let alone write a news story about.
It went like this: 35 women wore special glasses that tracked their eye movements as they walked around a buffet table. Half the group had eaten an MSG-spiked soup beforehand, and those women had “more focused gazes during the meal,” and chose foods with “less saturated fats.”
Of course, you could say that’s just plain silly, who would believe such drivel? But the glutamate industry (yes, there is a glutamate industry) has a lot more up its sleeve. And one thing that will help you to avoid being conned by its disinformation is to keep the following six big fat lies you’re going to hear in mind, courtesy of our friends at the Truth in Labeling Campaign:
#1: The glutamate contained in MSG is identical to the glutamate in the human body.
#2: MSG is very well researched and found to be safe.
#3: It must be safe, since the FDA has said so.
#4: MSG has been used for over a century without adverse reactions.
#5: MSG is naturally made, similar to yogurt, vinegar and wine.
#6: Monosodium glutamate occurs naturally in food.
Also remember that it’s not just “some” people who need to dodge these noxious additives. Those who suffer reactions are indeed reacting to a toxic substance, not having an allergy attack, such as a sensitive person would to nuts or milk. The effects of MSG can range from migraines, asthma, skin rashes, irritable bowel, seizures and heart irregularities such as A-fib.
And as for all those names, the aliases that processed free glutamic acid hides under, I’ve listed the top ten below. For the full story, the best place to look is to health freedom fighters, Truth in Labeling Campaign (TLC). (The folks at TLC are excited to unveil a new website this Spring and to continue to update and add to the valuable information and resources we’ve come to expect from these critical allies.)
It would be bad enough if what we were being told by industry and its shills were just half truths. But these are flat-out lies, being told for the purpose of keeping the “glutes,” as TLC calls them, doing business as usual and continuing to poison our food while telling us everything is A-OK.
As Citizens for Health President and Board Chair Jim Turner once remarked about aspartame, another neurotoxic food additive: “The brain you save may be your own.”
Top ten names of ingredients that always contain processed free glutamic acid (Courtesy of the Truth in Labeling Campaign)
- Autolyzed yeast
- Soy protein
- Any “hydrolyzed” protein
- Whey protein isolate
- Yeast extract
- Sodium and calcium caseinate
- Textured protein
- Anything containing “enzymes”
- Soy sauce
- Monosodium glutamate (E# 621)
Linda and Bill Bonvie are regular bloggers for Citizens for Health and the co-authors of Badditives: The 13 Most Harmful Food Additives in Your Diet – and How to Avoid Them.
The flu vaccination: a shot in the dark that misses by a mile
By LINDA BONVIE
By now the flu-shot propaganda machine is in full swing.
The truth is we can’t go anywhere after summer folds its tent without being bombarded with a pitch to get one of these jabs.
So, should you?
Will that needle poke be the extra insurance you need to stay flu-free throughout the holiday season and the winter months ahead?
Before you run out for that shot, however, there are some things you should know – a bit of flu vaccine history that you won’t be hearing from the CDC, the CVS, your local health department and most especially Big Pharma.
To listen to CDC experts talk about it, skipping your yearly influenza vaccine is as risky as crossing the Grand Canyon on a tightrope. And if you’re pregnant, or a bit on the older side, it’s even more dangerous to go flu-shot-free!
But where, exactly, is the “proof” that this mass campaign to get everyone inoculated is keeping us healthy? That’s what a pair of professors – pro-vaccine pediatricians, no less – at the University of Rochester wanted to find out.
Drs. Eric Biondi, and Andrew Aligne (who is also the Director of the Hoekelman Center at the University), took a good long look at the record of flu vaccines over the past century. And what they found is more than enough to give you reason to pause before you roll up your sleeve.
The proof goes ‘poof’
You wouldn’t know it by the big flu-shot push that revs up every year, but the fact that there’s no real proof to support this extensive (and expensive) campaign is out there in peer-reviewed and published data… much of it straight from the CDC itself.
As Drs. Biondi and Aligne relate the facts, in 1960, for the very first time, annual flu shots were recommended by federal health authorities. That was despite having over a decade (starting in the late 1940s) of experience that hadn’t produced a shred of evidence showing that vaccinating the general public for the flu was keeping people healthy or saving lives.
That ‘flu shots for all’ mandate came on the heels of the 1957 Asian flu pandemic, in which millions of doses of vaccines were given in the U.S. – later found to have “no appreciable effect” in stemming the tide of illness or death. The theory back then was that the immunization campaign’s failure was simply a case of “too little, too late.” If more people were vaccinated in a timely way, the idea went, then the shot would surely work better.
But that plan also turned out to be a dud.
In 1964 the head epidemiologist at the CDC published a paper in which he “reluctantly concluded that there is little progress to be reported.” Should widespread influenza shots “be continued without better evidence” to justify the cost, he asked?
A few years later in 1968 CDC officials decided to look at the effectiveness of flu vaccines with a gold-standard, randomized double-blind trial. The goal was to find out if all these vaccines now being given out to Americans were indeed saving lives. And, as they wrote, “despite extensive use…” that promise “has never been demonstrated.”
But it was the 1976 “Swine Flu Fiasco” (as it was dubbed by The New York Times), that should have been the swan song for the widespread public acceptance of a yearly flu jab.
Not only didn’t a pandemic materialize, but the shot to prevent it appeared to trigger an epidemic of the paralyzing vaccine side effect known as Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), in which the body attacks its own nerves. (Interestingly, before Pharma would release any vials of flu vaccine that year it demanded that the feds protect drug makers against any claims of adverse reactions from the shots – what’s known today as the Office of Special Masters of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (a.k.a. the “vaccine injury court”).
Another big analysis by the CDC a year later determined that flu-outbreak control had been “generally ineffective.” And in 1995 the FDA took a stab at validating all the hoopla over influenza vaccination. It concluded that there is a “paucity of randomized trials,” and of the existing research, the agency found “serious methodological flaws in many existing flu-vaccine studies.”
Okay, so that was then – the dark ages of medical knowledge. In the more recent past scientists learned how to make a better flu shot, right?
Well, apparently not.
A CDC placebo-controlled trial in 2000 couldn’t find a benefit “in most years” for a shot versus good old placebo. In 2005 the authors of a 33-season study discovered that despite the fact that shots given to seniors had quadrupled, the estimated death rate was “probably very close to what would have occurred had no vaccine been available.”
But it’s obvious that, proof or no proof, not only is this yearly ritual firmly entrenched in mainstream healthcare practices, but any professional who dares to question it is taking a big chance.
Last year, for example, Dr. Daniel Neides, then medical director and chief operating officer of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute was accused of “fear mongering” and spreading “dangerous information” when he mentioned in his blog that some flu vaccines contain mercury and formaldehyde, which can add up to a “constant toxic burden.”
Needless to say, Dr. Neides is no longer with that organization.
Of course, you could argue that even a smidgen of protection is worthwhile, but that’s another flu-shot theory that doesn’t hold water considering the risks involved, which range from agonizing shoulder pain known as SIRVA (shoulder injuries related to vaccine administration), to allergic reactions, headache, fever and nausea (the last three considered “common side effects” by the CDC).
And along with the “toxic burden” Dr. Neides referred to, you should know that there are more settlements out of the vaccine injury court for flu shots than any other inoculation, with the most reported one being for GBS.
Certainly having the flu is no walk in the park, and yes, it can result in serious, even deadly, complications in some people.
All of which is why keeping your body well-equipped to fight it with proper sleeping habits, a daily dose of vitamin D – along with other immune-boosting supplements, nutrient-dense foods, and frequent hand washing – will do more to keep you flu-free than anything Big Pharma has yet to offer up.
Linda and Bill Bonvie are regular bloggers for Citizens for Health and the co-authors of Badditives: The 13 Most Harmful Food Additives in Your Diet – and How to Avoid Them.
Have a happy lectin-, gluten-, additive-free Thanksgiving!
By LINDA BONVIE
Let me start by saying that consuming unadulterated food has become increasingly challenging. And as we enter the “eating season” that begins with Thanksgiving, complications can heat up at a rapid pace.
If you’re not careful, a “traditional” Thanksgiving meal can easily become a “chemical feast,” to borrow the title of CFH Chairman Jim Turner’s classic book.
Starting with the canned cranberry sauce, which typically contains high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), to the stuffing – loaded with bad oils, MSG and more HFCS – right down to the pumpkin pie, with even more HFCS, genetically-modified ingredients and partially hydrogenated oil in the crust, most Thanksgiving spreads contain more laboratory concoctions than they contain real food.
Even the main event – the turkey – can be a chemically pickled piece of poultry.
Any “self-basting” or “deep basted” bird typically comes loaded with enough added ingredients to preserve it until next Thanksgiving!
But I’m here to make things even more complex for you. That’s right, there are other food matters you may want to consider as you do your shopping for this big day of eating – specifically the hazards of lectin.
In his top-selling 2017 book, The Plant Paradox, cardiologist Dr. Steven Gundry puts more food restrictions on the table with his theory that lectin, a “common and highly toxic” plant-based protein (which includes gluten), when ingested causes “warfare in our bodies.”
You know all those “healthy” fruits, veggies and grains you’ve been instructed to heap on your plate? Well, according to Dr. Gundry, they’re not “just sitting there accepting their fate as part of your dinner.” These seemingly innocent produce products are taking revenge on us, defending themselves with the use of “toxic chemicals.”
Now, Dr. Gundry isn’t against all of nature’s bounty, saying that eating certain plants is “essential for good health,” and supplies most of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants needed to stay well. He also provides tips on how to make many fruits and veggies less “toxic” (some of which I’ll share with you in a minute), as well as selling a supplement called “Lectin Shield,” designed to block dietary lectins.
The entire idea of being lectin leery, does, of course, have its detractors. The Washington Post called it the “latest pseudoscience diet fad.”
But as a writer and researcher who has focused mainly on the man-made hazards added to foods and beverages, I know that just because something is labeled as natural and untainted by human hands, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s good for you.
And his concept that these noxious proteins are “designed by nature to protect” plants does make sense. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of eating a totally “healthy,” carefully prepared meal only to feel really crappy afterwards. Could the reason be it contained high concentrations of lectin? Maybe.
Dr. Gundry even calls humans “plant predators” – in the same category as the deer who graze in my backyard or the caterpillars who consumed every bit of my garden parsley.
To be sure, there’s a lot more to The Plant Paradox than simply crossing certain high-lectin foods off your shopping list. But if you want to give his basic theory a try, here are some tips from his book to lower lectin levels in your food:
- Try to eliminate as many fruits and veggies as possible that contain lots of seeds, such as cucumbers, tomatoes and squash, from your diet.
- Peel your vegetables, as lectins are concentrated in the peels, and seeds of plants.
- Only buy produce in season, at the “peak of ripeness.”
- Ditch the whole grains and seeds with hard outer coatings, which “are designed by nature to cause digestive distress.” That includes swapping brown rice with white.
For Thanksgiving, these lectin restrictions would mean nixing the pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, your treasured family recipes for rolls, corn muffins, the green-bean casserole, and even wild rice.
Turkey and all other poultry, according to Dr. Gundry, must be pasture-raised, which is considerably different from just being “free-range.” Grass-fed beef, bison, boar, elk and venison, can also make the grade for your feast, along with plenty of wild-caught seafood and shellfish.
If it sounds like there’s not much left to serve on the side, there’s actually quite a bit, including lots of lettuces, turnips, sea vegetables, parsnips, millet and sweet potatoes – the only potato that makes his “yes please” list.
Actually, I could see this low-lectin feast idea going viral, perhaps with Martha Stewart coming out with a recipe guide on how to prepare some of the more obscure “approved” foods – such as nopales cactus, taro root, sorghum, grouse and pheasant.
And that sounds a whole lot better than some other Thanksgiving ideas from Martha’s collection, most especially the roast capon (with fig-and-pancetta stuffing, no less) – which, put more bluntly, is a castrated rooster!
Of course there’s still a big Thanksgiving dilemma left to solve. And that’s to try and keep the dinner table conversation equally easy to digest!
The Labeling Trick Only the FDA Could Pull Off
By LINDA and BILL BONVIE
Ready or not, Halloween is coming around again.
For many, it’s a fun holiday that opens the magic portal to the holiday season. But for others, not so much!
In the UK a recent poll found that 45 percent of Brits consider trick-or-treating an “unwelcome American cultural import.”
No matter how you feel about it, however, like everything else these days Halloween comes with a wide variety of rules and restrictions. That’s right – it’s not the happy-go-lucky boo-fest of years gone by anymore.
- In the LA suburb of Walnut, Calif., wearing a “mask or disguise on a public street” is an unlawful activity.
- If you live in Alabama, dressing up like a minister, nun, priest or any “other member of the clergy” can land you in the county jail forking over up to $500. (So much for that flying nun costume.)
- Trick-or-treating over the age of 12 is forbidden in Newport News, Va. And even if you’re young enough to walk the streets as a ghost or goblin, you better get home before 8 p.m. or you could be charged with a Class 4 misdemeanor.
But here’s where some rules could really make a difference, and help in your search to find treats to give out to your visiting ghouls and ghosts.
As you probably know by now the FDA’s big makeover of the Nutrition Facts Label (or NFL) – something that had been in the works for ages – was finally rolled out a little over two years ago.
Basically, this “new and improved” method to help consumers more easily select healthy processed foods is a slap in the face to science. But the top travesty of all can be found in the section that tallies up the “sugars” content – most especially the part called “added sugars.”
In that category, every type of caloric sweetener, healthy or otherwise, is considered to be nutritionally the same. Sucrose (a.k.a. sugar of all varieties), fructose, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, maple syrup, honey, and more, are all lumped together and measured in grams on the same line.
In fact, Citizens for Health filed a petition with the FDA over four years ago asking the agency to include not only the name of the added “sugar,” but the amount of processed fructose contained in HFCS, which can range from 42 to a whopping 90 percent.
And recently, the name “glucose-fructose syrup” has been popping up on ingredient labels. What is it? Nothing more than another way to say high fructose corn syrup.
The Corn Refiners have been trying to get away with spiking the fructose content of their laboratory sweetener and changing its name for years. And it looks like they may be succeeding on both counts.
So what does this mean when it comes to picking out Halloween treats?
Well, if you go by the FDA’s fancy new labeling, it could result in not knowing the difference between what’s a good choice and an absolutely frightening one.
So, here’s what you need to do: Skip the nutrition facts label altogether and go directly to the actual ingredients listing instead. Candy certainly isn’t a health food by any means, but there are plenty of treats on the market that won’t break the bank and contain ingredients that you can feel good about handing out to the neighborhood witches and wizards.
And remember, avoiding HFCS isn’t just something you want to do on Halloween. Time and time again research has found this laboratory sweetener is linked to high cholesterol and triglycerides, obesity, and an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
And that’s about as scary as it gets.
Partially Hydrogenated Oils Are Now Banned, Right?
Well, Yes — Only Not Quite
By LINDA and BILL BONVIE
They’re supposed to be history by now. We’re talking about the particularly dangerous class of food additives known as partially hydrogenated oils, or PHOs, which are the result of solidifying a vegetable oil by infusing it with hydrogen gas.
Long used to extend the shelf-life of various processed foods, such as baked goods, PHOs were also cutting short the lives of many of those who regularly consumed them, being the primary source of artery-clogging trans fats in our diet (as chronicled in our 2017 book Badditives!).
That’s why the FDA took the most unusual step of ordering them phased out of the food supply by this past June 18, after acknowledging that they were causing an estimated 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths in this country every year. (And that’s just a fraction of the number claimed by the late Dr. Fred Kummerow, the professor of comparative biosciences who spent years petitioning the FDA to ban PHOs and lived long enough – to the age of 102 – to see his efforts rewarded.)
The removal of these ingredients from the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list was quite an achievement in itself – one the FDA noted was a response to both “citizen petitions” and “available scientific evidence and the findings of expert scientific panels establishing the health risks associated with the consumption” of trans fats.
And it came only after considerable resistance from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which submitted a petition to the agency in 2015, and an amended version last year, requesting that the food additive regulations be amended to provide for the safe use of PHOs in certain food applications.
The FDA subsequently denied that petition because it “determined that the petitioner did not provide sufficient information for us to conclude that the requested uses of PHOs are safe.”
But that’s not to say that PHOs are now automatically gone from all the products that line supermarket shelves. Because while turning down that last-ditch attempt to keep PHOs from being consigned to the adulterated ingredient graveyard, the agency did see fit to “allow the food industry sufficient time to identify suitable replacement substances.”
So how much time are we talking about? Well, it seems that some of the uses of these altered oils will be permitted until next June 18. Those are the “petitioned uses” for which the FDA acknowledges “that the food industry needs additional time to identify suitable replacement substances” and for which it “has indicated that 12 months could be a reasonable timeframe for reformulation.”
Others, however, the “non-petitioned” ones, will have even longer – until the first of January, 2020. That’s because “FDA understands additional time is needed for products manufactured (domestically and internationally) before June 18, 2018, to work their way through distribution.”
And since during that period, you might still very well end up consuming them and further endangering your heart health, it remains imperative that you check those ingredient lists before buying any processed food products.
And we would hope that’s something you’ll continue to do, even after the last vestiges of PHOs are gone – because there are a whole lot of other “badditives’ remaining in our food supply. We can also only hope that the pro-industry Trump administration doesn’t find a way to modify or reverse this lifesaving regulation while it has us distracted with other issues.
For more on the denial of the GMA’s petition, see https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/05/21/2018-10715/grocery-manufacturers-association-denial-of-food-additive-petition
For more on the FDA’s extension of the compliance period, see https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-05-21/pdf/2018-10714.pdf (Please note, this prompts download of PDF.)
New Study Finds that Fructose Fuels Cancer Cells
By LINDA and BILL BONVIE
Canadian Sol Orwell may not be any relation to the late British author George Orwell, but some of the statements made on the website he co-founded seven years ago, Examine.com – an endeavor which he says is intended to rebut “outlandish claims” on topics like health, nutrition and supplements with “evidence-based analysis” – can only be described as, well, Orwellian.
Take the site’s claim, updated in December, that “there are no studies that indicate any long-term health risks from drinking diet soda,” which “is not harmful to health, well-being or body composition.”
Or the latest one that “there is currently no evidence to suggest that HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) is any worse than sugar,” that both are “essentially the same,” and that “the difference between them is too small to matter in moderate consumption” (an assertion virtually identical to that made by the Corn Refiners Association, the lobbying group representing the makers of high fructose corn syrup).
So why bother mentioning this kind of processed-food propaganda? Because all too often you’ll find that it winds up as the basis for health and nutrition stories in mainstream media, especially since Examine.com is touted as one of the top 10 innovative companies in fitness.
But unfortunately, anyone who relies on this site (or others like it) to “come to a consensus you can trust” may be putting their health and well-being in real jeopardy, because they’re quite likely to remain blissfully ignorant of the fast-growing volume of research that has come to the opposite conclusion.
One glaring example is a Duke University study published in late April in the journal Cell Metabolism – just a day after Examine.com last updated its assurance that HFCS is essentially the same as sugar.
In essence, what the Duke researchers found that is that fructose can fuel the metastasis of colorectal cancer.
“When cancer cells get to the liver, they’re like a kid in a candy store,” was how it was explained by one of the biomedical engineers involved in the study. “They use this ample new energy supply to create building blocks for growing more cancer cells.”
According to a press release from the university’s Pratt School of Engineering, being inside the liver enables cancer cells to learn how to produce more of an enzyme that breaks down fructose. Once having done that, they proceed to “gorge on the fructose,” allowing them “to proliferate out of control and become unstoppable.”
The thing that the researchers were particularly struck by, the release noted, was that “many Western diets are rich in fructose, which is found in corn syrup and all types of processed foods.” (By “corn syrup,” they were obviously referring to HFCS, since ordinary corn syrup is 100 percent glucose and contains no fructose whatsoever.)
Notice that what did not concern the scientists doing this study was sugar consumption.
Sugar, or sucrose, is made up of equal parts glucose and fructose which are bound together (just as fructose is with the fiber in fruit).
With HFCS, however, as is even acknowledged by the Examine.com website, “both molecules float in solution (as monosaccharides or lone sugar molecules) rather than being bound to each other.”
And that, far from being a difference that’s “too small to matter” is, in reality, huge. Nor is the fact that HFCS is typically 55 percent fructose “practically insignificant,” as the site also claims, since the amount of fructose involved is actually10 percent greater than that in sugar (and can go as high as 90 percent, which the site also acknowledges).
But the findings from this study are yet another of the ways HFCS “does a body bad,” which we detailed in our book Badditives! Beside those we discussed:
- How it’s clearly linked to obesity and diabetes (both of which have skyrocketed in the decades since this artificial sweetener became a substitute for sugar and began appearing in all manner of processed foods and beverages)
- Its link to pancreatic cancer and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (“overwhelming your liver’s processing capacity,” in the words of one expert)
- Its effect on the brain and learning ability, and the ways it has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease and asthma…
It now appears to play a significant role in speeding up the spread of cancer.
Actually, it seems that the more we actually “examine” the effects of ingredients like HFCS, the more reasons we find to steer clear of anything that contains them.
‘Disappearance’ of GMOs, Monsanto, Should Be No Cause for Complacency
By LINDA and BILL BONVIE
You might think of it as a kind of double disappearing act – a pair of closely related evil entities now on the verge of vanishing before our very eyes.
We’re talking about the man-made mutations commonly known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs (often referred to in the vernacular as “Frankenfoods”), and the chief creator of these mini-monsters, the Monsanto Corp. of St. Louis.
Only they aren’t really going away. They’re rather resurfacing with altered identities in the hopes that these new incarnations will be less apt to arouse antagonism and stir up controversy.
But before we go into the details of this makeover in the making, a bit of background is in order.
Like the body snatchers of sci-fi fame, GMOs have been steadily transforming such major crops as soy, corn (even sweet corn), canola, cotton, and sugar beets into things that may look exactly like the real McCoy, but have had their DNA doctored.
That might have been bad enough, since these imitations, although grown from patented seeds, were declared to be the “substantial equivalent” of the commodities they replaced with no requirement for safety testing, despite evidence that they could trigger allergic reactions. But what makes them an even bigger health hazard is the main reason that their genes were rewired.
Monsanto has long claimed GMOs are intended to make crops better able to grow under various conditions, and “feed the world.” In reality, however, most of them were created to be “Roundup Ready” – that is, able to withstand the effects of the glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup, the world’s most widely used herbicide, which has been identified as a likely carcinogen (now the basis of thousands of consumer-injury lawsuits as well as complaints by consumer advocacy and environmental groups) and destroyer of beneficial gut bacteria.
In addition to profiting hugely from Roundup sales, the company has also succeeded in making farmers dependent on its genetically modified seeds, and contractually obligated to buy new ones from the company every year (under threat of being sued), rather than saving their seeds as is traditional in agriculture. That has created an epidemic of “superweeds” – and a market for even more pernicious herbicides.
This toxic takeover of much of our food supply may have made Monsanto a ton of money, but has also made it probably the most hated corporation on the planet. Its GMOs have likewise become widely shunned – and despite political resistance to labeling foods containing them as some five dozen other countries do, the non-GMO Project label now appears on thousands of products (which unfortunately is no guarantee that Roundup hasn’t been used on ingredients as a post-harvest drying agent, unless a product is also organic).
Just how much of a problem that’s become for biotechnology companies was reflected in a forum for venture capitalists back in 2015, where a market research firm representative observed that “a big struggle everyone here has is how do you talk about your product without calling it a genetically modified organism.”
Well, it appears that soon they’ll no longer have to.
The ultimate result of a protracted political battle over mandatory GMO labeling was passage of supposed “compromise” legislation in 2016 that overrode state labeling initiatives, including one actually signed into law in Vermont. But it only permits consumers with a smart-phone app to know that a product contains GMOs.
Now, some new “guidelines” created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and due to take effect after the requisite public-comment period ending July 3, would do away entirely with what The New York Times called the “stigmatized terms” GMO and genetically engineered, substituting “bioengineered” or “BE.” While such euphemisms may mean essentially the same thing, they would supposedly not be as readily recognizable – sort of like putting a Groucho Marx disguise on Public Enemy No. 1.
Meanwhile, an even more meaningful, if unrelated, transmogrification is also in the works – the pending purge of the much maligned Monsanto moniker.
And this is no small matter when your realize that the 117-year-old name was retained even when the company morphed from a manufacturer of such chemicals as dioxin (which resulted in a number of health- and pollution-related lawsuits against the company) and PCBs (the careless disposal of which culminated in a $550 million settlement with residents of Anniston, Ala.) into an “agricultural” enterprise back in 2002.
The notoriety that has accompanied the “new” Monsanto’s increasing stranglehold on agriculture, however, is something that even millions of dollars put into corporate consumer-oriented advertising and PR campaigns couldn’t dispel. And that little image problem is something its new owner – the German conglomerate Bayer (perhaps best known for its aspirin) – seems intent on shedding ASAP.
As a result, according to a statement given to media this month, “Monsanto will no longer be a company name. The acquired products will retain their brand names and become part of the Bayer portfolio.”
And while all this won’t quite happen overnight, Bayer’s apparent haste to dispense with the widely detested designation seems to have surprised both business experts and opponents. “The speed at which they’re looking to do away with the Monsanto brand speaks volumes,” was the way one brand-management consultant put it.
To hear Bayer CEO Werner Baumann describe it, what will emerge from this merger will be a kinder, gentler and less aggressive agricultural agenda.
“Of course, there needs to be a lot more engagement,” he declared. “We aim to deepen our dialogue with society. We will listen to our critics and work together where we find common ground. Agriculture is too important to allow ideological differences to bring progress to a standstill. We have to talk to each other. We need to listen to each other. It’s the only way to build bridges.”
Now, all that might be construed as a sign of progress – not only because of its conciliatory tone, but because the toppling of a mercenary monolith as mighty as Monsanto might be considered a testament to the power of informed consumers to effect major change in the marketplace, not unlike the deposing of a dictator.
Just as in the aftermath of many a revolution, however, what follows may merely be a continuation of the same type of tyranny under another regime. Perhaps Monsanto’s often ruthless methods of doing business may be softened somewhat, and U.S. politicians (like former Kansas Representative and now Secretary of State Mike Pompeo) who once did the company’s bidding may not be as inclined to do likewise for a German conglomerate. But make no mistake – its products and practices aren’t likely to disappear along with the Monsanto name.
Realistically speaking, Bayer didn’t sink $63 billion into this acquisition as an exercise in altruism. Upon its completion, in fact, the company will reportedly control an estimated 29 percent of the world’s seed supply and nearly a quarter of all pesticide production.
In other words, this is no time to let our guard down, as both the USDA and Bayer seem to hope we’ll do. The threat to the integrity and safety of our food supply posed by GMOs is not about to go away, and could very well continue to expand under the new management, just as it has been doing over the past two decades.
Perhaps when we see Roundup heading for the last roundup – and not being replaced with an even more pernicious chemical concoction – we’ll have real reason to believe we’re finally winning this battle.
‘Read Your Labels Day’ – Now More Important Than Ever!
By LINDA BONVIE and BILL BONVIE
What makes this April 11, Citizens for Health’s sixth annual Read Your Labels Day, perhaps the most important one yet?
Two developments, actually. One is a USDA decision to override the National Organics Standards Board’s (NOSB) vote (taken well over a year ago) to stop allowing the seaweed-based thickening agent carrageenan to be used in organic processed foods.
Carrageenan, as it happens, is one of the 13 most harmful food additives we targeted in our book Badditives!
It’s an ingredient that has a terrible effect on many people’s digestive systems, with even small amounts of the “food grade” variety having been found to cause inflammation in the colon (and samples of that food-grade variety have all been found to be contaminated with a “degraded” type that’s considered a possible carcinogen).
This isn’t just theoretical, however. The Cornucopia Institute, a consumer-safety watchdog organization, has collected a sizeable number of descriptions of the gut-wrenching symptoms people have suffered until eliminating carrageenan from their diet. The Institute likens it to “putting poison ivy in skin lotion.”
But despite such research and reports, the recommendation of the NOSB, and the fact that harmless alternatives, such as guar gum, are readily available, the USDA saw fit to cave in to industry groups that claimed carrageenan was better in terms of “taste and texture,” would make organic products more competitive, and as one lobbyist put it, would allow consumers “to continue to enjoy the foods they know and love.”
This decision, which is the sort of thing we’ve come to expect of the “deregulating” Trump administration, makes reading labels for the presence of this “thickener that’s a sickener” (as we called it in Badditives!) an absolute must — even if you purchase exclusively organic processed foods.
The Icon that Tells You Everything You Need to Know
But this egregious edict on carrageenan isn’t the only reason why we need to be more vigilant than ever about what’s in the food products we buy.
There’s also the fact that the FDA, now under the command of the Trump administration’s Dr. Scott Gottlieb, has just announced plans to launch its own “consumer friendly” campaign to tell Americans what is and isn’t good for them when it comes to food – complete with a simplistic icon that will supposedly tell us at a glance what foods are “healthy” (a device even less meaningful than the existing “nutrition facts” label).
Consider for a moment the implications of such a scheme.
Who will be deciding what’s healthy and what isn’t? Will all it takes to land a big “H” for your processed food product be that it’s low in sodium (and likely high in MSG)? Will low-fat fake creamers make the grade, but organic coconut milk fail?
And could this end up being a big money-raiser for the agency, similar to its Prescription Drug User Fee Act — the payment by drug makers of a substantial sum to submit a new drug application (and which has funded the agency to the tune of $7.67 billion since it went into effect in 1992)?
Whatever this healthy icon idea morphs into, it’s a safe bet that such new guidelines will have the guiding hand of industry behind them – especially given Gottlieb’s statement that the FDA wants to “maintain the basic nature and nutritional integrity of products while allowing industry flexibility for innovation.
If we read between the lines of that statement, what he really seems to be saying is that the agency has no real plans for reforming the “basic nature” of processed-food industry practices and the products that result from them (whose “nutritional integrity” still leaves an awful lot to be desired).
All of this, according to the commissioner, will be on a scale comparable to the agency’s initiative, announced last summer, to make cigarettes less addictive by lowering levels of nicotine. “Improving the nutrition and diet of Americans would be another transformative effort toward reducing the burden of many chronic diseases, ranging from diabetes to cancer to heart disease,” he proclaimed, whose benefits would “almost certainly dwarf any single medical innovation or intervention.”
Indeed it might – if the FDA were really intent on finding genuine ways to promote a healthy diet. But this is an agency that admittedly isn’t even sure what the words “healthy” and “natural” mean, as part of its new effort includes asking for input from the public on those definitions.
And if any more proof of that were needed, it can be found in Gottlieb’s stated aim to “make labeling nutrients more consumer friendly” and “explore updating standards of identity, which are essentially requirements for what can or can’t be in certain products in order for them to be labeled accordingly.”
How would this work, exactly? Well, the two examples he offers are allowing “alternative names” to be used for potassium chloride “to make clear it’s salt” and changing that standard of identity, say, for cheeses that now “aren’t allowed to use salt alternatives that would lower the sodium content and still call themselves cheese.”
Could another possible plan be to allow a labeling request that the FDA rejected a couple of years ago – a proposal made by the Corn Refiners Association to dispense with the name high fructose corn syrup and call it “corn sugar” instead?
So while promoting greater consumer awareness of what makes for a healthy diet is certainly something that would benefit us all, what the FDA is now proposing sounds more like rearranging the rhetorical deck chairs on the Titanic. If the agency were really serious about initiating reforms, it would be talking about imposing stricter standards on the industries it regulates rather than distracting us with cute little icons.
All of which is why we can’t afford to let our guard down when it comes to reading (and reading up on) those lists of ingredients on processed foods.
And it’s why “we’re from the government and we’re here to help” has never been a less credible claim than it is right now.
Linda and Bill Bonvie are former writers of the CFH Food Identity Theft blog and co-authors of Badditives! The 13 Most Harmful Food Additives in Your Diet – and How to Avoid Them