Since this blog was published in January, research done on rats by Dr. Francesco Leri, an associate professor of neuroscience and applied cognitive science at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada (which we talked about two weeks ago) has determined that high fructose corn syrup is indeed an addictive substance. Dr. Leri found that that the more he increased the percentage of HFCS, the more the rats worked to obtain it, which is “exactly what you notice with drug abuse, the same type of pattern.” Nor did satiating the rats on their regular chow make the craving for HFCS go away. When administered saccharine, however, the rats did not continue to crave it as they had with HFCS. To Leri, this indicated that ”HFCS has effects that are beyond the sweetness in the mouth … effects on the brain.”
Chances are you’ve heard already, but the news is disturbing enough to make sure.
The exact same variety of GMO (genetically moified) wheat developed by Monsanto in the 1990s (the field trials were supposed to have ended years ago) was discovered to be growing in an Eastern Oregon farmer’s fields, in clear violation of US law. (Important note: The farmers who discovered the alien wheat sprayed repeatedly to kill it, but could not. They sent it to a university lab for analysis, which is how Monsanto’s concoction was discovered).
CFH warned long ago about the dangers of such experimenting. Regardless of how vehemently Monsanto asserted that protections were in place to prevent cross-pollination of farmland neighboring areas in which experiments were conducted, we questioned exactly how Monsanto would control the wind, rain, and agricultural runoff that threatened to spread the Frankenseeds. (Never mind that they would probably love to do exactly that).
Well, now Monsanto and the USDA are scrabbling to reassure consumers concerned about just how deeply into the environment this GMO wheat may have spread. Even though they assure us that the wheat is safe for human consumption, the USDA has launched a formal investigation to determine how this spread of Monsanto’s illegal wheat occurred.
Unfortunately, the rest of the world is no more confident about this than consumers are. Bloomberg News reported today that Japan has suspended imports of US-grown wheat, and the price of wheat is falling. Of additional concern according to KGW in Portland: “The discovery also could have implications for organic companies, which by law cannot use genetically engineered ingredients in foods.”
Enough is enough. This past weekend CFH stood with food activists against Monsanto’s machinations at the March Against Monsanto, and we urge you to stand with us now and take action to label GMOs. If we can’t predict when such accidents will occur as a result of genetic tampering, we can at least ensure we’re informed when GMOs are present in what we eat and drink.
Please visit our partners in this fight at JustLabelIt.org and tell Congress we’ve avoided long enough taking the steps necessary to ensure we are informed about what we feed ourselves and our families.
Vegetables, antioxidants, fiber – these are all good things, right? Sure, unless they are actually just your cabbage-variety junk food masquerading as healthful food substances.
With gazillions of products on store shelves vying for your attention, don’t think that food and beverage manufacturers are unaware that consumers look for these buzz words, along with pictures of fruits and veggies on packaging. And they’re especially tuned into the guilty feeling that comes with snacking on less than stellar foods — guilt they make no bones about taking advantage of. Below are six examples of these fraudulent products, followed by some tips on healthy substitutes you can choose so you won’t fall prey to this snack-food scam.
Sweet Potato Chips from Food Should Taste Good:
I don’t think even the company that makes this product is quite sure what it is. While “Sweet Potato” is presented in a great big font, further down, in much smaller letters it says “tortilla chips (it’s a cracker too!)” and then the fact that it’s really: “made with sweet potato.”
Yes, it is made with some sweet potatoes, but this chip (or cracker, if you choose) is mostly made from corn. It’s essentially a corn chip, which is fine if that’s what you’re looking for. But don’t get misled by the sweet potato come-on.
Home-made sweet potato chips are quite easy to make. The hardest part is cutting the sweet potato which you can make much easier by using a mandoline-type cutter. The rest is as easy as opening this bag of corn chips in disguise.
Veggie Crisps Mixed Vegetable Snack from Herr’s:
Instead of the slick photo of veggies taking up a good top half of this bag, here’s what would be depicted if Herr’s accurately represented its contents: a bag of potato flour and potato starch, a bottle of canola oil, some “natural” flavors, more oil, and, finally – some tomato paste and spinach powder.
Considering that one little ounce of ‘real’ spinach will give you 56 percent of your daily allowance of vitamin A, 14 percent of your C and 5 percent of your iron, this bag of corn flour chips contains zero of those nutrients, so whatever amount of paste and powder are in them doesn’t amount to much of anything.
All Natural Veggie Sticks from Nice!:
Nice!, the new-ish Walgreens store brand has put a lot of thought into the package design of these potato-flour thingies they call “veggie sticks.” Front and center is a “pot” labeled “spinach” with the “veggie” sticks in them bearing a sign that says “eat your greens.” Maybe they mean the color green, as the small amount of spinach powder these contain doesn’t amount to a hill of, well, spinach.
Fiber Plus Antioxidants from Kellogg’s:
If you just went by the front of this box you may think this product contains everything you need for health and happiness; fiber, antioxidants, coconut and fudge.
With just one bar providing 35 percent of your daily fiber “value,” it sounds like a heck of a deal. But the fiber in these Kellogg’s chewy bars isn’t from whole grains, but rather from chicory root fiber, an additive that food manufacturers love, since it adds loads of fiber to foods, is slightly sweet and mixes well with other ingredients without adding a strong flavor.
Unfortunately, one big problem with chicory root fiber is that individuals can differ greatly in just how much they can tolerate without suffering from gas, bloating, nausea and flatulence. Even small amounts can set some folks rumbling. So considering what Kellogg’s is packing these bars with, perhaps you’d be better off not to try them for the first time on your way to that big job interview.
But it’s not the turbulent chicory root fiber that puts these bars in the “fake” category. It’s the rest of the ingredients, which include high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, artificial colors and partially hydrogenated oil – making this a healthy snack not.
Green Tea Ginger Ale from Canada Dry:
I don’t care how many antioxidants they pump this with — it’s still soda! And a soda with high fructose corn syrup as the second ingredient and two preservatives to boot. If it’s green tea you’re looking for there are numerous high quality ready-made brands (such as Honest Tea with honey) to choose from, or you can make your own with boiling water and some tea! I know it sounds crazy, but folks have been brewing tea like that for centuries, I’ll bet you can probably do it, too.
Garden Veggie Straws from Sensible Portions:
The folks that designed the Garden Veggie Straws package must have had a moment of truth about this product. A small moment, perhaps, recorded in very small type way down on the bottom of the package, which refers to it as “potato snack.” But that, of course, is eclipsed by the super-gigantic “veggie” name and basket of vegetables graphic.
Actually, this product is pretty much comprised of potato flour and starch with some rice flour and corn starch thrown in for non-veggie good measure. But then, there’s is the added tomato paste and spinach powder, which in some contorted, regulatory way, allows this product to be out in the marketplace with the term “veggie” in its name. (Oddly, it’s also distributed by no less than the Hain Celestial Group, one of the biggest players in the natural and organic food category.)
Are you really hankering for a healthy snack?
Then here are some simple suggestions for steering clear of scams like the ones mentioned above:
Veggies– the real thing: If it’s vegetables you want to snack on, then make it vegetables, not potato-flour chips! Carrots, peppers, celery – all these veggies travel quite well and can be easily prepped at home for any snack bag.
Organic corn and potato chips: At those times when only a chip will do, the organic section of your supermarket is a much better place to look, with plenty of varieties to select from.
Nuts: Cashews, pistachios and almonds are now widely regarded as “health foods.” Watch out, however, for ones with flavor-enhancing additives. (Actually, nuts taste great with nothing added other than, perhaps, a bit of sea salt).
Fruits: Apples, bananas and oranges look as if nature designed them just for taking on the road with you.
Homemade goodies: Do you make your own popcorn, cookies, bars or fruit mixes from healthy or organic ingredients? Then make an extra batch to take along with you, and you’ll avoid becoming a hungry ‘hostage of the highway’, buying cheap chips and fake veggie products from convenience stores and rest areas vending machines.
So just how much high fructose corn syrup are you consuming, anyway? If you regularly dine out or eat processed foods, the chances are high you’re taking in more than you might have ever imagined.
Back in the 1980s, when HFCS was a fairly new food ingredient, it was being touted as “better use of an abundant homegrown crop” in a trade publication ad for Cargill headlined “How the newest ingredient in soda pop helps sweeten the pot for corn growers.” As the ad explained it, a $90 million expansion of the company’s facilities would, when completed, give it “a total capacity of 1.3 billion gallons of fructose a year … enough to fill a trainload that would stretch 154 miles.” Which is an awful lot of fructose – the very component that the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) has more recently tried to downplay in advertising claiming that HFCS is not really all that high in fructose after all.
But all that extra capacity has apparently been put to use, judging from the way HFCS has morphed way beyond “soda pop” into every conceivable food product that can be made. An example of just how much HFCS is being produced these days comes directly from the CRA itself, which noted in the most recent “Corn Annual” report that total shipments for HFCS for 2011 came to more than 19 billion pounds of the stuff.
Back when that ad ran, in 1982, USDA numbers for “deliveries” of HFCS only amounted to 26.6 pounds per person each year. But that number has been insidiously rising year after year as this test-tube sweetener has found its way into every kind of food, hitting the 60-pound-per-person mark in 1997 (interestingly, sugar intake has actually declined over the last century according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures).
So exactly how much HFCS do these various foods contain? Unless you’re privy to “proprietary” information, as it’s called in the industry, you really have no way of knowing. That’s also true of the actual fructose amount in whatever HFCS “blend” a manufacturer may be using. These unknown fructose concentrations are the subject of a current petition filed with the Food and Drug Administration by Citizens for Health, asking that the agency take action against food and beverage manufacturers using HFCS with fructose amount above 55 percent, the highest amount the FDA allows (Read more about the issue here).
Finding HFCS in everything from prunes to pickles
What we do know for sure is that HFCS turns up in some very unexpected places, such as the products below.
Progresso Bread Crumbs (Plain): The package says the these bread crumbs will “inspire your passion for the art of cooking…” with “authentic Italian taste,” but you’d be hard pressed to find an “authentic” Italian dish that called for high fructose corn syrup.
Sunsweet Prunes: Referred to on the label as “the American Super Fruit,” there is no doubt that prunes are a healthy as well as a sweet-tasting natural product – and one you would least suspect would harbor an unnatural sweetener like HFCS.
French’s Flavor Infuser 10 Minute Marinade: High fructose corn syrup takes the honor of being the very first ingredient in this concoction, even before water and tomato paste.
Kraft Catalina Anything Dressing: With the claim that it’s “fat free” appearing on four places on the packaging, this product is apparently intended to be used on more than salad, as the name implies. It also has HFCS is listed as its second ingredient, right after tomato paste.
Kraft Miracle Whip: Kraft calls this popular dressing a “secret blend,” but if you read the label you’ll find that it includes HFCS.
Vlasic Bread & Butter Pickles: HFCS is the second ingredient, right after cucumbers – demonstrating how easy it is to make a sandwich with HFCS in every single ingredient and not even realize it!
Mott’s Original Applesauce: Here’s yet another supposedly good-for-you-food bearing a major brand name that’s been adulterated with this cheap and unnatural sweetener. Fortunately, organic unsweetened applesauce is easy to find and just about the same price.
Krusteaz Cranberry Orange Supreme Muffin Mix: How “supreme” could the muffins made from this mix be with HFCS in them?
Heinz 57 Sauce: While the label asserts it will “add zest to steak, chicken & pork,” a glance at the fine print says it will also add HFCS, which is the second ingredient in this sauce after tomato paste.
Campbell’s Healthy Request Vegetable Soup: Also masquerading as a “healthy” product while containing high fructose corn syrup is this new version of an old standard recipe, whose label claims that’s it’s “M’m! M’m! good…for your heart.” But a study, done at that University of California at Davis, found that adults who consumed HFCS for two weeks as 25 percent of their daily calorie requirement had increased blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, indicators of increased risk for heart disease. And in 2011, researchers at Georgia Health Sciences University concluded that high fructose consumption by teens can put them at risk for heart disease and diabetes.
The upshot is that despite industry claims that high fructose corn syrup is fine “in moderation,” the fact that so many diverse types of popular food products have been spiked with it makes consuming “moderate” amounts highly unlikely – unless you’re in the habit of carefully scrutinizing the ingredients of every processed food you buy (or of purchasing organic products). Not to mention that there may well be even higher levels of fructose in many of those items than you’ve been led to believe.
You might even say there’s a whole trainload of it just waiting for you in the supermarket.
Adapted from Beyond Nuclear, fellow coalition member of the Fukushima Fallout Awareness Network
Citizens for Health, along with the other coalition members of Fukushima Fallout Awareness Network (FFAN Homepage, FFAN on facebook), filed a petition with the FDA to drastically reduce the amount of radioactive cesium permitted in food, from a ridiculous 1200 Bq/kg to 5 Bq/kg (see why here, read why here). The Bq (Becquerel) is a measure of radioactivity. The FDA is now accepting comments on our petition and every person’s voice counts, so leave a comment in support here!
Our petition asks for a binding limit of 5 Bq/kg of cesium 134 & 137 combined in food, nutritional supplements, and pharmaceuticals. This is necessary because of continuing exposure to radiation in the wake of the ongoing catastrophe at Fukushima, where reactors are still releasing radioactivity, along with atomic bomb testing and routine releases from nuclear power plants. We also ask that testing be widespread and, when technologically feasible, measurements below 5 Bq/kg be taken. Through this effort we would like a database of contamination levels to be established and maintained, with information relevant to researchers, so that movement of the cesium radionuclide in our environment can be tracked since it tends to biomagnify once released.
The current US FDA recommendation – which is not a binding law – for cesium 134 & 137 radioactivity in food is twelve times higher than the limit in Japan. Curious and deserving concern, the Japanese standards before Fukushima were significantly more stringent. Before Fukushima, nuclear waste material above 100 Bq/kg was required to be monitored and disposed of in specialized containers. The new (after Fukushima) limit for debris in the “wide area incineration” program is 240 to 480 Bq/kg. Today, Japan limits the cesium 134 & 137 radioactive contamination in food to 100 Bq/kg and the US FDA recommends that cesium 134 & 137 radioactive contamination in food be kept below 1,200 Bq/kg.
In post-Chernobyl Belaurs studies, reutersbandazhevsky-1, it appears that just 11 Bq/kg of internal cesium contamination can make children suscepitble to heart problems. At 50 Bq/kg, children can start to have permanent tissue damage.
Additionally, in a 2011 report, IPPNW 2011 Report, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), Germany, has determined that the European Union cesium limit of 370 Bq/kg for babies and 600 for adults is woefully unprotective. Such high limits for cesium could be responsible, in combination with other man-made radioactivity such as strontium-90, plutonium-239, and iodine-131 (cesium-137 is a sentinel indicator for the presence of these other isotopes and often does not exist without them), for roughly 150,000 additional cancer deaths in Germany alone if people consume only products contaminated to the maximum permissible limit. This number does not account for incidence of cancer nor any other wide-ranging diseases or genetic disorders radiation could cause.
The highest limit in Europe is half of the 1200 Bq/kg of cesium that the FDA recommends as its action limit. We should note, however, that the US recommendation comports very closely with the 1250 Bq/kg limit for most foodstuffs proposed by EURATOM (European Atomic Energy Community), the body of the EU that promotes nuclear power.
The IPPNW report recommends a 4 Bq/kg limit of cesium-137 and a 4 Bq/kg limit of cesium-134 for children, limits very similar to the 5 Bq/kg we are asking the FDA to implement for everyone. CFH believes it is impractical for the US to have one standard for adults and one for children – it would be difficult to regulate & add to the cost of implementation, so the standard should suit the most vulnerable. The IPPNW report recognizes this fact.
FFAN coalition members, including CFH, will be spearheading public participation initiatives in support of this FDA petition, adding more supporting material through petition addendums, and help educate the public, the FDA, and Congress on the issues. Stay tuned for upcoming updates and Action Alerts!
Sign (add your support through a comment) the Citizen Petition to the FDA here.
Make your voice resonate by signing this petition, Say Bye Bye to Becquerels! as well, which FFAN has created for the general public.
Reading a food package sounds like it should be pretty easy, doesn’t it? You simply pick it up and learn about the product that’s inside. But there’s a war going on in food labeling, a conflict between the words and images that call attention to the package and its actual contents, which manufacturers typically would rather you didn’t scrutinize. So they try their best to ‘sucker’ you in with containers that shout out, in Three Stooges fashion, “Hey, look over here!”
Of course when you shop for “real” food in the produce section or the farmers’ market, there is typically no packaging to read — the food sells itself, so to speak. But when you look at what’s inside most “food-like substances,” as author Michael Pollan calls them, you can see why such diversionary packaging is needed.
So what are some of the ways manufacturers entice us into buying products using misleading claims and pictures? Here are a few examples:
4C Totally Light Green Tea Mix
The hook: antioxidants and ‘green tea’ itself. Green tea has become a favorite of health-food enthusiasts due to some amazing ingredients called catechins and, in particular, EGCG, that appear to be some of the best things a body can consume to ward off numerous diseases and other ailments.
The truth: “antioxidants” is a broad term. The package says each serving contains 70mg of “antioxidants,” but it doesn’t specify what kind are in this drink, and whether they come from the EGCG that make green tea so desirable or merely from the vitamin C that has been added in the form of ascorbic acid. And since this product also contains an artificial sweetener, it can hardly be described as a health drink.
The take-away: The best information I’ve yet seen on this subject came from Men’s Health magazine, which had 14 green tea drinks analyzed for total catechin content and found that Honest Tea green tea with honey came in on top with 215 mg of catechins and 71 mg of the powerful antioxidant EGCG. To see the entire list (on which 4C is not included), click here.
Yoplait Greek Frozen Yogurt
The hook: Greek yogurt with “2X the protein of regular frozen yogurt.”
The truth: If you read my blog last week, you’re already aware that Greek yogurt is a very controversial item and frozen Greek yogurt even more so. It’s possible that frozen yogurt can contain live cultures (the reason we eat yogurt in the first place), but since frozen yogurt can possibly have acidifiers added in the manufacturing process and even undergo heat treatments, it doesn’t necessarily contain live and active cultures by the time you consume it.
While the big selling point on this product is that it has twice as much protein as conventional frozen yogurt, a closer look at the fine print reveals the statement that the “protein has been increased from 3.5g to 7g” per serving, but most likely not from “real” Greek yogurt, but from “milk protein concentrate,” or MPC. As noted last week, this is an undefined, unregulated ingredient that can come from animals other than cows and is the subject of a current legal action against Yoplait and its parent company General Mills for another one of its so-called “Greek” yogurt products.
The take-away: If you are eating yogurt for its health benefits, you’d best stick with a plain, organic variety and dress it up with your own fruit and flavorings.
True Lemon “Lemon for Your Water”
The hook: “100% natural,” “made from lemons.” Water additives are currently all the rage, and this one claims to provide an all-natural way to “flavor the day your way.”
The truth: While the box makes a big point about the product beginning “in the grove with fresh lemons selected for their superior taste,” the first ingredient is citric acid, which is almost always derived from corn, not lemons, made using a mold that feeds on corn syrup. The process of making citric acid from corn also produces manufactured glutamic acid (MSG) as well. The product also “contains soy,” which is hardly something you’d expect to find in a lemon grove.
The take-away: Most water flavorings contain some undesirable ingredients. If you want more than plain water, it’s not all that difficult to make your own flavored versions – eloquently known as “spa water” – as described here.
Hunt’s Tomatoes Sauce
The hook: “100% natural” (with depictions of fresh tomatoes) plus the supposed reliability of a long-established product from a big-name brand.
The truth: Tomato sauce should be one of the simplest of all products – made from ripe tomatoes – which is the impression that you might get when you see a brand like Hunt’s on the shelf. Unfortunately, that’s not often the case. This particular product, is made not from fresh tomatoes, but from “tomato puree” – meaning reconstituted industrial tomato concentrate, along with more citric acid, an ingredient called “tomato fiber,” and unspecified natural flavors. (It’s somewhat revealing that the product name appears to be simply “Hunt’s Sauce,” with the word “TOMATOES” stuck in in a tiny, practically invisible font.)
The take-away: While there are a lot of ‘not-so-great’ tomato sauce products out there, you can also find some really good, organic varieties. Watch out for “tomato puree” which is basically reconstituted tomato paste, and don’t let products with that ingredient fool you with pictures of fresh tomatoes, either.
So the answer to how to read a food package is quite simple: rather than focusing on the claims and graphics the manufacturer wants you to see, go right to the ingredient label. And if that appears to be a list of things that don’t sound like food, just put the item back on the shelf and find something made from real ingredients instead.
Just what are “happy calories”? If you have no idea, Coca-Cola is only to glad to fill you in on the principle of caloric contentment.
The world’s largest beverage company wants you to know that the excess calories you gain from guzzling its flagship product Coke are really your friends, ready to be spent on “extra happy activities” such as dog walking, laughing and dancing.
If that seems kind of bizarre, the fact is that its “I just want to be OK” commercial, which has been airing in prime time, is said to be one of the ways Coke is addressing “obesity head-on.”
By bringing a familiar “calories in, calories out” message to consumers (one Corn Refiners Association President Audrae Erickson has been fond of conveying in her appearances over the last few years), the soft-drink giant has been doing its part to spread the word that that “…all calories count, no matter where they come from, including Coca-Cola.,” but can be easily worked off through all kinds of recreational pastimes.
Of course, there are scores of consumers and health professionals who would call those calories in Coke, which come from high fructose corn syrup, distinctly ‘unhappy’ ones that may ‘count’ in ways we hadn’t counted on.
For example, health guru and integrative medicine pioneer Andrew Weil, M.D. calls HFCS “a direct driver of obesity in kids,” and something he predicts is “going to turn out to be one of the very worst culprits in (our) diet.”
And Dr. Mark Hyman, bestselling author, practicing physician and chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine, notes that the consumption of high fructose corn syrup, which went from zero to over 60 pounds per person per year, has coincided with “obesity rates (that) have more than tripled and diabetes incidence (increasing) more than sevenfold” – a correlation he believes “cannot be ignored.”
In fact, if you look at “delivery” data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), it wasn’t until 1968 that HFCS first appeared as a little blip on the data chart, coming in at 0.1 pounds consumed per person annually. By 1978 we were sucking in 10.8 pounds per person per year, and it was all uphill (or downhill) from there, hitting an annual high in 2002 of 62.9 pounds of HFCS consumption per capita.
By contrast, our sugar intake has actually declined over the last 100 years, with folks in 1909 consuming over 73 pounds per person annually, rising to 101 pounds by 1969, only to drop almost 40 pounds per person by 2011 with the corresponding rise in HFCS use.
And if you’ve ever wondered how much actual HFCS might be in that soda, we’ve actually gone to the trouble of measuring out the amount of this test-tube sweetener that can be found in various ‘syrupy’ drinks (which, as we’re pointed out before, are not “sugary drinks” in spite of how many times you see them mistakenly described as such). The results are shown below.
The point is that while sugar may be sugar, it is not high fructose corn syrup (as was made clear last year by the Food and Drug Administration) – and just as a teaspoon of high fructose corn syrup is not the same thing as “a spoonful of sugar” (or a sugar cube), neither can the calories found in these two very different sweeteners be said to affect us the same way, in the opinion of many experts.
So while it may once have been fairly easy to “work (or play) off” the calories in a truly “sugary drink” and “be OK,” it may not be quite so simple with one whose caloric content comes from HFCS.
Perhaps someone ought to tell the folks who market Coke.
What do you do if you’re the great and powerful American Dairy Industry and you want to make a major change in U.S. Food and Drug Administration food-labeling regulations, only to have your proposal met with an uproar from consumers? Well, you can then try and soft-pedal the actual aim of your petition – with a little help from your friends at the FDA of course!
Last Monday the regulatory agency posted a page at its web site to address the “confusion” on the issue. This new ‘education’ page, headed “FDA wants your opinion on dairy-products labels,” attempts to explain what the petition is all about by including a lot of rhetoric from the dairy industry itself – for example, “reduced calorie” labeling is “unattractive to children,” and updating the milk standard “would promote honesty and fair dealing.” The page then asks the public to offer comments on such questions as whether the proposed change will create an “increased burden for consumers” who want to know what their milk might be sweetened with.
So what’s behind the FDA’s transparent attempt to defend the petition against being ‘misunderstood’ by consumers? The answer can be found in the trade pub Food Business News, which quotes International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) spokesperson Peggy Armstrong as saying that the petition has “drawn some negative feedback due to misunderstanding” – an apparent reference to more than 33,000 negative comments on the petitions filed at the site.
Now granted, there has been a good deal of confusion about the purpose of this petition, which attempts to change the “standard of identity” for milk (and certain other dairy products). But one thing is clear from the responses – the fact that many people don’t want either the FDA or the industry to “mess with our milk,” as one writer put it, and just intuitively don’t seem to like the idea of “aspartame” being connected with “milk” in the same sentence.
But while supposedly attempting to dispel whatever “confusion” may exist over the petition, neither the FDA nor the IDFA have bothered to inform us about what the really big story here is – one that I wrote about at the end of last month.
As I noted then, the most alarming consequence for parents should the FDA approve the petition — and what’s in it for the dairy industry — is that by changing the standard of identity for milk, in effect the FDA will now be granting permission for aspartame-sweetened flavored milk to be offered in the National School Lunch Program and the National School Breakfast Program, which it is currently not.
Existing regulations mandate that these two federally supported nutrition programs must include meals that offer eight ounces of milk. And that milk must be the kind described in the milk “standard of identity.” By changing that standard, I was informed by Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs, it would mean that artificially sweetened milk would then “meet the definition” required to potentially be served up to more than 31 million kids a day.
The “confusion” alluded to by the FDA stemmed from many people’s mistaken belief that aspartame is not now allowed in milk, and would be under the proposed change, The fact is, however, that nothing currently stops manufacturers from adding aspartame to flavored milk to their heart’s content – just as long as the front label contains some additional words to “signal the presence of artificial sweeteners” such as “reduced calorie milk” or “no added sugar” or perhaps even “dairy beverage.” And that’s where the new identity standard would come in, both knocking out the restriction against allowing artificially sweetened milk in those school programs and eliminating the front label “signal” (although aspartame would still be listed on the ingredients label).
But even if you don’t understand all the technical aspects of what a “standard of identity” is or the basics of food labeling laws, the thought of every child who participates in the National School Lunch or Breakfast Program being offered aspartame-sweetened milk on a daily basis should be enough of a reason to add your comments on this petition before the May 21 deadline. You can click here to go to the FDA site and tell them what you think.
Besides protecting kids from being served a neurotoxic chemical in their milk at school, it’s a chance for you to help “educate” both the FDA and the dairy industry in the kind of standards that consumers expect them to maintain.
Government Regulations Violated
Products Found Laced with Banned Corn Sweetener – Families Encouraged to Contact FDA
April 23, 2013 – We rely on our government to keep us safe. Whether it’s the threat of violence or unsafe products, most believe that our government will watch out for us and protect us.
So why is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowing food and beverage makers to use an untested and unapproved substance that could be hazardous to our health?
The culprit here is a super-sweet industrial additive known as HFCS-90. It’s a strain of the highly controversial High Fructose Corn Syrup, but it has 90% fructose, almost twice the legal limit allowed for use in our foods and beverages.
The FDA has never approved HFCS-90 because it says it “does not have adequate information to assess the safety of…the final product.” The FDA also noted that “additional data on the effects of fructose consumption…would be needed to ensure that this product is safe.”
But the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), a lobbying group that represents the companies that manufacture HFCS-90, recently admitted that this banned ingredient has been in use “with FDA knowledge for decades.” In blatant violation of government regulations, one manufacturer, Archer Daniels Midland, even markets a non-FDA approved food product, Cornsweet 90® on its corporate website.
Numerous clinical studies have shown that people who consume excess amounts of fructose are more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease and become obese.
The FDA has only approved High Fructose Corn Syrup with no more than 55% fructose content. Yet a 2010 study found that samples of Coke, Pepsi and Sprite all had fructose levels much higher than the legally approved FDA limit.
So why isn’t the FDA cracking down on these violators? Why isn’t our government protecting us and our families from this known hazardous food ingredient?
Consumers must take action to stop this. Citizens for Health has filed a petition with the FDA to enforce the legally approved levels of HFCS fructose in our foods–and punish food makers that violate these regulations. The petition also demands that food and beverage labels include accurate HFCS fructose levels. We urge you to click here to add your name and comments to this important FDA petition.
April 18, 2013
If you’ve been reading my blogs here at Food Identity Theft, you’ve no doubt heard about HFCS 90, a ‘super-high’ high fructose corn syrup formulation which, according to a leading manufacturer of this laboratory-created sweetener, Archer Daniels Midland, is the “ideal choice for reduced calorie foods such as beverages, jellies and dressings.”
My previous research indicated that both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) know about HFCS 90 and its food uses. Numerous studies, patents (including a method for using HFCS 90 to produce a reduced-calorie beverage that was assigned to PepsiCo) and journal articles refer to it and all the different foods that can be sweetened with it.
Of course, the position of the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) has been that the fructose content of HFCS is “virtually the same” as real sugar — saying on its web site that the sweetener “is actually NOT high in fructose.”
But now, the CRA itself has come out and admitted that HFCS containing such mega doses of fructose has been in use “with FDA knowledge for decades.”
Given that the fructose content of HFCS is a topic the CRA would prefer not to discuss, it’s unlikely the organization would ever have made such an acknowledgment if not for a petition filed with the FDA this past September by Citizens For Health. The petition requests that the agency take action against food and beverage manufacturers using HFCS with fructose levels above 55 percent (the highest amount the FDA allows) and in the interim, require that actual percentage of fructose it contains be specified on the label.
In responding to that petition, J. Patrick Mohan, interim president of the Corn Refiners Association, not only states that HFCS 90 has been used for “decades,” but also claims the “FDA acknowledged this in 1996 when it issued the HFCS GRAS (generally recognized as safe) affirmation regulation.” What Mr. Mohan neglects to mention, however, is in what context the FDA “acknowledged” HFCS 90 use.
In fact, what the agency said was, “This product contains a substantially different ratio of glucose to fructose than…HFCS-55. The HFCS-90 is not included in this rulemaking because the agency does not have adequate information to assess the safety of residual levels of the processing materials in the final product.” The FDA also noted that “additional data on the effects of fructose consumption that is not balanced with glucose consumption would be needed to ensure that this product is safe.”
Seeking further clarification, I asked the agency last year about HFCS 90, and was informed in an email from a spokesperson that HFCS 90 is a “nonstandardized food” and is “not high fructose corn syrup.”
‘Limited’ to what, exactly?
Mohan’s response also makes mention of “fluctuations in fructose levels above 42 or 55 %” in HFCS, which he apparently believes “would be expressly permitted” by regulatory officials.
Those so-called “fluctuations” were ‘discovered’ in 2010 by Dr. Michael Goran, director of the Childhood Obesity Research Center (CORC) and professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California. Dr. Goren, who regards higher fructose intake as a risk factor in health problems such as diabetes (as do other experts), analyzed samples of Coke, Pepsi and Sprite, and found that fructose levels in the HFCS used in these popular beverages went as high as 65 percent.
“The only information we have,” Goran told me in an interview, “is that industry says sodas and beverages are made with HFCS 55, which suggests that 55 percent of the sugar is fructose. That’s an assumption that everybody makes,” he said. “So we decided we wanted to actually verify, measure the fructose content so we could get a better handle on how much fructose people were actually consuming every time they open a can of soda.”
In fact, consumers have been given the impression that HFCS is even lower in fructose than that. In a TV ad blitz sponsored by the CRA, they were told that HFCS and sugar are basically the same, having “virtually” equal amounts of fructose and glucose. (Natural sugar, or sucrose, contains a fixed amount of 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose). One commercial – although it wasn’t produced by the CRA, but another group called “SweetScam.com” – even depicts HFCS as a psychiatric patient complaining to Dr. Ruth about having a name like “high fructose corn syrup” that was really “stupid…as I’m actually low in fructose” and being advised to change it to “corn sugar” (a recommendation that was flatly rejected by the FDA).
But Mohan, must have missed all those commercials, judging from his letter to the FDA, which also states that “…there is no evidence that consumers have been ‘told’” about the fructose content of HFCS, and that “(I)nformation of that specificity simply does not appear on product labels or in the advertising or marketing of HFCS-containing, end-user products.” And while his letter claims that HFCS 90 uses are “minor” and that the “FDA has been aware of these limited uses for decades,” he provides no hints as to which food products may actually contain it or any idea of what “minor” and “limited” actually mean in this context.
All of this leaves us with a question: how do we know the precise fructose content of food products containing HFCS? Is it 42 percent, 55 percent, 65 percent, 90 percent,or somewhere in between? And what, exactly, are those supposedly “limited” and “minor” items that the CRA now admits have contained the 90 percent fructose version of HFCS for all these years?
These are things every American consumer should have a right to know. And by signing and supporting this Citizens for Health Petition to have HFCS fructose amount labeled, you’ll be making a statement that secrecy is impermissible when it comes to what we’re ingesting – and how much.