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Sugar Cereals Are ‘Smart Choices’? FDA Not So Sure

smart choices

Ever wondered how that “Smart Choices” sticker wound up on the front of Froot Loops or Cocoa Puffs?

Well, federal health officials are having similar thoughts, and they’re warning food manufacturers.

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that nutritional logos from food manufacturers may be misleading consumers about the actual health benefits of cereal, crackers and other processed foods. The agency sent a letter to companies saying it will begin cracking down on inaccurate food labeling. The FDA did not name specific products or give a timeline for enforcement.

U.S. manufacturers, including Kellogg, Kraft Foods and General Mills, rolled out their so-called Smart Choices program last year, amid growing concern about obesity rates. The green labels appear on the front of foods that meet certain standards for calories per serving and fat content.

But consumer advocates complain about lax standards for the program, with logos appearing on everything from frozen sweets to sugary cereals.

“There are products that have gotten the Smart Choices check mark that are almost 50 percent sugar,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said during a call with reporters.

The agency is developing proposed nutritional standards that would have to be met before manufacturers place such claims on their packages, Hamburg said. She added that she hoped industry would cooperate with the FDA to develop standardized “labeling that all Americans can trust and use to build better diets.”

Mike Hughes, chair of the Smart Choices Program, said in a statement that Smart Choices is based on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

“We believe in the science behind the Smart Choices Program,” he said. “We also look forward to the opportunity to participate in FDA’s initiatives on front-of-package labeling.”

Target Accused Of Organic Food Fraud

By Lila Shapiro

target

Ever wonder if the organic-labeled milk you’re drinking is really organic? If you purchased it at Target, it might not be. The Cornucopia Institute, a food and agriculture watchdog group, announced Tuesday that it has filed formal complaints with USDA’s organic program accusing Target Corporation of organic food fraud. And in the midst of HuffPost’s No Impact Week no less! From the group’s press release:

The complaints are the latest salvo into a growing controversy whereas corporate agribusiness and major retailers have been accused of blurring the line between “natural” products and food that has been grown, processed and properly certified organic under tight federal standards.

“Major food processors have recognized the meteoric rise of the organic industry, and profit potential, and want to create what is in essence ‘organic light,’ taking advantage of the market cachet but not being willing to do the heavy lifting required to earn the valuable USDA organic seal,” said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at Cornucopia.

The Wisconsin-based farm policy research group discovered Target nationally advertised Silk soymilk in newspapers with the term “organic” pictured on the carton’s label, when in fact the manufacturer, Dean Foods, had quietly shifted their products away from organics.

This is not the first time Target has been tainted by such accusations. In September 2007, the USDA threatened to revoke the organic status of Aurora Organic Dairy, a Colorado farm that supplies Target, and other stores, with milk.

This has been a big season for organic outrage — after Whole Foods CEO John Mackey declared his store sells “a bunch of junk,” he penned a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed attacking Obama’s health care plan which resulted in activist outrage and a series of boycotts.

Original link:www.HuffingtonPost.com

Impact Of Swimming In Chlorinated Water

chlorine

original link: Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics

By Alfred Bernard, PhD, Marc Nickmilder, PhD, Catherine Voisin, MSc and Antonia Sardella, MD, Department of Public Health, Catholic University of Louvain, Brussels, Belgium

Objective: The goal was to estimate the burden of allergic diseases associated with chlorinated pool exposure among adolescents.

Methods: We examined 847 students, 13 to 18 years of age, who had attended outdoor or indoor chlorinated pools at various rates. Of them, 114 had attended mainly a copper-silver pool and served as a reference group. We measured total and aeroallergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels in serum and screened for exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. Outcomes were respiratory symptoms, hay fever, allergic rhinitis, and asthma that had been diagnosed at any time (ever asthma) or was being treated with medication and/or was associated with exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (current asthma).

Results: Among adolescents with atopy with serum IgE levels of >30 kIU/L or aeroallergen-specific IgE, the odds ratios (ORs) for asthma symptoms and for ever or current asthma increased with the lifetime number of hours spent in chlorinated pools, reaching values of 7.1 to 14.9 when chlorinated pool attendance exceeded 1000 hours. Adolescents with atopy with chlorinated pool attendance of >100 hours had greater risk of hay fever (OR: 3.3–6.6), and those with attendance of >1000 hours had greater risk of allergic rhinitis (OR: 2.2–3.5). Such associations were not found among adolescents without atopy or with copper-silver pool attendance. The population attributable risks for chlorinated pool-related ever-diagnosed asthma, hay fever, and allergic rhinitis were 63.4%, 62.1%, and 35.0%, respectively.

Conclusion: Chlorinated pool exposure exerts an adjuvant effect on atopy that seems to contribute significantly to the burden of asthma and respiratory allergies among adolescents.

Food Is Power and the Powerful Are Poisoning Us

waist

original link: www.truthdig.com
By Chris Hedges

Our most potent political weapon is food. If we take back our agriculture, if we buy and raise produce locally, we can begin to break the grip of corporations that control a food system as fragile, unsafe and destined for collapse as our financial system. If we continue to allow corporations to determine what we eat, as well as how food is harvested and distributed, then we will become captive to rising prices and shortages and increasingly dependent on cheap, mass-produced food filled with sugar and fat. Food, along with energy, will be the most pressing issue of our age. And if we do not build alternative food networks soon, the social and political ramifications of shortages and hunger will be devastating.

The effects of climate change, especially with widespread droughts in Australia, Africa, California and the Midwest, coupled with the rising cost of fossil fuels, have already blighted the environments of millions. The poor can often no longer afford a balanced diet. Global food prices increased an average of 43 percent since 2007, according to the International Monetary Fund. These increases have been horrific for the approximately 1 billion people—one-sixth of the world’s population—who subsist on less than $1 per day. And 162 million of these people survive on less than 50 cents per day. The global poor spend as much as 60 percent of their income on food, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute.

There have been food riots in many parts of the world, including Austria, Hungary, Mexico, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Yemen, Mauritania, Senegal and Uzbekistan. Russia and Pakistan have introduced food rationing. Pakistani troops guard imported wheat. India has banned the export of rice, except for high-end basmati. And the shortages and price increases are being felt in the industrialized world as we continue to shed hundreds of thousands of jobs and food prices climb. There are 33.2 million Americans, or one in nine, who depend on food stamps. And in 20 states as many as one in eight are on the food stamp program, according to the Food Research Center. The average monthly benefit was $113.87 per person, leaving many, even with government assistance, without adequate food. The USDA says 36.2 million Americans, or 11 percent of households, struggle to get enough food, and one-third of them have to sometimes skip or cut back on meals. Congress allocated some $54 billion for food stamps this fiscal year, up from $39 billion last year. In the new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, costs will be $60 billion, according to estimates.

Amazing Resource for Food & Produce Safety Info

Pew Initiative on Food & Biotechnology

The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology was established in 2001 to be an independent and objective source of credible information on agricultural biotechnology for the public, media and policymakers. Funded through a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts to the University of Richmond, the Initiative advocates neither for, nor against, agricultural biotechnology. Instead, the Initiative is committed to providing information and encouraging debate and dialogue so that consumers and policymakers can make their own informed decisions about the technology.

The debate over agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified foods continues to mount as voices both for and against the technology get louder. As the debate is increasingly characterized in the media by the extremes, it has become more and more difficult for uninformed Americans to gather objective and credible information about this rapidly changing technology. The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology was established with this in mind and through its programs, reports, polls and research, it seeks to provide a “safe haven” of credible information to help consumers and policymakers make informed decisions about this transformative technology. The Pew Initiative receives no funding from private industry, consumer or environmental groups.

While debate continues about the benefits and risks of agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified foods, it is clear that the use of this technology is growing. The Pew Initiative strives to provide a fact-based neutral platform to provide information from all sides of the debate, distill that credible information gleaned from experts and researchers and convey it to the many stakeholders in the debate. The Initiative’s web site provides free access to original reports, issue briefs, poll data, and other pertinent research in an easily accessible format for download and discussion.

In early 2001 the Initiative began a consensus project, called “The Stakeholder Forum”, for a small group of representatives from industry, public institutions, academia, consumer and environmental groups, and several other interested parties. For two years, this group worked to develop a consensus about recommendations that would enhance the regulatory review process for agricultural biotechnology. Although the group was not able to reach consensus, all participants agreed the process formed lasting relationships that would positively enhance the debate about agricultural biotechnology.

In late 2003, the Initiative hosted a conference in Mexico City, Mexico specifically examining the many scientific, cultural, ethical, economic and environmental questions surrounding the genetic diversity of maize, a species native to Mexico, as well as the introduction of genetically modified plants to centers of origin.

Pew Initiative reports have been acknowledged by members of industry, consumer groups, and agencies of the government as contributing to the debate over agricultural biotechnology and illuminating some of the key issues surrounding the regulation of GM foods as well as the benefits and potential risks to the environment and/or public health.

The Initiative has a staff of media experts who have been featured on radio and television, both domestically and internationally and have been quoted and sourced in hundreds of publications world-wide.

Since its inception, the Pew Initiative has helped to shape the debate about agricultural biotechnology by providing a foundation of information for policymakers, regulators and members of the media to push the dialogue into the public eye and openly discuss a regulatory framework that will protect public health, the foods we eat and examine the potential risks to the environment. Through these efforts, the Initiative aims to help move the discussion about this technology beyond conflict and toward a sustained process of constructive engagement about the regulation and use of this important tool.

Click here to visit www.pewtrusts.org

Consumers Devouring Nutrient-Spiked Foods, Drinks

By MARILYNN MARCHIONE, AP Medical Writer – Thu Aug 20, 2009

Cheerios

MILWAUKEE – From heart-friendly margarines to sugary cereals that strengthen bones, once-demonized foods are being spiked with nutrients to give them a healthier glow — and consumers are biting, even on some that are little more than dressed-up junk food.

A report released Thursday finds that even in a weak economy, people will pay a premium for products seen as preventing a health problem or providing a good alternative to sodas and empty-calorie snacks. The report is from research firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

These products include winners and sinners: juices that supply kids with needed calcium, but also candy disguised as granola bars with just a smidgeon of much-ballyhooed nutrients.

The industry calls these products “nutraceuticals” or “functional foods.” Critics say they could lead people to consume too much of certain nutrients, plus too many calories and fats.

New Gov’t Study Shows Mercury In Fish Widespread

Thanks to Frank Herd for this tip.

Article by DINA CAPPIELLO – August 19, 2009

Mercury Fish

(AP) WASHINGTON — A federal study of mercury contamination released Wednesday found the toxic substance in every fish tested at nearly 300 streams across the country, a finding that underscores how widespread mercury pollution has become.

The study by the U.S. Geological Survey is the most comprehensive look to date at mercury in the nation’s streams. From 1998 to 2005, scientists collected and tested more than a thousand fish from 291 streams nationwide. While all fish had traces of mercury contamination, only about a quarter had levels exceeding what the Environmental Protection Agency says is safe for people eating average amounts of fish.

“This science sends a clear message that our country must continue to confront pollution, restore our nation’s waterways, and protect the public from potential health dangers,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.

Mercury can damage the nervous system and cause learning disabilities in developing fetuses and young children. The main source of mercury to most of the streams tested, according to the researchers, is emissions from coal-fired power plants. The mercury released from smokestacks rains down into waterways, where natural processes convert it into methylmercury — a form that allows the toxin to wind its way up the food chain into fish.

Robert Thurman: The Sacred Cows in the Health Care Debate

By Alison Rose Levy via The Integrative Health Outlook

Sacred Cow

Studies show that over half of all Americans are interested in promoting wellness and preventing disease. But some people are terrified that the food Nazis will come running after them and force feed them spinach.

In a series of upcoming blogs I’ll be speaking with thought leaders in integrative medicine and allied fields about the cultural divide on health care. For this blog, I spoke with Columbia University, Professor Robert Thurman, the leading U.S. scholar of Buddhism with a background in Tibetan Medicine.

Alison Rose Levy: Americans have poorer health outcomes than any other developed nation. That must be coming from how we approach health care. What are the blindspots that prevent us from recognizing and getting the health care we need?

Robert Thurman: It’s not a matter of fixing this or that institution or changing how we pay for health insurance. It requires a social movement. In Tibetan medicine and most other world medicines, when someone is unwell, they first look at lifestyle and diet because those two things are the major poisoning and major healing of people.