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Tell the FDA to Crack Down on Radiation in our Food

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!

Step One:

Sign (add your support through a comment) the Citizen Petition to the FDA here.

Step Two:

Make your voice resonate by signing this petition, Say Bye Bye to Becquerels! as well, which FFAN has created for the general public.

Four Examples of How You’ve Been Reading Food Labels All Wrong

Courtesy of
FoodIdentityTheft Blogger and CFH Contributor

May 7, 2013

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.

A Spoonful of HFCS is Neither “OK” nor Especially “Happy”

Courtesy of
FoodIdentityTheft Blogger and CFH Contributor

April 30, 2013

 

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.”

 


 

 Sign Our Petition to the FDA to Label HFCS Accurately

Our petition requests that the FDA take action to protect the public from the illegal, mislabeled use of high fructose corn syrup.

Sign the Petition

 

 


 
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.

 

HFCS – FDA Allowing Illegal Ingredient In Foods & Beverages

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.


 

 Sign Our Petition to the FDA to Label HFCS Accurately

Our petition requests that the FDA take action to protect the public from the illegal, mislabeled use of high fructose corn syrup.

Sign the Petition

 

 

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.

Corn Refiners Admit HFCS with 90 Percent Fructose Used “for Decades”

Courtesy of
FoodIdentityTheft Blogger and CFH Contributor

April 18, 2013

Exactly how much fructose does a can of Coke contain?

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.”


 

 Sign Our Petition to the FDA to Label HFCS Accurately

Our petition requests that the FDA take action to protect the public from the illegal, mislabeled use of high fructose corn syrup.

Sign the Petition

 

 


‘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.

Read Your Labels Day – Get the “411” on What’s in your Food

April 11, 2013

Washington, D.C. – Citizens for Health has declared 4/11 National “Read Your Labels Day”. For one day (at least) we want you to investigate – and share – “the 411” on the importance of reading the labels on foods and beverages before you buy them.

Observing the claims isn’t enough when a product can contain 10 times – or more – as much high fructose corn syrup than fruit juice, but make a big deal about being “made with real lemons”. Technically accurate, yes. Informative in any real sense of the word? No. Nor are the nutrition “facts” telling the whole story. Think of them as the main title of a movie. While they give you a very basic idea of what’s inside, you really don’t know the details until you see the end credits roll.

The list of ingredients is the end credits of the movie, and without it you’d have no real idea what it took to create what you’re eating. That’s why we want you to stand up to the food industry and refuse to accept deceptive marketing ploys like references to nonexistent fruit or bogus claims of “no MSG.”

What you can do today:

Check our list of the “Top Ten Additives to Avoid and learn why they made the list – courtesy of FoodIdentityTheft.com blogger and CFH contributor, Linda Bonvie. When you find any of these ingredients  – or a favorite offender of your own – take a photo with your phone and share it with the world on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #ReadYourLabels.

Visit the CFH Facebook page and share your personal pledge to avoid as many of these 10 ingredients as you can. It won’t be easy to avoid them all, since manufacturers do their best to disguise or distract you from the worst of them. But it’s worth it, and it’s a great exercise in staying informed about what you eat and feed to your families.

Sign the petition to label high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) – read more and sign here.

Get creative! Have an idea for how to mark the day, or how to share the “411” with other concerned consumers? Share it with us and other Citizens for Health through Twitter (#ReadYourLabels) or Facebook.

We’ll be watching eagerly for what you share!

Golfers Going Green Tournament – Proceeds Benefit CFH!

March 26, 2013

golfers_greenIt’s now officially Spring – even if your area hasn’t quite caught up yet. With Spring comes visions of picnics, BBQs and other time-tested outdoor activities…Like golf!

Are you a budding pro? A duffer? Or perhaps you couldn’t tell the difference between an iron and a wood with both hands and a flashlight?

It doesn’t matter! Mark your calendar for the Golfers Going Green two-person scramble, to be held Saturday, April 20, at Oceana Golf Club. It’s a 10 AM shotgun start and your $60 team registration includes golf, cart, food and prizes. Best of all: Proceeds will be donated to Citizens for Health! 

How you can be involved:

–Compete! The limit is 60 teams, so act now – you can register by calling the Club at (231) 861-4211.

–Sponsor a tee sign! $100 gets you a professionally designed 24″x18″ full-color two-sided sign with your message. Advertise your business, an issue important to you, or say hi to friends or family. We hope this event will be an annual one, and those who sponsor signs this year will get a chance to do so again next year at half the cost. To sponsor a sign, contact organizer Jim Kueny at (231) 670-6211, or email him at golfersgoinggreen@gmail.com. Check out an example of a tee sign here.

Get a “tee”-shirt! Let people know you support issues of sustainability by sporting this special event tee for $22 – and remember, proceeds go to CFH. Order one here. Have it waiting for you at the event, or have it sent to you if you can’t attend. Buying a shirt also earns you a free golf cart voucher for your next 9 holes at Oceana!

This is a truly “green” family event, fun and educational. Green event sponsors and vendors, recycled golf balls, issue-oriented signs throughout the course – event organizer Jim Kueny has pulled out all the stops to make this enjoyable for everyone. Easy and tough pin placements, great food and prizes – and all to support CFH’s efforts to preserve and expand your right to make informed decisions about what you feed to your families.

Committed to spreading the word about nutrition and sustainable practices, Mr. Kueny has made it his life’s work to help people eat smart and stay healthy – so “naturally” he asked us to help him get the word out and chose CFH to be the beneficiary of his efforts.

Help Jim help us – to help you! Share this with your friends who care about healthy food and urge them to get involved. If local, get them to register. If not, suggest they buy a t-shirt or sponsor a tee sign. And, of course, we hope to see you there.

For further information or questions, please contact Jim Kueny at (231) 670-6211, or email him at golfersgoinggreen@gmail.com. And check out the event page on Facebook.

As always, thank you for your participation.

The Citizens for Health Team

Read Your Labels: The “Top Ten” Additives to Avoid: A Recap

From our Read Your Labels Campaign, a recap of the series “Top Ten Food Additives to Avoid”, courtesy of

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been blogging about the Citizens For Health selections of the top ten food additives to avoid in the “Read Your Labels” campaign. In case you missed any of the actors in this rogue’s gallery of unnecessary and health-damaging ingredients that turn up in so many products, here’s a recap of what they are, where you’re most likely to find them, and why you should keep them out of your diet.

As the high point of this campaign, Citizens for Health has declared Thursday, April 11 to be  “Read Your Labels Day.” On that date, we would like you to help spread the “411” on these additives by taking a photo of food and beverage products containing these undesirable ingredients and sharing your photos on Instagram by using the hashtag #ReadYourLabels.

The “Read Your Labels”  top ten additives to avoid in review:

#1. High fructose corn syrup

Where you’ll find it:

Where do we begin? HFCS has permeated the marketplace in so many foods and beverages it’s just about impossible to create a list. For starters, it’s in most all sodas, and many other beverages such as tea and flavored drinks, and numerous juice drinks made for kids, as well as other sweetened items such as jellies, cookies and pastries. It also turns up in some surprising places like bread and condiments, and oddly, even in some diet foods (where it’s possible that a super-high fructose version is used). All in all, to purge HFCS from your diet, you need to read ingredient labels and reject all products containing this laboratory sweetener.

Why you should avoid it:

  • HFCS and high fructose consumption have been implicated in a variety of diseases and health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and weight gain.
  • The actual fructose percentage of HFCS is variable and unknown (which is why Citizens for Health has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to require the true fructose content of HFCS formulas be disclosed on food labels).
  • Contrary to industry propaganda, HFCS isn’t “corn sugar” or a “natural” ingredient, but a test-tube concoction that’s much cheaper than sugar.

#2. Aspartame

Where you’ll find it:

Aspartame is apt to turn up in foods labeled as “light” or “low-cal,” diet soft drinks, teas and juice drinks, kid’s vitamins, liquid cold drugs and other pharmaceuticals, chewing gum, cereal, sugar-free candies. Foods containing this artificial sweetener must also bear a warning that the item contains phenylalanine for those with a disorder called PKU.

Why you should avoid it:

  • Aspartame has never been proven to be a safe food additive, and is, in fact, considered by experts to be in a class of ingredients called “excitotoxins” that can literally excite brain cells to death, especially in children and the elderly (as are the three additives that follow);
  • Studies have connected it to the development of brain tumors in rodents and grand mal seizures in monkeys.
  • Thousands of aspartame-related health complaints, from migraines to memory loss to dizziness to vision problems have been reported to the FDA.

#3. Hydrolyzed protein
#4. Autolyzed yeast
#5. Monosodium glutamate

Where you’ll find them:

These “excitoxins” can be found in soups, broth, flavoring additives, chips, dips, soup mixes, ramen noodles, frozen meals, snack mixes, canned fish, and a wide variety of other dishes –  including “natural,” “vegetarian,” and organic ones.

Why you should avoid them:

  • These are all toxic substances containing processed glutamic acid that can kill brain cells. They are especially harmful to kids, the elderly and developing fetuses.
  • Adverse reactions to these additives include everything from skin rashes and asthma attacks to mood swings, upset stomach, migraines, heart irregularities and seizures – even potentially fatal anaphylactic shock.

#6 Potassium bromate

Where you’ll find it:

Added to flour, it can be found in breads, flat breads, bakery products, knishes and tortillas. (It may also be listed on ingredient labels as “bromated flour.”)

Why you should avoid it:

  • Potassium bromate has been known for over three decades to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
  • It’s banned in Europe, China, Canada and Brazil.
  • If it’s not used “properly,” a significant residue of this additive can end up in the finished food product.

#7 Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO

Where you’ll find it:

Some Gatorade products, Mountain Dew and other drinks containing citrus flavorings.

Why you should avoid it:

  • BVO builds up in fatty tissue and been shown to cause heart damage in research animals.
  • It’s banned in Europe, India and Japan.
  • It’s never been declared safe by the FDA, where its status has remained in limbo  for over 30 years.

#8 BHA and BHT

Where you’ll find them:

This pair of preservatives turn up in many breakfast cereals (including most Kellogg’s varieties), as well as snack foods, chewing gum, pies, cakes and processed meats.

Why you should avoid them:

  • Made from coal tar or petroleum, BHA and BHT have been of concern for decades.
  • Over 30 years ago studies found that after pregnant mice were fed BHT and BHA, their offspring were born with altered brain chemistry.
  • BHA is considered a possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization and listed as a carcinogen in California.

#9 Trans fats

Where you’ll find it:

Any food products containing partially hydrogenated oil contain trans fats, regardless of a zero trans fats listing on the nutrition facts label. These can include bakery items, pizza, dough, pies, cakes and cookies, snack foods and frozen meals.

Why you should avoid them:

  • Trans fats increase LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and decrease “good” HDL cholesterol.
  • People with high blood levels of trans fats appear to have a greater risk of developing certain cancers. (Some research has even linked them to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s.)
  • All health authorities, including government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are in agreement that trans fats cause heart disease and that cutting them out of our diet could prevent thousand of heart attacks and death from coronary disease each year.

#10 Artificial colors

Where you’ll find them:

They’re present in many cereals, cakes, candy, bakery products, drinks, juice drinks, vitamins and pharmaceuticals.

Why you should avoid them:

  • Artificial colors are widely acknowledged to cause hyperactivity and behavioral problems in some children.
  • They’re made from both coal tar and petroleum extracts – hardly the sort of things one would want to ingest.
  • Some, such as Red #3, have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals, but are still allowed to be used in foods.

So there they are in review – the top ten offenders among food additives. They’re best avoided (except in the case of processed glutamic acid), by buying organic processed foods, or, better yet, by cooking your own food from scratch as much as possible. But if you’re too hard pressed to always do all that, you should at least take the time to read those ingredient labels – and keep the items that contain these health-threatening intruders out of your kitchen and out of your life.

Read Your Labels: Often Confused with Sugar, this Ingredient Wins the Distinction of “Worst of the Worst” In Our “Read Your Labels” Campaign

From our Read Your Labels Campaign, an installment in the series “Top Ten Food Additives to Avoid”, courtesy of

The only way to avoid this additive, which turns up almost everywhere, is to read the ingredient label.

Our number-one additive to avoid in the Citizens for Health “Read Your Labels” campaign is a man-made laboratory creation that turns up in such a wide variety of foods and drinks that you need to read labels constantly in order to keep from ingesting it.

Experts have implicated this unnatural ingredient in scores of health issues and diseases. Author and pioneer in integrative medicine Andrew Weil, M.D. calls it “…one of the very worst culprits in the diet.” Consumers have made it perfectly clear they don’t want it in food products, yet manufacturers of those products keep on using it because it’s cheap and easy to add to foods and beverages.

Like processed glutamic acid, this additive also has the backing of a powerful, multimillion-dollar lobbying group whose purpose is to keep it in widespread use, no matter how unpopular it becomes.

Our number one additive to avoid: High Fructose Corn Syrup (or HFCS)

High fructose corn syrup is a highly-processed, industrial sweetener in which glucose from corn syrup is further processed to create a desired amount of much-sweeter fructose. The manufacturing of HFCS is a highly complicated process, but the product is typically less expensive than sugar. It was first created in the late 1950s and hit the marketplace during the ’70s as a sweetening ingredient in soft drinks, its use soon expanding to almost every conceivable processed food product.

Due to increasing consumer dislike of the additive, the lobbying group representing the manufacturers of HFCS, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), made a failed attempt several years ago to “officially” change the name of HFCS to “corn sugar.”  Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) firmly rejected the name switch attempt last May, the CRA had already gone full steam ahead in promoting the “corn sugar” concept. And even now, almost a year after the FDA ruled that HFCS is most decidedly not sugar, the CRA still can’t let go of the idea that it is, currently referring to the industrial sweetener and preservative as “…simply a form of sugar made from corn.”

While the CRA wants us all to believe that HFCS and sugar are identical twins – a misconception often unwittingly spread by media and politicians who describe beverages containing HFCS  as “sugary drinks” – there are numerous and substantial differences between the two, one of them being the higher and varying amounts of damaging fructose found in HFCS.

Dr. Michael Goran, director of the Childhood Obesity Research Center (CORC) and professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California, in a 2010 study published in the journal Obesity, found fructose amounts in several HFCS-sweetened sodas, such as Coke, Pepsi and Sprite to be as high as 65 percent – almost 20 percent higher than if they actually contained the 55 percent fructose version of HFCS we’ve all been led to believe they do.

While Dr. Goran’s research should have been the definitive “change (in) the conversation,” as the CRA likes to say, further research by Citizens for Health has turned up additional reasons why high fructose corn syrup is the perfect name for this laboratory-concocted additive.

Last year Citizens for Health filed a petition with the FDA asking that the agency take action against food and beverage manufacturers using HFCS with fructose amounts above 55 percent (the highest amount the FDA allows), and also, in the interim, to provide accurate label information so consumers know just what they’re buying (you can read the petition here and sign it by clicking here). The petition asks that the FDA require a manufacturer that uses HFCS to state the fructose percentage in that formulation and have the label reflect that information, such as HFCS-55, or HFCS-90.

Haven’t yet heard about HFCS 90?  This is a version of the additive that is 90 percent fructose, described by one manufacturer and CRA-member company as “…the ideal choice for reduced calorie foods such as beverages, jellies and dressings.”

A research rap sheet that gets longer all the time

One of the latest negative HFCS studies, done by Dr. Goran, found that countries consuming large amounts of HFCS have a 20 percent higher prevalence of diabetes than those where it isn’t used. Goran said what that study suggests is that “HFCS poses an additional risk” over and above other risk factors, such as obesity,  most likely due to the higher amounts of fructose in HFCS (which even if used at the ‘allowed’ 55 percent is a 10 percent increase over real sugar).

Goran is far from the only researcher to implicate HFCS and high fructose consumption with a variety of diseases and health problems. For example:

  • Georgia Health Sciences University researchers found in 2011 that high fructose consumption by teens can put them at risk for heart disease and diabetes, and also speculated that kids may “crave the cheap, strong sweetener.”
  • A Yale University study in 2013 published in the the Journal of the American Medical Association found that fructose – especially in the form of HFCS – may contribute to weight gain and obesity, since it has little effect on brain regions that act as a check on appetite.
  • Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles in 2012 showed that a diet high in fructose slows the functioning of the brain, hampering memory and learning – and that omega-3 fatty acids may counteract the disruption.
  • University of California at Davis researchers in 2011 found adults who consumed high fructose corn syrup 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 with the Corn Refiners Association reporting over 19 billion pounds of HFCS shipped in 2011, it’s pretty obvious that this unhealthy and ubiquitous sweetener is not something folks are consuming in “moderation” as the CRA claims they should. And that, many experts believe, goes a long way in explaining why our population has suddenly become so “large.”

So there you have it – a rogue’s gallery of 10 undesirable food additives that, taken together, are no doubt responsible for many of the health problems that plague our nation, marring the quality of life for tens of millions of us and steadily driving up the cost of health care.  And, unfortunately, so powerful and politically connected are the corporations that profit from their continued use in processed food that we cannot depend on regulatory agencies to keep these harmful substances out of our diet, but must take responsibility ourselves. This is why Citizens for Health has declared April 11 as “Read Your Labels Day,” which, hopefully, will mark the beginning of a healthy new trend. Stay tuned for more details and how you can participate now that you have the “411? on the top 10.

Read Your Labels: A Really Bad Additive Actor Too Often Mistaken for a “Good Guy”

From our Read Your Labels Campaign, an installment in the series “Top Ten Food Additives to Avoid”, courtesy of

Found in all kinds of foods and beverages, you need to be on the lookout to keep this toxic additive out of your diet

The second place designation in our Citizens for Health “Read Your Labels” campaign of food additives to avoid goes to a really bad actor found in many supposedly “healthy” foods as well as diet products and beverages. Although this ingredient has become totally entrenched in the marketplace, it has never been proven to be safe. In fact, studies done over 40 years ago connected it to the development of brain tumors in rodents and grand mal seizures in rhesus monkeys.

Even worse – school officials and health agencies are actively promoting this chemical as a healthy alternative for kids!

Number two: Aspartame (a.k.a. NutraSweet, Equal) the ‘diet devil’ in disguise

The aspartame fiasco is an example of how one bad regulatory decision can set the stage for a host of subsequent evils. In this case, the ‘original sin’ was a Food and Drug Administration commissioner’s decision more than three decades ago to ignore the agency’s own scientific advisers by clearing this laboratory-created synthetic sweetener for entry into the food supply, where it was soon firmly ensconced.

Aspartame (originally marketed as NutraSweet), which was accidentally discovered by a chemist working for Searle while looking  for a new ulcer drug, is made up of three neurotoxic chemicals – substances that are toxic to brain cells. (See Tuesday’s blog about other similar excitotoxins liberally added to food.)

Citizens for Health Board Chair Jim Turner, a Washington, D.C. Attorney and author of the best-selling book The Chemical Feast: The Nader Report on Food Protection at the FDA, along with his advocacy group managed to keep aspartame off the market for 11 years until 1981, when its use was approved over the advice of FDA scientists as well as the agency’s Public Board of Inquiry that previously had concluded that it should not be permitted in the food supply.

That official OK was about as clear an example of corporate influence in government as has ever been seen, an obvious political favor to the then head of Searle, Donald Rumsfeld (yes, that Donald Rumsfeld) by the incoming Reagan administration for his help on the transition team. Turner summarizes the entire aspartame fiasco as a case of “political toxicity and biological toxicity working together to create toxic health problems for the public.”

Before long, thousands of aspartame-related health complaints about everything from migraines to memory loss to dizziness to vision problems were being reported to the FDA, which even acknowledged that adverse reactions might be possible, but did nothing to reverse the decision.

Today, a growing number of health-conscious consumers avoid aspartame like the plague, avoiding any product described as “low calorie” or “sugar free.” But if the dairy industry has its way, such descriptive phrases may disappear from the front of flavored milk cartons and other dairy products that contain this chemical sweetener.

Got aspartame?

The latest wrangle involving aspartame is over a petition filed by the National Milk Producers Federation and the International Dairy Foods Association to “amend the standard identity of milk” (and 17 additional dairy products). If the FDA agrees, it would allow flavored milk with added artificial sweeteners such as aspartame to be labeled as just “milk,” eliminating the now-required “low-cal” notice on the front of the package.

The dairy industry claims this would be all for the benefit of American kids. “Promoting more healthful eating practices and decreasing childhood obesity is one of the most pressing problems facing our country today,” notes the petition, which also states that the phrase “reduced calorie…” according to market research, “doesn’t appeal to children.”

But what it does reflect is that milk consumption is way down, especially in schools where the amount of calories in the products sold in school lunchrooms are starting to be “officially” limited, and the feeling of the dairy industry that in order to sell more milk – the aspartame-sweetened kind, that is – they’ve “got to hide it from the kids.”

Fortunately, a lot of American consumers and parents who have by now become familiar with aspartame’s long and ugly “rap sheet” – which includes actually promoting, rather than discouraging obesity — are no longer willing to go along with the idea that this neurotoxic additive is a “healthy” alternative to sugar, as reflected by the amount of public outrage the petition has sparked, including a counter-petition to “tell the FDA we don’t want aspartame in our milk,” and almost 15,000 comments sent into the FDA docket.

But it does leave one to wonder about how a really bad additive actor, believed to have caused brain tumors in one set of test animals and brain seizures in another (the latter after being fed a milk-based  formula), to say nothing of countless other adverse health effects, can come to be categorized  as a “safe and suitable sweetener” for chocolate milk being sold to school children.