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Three Ways You Can Start Reclaiming Your Kitchen From The Processed Food Industry

Want to know a simple way to get some of the most harmful and worrisome additives out of your diet – one that doesn’t require all that extra store time reading ingredient labels?

Simply reclaim your kitchen from the grip of Big Food.

Now before you dismiss this idea by saying you haven’t got the time, patience or ability to start actually cooking, we want you to just focus on three items that we eat and drink a lot of, and that also typically contain some of the worst of the worst when it comes to food additives. You can make these items yourself, in your very own kitchen, at a fraction of the cost of what you are paying for the “fake” varieties. And the best part is, it’s relatively easy to do.

We’re talking about:

  • Soup: Canned, dried, frozen and packaged varieties (unless you’re only buying organic brands) are typically a hotbed of bad ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate, including all the disguised forms of free glutamic acid, mechanically separated chicken and turkey, along with other stabilizers, gums, thickeners and other unnatural ingredients. Soup is one of the easiest foods you can make yourself — in your kitchen — without having a can that says “Campbell’s” on it anywhere near you.
  • Bread: This is one of the simplest and least complicated foods in the world. Bread needs just four basic ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast. But you would never know that if you only saw packaged commercial varieties or refrigerated rolls, such as those offered by Pillsbury. True, making homemade bread was once a time-consuming and arduous activity. But since relatively inexpensive bread machines came on the market, it’s been streamlined to the point where you can easily do without those ersatz supermarket breads that are ingrained with ingredients not really fit for human consumption.
  • Soda:  There’s nothing  essentially wrong with the idea of drinking soda — it’s just the hideous ingredients that the great majority of these beverages contain that have put them in such disrepute. Nearly all such products these days either contain obesity-promoting high fructose corn syrup or brain-zapping aspartame and other unhealthy synthetic sweeteners. But the good news is, you really don’t have to dispense with soda in order to banish those awful additives from your diet.

Now, here’s how to start taking back your “kitchen privileges”:

The slow cooker: This easy, practical means of cooking has been the butt of jokes for too long.  Since the introduction of the Crock-Pot (a trademark of the Rival Company) back in 1970, slow cooking technology has expanded to include all kinds of possibilities.  And the time has never been better to bring out whatever kind of slow cooking apparatus you might have from wherever you’ve been hiding it, dust it off and start enjoying some real food. If you don’t yet have one, there are dozens to choose from, ranging from cheap to pricey, with all sorts of extra-helpful features that make it really hard to rationalize buying any more of those pseudo soups laced with harmful additives and “flavor enhancers.”

The bread machine: This amazing device first debuted in Japan in the late 1980s, costing a small fortune at the time. While many people own a bread machine, far fewer get around to actually using it. Perhaps the idea of making bread seems complex or intimidating — but with a bread machine, it’s amazingly easy and dependable, and will fill the whole house with a wonderful bakery aroma. One tip from years of home bread-baking experience is to find a machine with two paddles. While these were once just available in expensive versions, mine was under $80 and makes excellent bread. The dual paddles allow for better kneading, plus the loaf pan is oblong rather than a tower shape, which gives you a more traditional loaf.  Also, if you can’t wait the three-plus hours for you bread to be done, don’t be afraid to try the “quick bread” setting. The results are magically delicious in under two hours.

The SodaStream: This device offers an easy way to bring fizzy drinks back into your life without all the dangerous additives. One Food Identity Theft team member who recently got one reports that he is now “an instant fan.”  You can control the level of carbonation from lightly fizzy to full-blown, volcanic bubbles and add the flavorings after the fizzing, which can be tailored to whatever you’re in the mood for. One of the best parts of making your own soda is being able to use sweeteners of your own choosing. Perhaps the most ideal is “simple syrup,” which is, in fact, quite simple to make by heating equal parts cane sugar and water until dissolved, then cooling to room temperature.

As Dr. Mark Hyman, best-selling author and founder of the Ultra Wellness Center, said in a recent blog: “One hundred years ago all we ate was local, organic food — grass-fed, real, whole food. There were no fast food restaurants, there was no junk food, there was no frozen food — there was just what your mother or grandmother made. Most meals were eaten at home. Now, one in five breakfasts is from McDonald’s and 50 percent of meals are eaten outside the home.”

While you might not be able to change the way today’s society eats, there’s a lot you can do to keep the processed food industry from dictating your personal choices in one of the most fundamental areas of your life — starting with some basic steps toward reclaiming your kitchen.

Resources

Crockpot 101:
http://busycooks.about.com/od/slowcookerrecipes/a/crockpot101.htm

Natural fruit and honey syrups for making flavored sodas:
http://www.theyummylife.com/Fruit_Herb_Honey_Syrups

Using a bread machine for gluten-free and special allergy diets:
http://www.food-allergy.org/bread.html

Contents of Iconic Soup Cans Not So Healthy Once You Peek at Ingredient List

by Bill Bonvie

As the weather outside gets colder, there’s one type of “comfort food” that tends to be consumed in much greater quantities. I’m referring, of course, to soup.  And there’s one company (an American institution, really) that, more than any other, has over the years come to be synonymous with soup — the one that made the word “Soup” its middle name way back in 1922.  That would be the Campbell Soup Company, whose traditional red and white cans are considered so iconic that they became one of pop artist Andy Warhol’s best-known subjects back in the 1960s.

As one of the company’s classic commercial jingles once  put it, “Have you had your soup today? Campbell’s, of course,” then went on to say, “Once a day, every day, you should have a bowl of Campbell’s Soup.”

But while Campbell’s remains the nation’s No. 1 seller of canned soups, its popularity has lately been somewhat dented.  In fact, over the past decade, the company has reportedly lost about 13 percent of its market share — a trend attributed to the “millenial” generation’s having been largely turned off by its standard line of products. To get them back, Campbell’s recently began marketing a new line of “Go” soups in easy-to-open microwaveable plastic pouches with ingredients considered more appealing to a younger demographic.

Make no mistake, however — those long-familiar soup cans remain supermarket staples, and there are still many consumers who continue to take for granted that they contain some of the “healthiest” and highest quality ingredients on the market.  And one can hardly blame them, considering that’s how these soups have been promoted throughout their history, from the early 20th Century ads that described them as “The Mainspring of Health,” “healthful, wholesome and absolutely dependable,” and “the standard of soup perfection” to the company’s current web site with its “Nutrition and Wellness” page offering a variety of “Healthy Eating Plans.”

Exposed throughout their lives to such messages, most shoppers have no reason to assume that these are anything but totally wholesome and beneficial products. That is, unless they bother to look at the actual ingredients those iconic cans contain.

Whatever blends of ingredients Campbell’s Soups may have used in an earlier era,  you can be sure that they didn’t include some of the atrocious additives you’ll now find listed on their labels, where, incidentally,  you’ll also occasionally  find the same slogan used in that old commercial jingle, “Once a day — everyday.”

So we thought it might be helpful to put together a week-long “menu” of what such a recommendation would actually mean if you and your family were to take it literally:

Monday:  How about starting the week with some Cream of Mushroom — the kind with “25 % less sodium.”  A peek at the ingredients, however, tells you what the company would probably just as soon you didn’t know — that along with pure monosodium glutamate, it also contains soy protein concentrate and yeast extract, a trio of flavor enhancers of the kind often referred to as “excitotoxins” because of their ability to literally excite certain brain cells to death (especially in children), and which have been associated with a whole range of adverse effects, including aggressive behavior. Then again, you might prefer the Cream of Mushroom with roasted garlic, which in addition to those three aforementioned additives, features yet another excitotoxin, whey protein concentrate,and some partially hydrogenated soybean oil, a source of that artery-clogging trans fat that the Food and Drug Administration has now proposed phasing out of our diet.

Tuesday:  What could be healthier than some Cream of Asparagus — with some more monosodium glutamate and soy protein concentrate thrown into the mix for good measure?

Wednesday: Sounds like a good day for some hearty Minestrone, in which you’ll find not only monosodium glutamate and yeast extract mixed in with the tomato puree, carrots, potatoes and other veggies, but some good old high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) — that cheap laboratory sweetener that researchers have identified as a prime suspect in obesity, diabetes, and a host of other health problems.

Thursday: Let’s go with that old favorite, Chicken Noodle soup. Actually, there are a number of variations on this traditional theme available.  For those on a reduced salt diet, for example, there’s the one with “25% less sodium,” which makes up for it with those three taste tricksters monosodium glutamate, yeast extract and soy protein isolate. Or, perhaps you might prefer the Healthy Request Chicken Noodle, whose lineup of ‘healthy ingredients’ include HFCS, soy protein isolate and yeast extract, as well as mechanically separated chicken, which here at Food Identity Theft we like to refer to as “chicken ooze”.  There’s also one made especially for “Healthy Kids”, which includes that ever-present trio of brain-zapping flavor enhancers monosodium glutamate, yeast extract and soy protein isolate, in addition to some of that yummy “chicken ooze.”

Friday: Lentil soup, anyone?  And what would it be without some more added monosodium glutamate, along with unspecified “flavoring” and “spice” that often are nothing more than excitotoxins under a generic alias?

Saturday: New England Clam Chowder is always an all-time favorite — especially with a ‘flavor boost’ from still more monosodium glutamate and a little yeast extract thrown in to the pot for good measure.

Sunday: A Campbell’s Soup week just wouldn’t be complete without some form of tomato soup, the “classic” version of which has high fructose corn syrup as its second ingredient right after tomato puree.  You’ll also find HFCS  in the “Healthy Request” version (“M’m! M’m good for your heart” — not!) and the Old Fashioned Tomato Rice variety (bet you didn’t know HFCS was used as an additive in the good old days).  But just for a change, that would be a day off from monosodium glutamate.

Campbell soup ingredients

By now, of course, you might feel a slight buzz in your brain from the constant diet of excitotoxins — as might your kid (which could well serve as an example of the more recent Campbell’s slogan, “It’s amazing what soup can do”).  But don’t forget — this is something the folks at Campbell’s would like you to keep right on doing “once a day, every day.”

If, on the other hand, that doesn’t sound like such a great idea, despite all the health claims you’ve come to associate with Campbell’s Soup, you might just want to opt for soup without all those undesirable ingredients. If you don’t have time to throw together some homemade soup fixings in the crock pot (which isn’t all that difficult a thing to do), there are some genuinely healthy, ready-to-eat commercial alternatives available right in your supermarket, such as the organic varieties offered by Amy’s Kitchen, which include low-sodium versions (Amy’s Organic Lentil Soup, to cite just one example, is made from filtered water, organic lentils, organic celery, organic carrots, organic onions, organic potatoes, organic extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and 100% pure herbs and spices with “no hidden ingredients”).

That’s the kind of soup you really can have every day — without the risk of those additives making you nuts.

High Fructose Corn Syrup is Deemed “The New Trans Fat”

One month ago, the Food and Drug Administration issued a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils — a major source of trans fat in processed foods — are not longer “generally recognized as safe. Today Citizens for Health issued a press release urging the FDA to grant the same status to high fructose corn syrup.

The topic was covered by BevNet — the beverage industry’s leading source for information. Read their report here

Here is our official statement following the FDA’s decision related to trans fat:

High Fructose Corn Syrup is Deemed “The New Trans Fat”

Researchers Link Questionable Sugar Substitute to Serious Health Risks

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2013 /PRNewswire/ – Following the Food & Drug Administration’s recent decision that it no longer considers the man-made additive “partially hydrogenated oils,” (commonly referred to as “trans fat”) safe, consumer groups and independent doctors are now targeting the highly controversial sugar substitute High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) as the most dangerous ingredient in the nation’s food supply.

Jim Turner, who chairs Citizens for Health, a leading consumer awareness group, believes the demise of HFCS will soon follow the fate of trans fat:

  • Both are highly-processed industrial ingredients shrouded in secrecy.
  • Both spent millions on lobbyists, TV ads and highly paid advocates to try and convince consumers that their products are safe.
  • As health concerns escalated, food companies, supermarkets and restaurants voluntarily removed these ingredients.
  • Communities began banning or restricting these ingredients to stem the burgeoning medical costs associated with them.
  • Lawsuits piled up, claiming these ingredients cause serious health damages.

As clinical evidence against HFCS mounts, independent researchers are going on record to alert consumers about its health risks:

  • Obesity expert Dr. Robert H. Lustig stated, “Type 2 diabetes was unheard of in children prior to 1980–when High Fructose Corn Syrup began to be incorporated into processed foods.”
  • Dr. Mark Hyman, Chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine, said HFCS “is driving most of the epidemic of heart disease, cancers, and diabetes.”
  • Dr. Michael Goran, Director of the Childhood Obesity Research Center, reported that the HFCS found in many soft drinks are at excessive concentrations not Generally Recognized as Safe by the FDA.

Citizens for Health has filed a petition asking the FDA to take action against food and beverage manufacturers that use HFCS concentrations above approved limits, and to require accurate HFCS labeling information.  Concerned consumers are encouraged to visit the Citizens for Health website to submit their comments and sign the petition.

Thanksgiving: A Perfect Occasion for Demonstrating the Delectability of ‘Real’ Food

Thanksgiving offers a wonderful opportunity — not only to “gather together” with family members and friends from near and far for a traditional homemade feast, but in so doing, to reject today’s fraudulent food culture in favor of the kinds of things that Mother Nature intended to sustain us.

You might even say that there’s no better way to show how thankful we are for the ‘blessings of the harvest’  than to restore them to their proper place on our table. By that, I mean preparing and serving only the kinds of foods that are the ‘real deal’, rather than the adulterated, additive-laden, disease-promoting products that manufacturers have substituted for no other purpose than to minimize their costs and maximize their profits.

In an age when children have been encouraged by multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns to develop cravings for junk food and parents persuaded to serve nutrition-deficient, ready-made meals permeated with neurotoxic flavor enhancers and other synthetic ingredients that wreak havoc on health, Thanksgiving is an occasion for reintroducing to our families the simple delights of genuine food.

Take cranberry sauce, for example. Now, the cranberry is one of nature’s most healthful fruits — loaded with antioxidants, phyto-nutrients, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits.  Unfortunately, commercial food processors such as Ocean Spray have made it easy to serve canned varieties of cranberry sauce (either jellied or “whole berry”) that have been sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), the laboratory concoction that studies have linked to our current epidemics of obesity and diabetes, as well as various other health problems.

But with just a little more effort than that required to open a can and coax the HFCS-sweetened blob out with a knife, you can make HFCS-free cranberry sauce all by yourself. Fresh cranberries, water and sugar cooked till the berries pop will thicken as it cools and taste amazing (see recipe measurements here. Note, this recipe calls for orange juice, but you can also substitute water using the same amount).

Even worse than the canned cranberry sauce are commercial variants on some of the other stuff  traditionally served at Thanksgiving — like stuffing, for instance.

Two of the worst examples of this good side dish-turned bad are made by Kraft — Stove Top Turkey Stuffing and Stove Top Cornbread Stuffing.  Both look like laboratory creations, having been laced not only with HFCS,  but two other atrocious additives — partially hydrogenated soybean or cottonseed oil (a source of trans fats that ‘s now being officially phased out by the Food and Drug Administration as a cause of thousands of heart attacks every year) and hydrolyzed protein, a form of disguised MSG that can actually destroy certain brain cells — especially in children and the elderly.

Other brands of commercial stuffing mix, such as Arnold “Premium” Cornbread Stuffing and Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing, aren’t much better, despite the image of wholesomeness these brands have tried to cultivate.  Both contain HFCS and that coronary artery disease-inducing partially hydrogenated oil.

Even if you have to make your stuffing from scratch (which is not all that complicated) there is absolutely no excuse to be using chemical concoctions like the ones mentioned above.  Arrowhead Mills, for example, makes a ready-seasoned organic stuffing mix that’s just as easy to prepare as Stove Top.

Let’s talk turkey — the unadulterated kind

Then there’s the turkey itself, which can also contribute its own share of unhealthy ingredients to the mix. Watch out for any bird that is said to be “self basting,” deep basted,” or any similar claim. Also check the packaging for any added ingredients. You should be cooking a turkey, not conducting a lab experiment.

Of course, no Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without the seasonal scrumptiousness of pumpkin pie for dessert.  And your local supermarket can no doubt accommodate you with a choice of at least two or three brands, Marie Callender’s being a prime example. The problem is, Marie’s pumpkin pie comes with something besides pumpkin. It contains so much partially hydrogenated oil  that it actually registers on the trans fat scale of the Nutrition Facts label. (Most products that harbor this artificially processed artery clogger are able to use a loophole in the law to falsely claim they contain contain “zero trans fat.”)

A far better idea is to bake your own pumpkin pie using ready-made canned pumpkin, adding your own ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon, condensed milk and an additive-free pie shell (Arrowhead Mills makes a good one of those as well). You can also make your own pie shell from scratch, it’s much easier than you think. Just be sure to use graham cracker crumbs that have good ingredients, i.e., no partially hydrogenated oils, HFCS or artificial flavors or colors. The recipe is easy to find (also on every can of pumpkin), and easy to prepare. Just make sure you allow enough time to chill your creation in the fridge.

With just a little bit of extra effort, you’ll have a Thanksgiving table of which you can really be proud — one that’s free of the junk foods that the big food companies would like to have us think are traditional dishes and “original recipes.” And you can prove to your family and your guests that old-fashioned, genuinely ‘natural” food tastes even better than cheap, “convenient” imitations — and can make for a holiday feast that’s every bit as enjoyable as those pictured by Norman Rockwell.

More Experts Weigh in on HFCS, Making Its ‘Rap Sheet’ Still Fatter

“Is high fructose corn syrup really that bad for you?” The answer, says Dr. Mark Hyman, is “yes.”

Hyman, best-selling author and chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine, is yet another expert who is sounding the alarm about the dangers of consuming high fructose corn syrup, an additive that, Hyman says, “is driving most of the epidemic of heart disease, cancers, dementia and…diabetes.”

That’s a fairly impressive list of ailments – much more so than the warnings first sounded a few years ago about HFCS, which simply linked it to obesity. But that in itself was enough to put the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) on red alert, causing the makers of this laboratory sweetener to spend enough money on disinformation and an effort to have its name officially changed to “corn sugar” to have fed a small country for several years.

The CRA campaign was orchestrated to try and make us all believe that HFCS is simply a form of sugar, a misconception helped along by both the media and politicians who have continued to refer to HFCS-sweetened beverages as “sugary drinks.”

But as many consumers know by now, there’s a world of difference between high fructose corn syrup and natural sugar. And recent research, along with opinions offered by experts such as Hyman, have been making the ‘rap sheet’ on HFCS fatter all the time.

What these authorities are specifically warning about are the higher, more damaging fructose amounts in HFCS, which, Hyman says, is “chemically altered and separated,” and “goes right into your liver turning on a factory of fat production called ‘lipogenesis’.” This leads to a “fatty liver,” which he calls the most common disease in America today, one that can result in pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.

Another well-known M.D., pediatric endocrinologist Robert H. Lustig, an expert in obesity, metabolism and disease, stated in a recent affidavit for a current lawsuit that type 2 diabetes, now the most common form that “accounts for 90 percent of cases of diabetes,” was “unheard of in children prior to 1980; the time when high-fructose corn syrup began to be incorporated into processed foods in America.”

Currently, Lustig says, there are estimated to be 40,000 kids in the U,S. who have the disease. One of them, an unnamed teenager in Buffalo, N.Y., and her mother, recently filed a lawsuit against Cargill and five other manufacturers of HFCS for products liability, failure to warn, gross negligence, reckless conduct and injuries, stating that the HFCS the girl has consumed over her lifetime was a “substantial factor” in her having developed the disease.

Lustig’s earlier affidavit in the case, further detailing the damaging nature of HFCS, along with all the side effects caused by the extra dose of fructose it contains, was another scathing report detailing just how bad this unnatural sweetener can be for the body. Conditions he linked to its use include insulin resistance, “leaky gut syndrome,” and blocking of the “leptin signal” that can lead to overeating.

Tilting the balance of ‘more damaging’ fructose

Dr. Michael Goran, professor of preventive medicine and director of the Childhood Obesity Research Center at the Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California, knows all too well about that extra, damaging jolt of fructose HFCS delivers.

Goran’s 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.

“Who would argue that fructose consumption now is higher than it was ten or twenty years ago?” Goran told Food Identity Theft, adding that he wasn’t talking about subtle variations from year to year, but rather “about a huge shift in the food supply that is increasing the amount of fructose that we’re exposed to.”

While Dr. Goran’s research should have provided 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 (you can read the petition here and sign it by clicking here). The petition asks that the FDA require the manufacturer of a product containing HFCS to state the fructose percentage in its formulation and have the label reflect that information, such as HFCS-55, or HFCS-90.

HFCS 90 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.” This mega-fructose sweetener was also specifically omitted by the Food and Drug Administration from the HFCS GRAS (generally recognized as safe) regulation.

Could HFCS go the way of trans fats?

Last week, the FDA announced that partially hydrogenated oil will no longer be allowed a GRAS designation. What this means is that once given final approval, food manufacturers would eventually be required to remove most artery-clogging trans fat from the processed products Americans eat, or go through the lengthy, costly and time consuming process of submitting a food additive petition for partially hydrogenated oil.

Is it possible that HFCS could follow suit? Maybe. There are many similarities between the proliferation of HFCS and the trans fat saga, including a growing public awareness of its dangers and the decision by various food companies to jump on the NO HFCS bandwagon.

In the meantime, you need to check labels, reject foods that still contain this health-damaging additive, and to show the FDA just how concerned you are about its continued presence in the food supply be sure to sign the Citizens for Health petition.

As Dr. Hyman says, “if we took one thing out of our food supply that would make the biggest difference, it would be high fructose corn syrup.”

At Last, a Proposed New FDA Ban on a Decades Old Killer!

by Bill Bonvie

For some time now, we’ve been warning our readers here at Food Identity Theft not to be fooled by a “zero trans fat” claim made on the Nutrition Facts panel of many products that have partially hydrogenated oil listed among their ingredients.

Well, surprise, surprise! After decades of allowing a substance it now acknowledges has been killing thousands of people every year to be added to processed food products, and years of permitting consumers to be given phony assurances that they weren’t eating any of it, the Food and Drug Administration has finally decided enough is enough. That is to say, they’ve started a ‘process of  elimination’ in  motion (although perhaps slow motion would be more like it).

In what’s being hailed as a monumental decision on behalf of consumer protection, the agency has made a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oil (PHO)  no longer be given a “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS) designation.  Once given final approval, this would eventually remove most artery-clogging trans fat from the processed food Americans eat.

While most products are currently labeled as containing zero grams of trans fat, that is often not actually the case, since those that contain half a gram (.05  grams) or less per serving were exempted from the labeling requirement. But such amounts, in actuality, can quickly add up to what the FDA admits is a “significant intake” of trans fat, an ingredient for which the Institute of Medicine has concluded there is no “safe level” that may be consumed.

That’s why we’ve been urging our readers to pay no attention whatsoever to the claim that a product contains zero grams of trans fat on its so-called Nutrition Facts label. But that warning could eventually become unnecessary should the FDA go ahead and implement its proposed new ruling, which it has posted in the Federal Register with a public comment period that ends on Jan. 7. Assuming that happens, “it could in effect, mean the end of artificial, industrially-produced trans fat in foods,” according to Dennis M. Keefe, Ph.D., director of FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety.

Not that a change of this nature would occur overnight. Even if approved, the FDA would still be apt to give businesses ample opportunity to adjust to the new policy – or, to quote from the FDA ‘s consumer update, “the agency and food industry would have to figure out a way to phase out the use of PHOs over time.” But once fully implemented, it is estimated (and these figures come from another government agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that it would prevent some 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 heart-disease related deaths annually.

Stop and think for a moment what that means.  We’re talking about more than twice the number of  deaths that occurred in the 9/11 attacks every year, resulting from a process with “no known health benefit,” whose purpose is merely to increase the shelf-life and “flavor stability” of packaged foods and baked goods.

A paradigm for the removal of other bad additives?

To be sure, this proposed reform has been a long time coming, those partially hydrogenated oils having reportedly been used since the 1940s in a wide variety of convenience foods, including margarine, which was once considered a “healthy” substitute for butter. But the tide really began to turn in 2002, when the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine reported a direct correlation between the intake of trans fat and increased levels of “bad cholesterol” (that is, low density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol, which has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease). The following year, the FDA responded by issuing a ruling that trans fat content be listed on Nutrition Facts panels — but even that wasn’t fully implemented for another three years, and was seriously flawed by the .05 gram ‘ loophole’.

The time it took for even that compromise to materialize should serve as a kind of “reality check” for consumers to realize they can’t yet let their guard down when it comes to trans fats, and will have to keep checking ingredients listings for many months to come, even assuming the ruling is formally approved.

What the FDA’s action does show, however, is that it is possible for the agency to be pressured to return to its original mission and, in its plodding fashion, purge our food supply of additives that are hazardous to our health. For once researchers implicated trans fat in heart disease, a number of locales, including New York City and California, began to take action to ban it in restaurant food, and some restaurant chains responded by eliminating it on their own.  In the intervening years, food manufacturers also began to reduce trans fat content in products as well, which will make any adjustment to the proposed new rule much easier to facilitate.

Hopefully, then, the proposed elimination of added trans fats will not only go on to become policy. but will serve as a model of how other ill-advised additives now considered GRAS can follow suit.

Take high fructose corn syrup, for example.  Its saga is very similar to that of trans fat — for example, in the sneaky way it was approved for use in the American diet and introduced into countless processed foods, including many marketed to children. There are also distinct similarities to trans fat in the human health toll that has accompanied its widespread presence in food products and in the adverse publicity and negative studies that have recently caused it to be dropped as an ingredient from many of them. So maybe — just maybe — it will end up following the same trajectory.

It’s just a shame that, just like partially hydrogenated oil, it will continue to wreak such havoc on society until the day comes when it, too, is finally phased out.

Five Frightening Food Additives and How You Can Avoid Them

Forget the haunted hayrides, spooky houses and midnight ghost tours. Want to go somewhere really scary for Halloween? You’ve been there many, many times and while it  may seem all bright and cheery, some genuinely frightening invaders can be found lurking in its corridors — blobs, bugs and brain-eating laboratory creations, all trying to lure you to take them home.

Any guesses as to what I’m talking about?

It’s your local supermarket. And if you think I’m exaggerating, read on:

An Old Familiar Brand Tops Our ‘Bad Food Pyramid’

Over the last two years I’ve acquired quite a pile of really bad food items — products, in my opinion, that aren’t fit for human consumption. Of all these brand name snacks, cans, drinks and frozen items that have taken over my kitchen and cupboards, we’ve selected one brand that has surfaced at the top of the heap of bad foods.

How, you might ask, with so many to choose from did this product line get selected? I’ll get to that in a minute. But first I need some help in figuring out what to do with this non-consumable collection of poor nutrition “foods” with some downright scary additives.

I certainly couldn’t donate the pile to the local food bank. Giving away food that we’ve been telling folks not to eat to those in need seems just plain wrong. So what to do with it? Toss it? Sent it back to the manufacturer? Reader suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Please send a note or post a suggestion at the Food Identity Theft Facebook page.

The ‘bad brand’ prize

There are a lot of bad ingredient-foods out there, but we thought a fair scoring system to pick one should be similar to that used in a beauty pageant, with our categories being;

  • the ‘beauty’ of its appeal to children;
  • a ‘talent’ for using bad ingredients across an entire product line, and
  • a product’s ‘personality’ — the various tricks and schticks it uses to appeal to consumers.

And the winner is…Chef Boyardee from ConAgra Foods

Chef Boyardee was in fact a real person and a very accomplished chef. At the age of 17 he landed a job at the plush Plaza Hotel in New York City and later went on to found one of the most popular Italian restaurants in Cleveland. Ettore “Hector” Boiardi has also been credited with the invention of “to go” restaurant foods. But this was back in the early 1920s, when high fructose corn syrup and the lineup of other synthetic ingredients that now comprise and compromise his namesake line were still many years away from being invented in laboratories somewhere.

ConAgra Foods, which purchased the brand in 2000, claims “his legacy of quality ingredients is in every bowl.” But seriously, ConAgra, are we to believe that Hector would have considered ingredients such as mechanically separated chicken, high fructose corn syrup, soy protein concentrate and yeast extract to be “quality” ones? I think not.

Some of the Chef Boyardee products that helped the brand win this dubious distinction are:

JUMBO Spaghetti & Meatballs:
Like all the rest of the Chef Boyardee lineup, the label says there is “good stuff inside.” In label-reading reality, however, you can find four sources of “hidden” MSG, as well as mechanically separated chicken and high fructose corn syrup. Another one of the selling points on the can is about the meatballs, which apparently are twice the size of the ones in the original product.

Of course, when you’re using mechanically separated chicken, which goes for approximately ten cents a pound, yeah, you can make those meatballs a lot bigger. If you missed the blog about this queasy ingredient that we dubbed “chicken ooze,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture describes mechanically separated poultry (MSP) as “a paste-like and batter-like poultry product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible tissue, through a sieve or similar device under high pressure to separate bone from the edible tissue.”

Whole Grain Lasagna:
Aimed directly at parents looking for a quick and easy kid meal, this product makes a big point of being “whole grain,” with the “taste kids love!” The can also promises “no preservatives or MSG,” but again you’ll find free glutamic acid in the form of “yeast extract” and “textured vegetable protein.” (For a comprehensive overview of ingredients that contain processed free glutamic acid, the chemical in monosodium glutamate that causes reactions, look here).

Then there’s the HFCS, which seems to be a favorite ingredient of ConAgra. Making a big marketing deal out of removing the laboratory sweetener/preservative from its Hunt’s Ketchup several years ago, it quietly slipped it back in last year. So is the HFCS used as a sweetener? A preservative? Only ConAgra or a food scientist would know for sure.

Mini dinosaurs with meatballs:
Obviously designed with kids in mind, this is another can containing chicken “ooze,” HFCS, and more hidden MSG.

While giant food processing company ConAgra makes numerous other products with questionable ingredients, many which have been called-out in previous Food Identity Theft blogs, it’s the Chef Boyardee line that takes the top prize in the bad food pyramid award.

Any ideas out there for what brand should be chosen runner-up?

Read Your Labels: Are Recent Nutritional Snapshots Helping – or Confusing?

Yet Another Company Jumps Into the Business of Helping Consumers Make “Healthy” Food Choices

Courtesy of
FoodIdentityTheft Blogger and CFH Contributor

July 11, 2013

“Everybody wants to get into the act,” a catchphrase made famous back in the day by show business legend Jimmy Durante, seems to have found a new meaning.  Apparently, everybody now wants to get into the act of helping the busy food shopper quickly determine what items are the “healthiest” ones to grab off the supermarket shelf.

But isn’t this a good thing? After all, supermarket shopping can be an annoying, tedious chore that isn’t exactly top on most people’s list of fun things to do. But if you plan on eating the food taken home from such an expedition, it helps to know what’s in it. And the only real way to acquire such knowledge is to read the ingredient label — something all of these health-conscious ‘helpful Hannahs’ seem to be steering you away from by calling your attention to superficial and often misleading criteria instead.

The latest player in this  game of mock health marketing appears to be the technology and data company Vestcom out of Little Rock, Ark. Vestcom, which specializes in “shelf-edge solutions,” consisting of messaging and pricing information tags posted on store shelves, has now entered the nutrition advice arena with “healthyAisles,” which it describes as “nutrition info your customers can trust.”

The healthyAisles tag makes the same kinds of nebulous claims as do all those other quick nutrition guides. It’s angle is to choose from a list of  35 “health and wellness” attributes such as “heart healthy” or “low sodium” to describe each product without offering much more in the way of information as to what these processed foods actually contain. The system has already been sold to enough retailers to now appear in over 5,000 stores, according to the trade pub FoodNavigator.com.

Just why another such ersatz health-and-nutrition merchandising system is needed isn’t readily apparent. But Vestcom is holding firm to the concept that healthyAisles is “fact based,”  “effective,” and a “national strategic partner with the Unite States Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate,” although it doesn’t exactly specify what that “strategic” partnership consists of. Perhaps the company’s competitive edge is its appeal to older shoppers seeking a nostalgic connection to a time when buying food was considered strictly a woman’s job, as evidenced by its tag line: “Give her the nutrition advice she seeks, precisely when and where she needs it.”

Other consumer-confusing in-store “information” programs include:

  • Safeway’s “SimpleNutrition” program
    SimpleNutrition is comprised of 22 “benefit messages” under “two groups of messages” that are supposed to meet “lifestyle, dietary” and “specific nutrition or ingredient criteria.” Could anything be simpler than that?
  • Publix Markets’ “Nutrition Facts” tags
    Apparently not bothered that “nutrition facts” is the exact same term the government requires for processed food packaging information panels, Publix, a Southern supermarket institution, now features its own “Nutrition Facts” program that asks, “Who has time to analyze food labels? Luckily, when you shop with us, you don’t have to.”
  • Stop & Shop’s Healthy Ideas
    The creative naming of these programs is pretty much the biggest difference between them. Stop & Shop, for example, wants us to have “a simple way to know it’s healthy”: all you have to do is look for the Healthy Ideas shelf tag! Healthy Ideas tags are also on nearly all the fruits and vegetables in the produce department. Duh.
  • NuVal Scoring System
    This “nutrition made easy” program was purportedly “developed independently by a team of nutrition and medical experts.” NuVal is another shelf-tag system that rates the “nutritiousness” of foods by scoring them from 1 to 100 using a patent-pending algorithm. But despite all the hoopla from NuVal, and its partner company Topco Associates, LLC, the system is a bizarrely flawed idea that rates sugar-free jelly higher than eggs.
  • Guiding Stars
    Described as  “Nutritious choices made simple,” Guiding Stars appears to be another variation on the theme, It uses a rating system featuring one to three big yellow stars — perhaps to appeal to those those who can’t count to the higher NuVal numbers.
  • Supervalu Nutrition iQ
    Called “The better-for-you food finder” (which, by the way, is a pending trademark), nutrition iQ is a “shelf tag navigation program” that uses color coded tags below products to show which ones make the “healthy” grade. As Heidi Diller, Albertsons’ registered dietitian, explains in a Youtube video, “reading labels is important, but that takes time. If only there was an easier way to shop healthy. Let our science guide you..(to) better-for-you shopping.” Unfortunately nutrition iQ omits more facts than it offers.
  • Facts Up Front from the Grocery Manufacturers Association
    Soon to be the focus of a big-bucks advertising campaign, Facts up Front features some tiny blue boxes that will provide data on calories and three nutrients – but nothing, of course, about a product’s ingredients.
  • Walmart’s “Great for You”
    This front-of-package icon is designed to appear on food products that conform to the mega-retailer’s standard of healthiness.

There are also a number of nutrition advice programs that have ‘bit the dust’, including:

  • Smartspot, Pepsico’s self-serving “more nutritious” designations on its own brands, which was launched in 2004 and canned in 2010;
  • Sensible Solutions, a similar idea from the marketing gurus at Kraft, which made its debut in 2005 and was“put on hold” in 2009;
  • Smart Choices, a promotion designed and paid for by the food industry that got bad press when its ‘better-for-you’ icon started appearing on Kellogg’s Froot Loops packages. It came and went in 2009.

So there you have it, eight ways the food industry is helping us to shop.

If only it were that easy.

HFCS: Excessive Fructose May Be Making “Spoiled Appetites” a Thing of the Past

Courtesy of
FoodIdentityTheft Blogger and CFH Contributor

June 11, 2013

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.”