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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.

CFH Kicks Off “Read Your Labels” Campaign

“Read Your Labels” Campaign Lists Top Ten Food Additives to Avoid

February 19, 2013

Courtesy of Linda Bonvie, FoodIdentityTheft blogger and frequent contributor to Citizens for Health

 

Do we really need Yellow 5 and Red 40 in apple pie?

If there’s one piece of advice you keep hearing from us, it’s that reading the ingredients label is the only way to really find out what’s in a processed food. Not the nutrition facts label, not the front of the package, and certainly not the advertising copy.

To encourage this time-honored way to actually know what you’re eating (or considering consuming), Citizens for Health is launching “Read Your Labels,” a campaign to create greater awareness of the unnecessary, harmful or controversial additives that are commonly found in the foods and beverages we buy and casually consume without giving them a second thought.

If you only read ingredients occasionally, we’d like to get you into the habit of doing it all the time. If you seldom or never do, now’s as good a time to start as any. To get you going, we will be listing our top ten ingredients to avoid  – and the reasons for doing so – in this and upcoming blogs. We think once you see some of the things that are actually in processed food products, you’ll become a regular ingredients checker before deciding to purchase and eat any of them.

Number 10 : artificial colors – and why you should shun them

The synthetic hues you’ll see on food and beverage ingredient labels include Red #40, Red #3, Blue #1, Blue #2, Yellow #5, Yellow #6 and Green #3.  But you don’t need to memorize all those before you shop for food – all you have to remember is that any product whose ingredients include colors accompanied by numbers or “lakes” should be left on the shelf.

The entire history of artificial colors has been colored by controversy. While they may make products appear more attractive, they represent just the kind of chemical additives we should  delete from our diets – something that’s especially true for kids. But then, the fact that so many supposedly “harmless” coloring agents have been found to be otherwise is hardly surprising when you consider their origins and backgrounds. Many of the older dyes were made from coal tar – a thick, black liquid derived from, well, coal. (Now, does that sound like anything you’d like to ingest?) Some are still in use today, while many newer ones are petroleum extracts.  They may also contain measurable amounts of toxic contaminants, such as lead, mercury and arsenic.

The carcinogenic coloring Red Dye Number 2, for example, was in use until 1976, when it was booted off the “approved” list by the Food and Drug Administration, along with Violet Number 1. Then there’s the curious case of Red # 3, which was banned from use in cosmetics and externally applied drugs after the FDA found it caused thyroid cancer in rats, but strangely enough, its use in food items has continued to be allowed. But why wait for an often decades-delayed “official” decision, when you’re free to ban anything you like from your own home at any time?

The artificial color-hyperactivity link

Perhaps the most compelling reason to avoid artificial colors is the connection that’s been made between fake food dyes and hyperactivity in kids.

In 2008 the Center for Science in the Public Interest submitted a petition to the FDA to ban nine such food colorings and in the interim to require a package warning label on foods containing them that they “cause hyperactivity and behavioral problems in some children.”

The FDA responded by convening a Food Advisory Committee in 2011 (after receiving almost 8,000 comments on the topic), which concluded there was not enough evidence to take regulatory action.

While the FDA might not have been convinced, the same can’t be said of European regulatory officials.  Since 2010, they’ve required foods that contain these unnatural hues to carry a warning label stating that consumption “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”

In fact, the link between food dyes (and certain other ingredients, as well as foods themselves) and behavioral problems in kids has been known for quite a while. It goes back to  the 1970s when the late Dr. Benjamin Feingold, a California pediatrician and pioneer in the field of allergy and immunology, discovered the connection between what we eat and how it affects the way we feel and act. Since then, the Feingold Center he founded has helped scores of kids with hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder by eliminating certain additives from their diets – all without resorting to drugs such as Ritalin.

It’s all very simple when you think about it. To help sell food products that are highly processed, manufacturers have doused them with cosmetics – a whole bevy of chemicals to make them seem more appealing. But despite assurances that these substances are harmless, a little knowledge of their checkered history should be enough to make them unwelcome in your home.

Stay tuned for the next additive to avoid – hint –  this heart-harming ingredient can be “hidden” on the nutrition facts label. We’ll tell you what to look for to keep this unnecessary and dangerous ingredient out of your diet.

Dangers of HFCS: “Is high fructose corn syrup helping to bring on an agricultural apocalypse?”

Originally posted by

on FoodIdentityTheft.com, January 18, 2013

A sunny day this February in California’s Central Valley will predict the future for the state’s almond crop – and, in turn, perhaps the future of American agriculture. That’s the day when almond growers will know if the honeybees will be returning to their hives.

The bees don’t end up buzzing among the California almond blossoms by chance; they are trucked there from all around the country. Starting in the next few weeks, over 49 billion honeybees in their 1.7 million-plus hives will be transported by beekeepers to California so the bees can “make” the nuts that make up this $3-billion-a-year industry.

Honeybee pollination is responsible for over one-third of the food crops grown in the United States, including citrus, blueberries, cherries, broccoli, and is totally indispensable to California almond growers.

If the bees that provide nature’s necessary touch in producing this year’s almond crop don’t fare well, it could be the “breaking point” for both almond growers and beekeepers, who since 2006 have had to deal with super-declining numbers of honeybees due to what’s known as colony collapse disorder (CCD), which causes bees to leave their queen and fly off from the hive, never to return.

In short, we’re talking about a possible agricultural apocalypse – a catastrophe to which high fructose corn syrup could well be a contributing factor, according to the latest research.

Pennsylvanian beekeeper David Hackenberg, co-chairman of the National Honey Bee Advisory Board and the go-to person for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture and scientists and universities trying to crack the mystery of CCD, says that starting last fall, indications have been on the rise that this is “probably going to be the worst year ever” for the ongoing decline in honeybee populations. “Bees are basically collapsing, whether it’s (from) CCD or a different kind of collapse or both,” Hackenberg said.

Hackenberg describes colony collapse disorder, which he has the dubious distinction of being the first to have discovered, as “when you have a good hive of bees and in a matter of days or weeks you have a sudden loss; you still have a queen, but only a handful of bees. And pretty soon you don’t have those.”

Experts trying to solve the mystery of CCD have come up with numerous and varied theories. But Hackenberg has been following the trail of a new class of systemic pesticides called neonicotinoids, containing synthetic nicotine, that’s widely used to treat crop seeds, especially corn.

“The old organophosphate pesticides, (they) killed bees dead. It knocked the colony out in the summertime,” Hackenberg said. “The scientists are more and more pointing to the fact that if a beehive picks up a systemic pesticide, it doesn’t kill the hive (immediately)…(the bees) bring it back to the hive and it starts the clock. That colony of bees is doomed.”

Systemic pesticides, such as neonicotinoids, move up through a plant, producing contaminated pollen and nectar. And after the first frost, when outside food is no longer available, the bee colony is affected by any contaminates in the food they stored from the summer, he explained. Honeybees are also fed by beekeepers, some of whom use sugar. These days, however, many large operations routinely feed bees with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).


 

 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

 

 


The birds and the bees – and high fructose corn syrup

A recent study, published last June in the Bulletin of Insectology by Chensheng Lu, an associate professor at Harvard School of Public Health, gives further support to Hackenberg’s suspicions of the neonicotinoids. And Lu’s study brings up another way for bees to consume the pesticides — through the HFCS fed to them by beekeepers.

In Lu’s study, colonies were fed HFCS treated with one of the nicotine pesticides, imidacloprid, which resulted in the collapse of almost every test hive, all showing the same pattern consistent with the CCD seen by beekeepers. Corn seed, which is still widely treated with the neonictinoids, received extra high doses of the chemical several years ago, just around the time CCD was first being recognized.

The Corn Refiners Association, comprised of all the big manufacturers of HFCS, posted several rebuttals to Dr. Lu’s study, claiming that HFCS “has NOT been shown to be causing Colony Collapse Disorder,” and that the chemical was not found in the HFCS that was not treated.

But research professor Dr. Charles Benbrook at Washington State University told me in an e-mail that “it is difficult to detect pesticides in HFCS because of the nature of the matrix. HFCS tends to gum up the machines designed to detect pesticides in food.” He added that “…research points to the need to detect nicotinyls in HFCS well below 1 part per billion — lower than most limits of detection in routine pesticide-food testing.”

“Questions persist regarding the impact of very-low levels of pesticides in HFCS because HFCS often becomes the primary feed source for honeybees at the end of the season,” said Dr. Benbrook, who noted that this is “a period when both bee health and hive health is strained.”

Dr. Benbrook also has concern over other possible pesticides in HFCS, “…it is likely that there are Bt toxins, and/or their breakdown products, in HFCS. These are technically classified as pesticides by the EPA, but have never been tested for in HFCS to my knowledge.”

And, of course, one can’t help but wonder if all this HFCS the honeybees are consuming is contributing to other colony health issues. “HFCS is nutritionally inferior to honey as a source of nutrients for bees,” said Dr. Benbrook, adding, “…concerns persist over the adverse impacts of HFCS on bee health from a nutritional perspective.”

Hackenberg also has issues with using HFCS as a food for bees. “HFCS will put weight on bees,” just as it does on people, “whereas sugar won’t,” he pointed out.

All those honeybees brought in from around the country to the Central Valley almond groves will have a lot riding on them, and a lot of folks watching what unfolds. “We put them on trucks, send them to California and unload them,” Hackenberg said.  “And the first day the sun comes out and they fly, that day is going to tell the tale. If they fly out and don’t come back, we’ve got a problem.

“We know the birds are in trouble, but the honeybees are the barometer of the environment. If the honeybees are going down, so are the rest of us.”


‘Dump That Sugar’ Campaign: Good Intentions Gone Awry

Originally posted on FoodIdentityTheft.com by
January 3, 2013

In mid-December 2012, to much fanfare, a dump truck poured 9.6 tons of white sand onto the parking lot of Howard County, Maryland’s Burleigh Manor Middle School as students shouted “Dump That Sugar!” The dumping display marked the official launch of Howard County Unsweetened, a multi-faceted, community-wide campaign to reduce childhood obesity by helping kids and parents choose beverages with lower sugar content.

There was, however, a catch to this catchy campaign. Sugar is actually found in very few of the soft drinks sold these days, the vast majority of which contain high fructose corn syrup. A more apt analogy  might have been to dump an equivalent amount of sticky fuel oil to represent this industry-exclusive, goopy test-tube sweetener, found in everything from soda to bread to ketchup.

But then, it seems that more and more such well-intentioned efforts these days are missing the mark by confusing HFCS with “sugar.” In fact, this particular campaign launched by a Maryland-based philanthropy with the stated purpose of reducing childhood obesity and making it “easier for parents and kids to make better beverage choices,” also somehow neglected to even mention HFCS on its extensive list of sweeteners. It was a significant omission, since the higher fructose content of this laboratory syrupy concoction is considered by many experts to be a prime suspect in the current obesity epidemic. (This September, Citizens for Health, filed a petition with the FDA asking that the agency take action against manufactures using HFCS with fructose amounts above 55 percent, the highest the FDA allows. Read about that here, and see and sign petition here).

There’s also the fact that the “healthier beverages” and “better choices” the campaign recommends include drinks artificially sweetened with aspartame. For many years critics of aspartame (including Citizens for Health and the Food and Drug Administration’s Public Board of Inquiry on the sweetener) have raised substantial doubts about aspartame’s safety and pointed out its potential to cause serious health problems.

The Howard County Unsweetened campaign, sponsored by the Horizon Foundation, comes complete with two separate websites, a Facebook page and lots of tweets, all of which refer to syrupy HFCS-sweetened drinks as “sugary.” The Foundation has also joined forces with County Executive Ken Ulman to keep these so-called “sugary” beverages out of vending machines on county property.

One of the Horizon Foundation campaign sites, betterbeveragefinder.org, contains an entire database of drinks designated by either a “best” or “good choice” icon (collectively referred to as “the best beverages for your family”).  Site-recommended beverage swaps include practically every artificially sweetened drink there is – along with where to buy them.

 

‘Sugary’  shorthand substitutes for HFCS

In May of last year the Food and Drug Administration ruled that HFCS is not sugar and cannot be called “sugar.”  In spite of this fact the Howard County campaign has joined a growing number of media, politicians and health authorities in falsely using the “sugar” and “sugary” designations to describe products containing high fructose corn syrup. In fact, Dr. Michael Goran, co-author of a recent study on the increase in diabetes, has referred to the prevalence of HFCS as “a huge shift in the food supply that is increasing the amount of fructose that we’re exposed to.” (Read blog here.)  Health authorities virtually all concur that the consumption of excess fructose can have serious health consequences including obesity.

In addition to such confusion, a second sweetener problem may be occurring as a side effect of these well-intended efforts. It now appears that the type of misinformation disseminated by health campaigns of this sort may be promoting the expanded consumption of “diet” sodas and juice drinks containing controversial artificial sweeteners.  This past August, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that kids are already drinking more such synthetically sweetened beverages than ever before – twice as many, in fact, as a decade ago.

The Foundation’s “Better Beverage” site does acknowledge that there is “a debate” over the relationship between diet beverages and weight gain, but aside from that there is no mention made of the other health aspects of substituting one highly controversial test-tube sweetener (aspartame) for another (HFCS). I couldn’t help wondering how an organization with a mission of “improving health and wellness” could be recommending drinks containing aspartame for kids over 13 while ignoring concerns about aspartame safety. I also wondered how it could fail to make any reference to HFCS on either of its websites. So I put these questions directly to Horizon Director of Communications Ian Kennedy.

Kennedy’s answer to the latter question was that the Horizon board, working in conjunction with the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, had decided it wanted a “laser-specific focus on sugary drinks” – one utilizing “a sort of shorthand for things that are sweetened.”

Not only does the Foundation make a point of using this “sugary shorthand” in referring to all HFCS-laced beverages throughout its websites, but it also lists just about every different type of sweetener in existence – except, oddly enough, for the ubiquitous HFCS.

At betterbeveragefinder.org, the group categorizes sweeteners into three boxes representing “natural,” “artificial” and “hybrids.” While cane sugar – which is sucrose – is classified as “natural,” unaccountably, sucrose itself is listed separately as a “hybrid.”  Kennedy could not explain this inconsistency except to say he would “defer to our folks at the Rudd Center” on that question.

But the fact that HFCS, which is used in the vast majority of beverages containing caloric sweeteners, didn’t make the list at all is something Kennedy called an “oversight” on his part. He added, “we have corn syrup on the list, and as far as I understand (the difference) between corn syrup and HFCS is just that HFCS has been concentrated even more.”

In fact corn syrup and HFCS are decidedly not the same – (see my article here).

When I informed Kennedy  that there is a substantial difference between the two products, he again suggested he would put me in touch with the Rudd Center. I was also left a message from someone else at the Foundation later in the day offering to find a registered dietician who could “help” with my questions.  (I did call the Rudd Center but was unable to reach them during the holiday week. I plan to contact them again and try to get answers to these questions for an upcoming Food Identity Theft blog.)

One thing the betterbeveragefinder site didn’t neglect to mention, however, was sugar’s long-time presence in the food supply, calling it something “your grandmother might have used.” Kennedy concurred, adding, “certainly sugar has been a part of our diets for hundreds of years…the difference is we’re seeing that sugar is becoming a more prominent part of our diet,” with that second reference to “sugar” meaning any “full-calorie sweetener” such as HFCS. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, however, per capita consumption of sugar — like your grandmother used — has remained essentially constant for the past 100 years, while the use of HFCS, the “syrupy” stuff, has exploded during the time that obesity and diabetes has grown to nearly epidemic proportions.

Aspartame concerns still ‘premature’ after all these years of danger signs

Asked whether he thought the campaign encourages the consumption of diet beverages containing aspartame by teens, as reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Kennedy responded, “I don’t think so.” But he provided no evidence to support his position.

“We understand that people have their own tastes and if somebody really wants the taste of a cola, given the science that is out there, the better options for now are ‘low’ or ‘no calorie’ colas” (although the Foundation would prefer water or beverages without any sweetening agents as a  source of hydration).

“In our conversations and review of the literature, it’s mixed on artificial sweeteners,” he maintained. “There wasn’t the strong body of evidence pointing to their unhealthy nature that there was for sugary drinks. It’s a tricky area given the mixed nature of the scientific evidence,” but “we felt it was premature to exclude them.”

Strongly disagreeing with that assessment, however, is 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, who, since 1970, has been demanding that the safety of aspartame and other sweeteners, be proven..  “When something is harmful” Turner says, “the longer it takes to ‘prove’ the harm the greater the damage.  Here we have trusted intermediaries – schools, governments, obesity centers, etc. – recommending that children consume products in spite of the ‘mixed nature of the scientific evidence’.”

“The FDA and various companies that have profited from aspartame have turned the law on its head. They argue that aspartame should remain on the market until its critics can prove that it is unsafe,” says Turner.  “The law says no additive can be used unless and until it is proven safe. Schools and communities fighting obesity,” he adds, “need not and should not be bound by the notion that we should consume an additive until and unless it is proven unsafe.”

Turner’s work led to the removal of cyclamates from the FDA’s Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) list of food additives, helped get a warning linking cancer and saccharin on saccharin labels, and led to the FDA’s Public Board of Inquiry that rejected the marketing of aspartame, only to be overturned by an industry friendly FDA commissioner.

Aspartame (originally marketed as NutraSweet), is made up of three neurotoxic chemicals – substances that are toxic to brain cells, Turner points out. His advocacy group managed to keep this synthetic sweetener off the market for 11 years, until 1981, when its use was approved over the advice of FDA scientists, as well as the FDA Public Board of Inquiry that concluded aspartame should not be permitted in the food supply based on data, including several animal studies, linking its consumption with brain cancer.

How, then, did aspartame ever make it into the food supply and why don’t today’s obesity fighters seem to care about its history?

“One month after that board ruled, Ronald Reagan was elected president, and Donald Rumsfeld, the head of Searle, the company that made aspartame, was on Reagan’s transition team. When Reagan took office, a doctor who had worked for the Defense Department during Rumsfeld’s tenure as Defense Secretary under President Ford was appointed as FDA commissioner and overruled both the Public Board of Inquiry and all the scientists at the FDA who supported its decision,” Turner explained.

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.”

And while the Horizon Foundation refers to aspartame-sweetened drinks as “healthier” options than the full-calorie version, Turner has a far graver concern about its increasing consumption.

“After aspartame went on the market, a particular type of brain tumor, the same type that showed up in the rodent studies we were relying on over 30 years ago, increased by 10 percent in people in the United States,” he said.  “In addition, there have been studies in the past few years connecting aspartame with cancer. All in all, it’s a horrendous story.”

A story, apparently, that the Horizon Foundation is either unaware of or would rather not talk about. Instead, the Foundation chooses to focus its efforts strictly on calories, even while obscuring health concerns about aspartame and other noncaloric sweeteners and blurring the huge distinction between the consumption of traditional sugar and the high fructose corn syrup that has come to replace it in so many products.

Certainly a tanker truck dumping fuel oil onto the grounds of Burleigh Manor Middle School to chants of “spill that syrup” would have been a much more fitting way for the Foundation to have launched the Howard County Unsweetened campaign.

In A Victory For Consumers, FDA Turns Thumbs Down On “Corn Sugar” Alias For HFCS

Thanks to Linda Bonvie, blogger for the Citizens for Health project Food Identity Theft, for the following post.

For the past several months, we here at Food Identity Theft have urged our readers to submit their comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the Corn Refiners Association’s petition to allow the name “high fructose corn syrup” to be officially changed to “corn sugar.”

The last word on this hot-button issue has just come down from the FDA itself.  And it’s “no.”

The CRA will now have to quit referring to high fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, as “corn sugar,” which it has been doing these days at every opportunity, apparently on the assumption that its 2010 petition would ultimately be granted despite the overwhelming opposition of consumers.

But the FDA had other ideas – the main one being that sugar is defined as “a solid, dried, and crystallized food; whereas syrup is an aqueous solution or liquid food.” (Duh!!!) Or so the agency informed CRA President Audrae Erickson in a letter dated May 30 (Wednesday) and signed by Michael M., Landa, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, which also states that “…your petition does not provide sufficient grounds for the agency to authorize ‘corn sugar’ as an alternate common or usual name for HFCS.”

While the Corn Refiners Association had ignored a letter last year from the FDA that asked them to stop using “corn sugar” as a synonym for HFCS, which Erickson did a total of 10 times in two TV interviews last week, the official denial of the name change should now make such substitution verboten in the CRA’s commercials and communications. (In fact, one can’t help but wonder whether her blatant and repeated flouting of the FDA’s directive finally spurred the agency to act on this long-standing petition).

The FDA’s rejection of the proposed name change also quite clearly reaffirms “corn sugar” as a “standard of identity” for dextrose (an ingredient with NO fructose) and declines the CRA’s request that “corn sugar” be eliminated as an alternate name for dextrose.

“We are not persuaded by the arguments in the petition that consumers do not associate ‘corn sugar’ with dextrose,” notes the letter. “The term ‘corn sugar’ has been used to describe dextrose for over 30 years.”  It further points out that “’corn sugar’ has been known to be an allowed ingredient for individuals with hereditary fructose intolerance or fructose malabsorption, who have been advised to avoid ingredients that contain fructose. Because such individuals have associated ‘corn sugar’ to be an acceptable ingredient to their health when ‘high fructose corn syrup’ is not, changing the name for HFCS to ‘corn sugar’ could put these individuals at risk and pose a public health concern.”

The latter concern has been raised in a number of the comments submitted to the FDA by members of the public, which ran against the petition 100 to 1. Most, however, expressed indignation over the idea that an industry group would try to attach a new, innocuous-sounding identity to an increasingly unpopular ingredient that so many consumers have been going out of their way to avoid in an attempt to make it appear to be something it’s not.

So confident were the corn refiners in the pending approval of their petition, that in a press release issued last week they said, “Transitional co-labeling, such as ‘Corn Sugar (High Fructose Corn Syrup),’ and CRA’s education campaign will ensure consumers are well informed about the name change.”

While the FDA may well have denied the petition of its own volition, one can’t help but credit the growing public outcry over this deliberate attempt to confuse consumers (which, perversely, has been presented as an attempt to eliminate consumer “confusion”) with having set the stage for this major victory over attempted food identity theft.

To read the entire FDA response to the CRA’s petition, click here.

Tester to FDA: High fructose corn syrup isn’t “sugar”

Senator says proposed name change is designed to confuse consumers

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is sending the Food and Drug Administration a clear message: high fructose corn syrup isn’t sugar – and don’t try to pretend that it is.

High fructose corn syrup is chemically processed corn starch used to sweeten beverages and foods like soft drinks and cereals.  The Corn Refiners Association is petitioning the Food and Drug Administration to change the syrup’s name to corn sugar.

Tester, the Senate’s only active farmer, said that consumers have come to understand the differences between high fructose corn syrup, whose name was established by the agency years ago, and sugar that comes from sugar beets or sugar cane.

In a recent bipartisan letter to Food and Drug Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, Tester argued that changing the name would deny consumers their right to make knowledgeable choices about what ingredients they put in their bodies.

“We are concerned that if FDA were to allow companies to change the name of high fructose corn syrup to ‘corn sugar’ on food labels, it would confuse customers and mislead them,” Tester and his colleagues wrote.  “We urge you to follow your science-based process for consumer protection so that consumers are able to readily identify food ingredients.”

Tester added that the proposed change could negatively impact Montana farmers and sugar beet refinery workers.  With nearly 45,000 acres of sugar beets grown in Montana, Tester says he believes it’s critical for Montana’s economy and jobs to prevent the corn industry from confusing corn syrup with sugar.

Some nutrition experts also say that foods and beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup contribute to a growth in childhood obesity.

Tester is joined in opposition to the Corn Refiners Association’s petition by the U.S. Beet Sugar Association, the National Consumers League, the Consumer Federation of America, the Consumers Union and Citizens for Health.

“Montana’s consumers deserve the whole truth when they go to the store and look at what’s in the food they’re buying,” Tester said.  “I expect swift action to deny this petition.”

Tester’s letter to Food and Drug Commissioner Hamburg is available here.

Federal Judge Rules Against Corn Processors

Contact: Gene Grabowski
(202) 270-6560
Email: ggrabowski@levick.com

 Consumer Deception at Issue in False Advertising Case

LOS ANGELES — (October 22, 2011) – A federal judge has ruled that the case brought by American sugar farmers against big corn processors to stop their false advertising about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) must go forward.

According to U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall, who issued two opinions comprising her ruling on Friday, “Plaintiffs have met their burden in showing a reasonable probability of success on their argument that the statements are false.” The judge also ruled that the challenged statements in Corn Refiners Association’s multi-million dollar campaign “constitute ‘commercial speech.’”

Judge Marshall made these rulings, in part, based on documents the CRA and its members had previously submitted to the Mexican government involving a regulatory issue in that country. “There is evidence in the record indicating that Defendants have themselves made statements about the different chemical make-up between table sugar and HFCS,” the judge wrote. “Plaintiffs have also submitted studies and papers that support its allegation that CRA’s claim that HFCS is sugar and/or natural is false and/or misleading.”

According to the lawsuit, consumers have increasingly sought to avoid products containing HFCS because of a wide range of health concerns. The lawsuit claims that the CRA has engaged in false advertising about these concerns. As part of this effort the CRA has advertised that HFCS is “corn sugar,” equated it with real sugar and called it natural – none of which is true.

While the corn processors have petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval to substitute “corn sugar” for “high-fructose corn syrup” on ingredient labels, the sugar-producing plaintiffs assert that the defendants did not even wait for the FDA’s response – which is still pending – before beginning their “corn sugar” re-branding efforts.

“We are gratified by Judge Marshall’s ruling and we look forward to a final resolution of our case so that the Corn Refiners Association is forced to end its deceptive campaign aimed at misleading American consumers,” said Adam Fox of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, who argued the case before the court.

For a copy of the Court’s rulings filed Friday, Oct. 21, or the original lawsuit, contact Justin Wilson at jwilson@levick.com.

Millions of American Consumers are Food Identity Theft Victims

 Food Packaging Deceptions Threaten National Food Integrity

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Primary Media Contact:
Kevin Sanchez                                                          
Hollenbeck Associates                                              
(415) 227-1150 ext. 10                                                   
kevin@hollenbeckassociates.com

 

WASHINGTON, DC – Even as more American families are trying to make healthier diet choices, many duplicitous food makers are contributing to the spread of Food Identity Theft.  Despite government safeguards and restrictions, dozens of food producers are misleading consumers with deceptive packaging or attempting to conceal questionable ingredients on labels.

While some of the deceptions are subtle, others are much more serious. Some make claims that are simply untrue, while others are in direct violation of Food & Drug Administration policies. Food Identity Theft issues include:

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup trying to change its name to “corn sugar” in order to conceal itself from consumers;
  • “Blueberry” muffin mixes, breakfast cereals and pastry products that have absolutely no blueberries in them;
  • Spaghetti sauces “Made from California Vine-ripened Tomatoes” that are made using industrial tomato concentrate (tomato paste and water).

“These companies are knowingly trying to pull a con on American families,” said Jim Turner, who chairs the non-profit consumer protection group, Citizens for Health. “We have the right to know what’s in the products we’re buying, and that means clear, accurate, and truthful package labeling.”

Citizens for Health has launched a new website, www.FoodIdentityTheft.com, to alert consumers about these deceptive practices. With important information, links to the latest news stories, videos, and regulatory updates, site visitors will be aware of the most flagrant Food Identity Theft culprits.

Numerous consumer action groups, including the National Consumer League, the Consumer Federation of America, and the Center for Food Safety, have all publicly denounced Food Identity Theft deceptions.  Many businesses, including Whole Foods Markets, Jason’s Deli and Stonyfield Farm, actively support truth in food labeling practices.

“Americans who want to eat healthier need to know that companies like Betty Crocker, Smucker’s, Kellogg’s, Contadina and General Mills, and trade groups like the Corn Refiners Association, are attempting to mislead them on food package labels,” said Linda Bonvie, Senior Editor at FoodIdentityTheft.com.

About Citizens for Health

Funded by concerned consumers, non-profit partners, food growers, and businesses, Citizens for Health is a non-profit organization that provides over 100,000 supporters with consumer news, action alerts, and ways to demand access to healthy food, non-toxic products, and truthful, non-misleading health information.  More information is available at www.citizens.org.

For more information, or to arrange an interview with a representative from Citizens for Health, please contact Kevin Sanchez of Hollenbeck Associates at 415-227-1150 ext 110 or kevin@hollenbeckassociates.com.