Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wealthy but not so healthy...

Despite being one of the wealthiest nations on the planet, the US according to a recent report is far from being one of the healthiest. [1] Why is that?  Is it possible even likely it is due to our cultures dependence on mass-produced and heavily processed food?
The US government subsidizes the very crops identified as being the most harmful to human health and the environment, the top three being corn, wheat, and soybeans. And nearly all of the corn and soybeans grown are genetically engineered varieties.
By subsidizing these, the US government is actively supporting a diet that consists of these grains in their processed form, namely high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), hydrogenated soybean oil, and meats loaded with antibiotics – all of which are now well-known contributors to obesity and chronic disease. These junk-food subsidies make it much cheaper to buy a burger, fries and soda from a fast-food restaurant than it is to buy grass-fed beef and veggies. It's not that these foods necessarily cost more to grow or produce; rather the government is artificially reducing the prices for the junk foods. [2]
Who can you trust?
Many are unaware the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) formerly known as American Dietetic Association (ADA), is partnered with and sponsored by junk-food giants, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Mars and Kellogg. Consequently, dietary advice from many Registered Dieticians is likely to be heavily biased by information from food-industry bigwigs.
Case in point: the AND's annual conference is often called "the world's largest meeting of food and nutrition experts." Interestingly, these conferences are absent of any true nutritional experts whose knowledge could make a positive impact on Americans' health. But they do showcase numerous representatives from Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg, PepsiCo and other processed food and junk-food giants. Aren't these the companies that make precisely the foods we need to eat LESS of in order to stay healthy and fight obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and countless other chronic diseases?
According to Really Eat Right, a campaign dedicated to ending the AND's collusion with junk food and pharmaceutical industries:
AND claims sugar and artificial colors are safe for children
AND is under investigation by congress
AND receives about $1 million a year in payments from the pharmaceutical industry
AND allows pharmaceutical companies to market their controversial products at AND events
The credentialing arm of the AND (the Commission on Dietetic Registration) offers continuing professional courses sponsored by Coca-Cola
It's obvious that relationship between AND, the processed food and pharmaceutical industries is a little to close.  This evidence makes requires a massive leap of faith to expect the AND has public health as its top priority. Unfortunately, many people will adopt their nutritional advice, and their health will suffer, as a result. [3]
Small Farmers versus Biotech
Biotech's influence on our agricultural system has transformed our food into something that can only be described as a massive science experiment!
This is why we need foods to be labeled. You have the right to know. We all have the right to know what we're buying and eating. Then, at the very least you can make a personal decision about whether or not you wish to participate... Proving yet again that our federal agencies will not stand in the way of Big Biotech monopolizing and destroying our food supply, reports:
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture... released a final report absolving the biotech industry of contamination of non-GM seeds with their products from other fields. The USDA report concludes that organic and other non-GM farmers should simply buy insurance to protect against GMO contamination.” [4]
On February 19, the US Supreme Court began hearing the appeal of 75-year old Indiana soybean farmer Vernon Bowman, in which he disputes Monsanto's claim that his farm used the patented seeds without authorization.
“Farmer Bowman legally purchased seeds at a grain elevator, which bought them from farmers who had, with Monsanto's authorization, used the genetically modified Monsanto seeds to grow their soybean crops. Monsanto claims that Mr. Bowman infringed its patents on herbicide-resistant plants and seeds by using the grain elevator seeds to grow his soybean crops.” [5]
Essentially, Monsanto can sue these farmers all they want for patent infringement, but they are immune to challenges from organic farmers whose products are contaminated by GMOs.
What’s in a label?
More than 3,000 food additives -- preservatives, flavorings, colors and other ingredients -- are added to foods in the United States. Many of these additives are banned in other countries and most are not even labeled. [6]
The biotech company Senomyx creates novel flavor enhancing compounds for the processed food industry in order to make foods and beverages that taste good while reducing sugar and salt content.  The genetically engineered flavor enhancers work by triggering taste receptors on your tongue, effectively tricking your taste buds into sensing sweetness, saltiness, or “coolness.” Senomyx has created a taste testing system that provides scientists with biochemical responses and electronic readouts when a flavor ingredient interacts with their patented receptor, letting them know whether or not they’ve “hit the mark” in terms of flavor.  Flavor enhancers do not need to be listed on food labels, falling instead under the generic category of artificial and/or natural flavors. [7]
Do the consumers have a voice?
Whole Foods recently announced the health food giant would make labeling of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients mandatory in its American and Canadian stores by 2018.
Prop 37 raised an enormous amount of awareness about genetically engineered (GE) foods (a.k.a. genetically engineered organisms or GMO’s). Many Americans didn’t even know they existed prior to the California campaign to require GE foods to be labeled.
The Prop 37 campaign also ushered conversations about food to the front pages of mainstream media. Over the past year, we’ve not only seen an increase in the number of stories on genetically engineered foods, more people are now also talking about other truth-in-labeling issues, and food safety in general.
Whole Foods Co-Chief Executive Walter Robb recently told the Los Angeles Times:
"This is an issue whose time has come. With cases like horse meat discovered in the U.K., plastic in milk in China, the recalls of almond and peanut butter in the U.S., customers have a fundamental right to know what's in their food.... 'The government has not been willing to take on this issue, so it's going to have to happen differently.'"
According to a February 2012 poll of potential voters in the 2012 US elections, 90 percent of responders were in favor of labeling GE foods. There’s really NO reason not to, aside from protecting the biotech industry’s profits. Americans are already responding favorably to those few products that are labeled. A. C. Gallo, president of Whole Foods, told the New York Times:
“We’ve seen how our customers have responded to the products we do have labeled. 'Some of our manufacturers say they’ve seen a 15 percent increase in sales of products they have labeled [non-GMO].'”
Seeing the writing on the wall, the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NGCA) recently wrote a letter to their members that now also urges food manufacturers to stop funding or opposing GMO labeling. This is a powerful example of the power we have as consumers when we make our voices heard on matters such as this. [8]
Mom Takes on Kraft Mac n’ Cheese and Gatorade
Two moms have taken on Kraft. They started an online petition, calling for the food giant to remove two artificial food ingredients, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6, from its Macaroni and Cheese. These artificial dyes have been linked to hyperactivity in children, and are banned for use in the UK. More than 220,000 signatures have been collected so far. Kraft’s response:
“In the US, we only use colors that are approved and deemed safe for food use by the Food and Drug Administration.”[9]
In a related story responding to consumer concerns, PepsiCo announced that it will remove brominated vegetable oil (BVO), an emulsifier, from citrus-flavored Gatorade sold in the U.S.
BVO is a poorly tested and possibly dangerous food additive, and there’s no reason to use it in Gatorade or other drinks.
After all, safe substitutes are used in Europe and elsewhere.
The Food and Drug Administration has let BVO linger in the food supply on an “interim” basis for 42 years.
"While our products are safe, we are making this change because we know that some consumers have a negative perception of BVO in Gatorade, despite (it) being permitted for use in North American and Latin American countries," Gatorade spokeswoman Molly Carter said in a statement. "As part of this process, we began working on an alternative ingredient to BVO for the few Gatorade flavors that contain BVO, more than a year ago."
Carter also said the company spent the year making sure the new Gatorade formulation "would not affect taste or functionality. So we did a lot of sensory testing to make sure we had the right batch, and we feel strongly we do."  Remember the “flavor enhancing” company Senomyx?  They count among their clients, Pepsi, the maker of Gatorade.  So no doubt they played an important role in the Gatorade alternative. [10]
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…
According to the nonprofit ocean protection group Oceana, nearly 60 percent of fish labeled "tuna" in the US is not actually tuna. A shocking 84 percent of “white tuna” sold in sushi venues was actually escolar, a fish associated with acute and serious digestive effects if you eat just a couple of ounces.
One-third of all fish samples tested across the US were found to be mislabeled; substituted for cheaper, less desirable and/or more readily available fish varieties. [11]
Final Thought
When the dangers of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) finally began to seep into the American consciousness, consumer demand forced many companies to reformulate their processed foods using other types of sweeteners, or ditching sweetening agents altogether. Today, you can find a number of food products marked “No HFCS” and government intervention had nothing to do with this beneficial change.  You are now starting to see a similar trend start with awareness being raised on the GMO issue.  Knowledge is power and the more awareness we have on how and where our food is being grown and produced we can make far better choices for our families.
Phil Loomis
Youth Fitness/Nutrition Specialist

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