Friday, March 30, 2012

Just Label It! Campaign Sends One Million Comments to FDA

The Just Label It! campaign, which calls for the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods, met its goal of sending over one million comments (a record number) to the FDA. Thanks to everyone who sent a comment, including the 55 members of Congress who displayed some cojones.

Hopefully the FDA will at least acknowledge the overwhelming support for labeling GE foods. It'll be interesting to see how Monsanto and the rest of the moneyed interests counter this. Also, click on the image above (for more detail) to see the results of a recent Just Label It! survey; support for labeling GE foods is widespread, even in our polarized political environment.

An email I received earlier this week from Just Label It!:

"Today we're delivering over one million comments in support of labeling genetically engineered foods to the FDA – because of people like you. By submitting a comment, emailing your friends, posting on Facebook, and talking to your coworkers and neighbors, you made this possible.

"Comments were submitted by Americans from all 50 states – people from tens of thousands of different communities around the country. This record-breaking achievement proves that Americans care about how our food is produced and the right to know what's in our food.

"In the era of pink slime, deadly melons, and BPA in our soup, more and more of us are coming together to demand the right to know about the food we are eating and feeding our families. It's time that the FDA gives us the same rights held by citizens in over forty other countries: to know whether our foods have been genetically engineered.

"Today, we're also releasing results from our new public opinion survey on GMO labeling with a cool infographic. It found that nearly all Democrats (93%), Independents (90%), and Republicans (89%) favor labeling. At a time when partisan rancor dominates the public conversation, there are few topics that can muster such overwhelming support. Yet so far, the FDA has refused to act.

"This campaign doesn't end with today's delivery. We'll need your help again in the coming weeks and months to keep up the pressure on the FDA and to make sure our leaders in Washington know that more than one million Americans are watching their next moves.

"Thank you for everything you've done so far – and for all that you'll continue to do in the weeks ahead.

"With deep gratitude,

"Alex, Nancy, Naomi, Sue, and the entire Just Label It team

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The How and Why of Grass-Fed Beef Marrow and Fat

I saw beef bones from grass-fed cows for sale the other day at Whole Foods and decided to buy them. I love beef marrow for its flavor, texture and nutrient content, so I boiled the bones in water, which cooked the marrow and created a great (flavor, nutrients) stock . Yes, it was that simple.

After removing the marrow from the bones, I let the stock (with the bones) sit in the refrigerator overnight to allow the fat to harden, which made for easy skimming and removal (photo, above).

I was about to throw away this grass-fed beef fat when I thought to myself, "This is crazy; why the hell would I throw away this flavorful, nutrient-dense fat?" It now rests comfortably in a glass jar in my refrigerator, ready to be used in the cooking of grass-fed hamburgers this weekend.

I'm sure most (if not all) modern-day nutritionists (schooled in the modern-day hypothesis that a low-fat diet, no matter how many chemicals, is a good thing) would tell me I am crazy. My response? I'll take the beef fat's monounsaturated fat and its abundance of nutrients, plus the satiation and flavor it provides, any day of the week over supposedly "heart-healthy" vegetable oils that are devoid of nutrients and flavor and are produced employing a harsh chemical process using canola, soy and corn that are genetically engineered and sprayed with a ton of pesticides.

Trust me, you won't hear any of that anytime soon on any of the national morning news/variety programs.

There also won't be any questions asking when our modern diseases and ailments—obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, attention deficit disorders, cancers, etc.—began to proliferate. When we were eating beef marrow
from cows eating grass and chicken skin from chickens eating worms, insects and grass? Or when we started to consume processed alternatives of these traditional foods, ones that contain agents (hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, genetically engineered foods, bleaches, emulsifiers, etc.) that our bodies can't identify and process?

Remember that all beef (and chicken and apples and bread and yogurt) is not created equal. Cattle processed on factory farms, where they are given hormones, antibiotics and genetically engineered feed, are much, much different than cattle eating grass (cows' natural diet) and raised without growth-promoting drugs.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mark Bittman: "The Right to Sell Kids Junk"

Make sure to read Mark Bittman's column ("The Right to Sell Kids Junk") in today's online edition of The New York Times. Many of us have read about the powerful and systemic advertising of junk food to kids, but Bittman discusses how First Amendment rights have been weaved into the discussion.

The lead paragraph:
"The First Amendment to the Constitution, which tops our Bill of Rights, guarantees — theoretically, at least — things we all care about. So much is here: freedom of religion, of the press, of speech, the right to assemble and more. Yet it’s stealthily and incredibly being invoked to safeguard the nearly unimpeded 'right' of a handful of powerful corporations to market junk food to children."
It's no shock that money plays a big role in the conversation. Big Food wants to protect its profits and the source (our kids!) of future profits. With each passing day, it becomes more and more obvious that we must take the health of our families and communities into our own hands, despite the shenanigans of the junk food peddlers.

As Bittman writes:
"It’s easy to get lost in the Constitution and forget that we’re talking about children being bombarded by propaganda so clever and sophisticated that it amounts to brainwashing, for products that can and do make them sick."
Click here to read Bittman's entire piece.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

NYC's Waste Prevention, Reuse & Recycling: Anyone Listening?

I received a mailing yesterday from the New York City Department of Sanitation's Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling (BWPRR). It announced five NYC SAFE (Solvents, Automotive, Flammables, Electronics) Disposal Events for Spring 2012 and really made me think about the NYC CRAP (not an acronym; me just wanting to better express how I feel) that we regularly dump into our landfills.

According to the brochure, which included a partial list of items that will be accepted at the five disposal events:

"Commonly used household products can be harmful to you, your family, your pets, city workers, and the environment if improperly stored, used, or discarded. The NYC Department of Sanitation is holding five SAFE Disposal Events this spring (one in each borough) to provide NYC residents with a one-stop method to get rid of potentially harmful household products."
To find out how harmful, I checked out the BWPRR's website, which offered detailed descriptions of dangers, rather than the simple pictograms in the printed brochure. To think that the chemicals present in automotive products (antifreeze, auto batteries, motor oil), household cleaners (bleach, oven cleaner), personal care products (medications, mothballs), housewares (fuel, pesticides/herbicides/insecticides, pool chemicals) and electronics (cell phones, computers, televisions) don't end up in our drinking water, air and soil would be woefully naïve.

Most New York City residents won't bother to read the brochure (let alone recycle it), so it's safe to assume that at least 95 percent of the above used here will wind up in landfills instead of being disposed of properly.

Some specific dangers, as I make sure my water filtration system is functioning properly:
  • ANTIFREEZE: Most commercially available antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, a potentially toxic chemical that is poisonous and can be lethal if ingested. Keep antifreeze away from children and pets who may find the bright green color and sweet smell appealing and drink it.
  • PEST CONTROL: Many chemicals used to kill pests – insects and rodents – can also be harmful to people. According to the National Safety Council, 75 percent of homes in the United States use at least one pesticide product indoors every year.
  • CLEANING PRODUCTS: Many household cleaning products contain strong chemicals that can be dangerous if you inhale them, get them on your skin, or combine them with other cleaners.
  • ELECTRONICS: When electronic devices break or become outdated, our first instinct is to throw them away and buy bigger and better new ones. However computers, monitors, and printers have components that contain hazardous materials, such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. Though safe to use, electronic equipment can pose dangers to the environment when not properly discarded.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Judge: FDA Must Revisit Issue of Antibiotic Use in Livestock

Those working to improve our food supply have come to realize that a dollar vs. dollar fight against Big Food, Big Chemical, Big Pharma and their lobbying arms is a losing battle. The hundreds of millions of dollars that Kellogg's, Monsanto and Pfizer spend to keep the status quo and the public in the dark cannot be matched by the (mostly) non-profits that lead the opposition.

However, smarter tactics are being used and many of them rely on political and legal challenges to the entrenched system. For example, last Wednesday I wrote about the attempt to have the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act added to the state's ballot in November.

In addition, the fight against the rampant overuse of antibiotics in our food supply took a positive turn when a federal judge ruled on Thursday in favor of a suit filed by a coalition of five nonprofits, including the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Food Animal Concerns Trust, Public Citizen and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

According to an article in The New York Times:
"The order, issued by Judge Theodore H. Katz of the Southern District of New York, effectively restarts a process that the Food and Drug Administration began 35 years ago, but never completed, intended to prevent penicillin and tetracycline, widely used antibiotics, from losing their effectiveness in humans because of their bulk use in animal feed to promote growth in chickens, pigs and cattle."
A little history, courtesy of an article in Food Safety News:
"In 1977, FDA determined that [three] antibiotics were likely contributing to drug-resistant bacteria strains in humans and should be reserved for therapeutic uses only. But the agency never held the drug company hearings required to put this proposal into place, and in December of 2011 it revoked these approval withdrawals altogether.

"But this week a court decision forced FDA to revive its plan to limit the [three] drugs - penicillin and two types of tetracycline - pending hearings with industry."
Obviously (and unfortunately), "industry" will do anything possible to not have to curtail the use of antibiotics, which cause our livestock to unnaturally get a lot bigger a lot quicker. To circumvent the judge's ruling, the purported reason for administering the antibiotics has magically morphed, according to the Times:
"[N]either the judge’s order nor the F.D.A.’s expected rule changes are likely to fundamentally alter the large-scale agricultural uses of antibiotics because farmers and ranchers now say the drugs are being used to prevent animal diseases, not to promote growth. The F.D.A. has so far refused to propose restrictions on antibiotic uses to prevent disease even when the drugs are delivered in feed or water, and Judge Katz’s order does not extend to disease prevention uses."
Oh well. But at least it's a start and shows that victories are achievable through creative political and legal avenues.

Click here to read Congresswoman Louise Slaughter's response to the judge's decision. Slaughter is the champion in Congress for eliminating the needless use of antibiotics in our healthy livestock.

Click here to let the FDA know that you do not approve of the use of antibiotics in our healthy livestock.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Difference Between the Terms "GE" and "GMO"

The other day in my post about a possible ballot initiative in California, I erroneously used the terms genetically engineered (GE) and genetically modified organism (GMO) interchangeably. There is actually a big difference between the two and as the battle against GE foods escalates, it's important to understand the difference.

All those anti-GMO images we see would be better served by substituting "GE" for "GMO." Here are definitions of both, courtesy of the Home Garden Seed Association. Thanks, Peter, for helping to set the record straight! Have a nice weekend.

"GE (Genetically Engineered): The terms GE and GMO [are] frequently used interchangeably in the media, but they do not mean the same thing; it is modern Genetic Engineering that is the subject of much discussion. Genetic Engineering describes the high-tech methods used in recent decades to incorporate genes directly into an organism. The only way scientists can transfer genes between organisms that are not sexually compatible is to use recombinant DNA techniques. The plants that result do not occur in nature; they are 'genetically engineered' by human intervention and manipulation. Examples of GE crops currently grown by agribusiness include corn modified with a naturally occurring soil bacterium for protection from corn borer damage (Bt-corn), and herbicide-resistant ('Roundup Ready®') soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, and alfalfa. All of these are larger acreage, commercial crops. At the present time, home gardeners will not encounter any packets of GE seeds sold through home garden seed catalogs or garden center seed racks.

"GMO (Genetically Modified Organism): The USDA defines a GMO as an organism produced through any type of genetic modification, whether by high-tech modern genetic engineering, OR long time traditional plant breeding methods. While you often hear the GE and GMO used interchangeably, they have different meanings. For hundreds of years, genes have been manipulated empirically by plant breeders who monitor their effects on specific characteristics or traits of the organism to improve productivity, quality, or performance. When plant breeders, working with conventional or organically produced varieties, select for traits like uniformity or disease resistance in an open-pollinated variety or create a hybrid cross between two cultivars, they are making the same kind of selections which can also occur in nature; in other words, they are genetically modifying organisms and this is where the term GMO actually applies. Examples of 20th century breeding work include familiar vegetables and fruits such as seedless watermelons, pluots and modern broccoli.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dangerous Fumigant Methyl Iodide Pulled from U.S. Market

I received a great email alert yesterday from the Pesticide Action Network trumpeting the announcement by chemical company Arysta LifeScience (love the name!) that it was pulling the dangerous fumigant methyl iodide from the United States market. (Arysta's pet name for the product is MIDAS®; love the name!).
"It’s time to celebrate! Today, the pesticide that scientists called 'one of the most toxic chemicals on earth' is being pulled off the U.S. market altogether. This victory is a big one. Your voice and your action turned the tide.

"Thank you. You share this win with kids living and going to school near strawberry fields. You stand alongside families in rural communities, especially in California, Florida, Michigan, Washington and North Carolina, where these types of fumigant pesticides are more heavily used. Your action created a win for farmers and farmworkers alike, as California is now poised to instead invest in much safer, fumigant-free food and farming."
Methyl iodide, primarily intended for use on California's immense non-organic strawberry crop, was approved for use in the state in 2010 (as a replacement for another fumigant, methyl bromide, which is being phased out by international agreement). However, because of severe concern by many scientists (including five Nobel Laureates) about the safety of methyl iodide and California's approval process, the fumigant never caught on with farmers. (Only one California strawberry farmer used it in 2011.)

Still, this is a huge victory, as pullbacks by chemical companies not necessitated by law are few and far between. Score a win for People Power!

Also important is the fact that California is searching for safer ways to grow non-organic strawberries; click here to read the press release ("Department of Pesticide Regulation and California Strawberry Commission Announce Research Partnership to Reduce Fumigant Use on Strawberry Fields") from earlier this month.

Will our kids or grandkids soon be able to eat non-organic strawberries that are grown without toxic chemicals? Considering that organic strawberries are a luxury for many, let's hope so.

Click here to read the Los Angeles Times article about methyl iodide's demise. Click here to read the San Francisco Chronicle article about methyl iodide's demise. Click here to read the New York Times article about methyl iodide's demise.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

California's Label GE Foods/GMOs Ballot Initiative

As the Just Label It! campaign approaches one million comments to the FDA demanding the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods, there's another important battle being waged in the fight to label GE foods.

(If you haven't sent a comment yet, click here to do so. It takes about 15 seconds and our children and grandchildren will thank you. The goal is one million emails by Monday, when the comment period closes. Every person makes a difference.)

In California, signatures are being collected to have the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act added as an initiative measure to the state's November 2012 election ballot.

Getting the initiative on the ballot would be an achievement, but a victory in November could positively alter the future of food in this country, since California—by itself—represents the world's eighth-largest economy.

Similar to when the auto industry has to bend to California state law in respect to mileage and emission standards (Ford isn't going to build one Focus for California and a second for the rest of the country), the processed food and chemical companies would have to rethink how they do business if the 80 percent of the processed foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were labeled as such.

Obviously, Kellogg's doesn't want America to know that its iconic Corn Flakes are made using genetically engineered corn, especially since over 90 percent of Americans (a consistent number from numerous surveys) think GE foods should be labeled. Yet, the percentage of Americans who know what GE or GMO means in the context of food is shockingly low, a fact that Kellogg's doesn’t want to see change anytime soon.

Over 50 countries either require GE labeling or have banned GE foods. Big Food and Big Ag will fight this in the United States with all their dollars, political connections and marketing savvy. Can People Power succeed?

Click here to read more about the California ballot initiative.
Click here to learn more about genetically engineered (GE) foods.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Speed Sweet Potato Cooking Time by Cutting Smaller Pieces

Cooking large sweet potatoes in the oven can take close to an hour, which, if you're in a rush, doesn't lend itself to cooking those large sweet potatoes.

An alternative—which also helps in portion control—is to cut the potato into smaller pieces (slices, wedges or cubes are fine) before roasting. Use a toaster oven set at 350 degrees and you'll have soft pieces of sweet potato in 15 to 20 minutes. Make the temperature a little hotter and you may save yourself a couple more minutes!

I actually prefer Japanese sweet potatoes (in photo) to the more common orange sweet potatoes. The flesh of Japanese sweet potatoes is a yellowy-white, while the skin (eat it!) is a darkish red. It's a little drier than an orange sweet potato and has a slightly nutty flavor.

Many Whole Foods stores sell organic Japanese sweet potatoes (grown in California). I also buy them from Asian farmers at local farmers' markets.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Annie's: An Organic AND Non-Organic Food Company

Annie's Homegrown, the maker of high-end macaroni and cheese, plus numerous other products, announced in December 2011 that it is going public. Its latest filing (part of the process) was on Friday, and a handful of small stories appeared in the media.

What got my attention was that in several instances the company was referred to as an organic food company, which is a little misleading. Here's the lead from the Wall Street Journal article:
"Organic mac-and-cheese powerhouse Annie’s Inc. is looking to price its IPO at $14 to $16 a share according to its latest filing this morning.

"The company is selling five million shares at the price, with an option for another 750,000, meaning at most the company is now going to raise $92 million. The stock will trade under the ticker BNNY on the New York Stock Exchange.

"The c
ompany, which makes organic food products but is best known for its bunny-adorned white-cheddar purple-boxed macaroni-and-cheese, had looked to raise up to $100 million when it first filed in December."
But as I've written about previously ("Not All Annie's Macaroni & Cheeses Are Created Equal"), Annie's sells both organic and non-organic food products and consumers must read the packaging carefully to know which they are buying.

Coincidentally, I bumped into a friend last week at Whole Foods. In her cart she had several box
es of Annie's natural mac & cheese, which have the words "made with organic pasta" prominently displayed, but is different from the company's organic mac & cheese. She did not realize—possibly because of marketing?—that Annie's sells non-organic products and that the natural mac & cheese contains non-organic cheese.

The bottom line is that consumers, even when dealing with high-minded companies such as Annie's, must read labels. Sure, Anni
e's Bunny Grahams and Cheddar Bunnies have some organic ingredients and are better than almost any other snack on the market, but they cannot be labeled as organic since less than 95 percent of the ingredients are organic. (See graphic on left for more info.)

The moral of the story? Read ingredient lists!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Jack LaLanne's 10-Point Self-Improvement Plan

Our monthly dose of Jack LaLanne focuses on Jack's 10-point plan for self-improvement. The usual topics are discussed, but in Jack's straightforward manner, which is much different than the hyped approach taken by many of today's self-help gurus. I really like the fifth point—grooming—especially since, according to Jack, "some of you girls get into a rut."

(If you are receiving The Delicious Truth via email, click here to watch.)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bareburger and Its Ingredients: The Wave of the Future?

Are the ingredients (and openness about those ingredients) used at Bareburger, a chain of hamburger restaurants in New York City, the wave of the future? Judging from the mission statement on the home page of Bareburger's website, let's hope so:
"At Bareburger, people are sometimes puzzled to hear that little of what we do is actually 'new.' Since the dawn of farming, people have eaten the same organic, all natural, free-range, grass-fed meats; organic and all-natural cheeses; and organic vegetables that we offer. By partnering with local artisans and working with sustainable farmers, we're returning to an old-fashioned emphasis on quality. It’s tastier, it's better for you, and it benefits our community."
Since I haven't eaten at a Bareburger yet, I can't attest to quality. But at least I'd feel comfortable eating there; many ingredients—including the beef, homemade ketchup, vegetables, ice cream, butter and eggs are organic.

Here's a list of the meats used to make burgers and sandwiches; even the non-organic ones are hormone- and antibiotic-free:

Beef: 100% organic, grass-fed, 85% lean
Bison: 100% organic, grass-fed, 91% lean
Turkey: 100% organic, free-range, 94% lean
Elk: 100% all-natural, pasture raised, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, 92% lean
Wild Boar: 100% all-natural, pasture raised, hormone-free, antibiotic-free
Ostrich: 100% all-natural, pasture raised, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, 95% lean
Lamb: 100% all-natural, pasture raised, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, 90% lean
Chicken: 100% all-natural, free-range, hormone-free, antibiotic-free
Bacons: 100% all-natural, hormone-free and nitrate free
Sausage: 100% organic

I just wish this attention to quality sourcing was more prevalent, but we have to start rebuilding somewhere after decades of neglect.

Has anyone eaten at a Bareburger?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mark Bittman: "The Human Cost of Animal Suffering"

Mark Bittman, in today's online edition of The New York Times, takes the "don't eat meat" discussion to another level. Above and beyond the usual reasons, Bittman argues that the way we treat animals in our industrialized food production system harms who we are as a people.

The first two paragraphs of "The Human Cost of Animal Suffering":
"Until a couple of years ago I believed that the primary reasons to eat less meat were environment- and health-related, and there’s no question that those are valid reasons. But animal welfare has since become a large part of my thinking as well. And I say this as someone not known to his friends as an animal-lover.

"If we want a not-too-damaged planet to live on, and we want to live here in a way that’s also not too damaged, we’re better off eating less meat. But if we also want a not-too-damaged psyche, we have to look at how we treat animals and begin to change it."
Bittman cites a book, Timothy Pachirat's “Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight,” which dives into the issue in further detail. Short of reading the book, we should think about Bittman's point:
"The most publicized stories about industrial agriculture represent the exceptions that prove the rule: the uncommon torture of animals by perverse individuals in rogue operations. But torture is inherent in the routine treatment of animals as widgets, and the system itself is perverse."
Click here to read Bittman's entire article.
Click here for more information on "Every Twelve Seconds."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Easy Cooking 101: A Quick Pasta and Greens Dinner

Dinner in very, very little time when you really aren't in the mood to cook and you really don't have much in the refrigerator:

Boil water. Pick and wash quite a bit of parsley and arugula (or any leafy green!). When the water is boiling, add pasta (preferably whole wheat). Cut a decent amount of butter (preferably butter from grass-fed cows, such as Kerrygold or Smjör) into smaller pieces. Go do something else for a couple minutes. When the pasta is al dente, drain and put into a mixing bowl. Quickly add the butter and the greens. Mix until the butter melts and the greens wilt. Add a lot of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus some unrefined sea salt and fresh ground pepper, and mix again. Taste, reseason and plate.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Traveling? Not Much Effort Equals Eating Well on the Road

I went on a full-day road trip yesterday and, like any time I travel, I make sure to pack food for lunch and/or dinner, plus snacks.

Yes, preparation takes some time and effort, but if leftovers and ready-to-eat items (i.e. avocados, cheese, canned sardines and tuna) are used, the time is minimal and often is quicker than finding a place to eat and waiting for food to be prepared. And I won't even get into the conversation about what's actually available at highway rest stops, train stations, airports and tourist attractions.

The spread in the photo above took me about 20 minutes to put together and allowed for a hearty picnic lunch on a beautiful late winter day. Starting from the bottom left corner and moving clockwise:

Cheese – Ready to go. (The only reason I opened it was to include in the photo.)
Bread – I cut three slices, which took about seven seconds.
Avocado – Ready to go.
Sardines Ready to go.
Dark chocolate – Ready to go.
Hard-boiled eggs Ready to go; prepared on Saturday while cooking Saturday's dinner.
Homemade trail mix – I put some peanuts, walnuts, dried apricots, dried figs and cereal into a plastic bag; prep time was two minutes.
Salad – This took the longest to prepare (about 15 minutes). In a bowl I mixed together leftover bulgur and leftover lentils with spinach, arugula, parsley, chopped carrots, roasted beets (cooked on Friday), olive oil, apple cider vinegar, unrefined sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Does anyone have any favorite foods they prepare when traveling?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Muir Glen's Slightly Veiled Response to Some Questions

Earlier this week a reader asked a question in response to a post from last month ("Update on BPA in Cans of Muir Glen Tomato Products"):
"Do you know what Muir Glen uses to line its BPA-free cans? I'm concerned that what they are using now may be just as unsafe as BPA.

"Eden Foods appears to be forthcoming about what they use in their BPA-free cans:

Similar to the reader, many experts, including Philip Landrigan, the Director of the Children's Environmental Health Center at The Mount Sinai Hospital, are concerned about the safety of the chemicals used to replace BPA.Testing is limited, at best.

To find out more, yesterday I contacted General Mills, which owns Small Planet Foods, the maker of Muir Glen products. Here's part of the response:
"[W]e know that some of our consumers have chosen to avoid BPA, so we had been looking for alternatives. Working with our can suppliers and can manufacturers, Muir Glen was able to develop and test a safe and viable alternative that does not use BPA for our canned tomato products. We began transitioning to those linings with the fall 2010 tomato pack – and we completed that transition with the 2011 tomato pack.

"The new liners are a vinyl based liner. The safety of this can lining has been thoroughly tested. In addition to complying with requirements set forth by the FDA, Small Planet Foods board certified toxicologist has concurred with this assessment."
This response isn't as revealing as Eden's (
I asked for the specifics beyond "vinyl based" but was rebuffed) and anytime a company evokes meeting FDA standards, I get a little wary.

And I am wrong to wonder about the size of the consulting fee the "board certified toxicologist" received from General Mills? Also, the customer service representative would not tell me what "board" "certified" the "toxicologist."

Which brings us to the word of the day: obfuscate.

Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Want to Be Prettier? Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables!

Just in case we needed another reason to eat fruits and vegetables, courtesy of Australian Food News:
"The findings of a new study by the University of St Andrews, in Scotland, released today, link fruit and vegetable consumption with physical attractiveness.

"The study, which correlated fruit and vegetable consumption with changes in skin redness and yellowness, was published today in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

"The researchers, led by Ross Whitehead and David Perrett, investigated and monitored the fruit and vegetable intake for 35 individuals over six weeks.

"Photographs were taken of the participants’ faces, arms and hands at the start, and after three and six weeks. Increasing their intake of fruit and veg was found to enhance their attractiveness, when the photographs were rated by others.

"The researchers found that skin redness and yellowness increased with increasing fruit and vegetable consumption.

"The researchers said that the participants in the study were primarily but not exclusively Caucasian, so further work must be done to understand potential diet effects on skin colour in other populations.

"The research was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council and by the corporation Unilever Research and Development USA."
I'm just wondering how Unilever will parlay this news . . .

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Two New Ideas for Sardines (Preferably Wild Planet Brand)

As the price of seafood has skyrocketed, I've had to add cost to my list of concerns (wild vs. farmed, mercury content, etc.) when purchasing fish. I'll occasionally buy wild salmon, flounder and cod, but more and more of my seafood consumption revolves around canned sardines and jarred anchovies.

Both are wild, low in mercury, high in omega-3 fatty acids, relatively lower in price and really delicious, especially for those with a salty palate.

I'll include a couple of plain sardines as part of my "little-bit-of-everything" lunch, but some variety is nice. One option is sardine salad—think tuna salad—and I've hoodwinked people into thinking they are eating tuna. Add mayonnaise or yogurt, Dijon mustard, chopped parsley, scallions, shredded carrots, lemon juice, unrefined sea salt and fresh ground pepper; you (and your kids!) will never know the difference.

Another idea that I recently thought of was to put whole sardines in a bowl, add a little soy sauce and rice vinegar and allow the sardines to sit in the liquid for about 10 minutes (photo, above). Mix occasionally so the sardines can absorb some of the flavors and feel free to add some parsley and/or ginger and/or scallion to the concoction.

My favorite sardines, by far, are the wild California sardines in spring water from Wild Planet Foods. An added bonus is that Wild Planet's sardines are packed in BPA-free cans. Wild Planet also sells high-quality, sustainable canned tuna, salmon and shrimp. If your local store doesn't carry Wild Planet products, click here to order online.

(Reminder: I use all of the products I recommend, I do not accept free samples and I do not receive any commissions or payments for mentioning products. Sort of like some of our elected officials, but different.)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cavities in Young Children Skyrocket; Fruit Juice One Culprit

There's a sad front-page story ("Preschoolers in Surgery for a Mouthful of Cavities") in today's New York Times. The headline says it all, but even sadder is that these dental issues are, for the most part, avoidable.

Two of the handful of culprits are our society's fascination with incessant snacking (more on this later in the week) and the volume of fruit juices consumed by our kids. Remember, despite the omnipresent marketing espousing their benefits, fruit juices—even organic, 100 percent juices with no added sugars—are full of sugar that corrupt our kids' teeth and lead to sugar highs replete with ample wall-bouncing. (The fiber in intact fruits and vegetables slows the absorption of the sugars into our bloodstream.)

A family member who is in dental school relayed this information this morning:
"Kids are given such a high amount of juice in sippy cups that they fall asleep with it in their mouths, furthering the decay. Our pediatric professors recommend that we recommend water and no more than six to eight ounces of juice per day, depending on the age of the child."
To reiterate, water, by far, is the best option. (Vitaminwater® is not water.)

Here's the lead paragraph of the article; click here to read the entire story.
"In the surgical wing of the Center for Pediatric Dentistry at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Devon Koester, 2 ½ years old, was resting last month in his mother’s arms as an anesthesiologist held a bubble-gum-scented mask over his face to put him under. The doctors then took X-rays, which showed that 11 of his 20 baby teeth had cavities. Then his pediatric dentist extracted two incisors, performed a root canal on a molar, and gave the rest fillings and crowns."

Monday, March 5, 2012

Australian Kids Lacking in Food Knowledge, Survey Says

There is a scene in Super Size Me in which American school kids have a difficult time identifying various vegetables. That was almost a decade ago, but, thankfully, we've started to relearn how necessary it is to teach our children about food and nutrition.

Australia may need to rethink its kids' relationship with food as well. In a study released today, Australian primary and high school students prove that we should not take our children's food knowledge for granted.

Among other results, 27 percent of year 6 students (11-12 years old) thought yogurt was a plant, not animal, product; thirteen percent of year 10 students (15-16 years old) believed the same thing.

The introduction to the report, which, I imagine, would have harvested similar results in a host of countries:
"Primary Industry plays a vital role in Australian’s economy and society, but the gap between rural and urban communities is growing, contributing to a lack of understanding of where food and other basic necessities of life come from. The recent television advertisement in which the grandfather shows a row of plants to his granddaughter and says 'this is where peas come from' – to which she retorts 'don’t be silly Grandad, peas come from the freezer' is an excellent example of this disconnect between the community and the industries that sustain them. While intended as a humorous element, there is a concern that this may be an accurate
representation of the understanding and experiences of many young Australians."
Click here to read an article in The Sydney Morning Herald about the study.

Click here to read the actual report ("Food, Fibre and the Future").

Friday, March 2, 2012

Frito Bandito: Food Marketing from 50 Years Ago

Food companies trying to get consumers to buy more of their product isn't a new concept. Witness the "Buy 2 Hide 1" message at the end of this 1960s commercial for Fritos, starring the Frito Bandito. I think, though, that today's commercials are a little lighter on the ethnic stereotyping!

(If you are receiving The Delicious Truth via email, click here to watch the commercial.)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Snack Time: Moving from "Snack" Food to Real Food

I was talking with a client the other day and she mentioned that she gets very hungry in the mid-afternoon. Having a salty palate, she usually resorts to salt and vinegar potato chips but was looking for other snack alternatives to help her make it to dinner.

I recommended other salty foods such as olives, feta cheese, anchovies and sardines and suggested that she make herself a small plate of those items. She did it the next day, felt "stuffed" and is making the effort to navigate away from the chips.

Most telling was her comment, "I never thought to have those foods as snacks." With the incessant marketing from food companies about "snack" foods such as natural potato chips, low-fat cookies and high-fiber granola bars, why would she?

Unfortunately, the idea that real food in smaller portions can constitute a snack has been shelved, replaced with natural potato chips from potatoes sprayed with tons of chemicals, low-fat cookies containing tons of chemicals and high-fiber granola bars sweetened with tons of refined sugars. (Even organic snack foods have plenty of fillers and sweeteners.)

We've heard over and over that fruits, vegetables and nuts make great snacks (which they do), but don't be afraid to satiate yourself with half a sandwich, a small bowl of brown rice with chopped tomato and olive oil or a leftover piece of grass-fed skirt steak. We'll get more nutrients from these true foods and be satiated until the next meal.

Tell me, does that ever happen with a bag of low-fat soy crisps?