Monthly Archives: April 2011

Why Aren’t G.M.O Foods Labeled?

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Foodfacts.com has been looking into G.M.O Labeling. If you want to avoid sugar, aspartame, trans-fats, MSG, or just about anything else, you read the label. If you want to avoid G.M.O.’s — genetically modified organisms — you’re out of luck. They’re not listed. You could, until now, simply buy organic foods, which by law can’t contain more than 5 percent G.M.O.’s. Now, however, even that may not work.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved three new kinds of genetically engineered (G.E.) foods: alfalfa (which becomes hay), a type of corn grown to produce ethanol), and sugar beets. And the approval by the Food and Drug Administration of a super-fast-growing salmon — the first genetically modified animal to be sold in the U.S., but probably not the last — may not be far behind.

It’s unlikely that these products’ potential benefits could possibly outweigh their potential for harm. But even more unbelievable is that the F.D.A.and the U.S.D.A. will not require any of these products, or foods containing them, to be labeled as genetically engineered, because they don’t want to “suggest or imply” that these foods are “different.” (Labels with half-truths about health benefits appear to be O.K., but that’s another story.)

They are arguably different, but more important, people are leery of them. Nearly an entire continent — it’s called Europe — is so wary that G.E. crops are barely grown there and there are strict bans on imports (that policy is in danger). Furthermore, most foods containing more than 0.9 percent G.M.O.’s must be labeled.

G.E. products may grow faster, require fewer pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides, and reduce stress on land, water and other resources; they may be more profitable to farmers. But many of these claims are in dispute, and advances in conventional agriculture, some as simple as drip irrigation, may achieve these same goals more simply. Certainly conventional agriculture is more affordable for poor farmers, and most of the worlds’ farmers are poor. (The surge in suicides among Indian farmers has been attributed by some, at least in part, to G.E. crops, and it’s entirely possible that what’s needed to feed the world’s hungry is not new technology but a better distribution system and a reduction of waste.)

To be fair, two of the biggest fears about G.E. crops and animals — their potential to provoke allergic reactions and the transfer to humans of antibiotic-resistant properties of G.M.O.’s — have not come to pass. (As far as I can tell, though, they remain real dangers.) But there has been cross-breeding of natural crops and species with those that have been genetically engineered, and when ethanol corn cross-pollinates feed corn, the results could degrade the feed corn; when G.E. alfalfa cross-pollinates organic alfalfa, that alfalfa is no longer organic; if a G.E. salmon egg is fertilized by a wild salmon, or a transgenic fish escapes into the wild and breeds with a wild fish … it’s not clear what will happen.

This last scenario is impossible, say the creators of the G.E. salmon — a biotech company called AquaBounty — whose interest in approval makes their judgment all but useless. (One Fish and Wildlife Service scientist wrote in material obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, “Maybe they should watch ‘Jurassic Park.’ “)

Also curious is that the salmon is being categorized as a “new animal drug” which means that the advisory committee in charge of evaluating it is composed mostly of veterinarians and animal scientists, instead of, say, fish ecologists or experts in food safety. Not surprisingly, the biotech industry has spent over half a billion dollars on G.M.O. lobbyists in the last decade, and Michael Taylor, the F.D.A. deputy commissioner for foods, was once vice president for public policy at Monsanto. Numerous groups of consumers, farmers, environmental advocates, scientists, supporters of organic food and now even congressmen — last week, a bill was introduced to ban G.E. salmon — believe that the approval process demonstrated a bias towards the industry.

Cross-breeding is guaranteed with alfalfa and likely with corn. (The U.S.D.A. claims to be figuring out ways to avoid this happening, but by then the damage may already be done.) And the organic dairy industry is going to suffer immediate and frightening losses when G.E. alfalfa is widely grown, since many dairy cows eat dried alfalfa (hay), and the contamination of organic alfalfa means the milk of animals fed with that hay can no longer be called organic. Likewise, when feed corn is contaminated by G.E. ethanol corn, the products produced from it won’t be organic. (On the one hand, U.S.D.A. joins the F.D.A. in not seeing G.E. foods as materially different; on the other it limits the amount found in organic foods. Hello? Guys? Could you at least pretend to be consistent?)

The subject is unquestionably complex. Few people outside of scientists working in the field — self included — understand much of anything about gene altering. Still, an older ABC poll found that a majority of Americans believe that G.M.O.’s are unsafe, even more say they’re less likely to buy them, and a more recent CBS/NYT poll found a whopping 87 percent — you don’t see a poll number like that too often — wants them labeled.

In the long run, genetic engineering may prove to be useful. Or not. The science is adolescent at best; not even its strongest advocates can guarantee that there aren’t hidden dangers. So consumers are understandably cautious, and whether that’s justified or paranoid, it would seem we have a right to know as much as Europeans do.

Even more than questionable approvals, it’s the unwillingness to label these products as such — even the G.E. salmon will be sold without distinction — that is demeaning and undemocratic, and the real reason is clear: producers and producer-friendly agencies correctly suspect that consumers will steer clear of G.E. products if they can identify them. Which may make them unprofitable. Where is the free market when we need it?

A majority of our food already contains G.M.O.’s, and there’s little reason to think more isn’t on the way. It seems our “regulators” are using us and the environment as guinea pigs, rather than demanding conclusive tests. And without labeling, we have no say in the matter whatsoever.

Article Provided by: Mark Bittman

Recall Alert! Nature’s Delight Cucumbers recalled for salmonella

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L&M Companies, Inc. of Raleigh, NC is issuing a voluntary recall of one lot (1590 cartons) of whole cucumbers because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. No illnesses have been reported in association with this recall, and no other products are involved.

Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis. The recalled product was directly distributed by L&M Companies between March 30th and April 7th to wholesalers in New York (200 cartons), Florida (591 cartons), Illinois (139 cartons), Indiana (30 cartons) and Tennessee (15 cartons), and one retailer with distribution centers in Mississippi (420 cartons), Nebraska (92 cartons), Texas (2 cartons) and Wyoming (101 cartons).

Despite the limited direct distribution of the one recalled lot, L&M Companies is issuing a nationwide recall out of an abundance of caution because the company recognizes the possibility that wholesale customers could have redistributed the product in states beyond those listed above. The recalled lot of bulk cucumbers was harvested in South Florida on March 29th and according to USDA’s Quick Reference for Market Inspectors, cucumbers typically maintain an edible quality for 10-14 days after harvest. The company has accounted for the entire lot of recalled product and requested that customers who may still have the recalled product in inventory remove it from commerce and destroy it immediately. The recalled bulk cartons are marked Nature’s Delight and contain the Lot # PL-RID-002990 on the side of the carton. Only this one lot is being recalled.

The recall comes after the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) informed the company that Salmonella had been found on a randomly selected sample of cucumbers in a cooler at Four Seasons Produce of Central Florida, Inc. on April 13th. The company is working, in coordination with the FDA, to inform customers and consumers of this recall.

Consumers who think they may have the recalled product in their possession should not consume it and should contact the place of purchase to determine if their cucumber is included in this recall.

Consumers or customers with questions may call L&M Companies at 919-981-8003, Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Over the April 22-24 holiday weekend, messages left at this number will be retrieved and calls will be returned.

“L&M Companies takes food safety seriously, and we are committed to the customers and consumers who buy our products every day. Our farms are third-party, food safety certified, and they follow good agriculture practices.” said Lee Anne Oxford, company representative. “Even though the recalled lot was only directly distributed to a hand full of states, we are issuing this nationwide, voluntary recall to reduce even the slightest risk to public health.”

Contact:
Consumer:
919-981-8003

Media:
Lee Anne Oxford
919 981-8003
LeeAnne.Oxford@lmcompanies.com

Food Additves to Avoid: Acesulfame-K

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Foodfacts.com wants to make you more aware of what controversial ingredients are being put into our foods. Acesulfame-K, also known as acesulfame potassium, represents one of the food additives used for sweetening aliments and drinks. Our body does not metabolize this food additive, so it is passed in urine, thus having no caloric value. This makes it a viable alternative to sugar in numerous diet drinks and foods. However, caution is required when consuming foods containing this artificial sweetener, as it is not totally safe.
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Comparison between Acesulfame-K and Other Sweeteners
It is possible to compare the saccharinity of food additives, in order to determine which one is more potent. In terms of sweetness, acesulfame-K is:

■One-quarter as sweet as sucralose
■Nearly half as sweet as saccharin
■Equal to aspartame
■Between 180 and 200 times as sweet as table sugar (sucrose)
Keep in mind that acesulfame-K is frequently mixed with other similar food additives, such as aspartame or sucralose.

Foods Containing Acesulfame-K
Acesulfame-K is often added to baked foods or to foods that have a long shelf life, because this food additive does not decompose in the presence of heat. Aspartame, on the other hand, is not stable in such conditions. Acesulfame potassium is added to a wide range of products, some of the most important being:
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■Alcoholic drinks
■Chewing gum
■Gelatin desserts
■Syrup
■Yoghurt
It is best to check the ingredient list, in order to see whether acesulfame-K or other similar food additives are included. However, this artificial sweetener is not only present in foods and drinks, but also in pharmaceutical products, such as chewable and liquid drugs, as acesulfame potassium is able to improve their taste. Acesulfame-K does not promote dental caries, but there are many other numerous reasons to avoid it, as it may pose serious threats to your health.

Reasons to Avoid Acesulfame Potassium
Acesulfame-K has been approved by the US FDA, but there are several potential problems correlated with consumption of this food additive. Even though there are many studies that attest its safety, acesulfame potassium is still suspected of causing benign thyroid tumors. In rats, the development of such tumors took only 3 months, a period in which the concentration of this additive in the consumed food was between 1 and 5 percent. This is a very short period of time, so the substance is believed to have significant carcinogenic properties.

Methylene chloride, a solvent used in the manufacture of acesulfame potassium, is the substance that may give the food additive its potential carcinogenic characteristics. In addition, exposure to methylene chloride for long periods of time may lead to such side effects as:
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■Breast tumors
■Chronic respiratory disease
■Depression
■Headaches
■Kidney and liver problems
■Leukemia
■Lung tumors
■Mental confusion
■Nausea
■Visual disturbances
Acesulfame potassium may also increase the appetite, by tricking the satiety signals of our body. When consuming products that contain this artificial sweetener, cravings for extremely sweet foods may develop. In these conditions, taste perception is changed and the taste of fruits and vegetables do not feel tasty anymore.

Insulin secretion increases considerably when consuming foods rich in acesulfame-K. Also, the feelings of low blood sugar will intensify. All these problems make the safety of acesulfame potassium questionable. Additional long-term studies may be required for revealing the true benefits and downsides of this artificial sweetener.

Information provided by: http://www.3fatchicks.com

Aspartame Causing Severe Depression?

Aspartame Causing Severe Depression? | Foodfacts.com

Aspartame Causing Severe Depression? | Foodfacts.com

Our Foodfacts.com Blog research on aspartame has revealed additional speculation and claims worth exploring.

The National Institutes of Health characterize aspartame as an artificial sweetener that’s 220 times sweeter than sugar. It’s a combination of phenylalanine and aspartic acid. Both of these ingredients are considered amino acids, which can make them sound somewhat healthy in nature. However, there are links between the consumption of aspartame and depression. Continue reading

The Great Soy Debate!

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Many active or athletic vegetarians look to soy as a reliable way to get their daily protein requirements. Soy is also becoming a popular item on the health food shelves. But there is a cloud of controversy surrounding this new star in the grocery aisle. Here are some of the issues that have created what some are calling “the great soy debate”.

Soy products, made from the soybean, have been eaten for thousands of years in Asia, and have always been traditionally prepared. Typically, soybeans are soaked for long periods, then often fermented or slowly boiled and eaten with animal proteins. Vegetarian travelers to Asia often find themselves unexpectedly staring at a “vegetarian” tofu dish containing pork or egg. This is because, in addition to long soaks, slow boils and fermentation, animal proteins help improve the digestibility of this ancient legume. These methods of cooking and eating soy turn off the anti-nutrient qualities of the phytic acid found in soybeans; phytic acid can block our body’s ability to break down the protein in the soy. Studies of Asian eating patterns have found that no more than 2 – 3 tablespoons of soy products are typically eaten per day.

Nowadays, soy is one of North America’s top three genetically-modified (GM0) foods, next to wheat and corn. Animals raised for meat consume up to 90% of U.S. soy crops. Since most soy is genetically-modified, that means huge tracts of land are being plowed, watered and soaked with insecticides, herbicides and pesticides, mainly to support the meat industry. Most soy products on the market today are also made from this genetically-modified soy.

If you are eating soy that has been prepared quickly, or not alongside animal protein, you may be causing undue stress on your digestive system. Anti-nutrients in the soy may be blocking absorption of protein and other minerals your body requires such as calcium and especially zinc. This is particularly problematic for vegetarians who generally consume less zinc due to a lack of meat in their diets, which is an adequate source of zinc for omnivores.

A big concern in the soy debate is that the isoflavones contained in soy may pose a threat to women, children and to thyroid health in general. These isoflavones are found in high concentration in soy milk, soy protein isolate and soy infant formulas.

Most doctors already advise pregnant women against consuming too much soy, while this possible health threat is being further studied. There is also heated debate over whether the goitrogens contained in soy (and other foods like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage) increase the risk of thyroid disease. These goitrogens are said to block or suppress hormones that would normally circulate in our bodies and this can lead to thyroid disease, growth problems, immune system and menstrual cycle issues. Again the thyroid disease risk is mostly a concern for vegetarians who do not eat sea vegetables, because meat eaters get the thyroid-supporting mineral iodine in their diet through fish, thereby balancing out any negative effects of the goitrogens.

All of this might sound like reason enough to avoid soy. Even the FDA is monitoring the issue, although they initially approved the soy industry’s request for health claims. “FDA continues to monitor the debates about the relative safety of these individual soy components and the scientific research that will eventually resolve them,” says the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

However, there are some very good reasons to seek out soy products. As an alternative to dairy, a glass of soy milk contains no saturated fats and is rich in polyunsaturates (Omega 6s) that are good for our health. A glass of soy milk also contains less total fat and generally fewer calories than a glass of whole milk. Beware the flavored soy milks on the market which are filled with sugar and calories. Organic, and non-GM soy products also contain none of the antibiotics and hormones that may be found in conventional dairy products.

Soy products may be good for heart health, and this is why the FDA gave it the green light as a health product in the first place. However, some scientists are now disputing this claim. They state that the reason for study participants’ improved cardiac health was that soy products replaced or reduced the amount of potentially artery-clogging foods like red meats and dairy products in their diets.

There are no doubts that eating more legumes is a very good way to increase your intake of fiber, polyunsaturated fats and also a good non-animal source of protein. But to be safe, pregnant women and those with thyroid disease should probably avoid eating soy products, or at least try to reduce them in the diet.

People with digestive problems should look for soy products that are prepared by soaking overnight or longer. You can find this out by going to manufacturers’ websites or calling their toll-free customer service line. It’s good practice to ask questions of our food providers; whether they be farmers at the market, restaurant managers or manufacturers, they should always be able to answer our questions about food quality or safety. Also, look for soy products that are low in isoflavones such as tofu or soy nuts or the beans themselves prepared traditionally. Soy milks and especially soy protein isolates will have higher concentrations of isoflavones, unless they say so otherwise on the label. Watch out for calorie-rich flavored soy milks with added sugars. Even “natural” flavored soy milk often has sugar added. Alternatives to soy milk (for vegans) are almond milk, rice milk and there are some delicious grain milks on the market. Lactose-intolerant dairy product lovers can sometimes find lactose-reduced yogurts and milk products, as well as rice-milk frozen desserts.

Wherever possible try to get organic non-GMO soy, which also tends to be processed in a more traditional manner. If you’re looking for alternative non-animal sources of protein, don’t forget all the other legumes which also should be soaked overnight before cooking, and whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa.

Ultimately, we need to think carefully about what we eat, now that we live in a world where we do not grow or raise our food in our own backyards. It’s our responsibility to make informed choices about the food on the grocery store shelves. Many of the packaged foods we find there will be quick and convenient, but not necessarily the best ingredients for our optimal health.

Article provided by Caroline Rechia

Sodium Nitrate Warnings

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Overview
Foodfacts.com wants to make you more aware of what controversial ingredients are being put into our foods. Sodium nitrate is a food additive in processed meats used to prevent the deadly bacteria botulism from growing. It is found in processed meats such as hot dogs, bologna, bacon, deli meats, ham and salami. It is this preservative that gives pink color to these meats. There are some harmful effects of eating these meats and taking in high amounts of sodium nitrates that you should be aware of.

Cancer
Sodium nitrate additives cause the formation of nitrosamines in the body, which are cancer-causing chemicals. Sodium nitrate is being linked to colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer, but research still is being done to determine the relationship between this additive and other cancers. According to Medicalnewstoday.com, 90 percent of nitrites and nitrates have been determined as carcinogenic to the body and specific organs.

Increased Risk of Heart Disease and Diabetes
Sodium nitrate might damage blood vessels, causing the narrowing and hardening of arteries, which can lead to heart disease, says MayoClinic.com. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that eating processed meats increases your risk of heart disease by 42 percent and diabetes by 19 percent compared with non-processed meats with the same saturated fat content. Further studies are being done on the possible link between insulin-dependent diabetes and sodium nitrates.

High Blood Pressure
High sodium foods are the leading cause of high blood pressure, and additives such as sodium nitrates add even more sodium than what is naturally found in the product. Read through the ingredients list on the food label to look for additives such as sodium nitrate, sodium alginate, monosodium glutamate, all of which add unnecessary sodium to your diet.

Increased Death Rates from Disease
According to Dailyscience.com, a study by researchers at Rhode Island Hospital found a substantial link between increased levels of nitrates in our environment and food with increased deaths from diseases, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes mellitus and Parkinson’s. These diseases are associated with increased insulin resistance and DNA damage, which has drastically increased and is thought to be related to nitrates.

Blueberries faked in cereals, muffins, bagels and other food products – Food Investigations

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Pictures of blueberries are prominently displayed on the front of many food packages. Here they are on boxes of muffins, cereals and breads. But turn the packages around, and suddenly the blueberries disappear. They’re gone, replaced in the ingredients list with sugars, oils and artificial colors derived from petrochemicals.

This bag of blueberry bagels sold at Target stores is made with blueberry bits. And while actual blueberries are found further down the ingredients list, the blueberry bits themselves don’t even contain bits of blueberries. They’re made entirely from sugar, corn cereal, modified food starch, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, artificial flavor, cellulose gum, salt and artificial colors like Blue #2, Red #40, Green #3 and Blue #1.

What’s missing from that list? Well, blueberries.
Where did the blueberries go?

They certainly didn’t end up in Total Blueberry Pomegranate Cereal. This cereal, made by General Mills, contains neither blueberries nor pomegranates. They’re nowhere to be found. But the cereal is made with red #40, blue #2 and other artificial colors. And it’s even sweetened with sucralose, a chemical sweetener. And that’s in addition to the sugar, corn syrup and brown sugar syrup that’s already on the label.

A lot of products that imply they’re made with blueberries contain no blueberries at all. And many that do contain a tiny amount of blueberries cut their recipes with artificial blueberry ingredients to make it look like their products contain more blueberries than they really do.

Kellogg’s Blueberry Pop Tarts shows a picture of plump blueberries right on the front of the box. But inside the box, there’s a lot more high fructose corn syrup than actual blueberries. And the corn syrup is given a blueberry color with the addition of — guess what? — red #40, blue #1 and blue #2 chemicals.

Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats also come in a Blueberry Muffin variety, with fresh blueberries prominently featured on the front of the package. But inside, there are no actual blueberries to be found. Instead, you get “blueberry flavored crunchlets” — yes, crunchlets — made from sugars, soybean oil, red #40 and blue #2.

And, if you can believe it, the side panel of this box features the “Frosted Mini Wheats Bite Size” logo, followed by the words “blueberry muffin” with pictures of blueberries, finally followed by “The Whole Truth.” Except it really isn’t the whole truth at all. It’s more like a half truth.

These marketing deceptions even continue on Kellogg’s website, where one page claims, “New Special K Blueberry Fruit Crisps are filled with blueberries and drizzled with vanilla icing.” Except they aren’t, really. What they’re really filled with is apple powder, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, fructose, sugar, artificial colors red #40 and blue #1, all enhanced with a dash of blueberry puree concentrate.

Even seemingly “healthy” blueberry products can be deceptive. Betty Crocker’s Fiber One Blueberry muffin mix enhances its small amount of actual blueberries with petrochemical colors, too: Red #40, Blue #1 and Blue #2.

At least Betty Crocker’s Blueberry Muffin Mix admits it contains no real blueberries. Well, if you read the fine print, that is. It’s ingredients reveal “Artificial blueberry flavor bits” which are made from dextrose, Corn Flour, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Sugar, Citric Acid, Artificial Flavor, and of course the obligatory Blue #1 and Red #40.

When consumers buy blueberry cereals, muffins and mixes, they’re under the impression that they’re buying real blueberries. No ordinary consumer realizes they’re actually buying blue coloring chemicals mixed with hydrogenated oils and liquid sugars. That’s why this common industry practice of faking the blueberries is so deceptive.

Why can’t food companies just be more honest about it? Nature’s Path Organic Optimum Blueberry-Cinnamon Breakfast Cereal contains — get this — both blueberries and cinnamon.

Better yet, you won’t find any red #40, blue #2 or partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils in Nature’s Path products. They even use organic blueberries and organic cinnamon.

Health Valley Low-Fat Blueberry Tarts are also made with real blueberries. You won’t find any artificial coloring chemicals in this box.

So why can’t Kellogg, Betty Crocker, General Mills and Target stores use real blueberries in their products instead of deceptively formulating them with artificial petrochemical colors that mimic the purple color of blueberries?

It’s probably because real blueberries are expensive. And artificial blueberry bits, made with sugar, partially hydrogenated oils and artificial colors, are dirt cheap. If these companies can fool consumers into thinking they’re buying real blueberries in their products, they can command a price premium that translates into increased profits.

Once again, in the food industry, deception pays off. And it pays big.

So what can YOU do to make sure you don’t get scammed by a food company trying to sell you red #40 and Blue #2 as if they were real blueberries? Read the ingredients. If you see artificial colors on the list — and they’re usually found at the very bottom of the ingredients list — just don’t buy that product.

Put it back on the shelf and choose something else that’s not deceptively marketed. And that’s how you solve “the case of the missing blueberries.”

Article provided by Mike Adams, Health Ranger

Sick fish suggest oil spill still affecting gulf!

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A year after the Deepwater Horizon disaster spewed oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the Florida beaches are relatively clean, the surf seems clear and the tourists are returning. But there are signs that the disaster is continuing to affect marine life in the gulf far from where humans can observe it.

Over the winter, anglers who had been working the gulf for decades began hauling in red snapper that didn’t look like anything they had seen before.

The fish had dark lesions on their skin, some the size of a 50-cent piece. On some of them, the lesions had eaten a hole straight through to the muscle tissue. Many had fins that were rotting away and discolored or even striped skin. Inside, they had enlarged livers, gallbladders, and bile ducts.

“The fish have a bacterial infection and a parasite infection that’s consistent with a compromised immune system,” said Jim Cowan, an oceanographer at Louisiana State University, who has been examining them. “There’s no doubt it’s associated with a chronic exposure to a toxin.”

He believes the toxin in question is oil, given where and when the fish were caught, their symptoms, and the similarity to other incidents involving oil spills. But he is awaiting toxicology tests to be certain.

Cowan said he hasn’t seen anything like these fish in 25 years of studying the gulf, which persuades him that “it would be a pretty big coincidence if it wasn’t associated with the oil spill.”

If he were a detective, he’d be ready to make an arrest.

“It’s a circumstantial case,” he said, “but at the same time I think we can get a conviction.”

Red snapper are reef fish that feed on mantis shrimp, swimming crabs and other small creatures found in the sediment on the gulf floor. Anglers catch them at anywhere from 60 to 200 feet deep. In addition to the snapper, some sheepshead have turned up with similar symptoms, Cowan said.

The fish with lesions and other woes have been caught anywhere from 10 to 80 miles offshore between Pensacola and the mouth of the Mississippi River, an area hit hard by last year’s oil spill, Cowan said.

“They’re finding them out near the shelf edge, near the spill site,” said Will Patterson, a marine biology professor at the University of West Florida.

Patterson, who has been studying reef fish in the gulf for past two years, has sent some of the strange catches to a laboratory for toxicology tests. He suspects Cowan is correct about the oil being the culprit but is withholding judgment.

Red snapper are a popular seafood, with a delicate sweet flavor whether served broiled, baked, steamed, poached, fried or grilled. Asked whether the sick fish might pose a hazard to humans who ate them, Cowan said nobody would want to touch these, much less cook them.

“It’s pretty nasty,” Cowan said. “If you saw this, you wouldn’t eat it.”

Most of the fishermen who caught the weird snappers tossed them back, weighed anchor and moved to another spot, he said. But a few dropped their suspect catch into a box separate from the healthy fish and brought them to shore to show to scientists.

Several of those scientists discussed the disquieting discovery at a conference at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg recently.

“We’re seeing fish anomalies, strange-looking fish,” said Richard Snyder, director of the Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation at the University of West Florida, who has accompanied fishermen going out to collect samples for study. “Wound-healing is becoming an issue.”

The key is what happened to the livers and bile, said Ernst Peebles of the University of South Florida, who is far more cautious about attributing the lesions and discoloration to the spill because they could be caused by something else.

The liver, gallbladder and bile system filter out hydrocarbons — oil components — that the fish might consume while eating their prey. If those systems are enlarged, that means they have become stressed out. That, Peebles said, “is very consistent with the impacts of oil.”

If those systems quit working, that would compromise the immune system, Cowan said.

Does that mean the crustaceans and other prey that the red snapper have been eating are contaminated with oil? “I don’t think anybody’s looked,” said Cowan.

However, University of South Florida scientists have found some microscopic organisms called “foraminifera” — forams, for short — that are also showing signs that something troubling is going on in the gulf. Forams live on the gulf bottom and are eaten by worms, crustaceans and fish.

Ben Flower of USF said they have found forams in the gulf “with deformed shells. . . . It was striking.” There is evidence of hydrocarbons from oil in the sediment, but test results that could show if that’s the cause of the deformity are still in the works, he said.

The symptoms displayed by the red snapper are similar to something that happened four years after the 1989 Exxon-Valdez spill in Alaska. In 1993 the herring fishery in Prince William Sound crashed. The herring succumbed to fungus and a virus — their immune systems had been compromised.

However, a 1999 report noted that “the extent to which the exposure to oil contributed to the 1993 disease outbreak is uncertain.”

Gil McRae, director of the state’s marine science laboratory in St. Petersburg, said he thought it was “irresponsible” for scientists to be attributing the red snapper’s symptoms to the spill without further testing and analysis.

All of the scientists involved said they were nervous about what impact this might have on the gulf’s seafood industry, which still has not recovered from the shutdowns and bad publicity during last year’s crisis. Peebles pointed out that any premature release of information could also scare fishermen away from helping the scientists investigate what was going on.

“Now we’re hiding information because political and economic interests don’t want you to say anything because it would affect economic interests,” said William “Bill” Hogarth, a former federal fisheries official who now oversees the Florida Institute of Oceanography. “But fishermen, they’re seeing fish that are deformed.”

Article provided by Craig Pittman

Red #3 (Erythrosine) and Red #40 (Allura Red)

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Red #3 (Erythrosine) and Red #40 (Allura Red)

Both are Food dyes that are orange-red and cherry red, respectively. Red #40 is the most widely used food dye in America.

FOUND IN Fruit cocktail, candy, chocolate cake, cereal, beverages, pastries, maraschino cherries, and fruit snacks.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW The FDA has proposed a ban on Red #3 in the past, but so far the agency has been unsuccessful in implementing it. After the dye was inextricably linked to thyroid tumors in rat studies, the FDA managed to have the lake (or liquid) form of the dye removed from external drugs and cosmetics. You should avoid foods containing these controversial additives.

Get to know the controversial Food Additive known as Saccharin

saccharin
Saccharin
An artificial sweetener 300 to 500 times sweeter than sugar. Discovered in 1879, it’s the oldest of the five FDA-approved artificial sweeteners. Starting in 1907, the USDA began investigating saccharin as a direct result of the Pure Food and Drug Act. Harvey Wiley, then the director of the bureau of chemistry for the USDA, viewed it as an illegal substitution of a valuable ingredient (sugar) by a less valuable ingredient. In a clash that had career consequences, Wiley told then President Theodore Roosevelt that “Everyone who ate that sweet corn was deceived. He thought he was eating sugar, when in point of fact he was eating a coal tar product totally devoid of food value and extremely injurious to health.” But Roosevelt himself was a consumer of saccharin, and in a heated exchange, Roosevelt angrily answered Wiley by stating, “Anybody who says saccharin is injurious to health is an idiot.”[15] The episode proved the undoing of Wiley’s career.

In 1911, the Food Inspection Decision 135 stated that foods containing saccharin were adulterated. However in 1912, Food Inspection Decision 142 stated that saccharin was not harmful.

More controversy was stirred in 1969 with the discovery of files from the FDA’s investigations of 1948 and 1949. These investigations, which had originally argued against saccharin use, were shown to prove little about saccharin being harmful to human health. In 1972 the USDA made an attempt to completely ban the substance.[16] However, this attempt was also unsuccessful and the sweetener is widely used in the United States; it is the third-most popular after sucralose and aspartame.

In the European Union saccharin is also known by the E number (additive code) E954.

The current status of saccharin is that it is allowed in most countries, and countries like Canada are considering lifting their previous ban of it as a food additive.[17] The concerns that it is associated with bladder cancer were proved to be without foundation in experiments on primates.[18]

Saccahrin was formerly on California’s list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer for the purposes of Proposition 65, but it was delisted in 2001

FOUND IN Diet foods, chewing gum, toothpaste, beverages, sugar-free candy, and Sweet ‘N Low.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW Rat studies in the early ‘70s showed saccharin to cause bladder cancer, and the FDA, reacting to these studies, enacted a mandatory warning label to be printed on every saccharin-containing product. The label was removed after 20 years, but the question over saccharin’s safety was never resolved. More recent studies show that rats on saccharin-rich diets gain more weight than those on high-sugar diets.