Monthly Archives: July 2014

The newest great debate: almond milk

iStock_000024341410SmallHere at FoodFacts.com we have a pretty clear idea about how consumers have embraced almond milk. There are many in our community who absolutely adore it. They go to great lengths to find brands with clean ingredient lists. They’re thrilled that there’s a common alternative to cow’s milk that isn’t soy based, that’s not lacking in flavor and is actually healthy.

Now, though, because of a simple article out of Mother Jones a great debate about the finer points of almond milk is raging across the Web.

Blame Tom Philpott, a Mother Jones food writer whose inflammatorily-titled essay, “Lay Off the Almond Milk, You Ignorant Hipsters,” has been raising ire, defensiveness, and amusement since it was published last Wednesday.

“What’s the point of almond milk, exactly?” Philpott asks in his perplexingly annoyed screed, just 16 lines before deftly answering his own question (to avoid lactose and soy, to boycott the less-than-compassionate dairy industry, and to still have something to put on your cereal). He admits that he’s a bit clueless about the whole thing. “Evidently, I’m out of step with the times on this one. ‘Plant-based milk’ behemoth White Wave reports that its first-quarter sales of almond milk were up 50 percent from the same period in 2013,” he writes, adding that the company’s CEO announced during a May earnings call that almond milk now makes up about two-thirds of the country’s plant-based milk market, beating out soy milk (which has a 30-percent market share) and other players like rice and coconut milks.

Still, he goes on to swipe at almond-milk drinkers for being fooled into thinking the following: that the beverage is packed with nutrition, that it’s free of additives, and that it’s worth its price, concluding that “the almond-milk industry is selling you a jug of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds.” Which is not quite a shocker to anyone who has ever bothered to read a nutrition label.

So what is Philpott — who chooses to drink the fermented milk product kefir — so worked up about, exactly? It’s kind of unclear. But that hasn’t stopped all sorts of foodies, vegans, and lactose-intolerant folks from weighing in.

Celeb nutritionist and NYU professor Marion Nestle also stands with Philpott, responding to his piece in an email to Yahoo Health. She notes, “Oh what fun. I couldn’t have done this better myself.” Regarding almond milk being a good option for those with concerns about dairy or soy, she says, “Option for what? Milk is not essential in the diet. The nutrients it provides are provided by many other foods. If people like the taste of almond milk it can be used like cow’s milk, but its nutritional value is pretty low unless people drink a lot of it.”

Beth Greenfield, over at Yahoo, raised a few points with a little help from Matt Ruscigno, a California-based vegan nutritionist and athlete (who agrees, incidentally, that there’s some marketing magic involved in selling a product that is mostly water):

Hipster factor: “It’s a million-dollar market — it’s not just hipsters,” Ruscigno wisely notes. “It’s mostly moms and everyday people looking for an alternative to dairy milk out of concern for animals, lactose intolerance, and other health concerns.”

Environmental footprint: Philpott has a fixation on almonds this week; on Monday, he wrote about how increased demand for the nut is contributing to California’s drought. Now he’s worried about all the water in almond milk cartons. “The water that’s added isn’t wasted, we are drinking it,” Ruscigno points out. “It’s not like beef, where it becomes runoff. He acts like it’s the same.” And what about the cruelty factor of dairy? Philpott admits that the industry of producing cow milk is “nasty.” Not nasty enough to quit the kefir, apparently.

Inflated price: “If we are talking about value, we have to point out that dairy is subsidized by the U.S. government in almost every step,” Ruscigno notes. “It’s artificially cheaper. If that wasn’t the case, then dairy milk would cost way more. It’s unfair to only point to almond milk’s expenses and ignore the big culprit.”

Additives: Philpott calls out commercial almond milk for containing additives such as carrageenan, a seaweed-derived thickener with much-debated health concerns, and vitamins (such as D and the synthetic A palmitate, the latter of which is found in kefir, by the way). Fine. True enough. But there’s a really, really easy solution: Make your own almond milk. It’s slightly cheaper, more delicious, and a cinch to pull off. Here are two awesome options from nut-milk-loving friends, one basic, the other a bit fancy. As for the missing nutrients? Make it up in other places. Simple.

FoodFacts.com would like to point out that while it is certainly true that many mainstream brands of almond milk do, in fact, contain additives like carrageenan, it is absolutely possible to find brands that do not. And while Ms. Greenfield is correct that it’s pretty simple to make your own almond milk — and we know many people who do — if you aren’t so inclined, it’s not incredibly difficult to find a brand without additives.

In regard to almond milk being “filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds” and not much more, Philpott is being rather short-sighted. Almond milk isn’t cow’s milk, so its nutritional benefits are going to be different from its counterpart. That doesn’t make almond milk nutritionally vacant. Quite the contrary, it does have its unique benefits. If Philpott looked a bit closer he would find that almond milk is heart healthy, containing no cholesterol or saturated fat and being high in Omega 3 fatty acids. It’s high in the antioxidant vitamin E so it may help to prevent cancer and stave off signs of aging. It’s also rich in flavanoids that may help prevent degenerative diseases like osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes. While cow’s milk is fortified to provide vitamins and minerals like copper, zinc, iron, magnesium, manganese, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and selenium, all of these occur naturally in almond milk. And let’s not forget that almond milk is naturally low in fat and calories, containing only 40 calories and 3 grams of fat per serving — and that fat is healthier fat than the fat we consume from cow’s milk.

So while Marion Nestle is correct that cow’s milk is not essential to the human diet, for those humans who like pouring milk over their cereal or their oatmeal or in their coffee or tea who are looking for an alternative, we still think there are plenty of benefits to almond milk. There’s really no debating it.

https://www.yahoo.com/health/almond-milk-the-great-divider-92163928887.html

Ice cream that doesn’t melt, courtesy of Wal-Mart’s Great Value brand

Wal-Mart-Magic-665x385There are certain things in the world we take for granted. The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening. Summer is baseball season. Leaves turn color in the fall. Fourth of July brings fireworks shows. And ice cream melts.

Oops, we better cross that last one off the list.

Just over a week ago, a concerned mother in Ohio made big news of the fact that Wal-Mart’s Great Value ice cream sandwiches lack the ability to do what all the others can: melt.

Christie Watson just told WCPO in Cincinnati that her son recently left one of the unwrapped Wal-Mart sandwiches outside in 80 degree F heat for 12 hours and it hadn’t melted.

“I thought that’s quite weird,” she said. “So I looked at the box, and it doesn’t say artificial ice cream. It says ice cream.”

The same thing happened to another sandwich that Watson then left out overnight. She said, “Monday I came out and looked at it, and there was still ice cream there. So I thought to myself: What am I feeding to my children?”

So WCPO, as broadcasters are wont to do, performed its own more extensive experiment, leaving one of the Wal-Mart ice cream sandwiches out in the sun for a few hours, along with a Klondike bar and a pint of Haagen-Dazs.

Not surprisingly, reported the station, “The Wal-Mart sandwich [shown above], though it melted a bit, remained the most solid in appearance, and still looked like a sandwich.”

The others melted away. that might be because the others don’t contain the additives that Wal-Mart’s ice cream sandwich do.

According to a cursory look at Wal-Mart’s website, Great Value sandwiches contain just sugar, milk, cream, buttermilk, whey and corn syrup. But Wal-Mart’s product also contains “1 percent or less of mono- and diglycerides, vanilla extract, guar gum, calcium sulfate, carob bean gum, cellulose gum, carrageenan, artificial flavor and annatto for color.”

Just like the no-drip ice cream that Cold Stone Creamery introduced in 2009, Wal-Mart’s sandwiches make use of a modified food starch that makes their ice cream more like pudding.

“The modified food starch that sets instant pudding caused the resulting blend to gel rather than liquefy,” New York Magazine reported about Cold Stone’s product.

Wal-Mart wasn’t very forthcoming about the additives though. It released the following statement that totally avoided the subject:

“Ice cream melts based on the ingredients including cream. Ice cream with more cream will generally melt at a slower rate, which is the case with our Great Value ice cream sandwiches. In the frozen aisles, Great Value ice cream sandwiches are one of the top sellers, and we are glad to be able to offer a great treat that families love.”

What Wal-Mart is trying to say that their ice cream contains more cream than, Haagen Dazs. This isn’t very likely since Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream contains just five ingredients: Cream, Milk Nonfat, Sugar, Eggs Yolks, Vanilla Natural. Great Value Ice Cream Sandwiches (also containing vanilla ice cream) contain 51 ingredients. That’s right — 51. Here’s the list from the FoodFacts.com site:

Ice Cream: Milk, Cream, Sugar, Corn Syrup,Buttermilk, Whey, Mono and Diglycerides, Guar Gum,Calcium Sulphate, Carob Bean Gum, Polysorbate 65,Carrageenan, Flavors Natural, Annatto, Ice Cream,Milk, Cream, Sugar, Corn Syrup, Buttermilk, Whey,Mono and Diglycerides, Guar Gum, Calcium Sulphate,Carob Bean Gum, Polysorbate 65, Annatto, Added For Color, Baking Soda, Caramel Color, Carrageenan,Cocoa, Corn Syrup, Cottonseed Oil Partially Hydrogenated, ), Soybeans Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Sugar, Vegetables Shortening, (, Corn Flour Yellow, Mono and Diglycerides, Flavors Natural, Chocolate Wafer, :, Corn Sugar, Corn Starch Modified, Flour Unenriched Bleached

We’re pretty positive that the reason the Great Value ice cream sandwiches don’t melt has absolutely nothing to do with the idea that they contain more cream. Oh — and we also don’t want to eat ice cream with 51 ingredients.

Nope, in our world, we want the fact that ice cream melts to remain on the list of things we take for granted that will never, ever change. We also don’t want to have to repeat Christie Watson’s question, “What am I feeding my kids?” and come up with an answer that’s 51 ingredients long.

http://www.inquisitr.com/1375965/wal-marts-magical-ice-cream-sandwich-just-try-and-melt-me/

Too much salt may spell heart disease for diabetics

iStock_000030596950SmallDiabetes rates have soared in recent decades. For those who suffer with the disease, dietary vigilance becomes a way of life. It’s a condition that requires constant attention in order to maintain health and well-being. Diabetes can lead to any number of serious health problems, including heart disease.

Many have come to relate diabetes with sugar. Diabetics have to be careful of sugar and carbohydrate consumption. But it’s not only sugar that raises alarms for people with diabetes. Eating a high-salt diet may double the risk of developing heart disease in people with diabetes, according to a new study from Japan.

For any person, too much salt in the diet can raise blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for developing heart disease. To assess how people with diabetes fare in relation to the salt in their diet, the researchers surveyed nearly 1,600 diabetic patients, ages 40 and 70, from across Japan. The study participants answered questions about their diets, including their sodium intake, and were followed for eight years.

Participants with the highest sodium intake (about 6,000 milligrams per day, on average) were twice as likely to develop heart disease over the study period than those with the lowest sodium intake (about 2,800 milligrams per day, on average), the researchers found. Among the 359 people with the highest sodium intake, 41 developed heart disease, compared with 23 of the 354 people with lowest sodium intake. [4 Tips for Reducing Sodium]

“To reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, it is important for people who have Type 2 diabetes to improve their blood sugar control as well as watch their diet,” study researcher Chika Horikawa, of the University of Niigata Prefecture in Japan, said in a statement.

The researchers adjusted the results for other factors that may contribute to people’s heart disease risk, such as their alcohol consumption and total calorie intake, according to the study published today (July 22) in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The findings add to the evidence that consuming less salt could help prevent dangerous complications from diabetes, the researchers said.

The negative effects of salt on blood pressure and heart health has long been established. Even for healthy, young people, dietary guidelines recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day. A limit of 1,500 mg is recommended for groups at increased risk of heart disease, including African-Americans, people older than 51, and people with high blood pressure, kidney disease or diabetes.

The average American takes in about 3,300 mg of sodium per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Main sources of salt in people’s diet include salt used in cooking and sodium naturally found in meat, vegetables and dairy, as well as processed foods, which have high levels of sodium.

People with Type 2 diabetes have high blood sugar levels, which can lead to serious health problems if left untreated, and the condition is a risk factor for heart disease. More than 29 million people in the United States have type 2 diabetes, and another 86 million have high blood sugar levels and could progress to having diabetes, according to the CDC.

In the study, the researchers also found the effects of a high-sodium diet were worsened by poor blood sugar control. But they didn’t find a link between high-salt diet and other complications of diabetes, such as kidney disease or vision problems, or dying.

Sugar and salt. Sugar and salt. It seems we hear disturbing news about either or both more and more consistently. FoodFacts.com wants to remind everyone in our community that Americans consume far too much of each of them on a daily basis. And most importantly, we want to remind everyone that the bulk of the sugar and salt we are consuming does not come from the sugar bowls and salt shakers in our kitchens. Rather, they come from the copious amounts of processed foods it becomes more and more difficult for average consumers to avoid on a daily basis. This research is one more reason to be as conscious as we possibly can be about the quality and content of the foods we consume.

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/07/23/high-salt-diet-may-double-diabetics-heart-disease-risk/

Is junk food part of the USDA’s new school nutrition standards?

Dinner for dozensHere at FoodFacts.com we spend a lot of time talking about the nutritional uselessness of junk food. We’ve also spent a considerable amount of blog space talking about the new School nutritional standards and how they do seem to be improving the cafeteria consumption of our kids throughout the country. Today, however, we read about an interesting turn of events regarding those new nutritional standards and junk food. It’s fascinating how food manufacturers easily adapt to new definitions and how easily standards can be “bent.”

This week in Boston, the School Nutrition Association held a meeting where food manufacturers exhibited their new and “acceptable” products.

It appears that from the kinds of junk-food products exhibited, you would never know that the SNA was at war with the White House over USDA’s nutrition standards for school meals.

Food companies seem to have had no problem coming up with look-alike products that meet USDA standards:

More than 400 exhibitors showed off their innovations designed to meet the Department of Agriculture’s new regulations…PepsiCo, which owns Tropicana, Quaker and Lays, has a long list of products that meet the new rules, including Reduced Fat Doritos and Cheetos, Stacy’s Pita Chips and Munchies. Windsor Foods, which specializes in food service, has come up with whole grain-rich egg rolls that the company says kids love.

General Mills displayed a modified version of Chex Mix, a whole grain Betty Crocker cookie and a Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal bar: “Snacks so good, kids won’t know they’re nutritious,” according to the marketing flyers.

While the changes to lunch standards may be giving many school nutrition professionals fits, the food manufacturing industry is drooling over the opportunity to gain more sales inside what has been described as the nation’s largest restaurant: The school lunch program serves 30 million kids each day and represents a $30 billion per year market for the food industry, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The SNA benefits from the food industry’s enthusiasm in school lunches. The largest chunk of the group’s revenue is generated at its annual conference, which brought in $4.7 million in 2012. The association charges $15,000 to sponsor an education session track featuring a company representative and $20,000 to put company logos on hotel key cards.

To understand what this is about, take a look at the Public Health Advocacy Institute’s report on Copycat Snacks in Schools. The “better for you” versions are sold in schools, but you can hardly tell the difference between those and the “not so good for you” commercial versions from the nearly identical packages.

How can food and beverage companies get away with this? This is the result of USDA’s setting nutrient-based, rather than food-based standards for school meals. Setting nutrient standards allows food companies to tweak the formulas to give the USDA what it requires.

Better-for-you Chex Mix, reduced-fat Doritos, Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal Bars. Did anyone at the SNA take a look at the ingredient lists of these “improved” snack products? Do the terms “reduced fat” and “whole grain” completely define a product as nutritionally beneficial? We already know that package terminology means little in the grocery aisles. So why should those terms make a difference in school cafeterias? It’s not just the food industry that can do better here. It’s the School Nutrition Association and the USDA as well. Just our two cents.

http://www.foodpolitics.com/2014/07/school-nutrition-association-junk-foods-galore-but-they-meet-usdas-nutrition-standards/

Panera Bread jumps on the healthier food bandwagon committing to remove artificial ingredients by 2016!

Panera Bread to Remove Artificial IngredientsGreat news for Panera Bread fans: the popular fast casual chain is the latest to take a big step towards healthier menu offerings. It has announced that by 2016, artificial additives will be removed from its menu including major ingredients like artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors and preservatives.

“We believe simpler is better,” Scott Davis, chief concept officer said in a news release. “Panera is on a mission to help fix a broken food system. We have a long journey ahead, but we’re working closely with the nutrition community, industry experts, farmers, suppliers and others to make a difference.”

Panera will be taking artificial colors out of its roast beef, maltodextrin and potassium lactate will be removed from the citrus pepper chicken, and horseradish will lose the calcium disodium EDTA.Trans-fats will be removed from the bakery menu items as well.

The announcement is the latest in a string of similar moves from competing fast food chain outlets. Subway recently announced it was removing azodicarbonamide from its bread. The controversial chemical is also found in shoes and yoga mats.

Chick-fil-A also made the announcement that it was cleaning up its menu by reducing ingredients including dyes, HFCS and antibiotics in its popular chicken sandwiches after Vani Hari, the blogger known as “Food Babe” pressured the chain.

And then there’s Chipotle—the poster chain for “healthy” fast food. While Chipotle has been on the clean meat and local produce angle for a while now, it recently made a big step in removing genetically modified ingredients from almost all of its menu items as well as adding vegan sofritos to its offerings.

FoodFacts.com is always happy to hear of another fast food chain making the committment to work towards a cleaner, healthier menu. Panera Bread is an exceptionally popular chain with a solid reputation among consumers. While there menu options have always been thought of as fresher and healthier than many other available options, we’re certainly well aware of the poor ingredients included in so many of Panera’s dishes, tasty as they may be. Kudos to Panera Bread for this commitment. We’re positive that the flavor of their foods will only get better through this effort and that they’ll be gaining even more fans from this bold and necessary move.

This great trend has legs! We can’t wait to see which chain will be the next to make the move towards providing consumers with the healthier foods we all deserve!

http://naturallysavvy.com/eat/move-over-chipotle-panera-bread-is-removing-artificial-ingredients

Third annual Kids’ State Dinner (yes there is one) promotes healthy eating and features the recipes of prize-winning junior chefs

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 1.09.30 PMFor the last three years, our President and First Lady have been hosting a yearly Kids’ State Dinner. This little-known event is just one of the fun, interesting and effective ways Michelle Obama has found to promote healthy eating and fitness to our nation’s youth. The guests at the “dinner” (which is actually a lunch) are the winners of a yearly contest that invites kids across the nation to develop their own healthy recipes and submit them for the opportunity to dine at the White House with the First Family. It’s hands-on, engaging and offers a once-in-a-lifetime prize!

Chef Elena Hirsch’s winning omelet recipe—aptly titled “Barack-oli and Mich-room Obama-let” —landed the 11-year-old her seat at this annual event.

Hirsch is one of the winners of the 2014 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge contest. The contest asks children ages 8 to 12 to submit healthy lunchtime recipes of their own creation. Winners and their parents or guardians are then flown to D.C., put up in a hotel, and entertained at the Kids’ State Dinner, which is hosted by first lady Michelle Obama and organized by Epicurious, the Department of Education, and the Department of Agriculture.

This year’s winners—who hail from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories—beat out close to 1,500 other entrants to come to the White House, where they were treated to a special performance from Disney’s “The Lion King” musical and a lively address from President Barack Obama.

“First of all, we have a lot of state dinners around here,” the president quipped. “They’re not always as cheerful and fun as this.”

Obama also revealed his greatest food weakness — chips and guacamole. Although his jokes yesterday might have led you to believe it was a shared milkshake.

Michelle vowed to give up french fries, her greatest food weakness, during her speech.

Notwithstanding its name, the Kids’ State Dinner is actually lunch—(after all, “State Lunch” doesn’t exactly scream presidential)— and the noontime menu features several of the winning recipes. This year, that included chicken lettuce wraps, tomato cucumber salad and “Tropical Strawberry Banana Secret Smoothies.”

The 54 winning recipes were judged based on taste, creativity, affordability, chef’s personal story, and, of course, Michelle’s pet project — MyPlate nutritional standards.

Chef Tess Boghossian, 11, from Illinois won for her healthy rendition of a soup served at Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration.

Chef Elena, creator of the “Obama-let,” said that it took her five days to come up with an omelet recipe that honored the members of the first family. In addition to “Barack-oli” and “Mich-rooms,” her recipe calls for car-MALIA-ized onions and butternut SquASHA, in honor of first daughters Malia and Sasha. All that was missing was first dog Bo.

FoodFacts.com can recall plenty of research that links involving children in a healthy lifestyle to their positive response to healthy foods and healthy habits. In addition to the idea that the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge is a great project that involves kids in the process of making healthy choices, it also makes that process truly memorable for them! What a great event and what a great way to make a healthy impression on the kids of our country!

http://redalertpolitics.com/2014/07/18/michelle-obama-uses-third-annual-kids-state-dinner-contest-promote-healthy-eating-promises-give-french-fries/

Food Fight! Sugar lobbyists and public health advocates at odds over added sugar transparency on food labels

iStock_000001563163SmallFor many of us of a certain generation, the words “Food Fight” will always invoke the memory of John Belushi’s Bluto screaming the phrase in the middle of the cafeteria featured in the classic movie, Animal House. If only the world could always be that simple and funny. This post, however, details a real-life, real-time food fight that has erupted between powerful Big Sugar lobbyists and public health advocates on the heels of the Food And Drug Administration’s proposed changes to nutrition labels that include listing the amount of added sugar in food products.

Here at FoodFacts.com, we think everyone would like to know how much sugar the food industry is actually adding to the products we purchase. We’re sure that even the most uneducated food consumer would choose transparency when it comes to this serious and well-publicized issue.

Scientific studies increasingly are finding links between sugar consumption and chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. With public health at stake, advocates say, consumers need to be informed of what is being introduced into their food.

“Food producers and others that represent sugar interests are robbing us of this information that we should have access to, they’re robbing us of our health,” said Gretchen Goldman, an analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “People have a right to know how much sugar is in their foods.”
The inclusion of added sugars appears to be a jab from the FDA at food manufacturers, whether the agency intended for it to be or not. Other measurements on nutrition labels—calories, fat, sodium—are passive: They simply state how much is in the food. But the added sugars measurement is active: It implies that the company the consumer is purchasing from has included something that could be dangerous in high doses over the long term.

Food business groups argue that a gram of sugar, natural or added, is a gram of sugar—so why distinguish it?

“There is no chemical difference between naturally occurring sugars or added sugars, and…there is no scientific evidence that added sugars are linked to obesity or other chronic diseases,” said Lee Sanders, a spokeswoman for the American Bakers Association.

But foods containing added sugar are among the most unhealthy, supporters of the FDA proposal say, and more information is a good way for consumers to be more conscious of that.

“The food industry response has said that the body doesn’t distinguish between added and natural sugar, and that’s true…but we do no harm by limiting added sugar, and we know it’s a good way to limit calorie intake. It seems to be a logical step to include added sugars on the label,” said Rachel Johnson, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association and a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont.

The American Heart Association, which supports the label change, came out with a scientific statement in 2009 that recommends no more than six teaspoons of sugar a day for women, and nine teaspoons a day for men, citing the body of evidence that connects high intake of sugar to health problems.

Big Sugar, advocates say, is employing strategies reminiscent of Big Tobacco in its heyday.

“[They’re] different players, but it’s the same game,” Goldman said. “We’re seeing the exact same tactics that Big Tobacco was using. They’re trying to manufacture doubt in the science, they’re trying to pay their own experts to carry their talking points, and they’re doing these things with the intent to undermine public policy.”

Industry also has other objections to the proposed change to nutrition labels: Sanders, from the bakers’ lobbying group, said it would be “difficult, if not impossible, to calculate added sugar.” The FDA acknowledges the costs of the rule change for businesses, estimating that the one-time expenditure would be $2.3 billion for labeling, reformulation of products, and record keeping.

And there are more individualized concerns. The International Dairy Foods Association, for example, is concerned that the definition of added sugar includes natural sugars isolated from a whole food and concentrated so that sugar is the primary component—fruit juice concentrate, for example. That would affect the added sugar count for dairy products such as whey, nonfat dry milk, or milk protein concentrate.

The proposed FDA change appears to have left the biggest of the industry lobbying groups unenthusiastic about communicating with the media. A Sugar Association spokeswoman, Tonya Allen, declined to speak by phone on the issue, pointing only to a weeks-old statement put out by the organization. The Corn Refiners Association did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Stakeholders and business groups have until August 1 to comment on the proposed change. The FDA then will review the comments and consider them in edits to the proposed label, followed by the enactment of a final label. Industry will then, under the proposed rules, have a two-year transitional period over which to comply with the new requirements.

Over the next two weeks, as the FDA comments period draws to a close, industry groups are expected to turn up the heat on the proposal.

“The food industry knows that when they add it to food, you buy more. They don’t add it for any other reason,” said Dr. Robert Lustig, a University of California-San Francisco professor who has campaigned against sugar consumption. “You [currently] can’t tell how much sugar has been added, and the food industry wants it that way.”

Read that last quote carefully. We can’t tell how much sugar has been added to our food. We’re being told to keep sugar consumption to between 6 and 9 teaspoons per day (depending on our gender). It appears we don’t know how much sugar we’re consuming and lobbyists are trying to keep it that way. And it certainly doesn’t appear that the “sugar is sugar” argument being made by the sugar lobby has much to do with the problem. The problem originates with the question, “how sweet is sweet enough?” The food industry wants to continue to answer that question without transparency or input. We’re hopeful that the FDA will begin making these major changes next month.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/07/19/guess-who-doesn-t-want-you-to-know-how-much-added-sugar-is-in-your-food.html

Moldy Chobani yogurt more harmful than previously assumed

iStock_000026032451SmallLast September there was a nationwide recall of Chobani Greek yogurt due to what the company called a harmless problem with some fungus.

Ten months later, that recall has been linked to more than 400 illnesses and microbiologists say the fungus responsible for the outbreak isn’t as harmless as company officials indicated.

Experts with Duke University tested yogurt affected by the September 2013 recall taken from the refrigerator of a Texas couple who said they both became ill after eating it.

The scientists found that the sample contained Mucor circinelloides, the fungus detected at the Twin Falls, Idaho, plant where the yogurt was made. But additional testing revealed that it was a subspecies of the bug that is commonly associated with human infections.

“The potential risk would be higher than we might have thought,” said Soo Chan Lee, a senior research associate with the Duke Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. The study is published in the journal mBio.

That contradicts the position of experts cited by Chobani who said the mold is “not considered a disease-causing microorganism,” and might pose risk only to people with compromised immune systems.

But Dr. Alejandro Mazzotta, Chobani’s vice president of global quality, food safety and regulatory affairs, disputed the study findings.

“To our knowledge, there is no evidence, including the assertions presented in this publication, that the strain in the recalled products causes illness in consumers when ingested,” he said in a statement. Chobani officials say they’ve made significant investments in technology and personnel to improve food safety procedures.

At least 403 reports of illness tied to the recall were reported in the past year, Food and Drug Administration officials said Monday. Reports aren’t confirmed cases, the FDA noted.

Chobani has taken steps to eradicate the mold at the plant, FDA officials said.

FoodFacts.com wants everyone in our community to understand that, despite claims by any company, recalls are serious business. While Chobani is claiming that the mold that caused the recall of their yogurt really couldn’t harm anyone, other sources disagree pretty strongly. It’s important for us all to keep up with food recalls and to make sure we rid our refrigerators and pantries of items that appear on lists of recalled products. While it may not be something we think of often, it really should be. We can avoid unnecessary — and sometimes serious — illness by following recall news. And remember, this is a service you can access easily via the FoodFacts.com website right here: http://www.foodfacts.com/food-recalls/ Develop a valuable habit and check it out as often as you can!

http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/moldy-chobani-yogurt-posed-health-threat-tests-find-n150116

Cinnamon holds promise as a treatment to halt the progression ofo Parkinson’s disease

Cinnamon barkThere is rarely a study we come across with results as striking as these. Neurological scientists at Rush University Medical Center have found that using cinnamon, a common food spice and flavoring material, can reverse the biomechanical, cellular and anatomical changes that occur in the brains of mice with Parkinson’s disease (PD). The results of the study were recently published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology.

“Cinnamon has been used widely as a spice throughout the world for centuries,” said Kalipada Pahan, study lead researcher and the Floyd A. Davis professor of neurology at Rush. “This could potentially be one of the safest approaches to halt disease progression in Parkinson’s patients.”

“Cinnamon is metabolized in the liver to sodium benzoate, which is an FDA-approved drug used in the treatment for hepatic metabolic defects associated with hyperammonemia,” said Pahan. It is also widely used as a food preservative due to its microbiocidal effect.”

Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamonum cassia) and original Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamonum verum) are two major types of cinnamon that are available in the US.

“Although both types of cinnamon are metabolized into sodium benzoate, by mass spectrometric analysis, we have seen that Ceylon cinnamon is much more pure than Chinese cinnamon as the latter contains coumarin, a hepatotoxic molecule,” said Pahan.

“Understanding how the disease works is important to developing effective drugs that protect the brain and stop the progression of PD,” said Pahan. “It is known that some important proteins like Parkin and DJ-1 decrease in the brain of PD patients.”

The study found that after oral feeding, ground cinnamon is metabolized into sodium benzoate, which then enters into the brain, stops the loss of Parkin and DJ-1, protects neurons, normalizes neurotransmitter levels, and improves motor functions in mice with PD.

This research was supported by grants from National Institutes of Health.

“Now we need to translate this finding to the clinic and test ground cinnamon in patients with PD. If these results are replicated in PD patients, it would be a remarkable advance in the treatment of this devastating neurodegenerative disease,” said Pahan.

Parkinson’s disease is a slowly progressive disease that affects a small area of cells within the mid-brain known as the substantia nigra. Gradual degeneration of these cells causes a reduction in a vital chemical neurotransmitter, dopamine. The decrease in dopamine results in one or more of the classic signs of Parkinson’s disease that includes: resting tremor on one side of the body; generalized slowness of movement; stiffness of limbs; and gait or balance problems. The cause of the disease is unknown. Both environmental and genetic causes of the disease have been postulated.

Parkinson’s disease affects about 1.2 million patients in the United States and Canada. Although 15 percent of patients are diagnosed before age 50, it is generally considered a disease that targets older adults, affecting one of every 100 persons over the age of 60. This disease appears to be slightly more common in men than women.

This is breathtaking information. FoodFacts.com recalls the quote from Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” If the effects of cinnamon on mice with Parkinson’s disease can be replicated in human beings, this quote will certainly take on tremendous new meaning.

http://www.dddmag.com/news/2014/07/cinnamon-could-halt-progression-parkinson%E2%80%99s

Baskin-Robbins reports: chocolate is a very happy flavor!

Baskin-RobbinsIt’s possible you already knew that! Some of us here at FoodFacts.com certainly did. But Baskin-Robbins wanted to officially find out which flavor in their 1,000+ variety database was most associated with happiness, so they’ve conducted a study to determine the results.

To help with this project, Baskin-Robbins said it partnered with Juliet A. Boghossian, a behavioral food expert and founder of Food-ology.

According to Baskin-Robbins, Food-ology is an “original methodology that links food-related habits to personality traits and behavioral tendencies.”

Looking to stamp out gloominess and summer funks, Baskin-Robbins handed Boghossian a tough assignment: Find out which of the more than 1,000 flavors in the Baskin-Robbins ice cream data-base are most likely to induce happiness.

Using a methodology that could hurt the thinking cap of a Harvard professor, Boghossian concluded that chocolate, jamoca coffee, very berry strawberry, rocky road, and vanilla are the flavors most likely to uplift a person who’s feeling moody and low.

“It’s surprising to most people when they learn that specific ice cream flavors can increase one’s happiness more than others,” Boghossian said in a statement. “For example, the ice cream flavors enjoyed as a child can actually trigger happy memories, release tension, and remove distractions in the moment. Ice cream lovers can also consume a dose of happy by choosing a flavor with mood enhancing ingredients like chocolate, coffee, almonds, or mint.”

In case you’re wondering why such research has just come to light, consider that July happens to be National Ice Cream Month, which on the Baskin-Robbins calendar is also known as a month of sundaes.

Or ice cream cones, for that matter. As part of its celebration of National Ice Cream Month, Baskin-Robbins said it offering customers “a free freshly-baked waffle cone upgrade with the purchase of a double scoop of Baskin-Robbins ice cream. The offer is available at participating Baskin-Robbins shops nationwide throughout the summer months.”

The study is a lot of fun — especially during National Ice Cream Month. Of course, we have to mention that we’d love to see Baskin-Robbins honor the occasion with some ingredient list improvements. But we’re still happy to know which ice cream flavors are bound to lift a heavy summer mood regardless!

https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2014/07/09/new-baskin-robbins-research-scoop-chocolate-ice-cream-equals-dose-happy/caamrcAFJVWnbwo2Icl71M/story.html