Category Archives: FDA

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Yellow Dye #5

Earlier this month, FoodFacts.com shared some known facts about Red Dye #40, the most commonly used artificial food coloring (AFC) according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Before National Candy Month comes to a close, we would like to bring our readers’ attention to another commonly used AFC, Yellow Dye #5.

Yellow Dye #5 or tartrazine is a food colorant derived from coal tar. There have been many publications that extensively discussed the harmful effects of this colorant. Toxicology, in particular, published the findings that tartrazine causes disruption of estrogen in humans, which essentially affects the hormonal balance that can lead to a myriad of health problems.

Because of the potential harmful effects it poses to the body, Yellow Dye #5 is banned in many European countries such as Norway and Austria. However, its use in the United States has only been regulated, albeit to a certain extent, by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Yellow Dye #5 is widely used in the country in the manufacturing of potato chips, candies, soda and “fruit” drinks, and even pet food.

Here are the reported health effects of Yellow Dye #5:

Allergic reactions

Reports state that consumption of candies and other foods with Yellow Dye #5 triggered hypersensitivity to chemicals such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID). Other sources say that asthma is also among the allergic reactions caused by Yellow Dye #5.

Behavioral problems

Like Red Dye #40, Yellow Dye #5 can cause hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in children. Some of the behavioral problems include, but not limited to, impulsive behavior, lack and/or loss of concentration and inability to control activity.

Cancer and other health risks

Yellow Dye #5 and many other AFCs are reported to be tainted with cancer-causing contaminants. Because of the hormonal imbalance side effect, Yellow Dye #5 may cause adverse effect on male potency, genital size and sperm count. Some reports also say that the said imbalance can cause breast development and even breast cancer in men.

As always, FoodFacts urges consumers to check food labels for Yellow Dye #5 and other AFCs. Here are some of the names that Yellow Dye #5 go by:

  • Tartrazine
  • FD&C Yellow 5
  • Yellow 5
  • E102
  • C.I. 19140
  • Acid Yellow 23
  • Food Yellow 4
  • trisodium 1-(4-sulfonatophenyl)-4-(4-sulfonatophenylazo)-5-pyrazolone-3-carboxylate)

Use the All My Food Facts app to check food labels. Get it on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon!

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Red Dye #40

Food dyes are added to our foods to make them look more appetizing. There are actually plenty of natural food dyes available for our consumption, such as beets, spinach and turmeric. However, natural food dyes are highly sensitive to light and heat. Their colors, as well as taste, may be altered dramatically at any given phase of the food manufacturing process, including the final packaging and delivery stages.  This is one reason why food manufacturers generally prefer artificial food dyes over natural food colorants.

Artificial food dyes are more iridescent and more shelf-stable than natural food dyes. They also come in each of the primary colors, therefore allowing manufacturers to mix them up and produce a wide array of other hues.

Red Dye #40 is the most commonly used artificial food coloring, according to Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). It should be of no surprise to learn that it appears in numerous candies. As a matter of fact, candies that suggest any fruit content are most likely to have the said colorant. Red Dye #40 is actually present in other foods that are neither red nor bright. Some of them include, potato chips, barbecue sauce and peanut butter.

Whether natural or synthetic, most of the dyes that we ingest are excreted from our bodies. However, FoodFacts.com wants to remind you of what health experts and advocates alike have been saying for a long time: Red Dye #40 has potential to cause serious harm to the body.

Here are some quick facts released in the recent years about Red Dye #40:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates that manufacturers disclose the existence of Red Dye #40 in their products on their labels. However, the FDA doesn’t require them to specify how much.
  • The CSPI reports that Red Dye #40 and other artificial food dyes can cause allergic reactions in some people.
  • Research shows that Red Dye #40 can cause hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in children.
  • 43% child-oriented products contain Red Dye #40 and other artificial food dyes.
  • Red Dye #40 contains p-Cresidine, which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services believes to be cancer-causing.
  • Despite the outcry of CSPI, health advocates and consumers, which includes a petition to ban certain artificial food dyes, there is still no clear consensus from the FDA that Red Dye #40 is toxic.

It is highly recommended that you take caution in consuming foods that contain Red Dye #40. Below are other names that the said colorant go by:

  • FD&C Red No. 40
  • Allura Red
  • Red 40
  • Red No. 40
  • FD and C Red No. 40
  • Allura Red AC
  • C.I. 16035
  • C.I. Food Red 17

FoodFacts.com has always made it explicit that consumers like you be proactive in learning the ingredients contained in your foods. Use the All My Food Facts app to check food labels. Get it on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon!

Weird Science. Federal dietary guidelines are based on a weak scientific framework

food pyramid collageIt would make sense that if the Federal Dietary Guidelines were adhered to by most Americans and the Guidelines were sound scientifically that the country wouldn’t have seen a rise in both obesity and any of several other conditions which lead to diabetes and heart disease. But we do have these problems. In fact, FoodFacts.com thinks it’s important to note that those problems have been increasing in frequency for Americans almost since the Federal Guidelines have been issued. Sounds like weird science. But it’s coming to light that Federal Dietary Guidelines are based on a weak scientific framework.

The federal government’s dietary guidelines have changed little since first being issued in 1980. A revised set of recommendations released this month includes a new cap on added sugar, but this is unlikely to end the guidelines’ failure for 35 years to check the rise of obesity and diabetes. The problem, simply put, is a reliance on weak science.

But a serious course correction may finally be on the horizon. Congress, concerned about the continued toll taken by nutrition-related diseases, recently mandated the first-ever outside review of the evidence underlying the dietary guidelines and the process that produces them. The National Academy of Medicine will conduct the review this year. Yet this effort could do more harm than good if the academy endorses the weak science that has shaped the guidelines for decades.

The crux of the problem is that many of the dietary recommendations are not based on clinical trials, which can reliably demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship. In a clinical trial, subjects are randomly assigned to one or more diets, whose health effects are then measured. Such studies are extremely challenging and expensive because subjects must be monitored closely or even provided food to ensure that they are adhering to the diet.

Instead, many of the dietary recommendations are justified by observational studies, using a scientific method known as prospective epidemiology. Researchers send out questionnaires to large numbers of people, asking about diet and lifestyle. They then follow up for years to record health outcomes.

This method cannot show causation, only associations. For instance, obesity might be associated with sitting in front of the television. But people who spend a lot of time watching TV might also eat more junk food. What’s making them fat: The TV-watching, the junk food, or something else entirely that no one thought to measure? Epidemiologists try to adjust for these variables, but there is always uncertainty.

It’s true that epidemiological science has had successes, most notably by linking smoking to cancer in the early 1950s. Yet heavy smokers had a risk of lung cancer 9 to 25 times greater than did nonsmokers, a big enough difference to give researchers confidence that the association was real. By contrast, studies that link nutrition with disease generally find differences in risk of 1 to 2 times.

Moreover, of the enormous number of associations generated by observational studies, only a small number are ultimately confirmed. In 2005 John Ioannidis of Stanford analyzed several dozen highly cited studies and concluded that subsequent clinical trials could reproduce only about 20% of observational findings. A 2011 paper published by the statistics journal Significance analyzed 52 claims made in nutritional studies, and none—0%—withstood the scrutiny of subsequent clinical trials. These are very poor odds on which to gamble public health. Yet policy makers have forged ahead anyway.

This has led to many flip-flops in dietary advice. At one point epidemiological data suggested that cholesterol might be linked to heart disease, and fat to cancer. For decades physicians told the public to avoid egg yolks and shellfish. Millions of Americans adopted low-fat diets and ate more carbohydrates. Yet these theorized links were later rejected. And a large body of evidence now suggests that eating excessive carbohydrates increases the risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

Scientists should have known in 1980 that the recommendation to cut fat was unsound. Large clinical trials at the time did not support the theory, according to a systematic review published last year in the cardiology journal Open Heart. “It seems incomprehensible that dietary advice was introduced for 220 million Americans,” the authors wrote, “given the contrary results.”
What’s disturbing is how little this new evidence has been heeded. The guidelines continue to insist that Americans choose reduced-fat dairy products like skim milk. But even epidemiological evidence now contradicts this advice, and a randomized trialpublished last month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people eating full-fat dairy, including whole milk, showed a number of better heart-disease outcomes.

The guidelines continue to place a cap on saturated fats—10% of total calories—based on what the authors consider “strong evidence.” But nearly a dozen meta-analyses or systematic reviews in recent years have found only a weak link between these fats and heart disease or cardiovascular mortality. So in many cases weak evidence supports the dietary guidelines, while strong evidence contradicts them.

Moreover, rates of obesity and diabetes remain stubbornly high, and this isn’t because dietary advice is ignored. Consider a 2008 report by the Agriculture Department that estimates changes in food consumption from 1970-2005: grains rose by 41%; vegetable oils by 91%; fish and shellfish by 37%; vegetables by 23%; and fruits by 13%. Eggs and red meat each fell by 17%, and whole milk by 73%. Yet during roughly the same period the incidence of diabetes doubled.
That’s why, as part of the budget bill that passed Congress in December, lawmakers appropriated $1 million for an independent review of the dietary guidelines. Congress wants to ensure that the next revision, due in 2020, will “better prevent chronic disease.” But we fear that the review, like the guidelines, will be dominated by epidemiology. Several members of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee are also on the National Academy of Medicine, and Congress has asked them to recuse themselves.

The academy might go further by appointing a disinterested referee, someone from outside the field of nutrition, to lead the review. Ideally, this person would have a background in systematic methodology or evidence-based medicine, fields that focus on how to evaluate and prioritize varying results from scientific studies. This expertise would assure the public that the review is to be a serious, objective weighing of the evidence.

Diseases caused by poor eating habits destroy lives and cost the nation trillions in health care. When wrong nutritional advice is dispensed to the public, scientists lose credibility, opening the door to dietary cults. The current guidelines clearly aren’t working. This review offers a chance to steer them on a surer course.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-food-pyramid-scheme-1454022514#livefyre-comment

Bye-bye trans fat: Food manufacturers have three years to remove partially hydrogenated oils from products

TransFats-CircledWe here at FoodFacts.com have been waiting patiently as the FDA reviews the non-existent pros and the many cons related to trans fat in our food supply. We’ve been rewarded for our patience.

Based on a thorough review of the scientific evidence, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration today finalized its determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS for use in human food. Food manufacturers will have three years to remove PHOs from products.

“The FDA’s action on this major source of artificial trans fat demonstrates the agency’s commitment to the heart health of all Americans,” said FDA’s Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, M.D. “This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.”

This determination will significantly reduce the use of PHOs, the major source of artificial trans fats, in the food supply. In 2013, the FDA made a tentative determination that PHOs could no longer be considered GRAS and is finalizing that determination after considering public comments.|

Since 2006, manufacturers have been required to include trans fat content information on the Nutrition Facts label of foods. Between 2003 and 2012, the FDA estimates that consumer trans fat consumption decreased about 78 percent and that the labeling rule and industry reformulation of foods were key factors in informing healthier consumer choices and reducing trans fat in foods. While trans fat intake has significantly decreased, the current intake remains a public health concern. The Institute of Medicine recommends that consumption of trans fat be as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally-adequate diet.

“Studies show that diet and nutrition play a key role in preventing chronic health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and today’s action goes hand in hand with other FDA initiatives to improve the health of Americans, including updating the nutrition facts label,” said Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “This determination is based on extensive research into the effects of PHOs, as well as input from all stakeholders received during the public comment period.”

The FDA has set a compliance period of three years. This will allow companies to either reformulate products without PHOs and/or petition the FDA to permit specific uses of PHOs. Following the compliance period, no PHOs can be added to human food unless they are otherwise approved by the FDA.

The FDA encourages consumers seeking to reduce trans fat intake to check a food’s ingredient list for partially hydrogenated oils to determine whether or not a product contains PHOs. Currently, foods are allowed to be labeled as having “0″ grams trans fat if they contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, including PHOs, the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods.

Many companies have already been working to remove PHOs from processed foods and the FDA anticipates that many may eliminate them ahead of the three-year compliance date.

While many food manufacturers have already begun the removal of partially hydrogenated oils from foods, many others have not. PHOs have certainly received the negative publicity and attention that would spur manufacturers to act. But a quick review of ingredient lists of processed foods tells us that there were companies that remained unconvinced that the FDA would take this action – even if it did take them a while. Time’s up.

It would be difficult to believe that in 2015 it’s impossible for any food manufacturer to find a replacement for PHOs that will not affect the quality, texture and flavor of their products. As a matter of fact, FoodFacts.com might venture to say that healthier options could actually improve product quality. It might cost the manufacturer a little more money, not simply for production and purchasing but research as well. At the end of the process, we’ll all be better off and the food manufacturers will be doing their part to ensure that the consumers they rely on for their profits actually live longer, healthy lives (and continue to be able to make product purchases). Funny, we don’t think they’d put up much of a fight if they thought about it in those terms. Do you?

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150616160256.htm

Caramel coloring back under FDA scrutiny

Consumers may associate the term caramel coloring on an ingredient label with the caramel they may make themselves in their kitchens by cooking down sugar in a pot on their stoves. It’s not the same thing. Caramel coloring is an artificial food coloring that lends a brown hue to the foods and beverages in which it is included. It’s commonly found in colas and other dark-colored sodas like root beer, but it’s also included in a variety of different food products. It’s a controversial ingredient and it’s more than a little complicated.

For years, caramel coloring has been debated as a possible carcinogen. The FDA now says it is taking a new look at caramel coloring after Consumer Reports said it found higher than expected levels of a potentially cancer-causing agent in some sodas.

The group said its tests of soft drinks using caramel coloring show some contain higher-than-necessary levels of a compound called 4-methylimidazole or 4-MEI.

The FDA says there’s no evidence the compound is unsafe as used, but a spokeswoman said the agency would look closer after the Consumer Reports complaints.

“The FDA has studied the use of caramel as a flavor and as a color additive in foods for decades,” the agency said in a statement. It said it would test a variety of foods, including sodas, for 4-MEI, but added, “Currently, the FDA has no reason to believe that 4-MEI, at the levels expected in food from the use of caramel colors, poses a health risk to consumers.”
But California does classify the chemical as a possible carcinogen and Consumer Reports says its tests of certain sodas showed higher than allowed levels in some bought in California.
And it says companies should remove the chemical if there’s any doubt.

“This is about coloring food brown,” Urvashi Rangan, a toxicologist who heads Consumer Reports’ food safety and sustainability center, said in a telephone interview. “We think of this as an unnecessary risk. It’s a food additive — we should know that it is safe.”

And Pepsi, maker of some of the drinks Consumers Reports tested, says the consumer group is mistaken.

“We have serious questions about Consumer Response’s conclusion,” Pepsi spokeswoman Aurora Gonzalez said in an email.

She said the soft drink maker had lowered levels of 4-MEI in its products. “PepsiCo abides by the law everywhere we do business. When the regulatory requirements changed in California, PepsiCo moved immediately to meet the new requirements in California. We also decided to voluntarily apply those same standards in the rest of the country, and we are on track to complete that rollout by February 2014,” she said.

Pepsi also questioned how Consumer Reports decided that some soft drinks exceeded the limits set by California.

The group said other brands of soft drink appeared to have lowered their levels of 4-MEI to acceptable ranges.

Rangan said she did not know whether the re-formulated drinks were safer, but she was glad the levels of 4-MEI were reduced.

“How they are tweaking that formulation, we don’t know,” she said. “Are they doing something else? We don’t know. We are not privy to that information,” she added. “We don’t even know which caramel coloring they are using, exactly.”

That’s because there are four different types of caramel coloring: plain caramel, a type that reacts sugar with sulfites, a type that reacts sugars with ammonium and one that reacts sugars with both ammonium and sulfites (that’s the one used in most sodas). The last two types are considered the most controversial. Both of these contain the known carcinogens 2-MEI and 4-MEI. But manufacturers aren’t required to list which type they are using in any product.

FoodFacts.com has never understood how potentially cancer causing chemicals are allowed in our food supply. We are well aware that soda is not the only product category containing caramel color. Suggesting that avoiding the ingredient is as simple as avoiding darker-hued sodas like cola just doesn’t tell the whole story. This is absolutely an ingredient that deserves further scrutiny from the FDA. We believe in transparency in our food supply. The fact that manufacturers aren’t required to disclose the type of caramel coloring they are using doesn’t sit well with us and it shouldn’t make consumers happy either. If we can’t achieve a ban for the more dangerous types of the ingredient, we should at least be made aware of the specific content of the coloring used.

http://www.wrcbtv.com/story/24529324/fda-checks-into-caramel-coloring-after-consumer-reports-study

So what about the ingredients that can’t be listed on the label?

We spend a lot of time here at FoodFacts.com talking about ingredients. Our site highlights controversial items in our food supply and explains what makes those ingredients a concern for our health. But there are ingredients that we won’t find listed on any label that are just as controversial for our health and safety as those that are. And those ingredients can typically be traced to fresh poultry and livestock products all over America. And they’re coming from antibiotic feed additives used for livestock and poultry.

Between 2001 and 2010, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) quietly reviewed the safety of 30 penicillin and tetracycline antibiotic feed additives approved for “nontherapeutic use”. Nontherapeutic use refers to using antibiotics for growth promotion or to prevent disease in typically crowded, often unsanitary conditions in livestock and poultry. The Natural Resources Defense Council obtained the previously undisclosed review documents from the FDA as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the agency and subsequent litigation made necessary by FDA’s failure to provide any of the requested documents.

The FDA’s scientific reviewers’ findings show that none of these products would likely be approvable as new additives for nontherapeutic livestock use if submitted today, under current FDA guidelines. Eighteen of the 30 reviewed feed additives were deemed to pose a “high risk” of exposing humans to antibiotic-resistant bacteria through the food supply, based on the information available. The remainder lacked adequate data for the reviewers to make any determination and their safety remains unproven. In addition, the FDA concluded in their review that at least 26 of the reviewed feed additives do not satisfy even the safety standards set by FDA in 1973.

The FDA has not revoked any of the antibiotic additive approvals or required any drug manufacturer to resubmit a product for a new safety assessment following the agency’s reviews, though two were voluntarily withdrawn by their makers.

The significance of these findings extends far beyond the 30 antibiotic feed additives reviewed. The FDA data indicate that the types of antibiotics in the reviewed additives — tetracyclines and penicillins — together make up nearly half of all the antibiotics used in animal agriculture. Other feed additives with these same antibiotics, including generics, that are approved for similar uses would likely pose a similar risk of promoting antibiotic resistance. This risk was recognized by the FDA in 1977 when it proposed to withdraw approvals for animal feed additives containing penicillin and most tetracyclines.

The use of tetracyclines and penicillins in animal feed is part of a larger problem of antibiotic overuse. Approximately 70 percent of all sales of medically important antibiotics in the United States are for livestock use. Scientists have demonstrated that nontherapeutic use of antibiotics to raise livestock promotes drug-resistant bacteria that can migrate from livestock facilities and threaten public health. These bacteria can spread resistant traits to other bacteria, and some of these shared traits also can confer resistance to antibiotics used primarily in human medicine.

Late last year, the FDA announced a plan to phase out some antibiotics that promote weight gain. But that proposed phase out was planned as voluntary, not mandatory, and to date nothing’s been done.

We’ve all heard reports about antibiotic resistance and probable consequences — superbugs that can infect populations that may not respond to antibiotics, or more probably, everyday infections that are treated with antibiotics successfully now that could become resistant over time becoming tremendous medical problems. All the while, our livestock and poultry are fed antibiotics that can contribute to those reports. All for the sake of “bigger food.” It’s definitely time for the FDA to take action and put an end to this potential threat to the health of Americans.

http://www.nrdc.org/food/saving-antibiotics/antibiotic-feed-FDA-documents.asp

Americans still consume ingredients banned in other countries

Maybe we’re just late to the ingredient ban party. Maybe we’re never going to get there. We’re really not sure. What we do know, however, is that Americans are still eating food products that contain a variety of ingredients that many other countries have deemed unsafe for consumption. FoodFacts.com is already aware that the designation of a food additive as Generally Recognized as Safe is a pretty questionable process. And it’s obvious that there are countries where the safety designation of certain ingredients was much more stringent than our own. Let’s review a few of the ingredients that the U.S. FDA still includes on the GRAS list – even though they are banned in other countries.

Food Coloring:
Blue #1 and Blue #2 are both banned in Norway, Finland and France
Studies in the 1980s linked these food dyes to cancer in animal studies. They are also linked to the exacerbation of ADHD symptoms in children.

Yellow #5 is banned in Norway and Austria. Yellow #6 is banned in Norway and Finland. Six of the studies on yellow #5 showed that it caused genotoxicity, a deterioration of the cell’s genetic material with potential to mutate healthy DNA. Both colors have been linked to cancer in animal studies and are implicated in the exacerbation of ADHD symptoms in children.

Brominated Vegetable Oil:
Banned in over 100 different countries, including the European Union, Japan and India, Brominated Vegetable Oil is still approved as additive in the United States with specific restrictions that limit its concentrations in products. Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, acts as an emulsifier in various products, and contains bromine, a chemical whose fumes can be corrosive and toxic.

Azodicarbonamide:
The governments of the UK and many countries in the EU have determined that they do not think it’s safe for their populations to consume an ingredient that’s also popular in the manufacture of foamed plastics – things like yoga mats and sneaker soles. So Azodicarbonamide is not permitted in the baked products sold in these countries.

Azodicarbonamide is proven to exacerbate (and even cause) asthma symptoms. It is referred to as an “asthma-causing allergen”. While the use of this dough conditioner has certainly declined in the production of U.S. baked products – it’s still out there.

rBGH and rBST:
Recombinant bovine growth hormone and recombinant bovine somatotropin, a synthetic version of bovine growth hormone, can be found in nonorganic dairy products unless noted on the packaging. These hormones are banned in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and the EU because of dangers to both human and bovine health. While there are American producers who don’t use these hormones, neither are outlawed here in the U.S.

There are other ingredients in addition to these, of course, which have been designated unacceptable in other countries. FoodFacts.com tends to think that we’ve got a problem when we’re recognizing more additives as safe all the time that other countries have discovered problems with. It does appear possible that we aren’t being selective enough when it comes to the ingredients in our food supply and that the FDA could be doing a better job of keeping our foods safe for consumption. And while we’re all thinking that no doctor has ever deemed a person’s cause of death to be consumption of azodicarbonamide or the reason for a person’s cancer to be consumption of artificial food coloring, there’s absolutely mounting evidence that specific ingredient do carry specific health concerns and we’re better off leaving them out of our diets.

Are we getting ready to say goodbye to trans fat in our food supply?

We sure hope so!

Last week the FDA proposed the almost complete elimination of trans fat from food products in the U.S. This is an argument that has been debated for the last three decades and this long-awaited move would force manufacturers to rid their products of ingredients containing trans fat.

This important action would effectively remove partially hydrogenated oils from the FDA Generally Recognized as Safe (or GRAS) list. In response to this, companies that include partially hydrogenated oils in their products would then have to prove that these oils are safe to eat. It would be exceptionally difficult for any company (regardless of its size or political weight) to actually do this. There’s basically no scientific data that would support a statement that infers that partially hydrogenated oils aren’t harmful. The Institute of Medicine has concluded that there is no safe level for consumption of trans fats, a conclusion that the F.D.A. cited in its reasoning. The agency emphasized that the ruling, which is open to public comment for 60 days, was preliminary. But food producers seemed to take it in stride, in part because many had already made adjustments, and Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, the agency’s commissioner, signaled that the draft rule might be made final.

Artificial trans fats are a “double whammy” for the human body. They lower good cholesterol and increase bad cholesterol. There’s nothing nutritionally beneficial about trans fats. In addition they are blamed as a major culprit in the increase in heart disease in the United States. A somewhat deceptive labeling system has kept many Americans in the dark about what they’ve actually been consuming. For years, manufacturers have been allowed to list a 0 on the Trans Fat line of a nutrition label if the product that label is on carries less than .5 g. of trans fat per serving.

And while efforts to reduce trans fat in the food supply have been effective, partially hydrogenated oils are in thousands and thousands of food products. In fact, consumers would actually never suspect the presence of oils in some of those products. For instance, oil of any sort probably wouldn’t be the first thing a consumer would think of when reflecting on the possible ingredients of YooHoo Chocolate Drink – but partially hydrogenated oils are in there.

For many years partially hydrogenated oils were considered healthier than saturated animal fats like butter. They are cheaper for manufacturers and so they became extremely popular. And while there’s been a major reduction in the consumption of trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils are still pretty popular ingredients in prepared and packaged foods. While we used to eat about 4.6 grams of trans fats daily, we’re now down to about 1 gram per day. That’s enormous progress. But we’re still consuming these oils which are implicated in the rise of heart disease far too often.

Partially hydrogenated oils are trans fats. Consumption is dangerous for all people. They add nothing nutritionally sound to our diets. They add to the incidences of heart disease throughout our country.

All in all, Foodfacts.com thinks this is a pretty easy call. While it will cause food manufacturers to reformulate thousands of products (which will be incredibly costly and time consuming), eliminating partially hydrogenated oils from our food supply will be worth it in the long run. Ingredients that are known health hazards need to be banned sooner rather than later in hopes that we will reverse devastating health trends (like heart disease and obesity), not just here in the U.S., but across the globe.

Food additive approvals … are conflicts of interest endangering consumers?

The FoodFacts.com website offers an extensive collection of information on controversial ingredients – which include many food additives. BHA, BHT, TBHQ, Azodicarbonamide, Sodium Benzoate and numerous food dyes are just examples of the many additives that are currently considered GRAS – or Generally Recognized as Safe by the FDA.

After educating yourself on any of these additives, it’s surprising to find that they are included in the GRAS list. We sometimes wonder why an additive that’s also included in antifreeze made it into our food supply … or how coloring that has been shown to exacerbate ADHD tendencies in children is still an allowable ingredient. Today we read about a study that may provide some insight into these and other important questions regarding the safety of a variety of different additives.

The study was conducted by the Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C. Researchers used conflict of interest criteria developed by a committee of the Institute of Medicine to analyze 451 GRAS notifications that were voluntarily submitted to the FDA between 1997 and 2012.

For the 451 GRAS notifications, 22.4 percent of the safety assessments were made by an employee of an additive manufacturer, 13.3 percent by an employee of a consulting firm selected by the manufacturer and 64.3 percent by an expert panel selected by either a consulting firm or the manufacturer, according to the results.

“Between 1997 and 2012, financial conflicts of interest were ubiquitous in determinations that an additive to food was GRAS. The lack of independent review in GRAS determinations raises concerns about the integrity of the process and whether it ensures the safety of the food supply, particularly in instances where the manufacturer does not notify the FDA of the determination. The FDA should address these concerns,” the study concludes.

The Food Additives Amendment of 1958 allows manufacturers to determine when an additive is GRAS. After a GRAS determination is made, manufacturers are not required to notify the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), although in some instances the agency is notified, the authors write in the study background. The study goes on to add that the individuals that companies select to make these determinations may have financial conflicts of interest.

Marion Nestle, Ph.D., M.P.H., of New York University, commented on the study saying it provides an important addition to the growing body of evidence for undue food industry influence on food safety policy. Nestle also commented that the lack of independent review in GRAS determinations raises serious questions about the public health implications of unregulated additives in the food supply, especially the additives that the FDA does not even know about.

FoodFacts.com wanted to get this important information out in front of our community. We should all be aware of the possibility that the Generally Recognized As Safe designation can be more about food manufacturers than food safety. In response to these findings, we encourage our community to reach out within their own networks and educate other consumers regarding the use of controversial ingredients in food  products.   Our knowledge can be a powerful thing. And as always, let’s avoid processed foods, so that we can avoid the questionable additives that are lurking in our food supply.

http://media.jamanetwork.com/news-item/research-examines-conflicts-of-interest-in-approvals-of-additives-to-food/

FDA Offers Grilling Tips

 

Photo from U.S. FDA

FoodFacts.com would like to discuss grilling season.

With grilling season just around the corner, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last month released a pamphlet with grilling tips for the safe preparation of foods.

E-coli and salmonella are two of the most well-known and common food-borne illnesses in existent, and both illnesses are often contracted through the incorrect preparation of foods. This is especially common in the summer, when grilling is a common means of cooking and the heat outside is high, resulting in a higher chance of bacteria growing within food.

So how can you keep you and your family safe during this fun, but risky, time?

It all begins before you even begin cooking, with proper cleanup and preparation of your work area. Cleaning your food items is also a must, specifically fresh fruits and vegetables.

The means in which you transport your food is also important, and transporting foods in an organized manner could be beneficial. Keeping your cold foods cold, specifically in a cooler with the temperature at 40°F or below, is necessary for preventing bacteria growth. Keep the coolers closed, and don’t cross-contaminate foods such as poultry, seafood and raw meat.

What about the actual grilling process, though? How do you keep your foods safe?

When grilling, it is important to marinate your food safely – keep it in the refrigerator, rather than the counters or outside. Keep already grilled food hot until it is served. Also, and this is very important – cook food thoroughly. To find out proper cooking temperatures, please refer to the FDA link at the bottom of this blog. Finally, when cooking, keep utensils separate to prevent cross-contamination. It might be a good idea to wash utensils after each use to be extra safe.

So, folks, there you have it. Separation, refrigeration, and proper cooking temperatures are the basics.

With that said, we’re wishing you a happy and healthy grilling season from FoodFacts.com!

FDA: http://www.fda.gov/food/resourcesforyou/Consumers/ucm109899.htm