Category Archives: Food Packaging

BPA back in the news — this time it’s linked to a quick rise in blood pressure

bpaBisphenol A is a chemical used in the manufacturing of plastic bottles, it’s also used to line cans of foods and beverages. The chemical can also be found in dental fillings, eyeglass lenses and electronic equipment. BPA is an endocrine disruptor. That means that it interferes with the production, secretion, transport, action, function and elimination of natural hormones. BPA can imitate our body’s own hormones in a way that could be hazardous for health. Babies and young children are said to be especially sensitive to the effects of BPA. Possible health effects include reproductive disorders, male impotence, heart disease, brain function, female egg quality, and breast cancer. The use of BPA has been banned in the manufacturing of baby bottles and sippy cups. While many manufacturers have willingly removed it from cans, BPA is still out there. And it’s still making news.

People who regularly drink from cans and plastic bottles may want to reconsider: A new study shows that a common chemical in the containers can seep into beverages and raise blood pressure within a few hours.

The research raises new concerns about the chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, which is widely found in plastic bottles, plastic packaging and the linings of food and beverage cans. Chronic exposure to BPA, as it is commonly known, has been associated with heart disease, cancer and other health problems. But the new study is among the first to show that a single exposure to the chemical can have a direct and fairly immediate impact on cardiovascular health.

The study found that when people drank soy milk from a can, the levels of BPA in their urine rose dramatically within two hours – and so did their blood pressure. But on days when they drank the same beverage from glass bottles, which don’t use BPA linings, there was no significant change in their BPA levels or blood pressure.

A single instance of increased blood pressure may not be particularly harmful. But the findings suggest that for people who drink from multiple cans or plastic bottles every day, the repeated exposure over time could contribute to hypertension, said Dr. Karin B. Michels, an expert on BPA who was not involved in the new research.

Dr. Michels said that the design of the new study was impressive and its findings “concerning.” About 30 percent of adults nationwide have hypertension, and BPA exposure is ubiquitous.

“I think this is a very interesting and important study that adds to the concern about bisphenol A,” said Dr. Michels, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “It raises a lot of questions. We have such a high rate of hypertension in this country, which has risen, and we haven’t really thought of bisphenol A and its use in cans as one of the causes of that. ”

BPA has been used since the 1960s to make countless everyday products like plastic bottles, food containers, contact lenses, and even sippy cups and baby bottles. The chemical can leach into food, and studies show that the vast majority of Americans who are tested have BPA in their urine.

Not everyone is convinced that BPA poses a risk to consumers. The American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group, has said BPA is safe and has opposed federal and state legislative proposals to ban it.

Much of the evidence against BPA comes from large population studies rather than controlled clinical trials. A number have linked high urinary levels of BPA to a greater risk of hypertension and heart and peripheral artery disease. But those studies simply show correlations, and do not provide evidence that BPA is the cause.

The latest study, published in Hypertension, a journal of the American Heart Association, was a randomized controlled trial. The authors, a team from Seoul National University’s department of preventive medicine in Korea, recruited 60 older subjects, most of whom were women, and assigned them to drink soy milk from cans or glass bottles on three separate occasions, weeks apart. A majority had no history of high blood pressure, though some did.
The researchers chose soy milk because it does not have any properties that are known to increase blood pressure. And unlike soda, fruit juice and other acidic beverages, which are more likely to leach BPA from containers, soy milk is considered fairly neutral.

When the subjects drank from glass bottles, the study found, their urinary BPA levels remained fairly low. But within two hours of drinking from a can, their levels of BPA were about 16 times higher.

As BPA levels rose, so too did systolic blood pressure readings – on average by about five millimeters of mercury. In general, every 20 millimeter increase in systolic blood pressure doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease.

BPA is known to block certain estrogen receptors that are thought to be responsible for repairing blood vessels and controlling blood pressure. The chemical may also affect blood pressure indirectly by disrupting thyroid hormone, the authors noted.

“Clinicians and patients – particularly hypertension or cardiovascular disease patients – should be aware of the potential clinical problems for blood pressure elevation when consuming canned food and beverages,” said Dr. Yun-Chul Hong, an author of the study and director of the Institute of Environmental Medicine at Seoul National University.

He recommended that people choose fresh foods and glass bottles over cans and plastic containers, and he urged manufacturers “to develop and use healthy alternatives to BPA for the inner lining of can containers.” hopes that everyone takes any and all news regarding BPA seriously. It’s important to avoid the chemical whenever and wherever possible. While there is plenty of conflicting information out there, the possible health effects of Bisphenol A are real and quite concerning. We’ve all had exposure in some form or another, but we are all capable of reducing or even eliminating that exposure. And that’s something we need to focus on for ourselves and our loved ones.

General Mills settles suit over 100% Natural claims on Nature Valley Granola Bars

Earns General MillsHere at we often talk about the “halo effect” surrounding certain food products. Language used on certain food products is often designed to impart a certain image. The brand name Nature Valley, for instance, ascribes a wholesome stature to products bearing the name. And often you’ll find 100% natural claims on Nature Valley products.

The non-profit Center for Science in the Public acts as a sort of truth squad for food claims, outing many “good for you” labels and ads for the shameless distortions that they are.

Now, the center reports the settlement of a suit it brought against General Mills for calling Nature Valley granola bars and other products “100% Natural” even though they contained highly processed sweeteners. (Wait, you mean “high-fructose corn syrup” doesn’t just count as corn?) From it’s press release:

WASHINGTON—A settlement agreement announced today prevents General Mills from claiming that its Nature Valley granola bars, crispy squares, and trail mix bars are “100% Natural” if those products contain high-fructose corn syrup, high-maltose corn syrup, dextrose monohydrate, maltodextrin, soy protein isolate, or several other artificially produced ingredients. The agreement, which is effective immediately and applies to labeling and marketing for 30 Nature Valley products, settles a 2012 lawsuit brought on behalf of consumers by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest and two law firms.
CSPI privately raised its concern with General Mills over its “100% Natural” claims as early as 2005. The company began phasing out its use of high-fructose corn syrup in some products, but at the time of CSPI’s lawsuit was still using high-maltose corn syrup and maltodextrin. While those ingredients are derived from corn, they are produced by treating corn starch with acids, enzymes, or both before being refined into a substance that does not occur in nature.

The center notes that a bill introduced in Congress in 2013 “would prohibit the use of the word ‘natural’ on a food that includes any synthesized ingredient, or any ingredient that has undergone chemical changes such as corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, high-maltose corn syrup, maltodextrin, chemically modified food starch, or alkalized cocoa.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that some Nature Valley packaging had apparently already been changed. It says a “spokeswoman for General Mills said the changes were made in 2012 and preceded the lawsuits, which she said the company fought because the suits sought damages. She said General Mills agreed to the settlement to avoid further litigation, and has no plans to change its current labels.”

The Journal also reports that lawsuits over “natural” labeling have been proliferating of late, with more than 100 filed in recent years.

Consumers have targeted PepsiCo Inc., Campbell Soup Co. , Ben & Jerry’s, Kashi, Skinnygirl and dozens of other food and drink brands.

Several companies have quietly removed “natural” claims from the juice, ice cream, potato chips and other foods they make. Campbell eliminated the claim from Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers and Pepsi got rid of the phrasing on its Naked juice bottle.

A commenter on The Wall Street Journal story writes:

The sad truth is that if you are buying something in a wrapper, box, can or any sealed container, it almost certainly is adulterated with either sugar, hydrogenated oil, preservatives, or all of these, not to mention excess salt, and “additives.”

Go to your friendly neighborhood chain food market and take a magnifying glass. Read the labels on “breakfast cereal”. Of the fifty brands there, chances are that all fifty contain added sugar/corn syrup, or concentrated fruit juice for sweetening. Do the same with “juices” and discover there MAY be ONE or TWO actual juices there, everything else is adulterated and soaked in corn syrup. Basically if it’s in a container, it’s semi junk or junk food.

None of this comes as a surprise to the community. And while it is true that many manufacturers have removed natural claims from their labels, well … let’s just say it remains a good idea to read ingredient lists consistently. Remember, every manufacture can change ingredients without notification. A while back, Hunt’s promoted the removal of high-fructose corn syrup from its ketchup. Shortly thereafter, it reverted to using high-fructose corn syrup because they claimed consumers preferred the original recipe. They do still have a version of their ketchup without HFCS. But the whole chain of events occurred very quietly.

Be a consistent label reader who isn’t influence by packaging claims and you’ll naturally avoid unnatural ingredients!

Lawsuit against Chobani claims it’s not really Greek yogurt and is misleading consumers about nutrition

Chobani_AP2Lawsuits against food manufacturers have been in the news constantly over the last few years. Manufacturers have removed “All Natural” claims from their labels more than a few times because of disgruntled consumers discovering that those claims really weren’t the truth. has always felt that the voices of consumers do eventually motivate postive changes in the food industry. And those lawsuits certainly have been motivational for many manufacturers. The latest lawsuit we’ve been reading about is something we want to call to your attention because it may stir up some different feelings.

According to the New York Post, Barry Stoltz and Allan Chang are suing Chobani, alleging that the companies falsely represent their product by hiding the amount of sugar in their yogurt and by calling it “Greek.” Chobani Greek Yogurt is about as nutritious as eating a fudge ice cream bar,the lawsuit claims.

The 48-page suit, which accuses the best-selling brand of deceiving consumers about its health benefits, sounds more like a Jerry Seinfeld routine.

But its irony is unintentional.

“There is nothing ‘Greek’ about the products,” the complaint says. “None of the products sold in the U.S. are made in Greece or made by Greek nationals.”

“The name of the brand itself is not Greek,” noting that it is derived from the Turkish word “chobani,” which means shepherd, and the company’s founder is Turkish.

The suit contends Chobani products contain about 16 grams of sugar, virtually the same sweetness as a Nestlé Fudge ice cream bar.

Chobani allegedly creates further confusion for consumers by prominently displaying a “0%” on the label “without providing any context as to what the 0% represents,” the suit alleges.

The plaintiffs — Barry Stoltz of Scarsdale and Allan Chang of Queens — filed the class-action suit in Brooklyn Federal Court and are seeking unspecified monetary damages for apparently being tricked into thinking that 0%, which actually means it’s nonfat, refers to zero calories or sugar.

“With deceptive packaging and marketing, consumers are deceived into thinking that junk food can be a healthy alternative,” said lawyer C.K. Lee of Manhattan, who filed the suit.

Chobani, based in upstate Norwich, said a similar lawsuit had been tossed in California. The company said it is “committed to using only natural ingredients.”

It also schooled Stoltz and Chang on where Chobani is made.

“Much like English muffins and French fries, our fans understand Greek yogurt to be a product description about how we authentically make our yogurt and not about where we make our yogurt in upstate New York and Idaho,” the company said in a statement. was thrilled to see Subway move to eliminate azodicarbonamide from its breads and rolls because consumers made their voices heard. We were equally happy about Gatorade removing brominated vegetable oil from their products that previously contained the controversial ingredient. We applauded Kashi removing the “all natural” claims from their products because of a lawsuit. It is certainly true that consumers would feel misled by claims that are obviously untrue.

Have to admit though, that none of us here at ever considered the possibility that ANY of the mainstream brands of Greek yogurt are actually manufactured in Greece by Greek nationals — unless of course we’re talking about imported products, which we’re not. We’re pretty positive that the overwhelming majority of consumers understand that what we’re talking about are products manufactured in the Greek style of yogurt preparation.

As far as the sugar content is concerned, we have to be honest here, 16 grams (while certainly higher than we’d like) is actually right in the ballpark for most mainstream brands. If you’ve been reading nutrition labels for yogurts, you probably know this already.

We’ve posted about this lawsuit for your consideration. Is this a reasonable claim? would really like for consumers to use careful consideration before filing any lawsuit against food manufacturers. Please don’t get us wrong, legal claims are a great tool to change what is actually wrong with how food manufacturers market products. We just want to make sure they’re used to do just that. We’re really not so sure this particular lawsuit fits that bill. What do you think?

Just because it says it’s healthy, doesn’t mean it is .

iStock_000003492931SmallPretty simple concept, isn’t it? Or at least it should be. But food marketers are well aware that minds can be swayed in a particular direction with the use of some very simple language.

Health-related buzzwords, such as “antioxidant,” “gluten-free” and “whole grain,” lull consumers into thinking packaged food products labeled with those words are healthier than they actually are, according to a new research study conducted by scholars at the University of Houston (UH).

That “false sense of health,” as well as a failure to understand the information presented in nutrition facts panels on packaged food, may be contributing to the obesity epidemic in the United States, said Temple Northup, an assistant professor at the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication at UH.

“Saying Cherry 7-Up contains antioxidants is misleading. Food marketers are exploiting consumer desires to be healthy by marketing products as nutritious when, in fact, they’re not,” said Northup, principal investigator of the study, “Truth, Lies, and Packaging: How Food Marketing Creates a False Sense of Health.”

The study examined the degree to which consumers link marketing terms on food packaging with good health. It found that consumers tend to view food products labeled with health-related euphemisms as healthier than those without them. The research also showed that the nutrition facts panels printed on food packaging as required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration do little to counteract that buzzword marketing.

“Words like organic, antioxidant, natural and gluten-free imply some sort of healthy benefit,” Northup said. “When people stop to think about it, there’s nothing healthy about Antioxidant Cherry 7-Up — it’s mostly filled with high fructose syrup or sugar. But its name is giving you this clue that there is some sort of health benefit to something that is not healthy at all.”

The study also looks at the “priming” psychology behind the words to explain why certain words prompt consumers to assign a health benefit to a food product with unhealthy ingredients.

“For example, if I gave you the word ‘doctor,’ not only ‘doctor’ would be accessible in your mind — now all these other things would be accessible in your mind — ‘nurse,’ ‘stethoscope,’ etc.,” Northup said. “What happens when these words become accessible, they tend to influence or bias your frame of mind and how you evaluate something.”

This triggered concept is then available to influence later thoughts and behaviors, often without explicit awareness of this influence — the so-called priming effect, Northup said.

Northup developed an experiment using priming theory to gather quantitative research on how food marketers influence consumers. He developed an online survey that randomly showed images of food products that either included actual marketing words, like organic, or a Photoshop image removing any traces of those words, thereby creating two different images of the same product. A total of 318 study participants took the survey to rate how “healthy” each product was.

The products with trigger words in their labels analyzed in the study were: Annie’s Bunny Fruit Snacks (Organic), Apple Sauce (Organic), Chef Boyardee Beefaroni (Whole Grain), Chef Boyardee Lasagna (Whole Grain), Chocolate Cheerios (Heart Healthy), Cherry 7-Up (Antioxidant), Smuckers Peanut Butter (All Natural) and Tostitos (All Natural).

Northup found when participants were shown the front of food packaging that included one of those trigger words, they would rate the items as healthier.

“I took a label from Cherry 7-Up Antioxidant and Photoshop it without the word ‘antioxidant’ and only the words, ‘Cherry 7-Up.’ I then asked people via the online survey which one they thought was healthier,” said Northup. “Each time a participant saw one of the triggering words on a label, they would identify it as healthier than the other image without the word. ”

After completing the product evaluations, the study participants then reviewed the nutrition facts panels on a variety of products. These labels would be presented two at a time so the participants could choose the healthier food or drink option.

“Food marketers say there are nutritional labels, so people can find out what’s healthy and what’s not,” he said. “Findings from this research study indicate people aren’t very good at reading nutritional labels even in situations where they are choosing between salmon and Spam. Approximately 20 percent picked Spam as the healthier option over salmon,” said Northup.

Northup hopes the results of this study will contribute to an increased dialogue on how food is marketed, guide development of specific media literacy and help people understand the effects of how food is marketed to consumers.

While we like to think of ourselves as sophisticated consumers (and just about everyone these days considers themselves as such), the proliferation of those small , yet powerful words on food labels everywhere — even where they don’t make sense — speaks directly to their actual influence. Antioxidant soda? Whole grain canned macaroni? Can those words actually manage to make an unhealthy product full of bad ingredients healthy? We know they can’t and yet, somehow, time after time, consumers are fooled. Armed with the insight as to why this manufacturers ploy continues to work, suggests we all think a little harder the next time we’re attracted to a product label bearing an extra descriptive word or two.

EFSA reports that food is the main source of BPA exposure knows that our community is educated about and very aware of the presence of BPA in plastics and canned food products. BPA (Bisphenol A) is used to make certain plastics and epoxy resins. It’s been used commercially since 1957 and is commonly used in manufacturing water bottles, sports equipment, CDs, DVDs and the lining of water pipes. It’s also used in the production of thermal paper. And it still coats the inside of many food and beverage cans.

BPA has been found to exhibit hormone-like properties at high levels. There has been great concern regarding its use in both consumer products and food packaging. A 2010 FDA report identified possible dangers to fetuses, infants and young children related to BPA exposure. In 2012, the FDA officially banned the use of BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups and infant formula packaging. Since, that time many manufacturers have begun using BPA-free cans, but unfortunately more manufacturers are still using packaging that includes BPA.

Earlier this month, The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reported that its scientific experts have concluded that for all population groups, diet is the major source of exposure to bisphenol A (BPA). EFSA added that consumers’ exposure to BPA is considerably lower than the agency had estimated in 2006—about 30 times lower for infants, and approximately 11 times lower for adults. It was noted that scientists found dietary exposure to BPA to be the highest among children aged three to 10 (explainable by their higher food consumption on a body weight basis). Canned food and non-canned meat and meat products were identified as the major source of BPA exposure for all age groups.

This new report was the EFSA’s first review of BPA exposure since 2006 and the first time that the report covered both dietary and non-dietary sources (including thermal paper and environmental sources).

The American Chemistry Council commented on the new report from the EFSA. The Council stated that this information reaffirms that the levels of BPA exposure from all sources are very low and well within safe levels established by government regulators for infants, children and adults. They reiterate that major government agencies worldwide, including our own FDA, have determined that BPA is safe as it is currently used.

While the EFSA is standing by the safety of BPA and the U.S. FDA has reiterated its safety, many consumers are uncomfortable using food products whose packaging contains the chemical. knows that many in our community actively seek out products from brands who have stated that they are now only using BPA-free packaging. Based on the report from the EFSA and the comments from the American Chemistry Council, it does appear that we will have to continue to proactively ensure that the food products we purchase are free of BPA. Government agencies aren’t looking to restrict the use of the chemical any further than they already have. We’ll continue to report on any further developments regarding BPA in our food packaging. In the meantime, our own awareness is our best defense against the chemicals in our food supply we seek to avoid.

Another reason to avoid processed foods … phthalates (chemicals in plastics and processed food packaging) linked to elevated blood pressure in children and teens is constantly illustrating the hazards of processed foods for our communities. Unhealthy levels of sodium and sugar, trans fat, and dozens upon dozens of controversial ingredients and possible allergens plague our food supply. Food in boxes, simply stated, isn’t real food. Today we found new information underscoring the importance of avoiding processed foods.

Plastic additives known as phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates) are included in all kinds of processed food packaging. While they were once considered harmless, there is a growing body of research that links dietary exposure to phthalates to metabolic and hormonal abnormalities, especially in early development.

Coming out of NYU Langone Medical Center , in collaboration with the University of Washington and Penn State University School of Medicine, new research has been published that links exposure to certain types of phthalates and compromised heart health for children and teens. The study draws on data from a national survey of almost 3,000 children and teens and documents these issues for the first time.

Researchers examined six years of data from a nationally representative survey of the U.S. population administered by the National Centers for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Phthalates were measured in urine samples using standard analysis techniques. Controls for race, socioeconomic status, body mass index, caloric intake and activity levels were considered. It was discovered that for every three-fold increase in the level of breakdown products from phthalates, there was roughly a one-millimeter mercury increase in a child’s blood pressure. While that seems quite small, applying it over the population can increase the number of children with elevated blood pressure quite substantially.

Hypertension is most common in people over 50 years of age. It is, however, becoming increasingly prevalent among children, mainly due to the global obesity epidemic. National surveys have indicated that 15 percent of American adolescents now have pre-hypertension or hypertension. While obesity is considered the greatest culprit in the unfortunate trend, this new research suggests that environmental factors like exposure to phthalates may be contributing to the growing problem This exposure can be controlled through regulatory actions and behavioral interventions. will continue to reinforce the importance of avoiding processed foods. This is another important reason to prepare meals from scratch using fresh ingredients that you’ve chosen carefully with the health and well being of your family in mind. We all deserve to know what’s in our foods … and unfortunately, if that food is coming out of any kind of package, you just can’t be sure.