Category Archives: FoodFacts.com

Mars, Inc. to phase out artificial colors over a 5 year period.

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FoodFacts.com truly believes in everything in moderation. But along with said moderation, we really want people to think about what they are putting in their bodies and we’ve been trying to show people this for over a decade. Mars, Inc. is yet another company that is starting to realize that the ingredients that go into their products need to be re-examined. But is this really for our general health or because they need to fall in line to consumer demands? They announced this week that they will start to phase out the artificial coloring in their products in the next five year period.

“Artificial colors pose no known risks to human health or safety, but consumers today are calling on food manufacturers to use more natural ingredients in their products,” Mars said Friday.

While it makes us elated that large companies like Kraft Foods Group, Inc., Nestle, SA, General Mills, Inc, and now Mars, Inc. are feeling the pressure to remove all their artificial ingredients (for safer, more healthier ingredients) we can’t seem to understand why they keep coming out with statements like the one above. Even though Red 40 is approved by the FDA, there has been extensive research to come out saying it has caused tumors in laboratory animals (https://cspinet.org/new/pdf/food-dyes-rainbow-of-risks.pdf), and has come under serious fire by consumer and research advocacy groups.  It is also banned in several European countries. It has to make you wonder…why is the United States perfectly acceptable in allowing it in our foods?

Tom Colicchio is revolutionizing the food industry, one Food Action Policy at a time.

Many of us at FoodFacts.com have been fans of Tom Colicchio for years. From dining at one of his innovative restaurants (the farm at Riverpark is one of the most amazing urban gems you will see at a restaurant in midtown Manhattan) to watching his smart and calm culinary demeanor as he guides somewhat egocentric chefs on Bravo Tv’s “Top Chef,” you know that his passion for food is more than just a career choice, it literally fuels him.

It’s no surprise that he added food activism to his resume when he co-founded Food Policy Action in 2012. Their mission is to make food policies even more substantial while upholding the rights of farmers and food workers and make healthier food more accessible for all. In recent months, Mr. Colicchio took Capitol Hill by storm with 30 other chefs to discuss the Childhood Nutrition Act (which needs to be reauthorized every 5 years). Since new nutritional guidelines have been introduced in recent years for school cafeterias, it’s now more important than ever that every state adopts these paths to make sure our children are educated on eating healthy and proper meals.

To say we are impressed with this Top Chef is an understatement. Most of the celebrity chefs we see in mainstream media are more concerned with hawking products and selling themselves as a brand than educating people on what they are eating. Mr. Colicchio has now opened up the conversation and garnered media attention…exactly what people like us need that are trying to fight the good food fight.

So Mr. Colicchio, we’d like to know how we can partner up?! If you take a look at FoodFacts.com you will see that knowing what you are eating is all that we are about. Our mission is so similar to the one that you have cultivated yourself. Our passion is educating people on what’s really in the foods they are eating…the less ingredients the better! Our all my foodfacts app focuses on showing people all the ingredients they are consuming in the processed foods they are eating and how it affects them. We truly believe that everyone should be entitled to affordable, healthy food to consume and that if you can’t pronounce the ingredients in a package, you probably shouldn’t be eating it! So please, tweet us, write us, anything. We’d love to work with you!

Happy New Year … a look at 2015 in food

foodcollageHappy New Year! As FoodFacts.com looks forward to a healthy, educational 2016 in a world with fewer unhealthy ingredients, and more nutritionally aware consumers, we’re looking back at 2015 to see what we can find in terms of trends and important food issues that came to the forefront this year. Here’s a look at 2015 in food.

Cage-free, antibiotic-free, artificial-free. Sound familiar?

Many of the world’s biggest food companies announced major changes this year — in what they purchase and how they manufacture their food.

Many of the big moves we saw came from companies striving to bring more transparency to their supply chain. McDonald’s pledged to source chickens raised without antibiotics. Dunkin’ Donuts and Costco are switching to cage-free eggs.

Some companies signaled to customers that they were “cleaning up” and simplifying their ingredient lists. Panera ditched dozens of additives. Even Lucky Charms and Butterfingers are getting minor makeovers: General Mills and Nestle said they’re removing artificial colors and flavors from their products.
“Big Food is definitely feeling the pressure,” Scott Allmendinger, who consults with food companies for the Culinary Institute of America, told us. Packaged-food companies lost $4 billion in market share last year, according to a Fortune analysis.

A 2015 Nielsen survey found an increasing number of consumers say they’re willing to pay a premium for “all natural,” “clean” and minimally processed foods. (As we’ve reported, it’s hard to know what any of these terms actually mean. The federal government is soliciting input for how to define “natural.”) And, it seems, these foods marketed as cleaner and more natural are blending into mainstream grocery stores. One example: the success of Kroger’s Simple Truth line of products, which focus on “simpler” and organic ingredients.

“Consumers are slowly migrating away” from the center aisle of the grocery store that’s filled with processed baked goods and canned foods, says Jack Russo, an analyst with Edward Jones, a financial advisory firm.
At the same time, the sales of foods marketed as “local” have surged to $11 billion a year. The organic and natural sector, including GMO-free and gluten-free, is growing at about 8 to 10 percent a year, says Russo.
Russo sees this trend continuing, with growth continuing in the 6 to 8 percent range for the next few years, he says.

Food Waste
Another issue that gained traction this year: the 133 billion pounds of food wasted in the U.S. annually.

To put a visual to this estimate, imagine filling a huge skyscraper such as the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) 44 times.

That’s the image that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack used when he announced in October a new national goal to reduce food waste by 50 percent by the year 2030.

Everyone who eats could play a role in reducing waste. And we have plenty of moral imperatives to do it. As Pope Francis once said, some food waste is akin to “stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry.” The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that the typical American family tosses out about $1,600 a year in groceries.

There’s plenty wasted on farms, too, some of which is entirely unavoidable. But as we documented in this story, a lot of food isn’t harvested simply because it’s not quite up to our cosmetic standards. Often, bags of salad and plenty of other edible food items end up in landfills because they won’t stay fresh long enough to be shipped across the country. A number of NGOs and startups are trying to figure out how to get more of it into the hands of the hungry and the people happy to pay less for imperfect produce.

The environmental footprint of food waste is significant. As we’ve reported, all that food we toss out is creating billions of tons of greenhouse gases, and costing us precious water and land.

Foodborne Illness
This year also brought some high-profile outbreaks of foodborne illness. If you’re a Chipotle stockholder, you’re probably well aware of the fallout.

As we’ve reported, Chipotle Mexican Grill is linked to two separate outbreaks of E. coliinfections. The first outbreak sickened 53 people in nine states and prompted the temporary closure of many Chipotle locations in Washington and Oregon.

Then, in early December an outbreak of norovirus sickened at least 120 people in Boston, mostly students at Boston College. Most of the sick students reported eating at a nearby Chipotle.

As our colleague Dan Charles reported, city health inspectors cited Chipotle for allowing a sick employee to work his shift. In the violation report, the inspectors specified that the restaurant should follow its employee illness policy.

Though the Chipotle outbreak got a lot of attention, there are thousands of outbreaks of norovirus each year.

The CDC says norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne disease in the U.S. It’s estimated that about 20 million people a year get sick with it.

The vast majority of outbreaks are caused by infected workers. So, hopefully, the lesson learned in 2015 is this: Restaurants need to keep sick workers off the job.

The CDC estimates that 1 in 5 food service workers has gone to work while sick with vomiting or diarrhea. “It is vital that food service workers stay home if they are sick,” says the CDC’s Aron Hall. He says businesses should consider measures such as paid sick days.

Innovation And Investment In Food And Agriculture
While Big Food is hustling to keep up with changing consumer tastes and values, hundreds of new and nimble companies are entering the marketplace to compete with them. A report by the Dutch banking group Rabobank found that investment in food and agriculture is set to surpass $4 billion by the end of the year.

Rabobank thinks we’re headed toward a “smarter food system.” And plenty of companies and investors want to help us get there. How? Mainly, with technology and (big) data tools for both consumers and farmers.

Venture capitalists are excited about food and agriculture, too, and are pouring money into startups. Entrepreneur reported earlier this year that “startups all along the food chain — from farmers and tech companies to home cooks — are reaping huge rewards [from venture firms]: $2.06 billion invested in the first half of 2015 … nearly as much as the $2.36 billion total for 2014.”

FoodFacts.com likes the direction in which we’re headed. We’re excited to see consumer trends following a healthier, more natural path. And we couldn’t be more pleased about how food manufacturers are reacting to that consumer path. We’re expecting to see more of the same in 2016 and beyond!

Happy New Year!

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/12/29/460589462/the-year-in-food-artificial-out-innovation-in-and-2-more-trends

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

Added Sugar All Around

 

Photo from Forbes

FoodFacts.com would like to explore added sugar today.

Last week, on our Facebook page, we highlighted clever marketing ploys employed by companies to sell food. One of the most common things we found in those products, however, was added sugar. So while people may think they’re buying healthy when purchasing foods they find have no sugar in it, they might not be purchasing products that are as healthy as they might think.

The fact of the matter is that added sugars can be very hard to spot in food labels, so consumers may not actually know they are purchasing products with added sugar.

While manufacturers are required to state the total amount of sugar per serving on all products in the Nutrition Facts Panel, they are not required to state how much of that sugar is in fact added sugar. Quite the loophole, isn’t it?

So why focus on added sugar? Well, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people cut back on added sugar, due to the increase in obesity and heart disease. The AHA suggests no more than 100 calories per day (roughly 6 teaspoons or 24 grams) of added sugar for most women, and 150 calories (9 teaspoons of 36 grams) for most men. All added sugars are all a source of extra calories, no matter what name they go by. According to the Mayo Clinic website, Americans typically consume about 355 calories of added sugar per day. That’s about three times the recommended amount!

Some names of added sugars are common and well-known, such as high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, honey and molasses. But others are not… Here’s a list of some of the names for added sugar that you might just see on the food labels of your favorite foods.

-         Agave necter

-         Cane crystals

-         Cane sugar

-         Corn sweetener

-         Corn syrup

-         Crystalline fructose

-         Dextrose

-         Evaporated cane juice

-         Fructose

-         Fruit juice concentrates

-         Glucose

-         Invert Sugar

-         Lactose

-         Maltose

-         Malt syrup

-         Raw sugar

-         Sucrose

-         Sugar

-         Syrup

Did you know about these? How much of it surprises you?

Have a happy and healthy weekend, from FoodFacts.com!

Do you REALLY know how much sugar is in your food?

FoodFacts.com just recently discovered this, and we figured we would share it.

Thank you Cousin Marilyn for sending in this information!

4.2 grams = 1 teaspoonful of sugar = 1 cube.

**Each cube is a teaspoonful.**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always, wishing you the best from FoodFacts.com!

Dioxins — Any “eggscape” from them?

 

Picture credit to FoxNews.com

FoodFacts.com would like to take some time to look at dioxins.

 

Recently, it has been revealed that in Germany, the highly poisonous chemical was found in eggs from a couple of farms in levels that was above the permissible level set.

 

Needless to say, the farms found with those eggs have been sealed off and are not permitted to sell more eggs. That doesn’t mean that eggs containing dioxins haven’t been sold already, though.

 

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency webpage, dioxins are a “group of toxic chemical compounds that share certain chemical structures and biological characteristics.” [1] They can be released into the environment in many different ways, including forest fires and certain industrial activities.

 

While many people fail to realize it, most every living creature has been exposed to dioxins in some way, shape or form over time. Dioxins are not reported to be harmful at small levels, but long-term exposure or high levels could result in numerous adverse health effects, including but not limited to cancer. Exposure to high levels of dioxins have also reportedly led to reproductive and developmental problems, according to studies, and an increased risk of health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. While there are no known health effects on those who have consumed dioxins in small doses, more research does need to be done on those who are exposed to low levels of it over long periods of time, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

 

This isn’t the first time the issue of dioxins has been brought up with regards to Germany. Back in January of 2011, the European Union issued a health alert when officials discovered that animal feed had been tainted with dioxins, which was in turn fed to animals like hens and pigs and contaminating eggs, poultry and pork. Following that health alert, new measures were implemented to keep dioxin ingredients out of animal feed. Because of those new measures, and tests performed, officials do not believe the cause of this exposure was due to animal feed, and are still looking into the cause of the exposure.

 

Is there cause for concern? In Germany, there is reportedly no danger to the public. But it certainly makes everyone wonder what chemicals might be in their foods.

 

According to the United States Food and Drug Administration, there are always measures being taken to lower dioxin levels in foods. Furthermore, there are regulations in place regarding dioxin emissions when it comes to industrial sources. And over time, reduced dioxin emissions will result in reduced levels of dioxins in foods. That being said, cause for concern more or less rests on your faith in the government and their efforts.

 

FoodFacts.com would like to extend our best wishes!

 


[1] Dioxin. Environmental Assessment. United States Environmental Protection Agency. <http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/CFM/nceaQFind.cfm?keyword=Dioxin>

Food for Thought: Pink Slime

FoodFacts.com will be tackling the topic of pink slime today.

 

Pink slime, also known as lean finely textured beef (LFTB), has been making headlines recently compliments of the controversy surrounding its usage in fast food and school lunches. This meat filler, as some may know, is used in roughly 70% of all ground beef.

 

Pink slime is nothing new – it’s been used for years in meats. However, not many people may know as much. It earned the nickname “pink slime” several years ago, when a microbiologist referred to LFTB as such in an email. The topic has recently been picked up thanks to a campaign against pink slime by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

 

What is pink slime? In short, it’s ammonia-treated beef. While many people think cleaning products when they think ammonia, ammonium hydroxide was actually cleared for usage in food products back in the 1970s. It is used in meats to remove things such as salmonella and e-coli.

 

As many of you, especially our Facebook followers, are aware, the foods we consume typically contain ingredients we may have never even considered or known about. This is just another example of not really knowing what exactly is going into our bodies.

 

That being said, deciding whether or not LFTB should be eaten essentially falls on the consumer. Making yourself aware of the issue, and educating yourself on the topic itself, you should be able to make your own informed decision. Is it safe? Is it unsafe? Is it gross? Those are questions one has to answer for themselves. But the basic facts are these:

 

-         Pink slime is nothing new. In fact, we’ve been consuming it for years.

-         Pink slime is ammonia-treated beef.

-         Ammonium hydroxide has been approved for use in foods for 40+ years.

-         Ammonia is used to remove salmonella and e-coli.

 

However, just some food for thought. There are plenty of products that have been okayed for consumption (think artificial colors), which are plenty controversial because of unknown effects. That’s not to say this is necessarily bad for you, but it’s something to certainly consider.

 

As for its use in fast food and school lunches, pink slime has been eliminated from many fast food items. As for school lunches, the easiest way to avoid such products if so chosen is to send kids to school with homemade lunches. That’s not to say the controversial item won’t be removed from school lunches, but it’s an option to keep in mind to put parents at ease.

 

FoodFacts.com would like to wish you the best!

Bug Colors. Are Cochineal Beetles in Your Food?

Here at FoodFacts.com, we have been fielding several inquiries on colors extracted from Cochineal Beetles over the past few weeks.

 

Most recently, this topic has been the talk of the town following a news report on the subject, which revealed that the coloring created from the Cochineal Beetles was used in a Starbucks Strawberry Frappuccino drink. This has caused both vegans and non-vegans alike to criticize the coffee chain, both on the ick factor and the notion that vegans are unknowingly ingesting animal products when consuming the drink in question.

 

But the use of color from Cochineal Beetles is nothing new. The colors created from the beetles are cochineal extract and carmine, the latter of which was recently the focus of a controversial ingredient day on the FoodFacts Facebook page. The colors are extracted from the female Cochineal Beetles, which are raised in Peru, the Canary Islands, and elsewhere, and provides a red, pink or purple color to the products it is in.

 

What many people don’t realize when questioning the “bug ingredients” is that such colors could illicit a severe allergic reaction in some people. Over the past several years, doctors both in the United States and outside of the country have determined that colorings could cause allergic reactions, such as sneezing, asthma and even anaphylactic shock.

 

Both carmine and cochineal extract can be found in food items such as candies, juices, ice creams and yogurts. It can also be found in certain medicines, including cough drops. Finally, these ingredients can be found in dyed cosmetic products, such as lipstick.

 

So how does one avoid it? By reading the ingredients on the packaging and knowing what colors are derived from the beetles, you should be able to avoid the products if you need to because of an allergy, or want to because of the ick factor. Knowledge is power, after all.

 

We here at FoodFacts are wishing you the best!

The Many Faces (er..Ears?) Of Corn … nutrition facts brought to you by FoodFacts.com

According to the USDA 2010 crop production summary corn for grain production is estimated at 12.4 billion bushels.1 With so many bushels of corn sold, you’d wonder what all the corn is being used for? As it turns out, corn is a versatile crop with a wide variety of uses. The national corn growers association states that there are more than 4,200 different uses for corn products.  Corn can be used for both food and non-food products. Non-food uses can include pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, while food uses can be as transparent as high fructose corn syrup or as ambiguous as sodium erythorbate (since that same product could come from a different source like, sugar canes or beets). This FoodFacts.com blog article will focus on corn derived products and ingredients which we may not realize use corn.

NONFOOD PRODUCTS:

Antibiotics: Over 85 different types of antibiotics are produced using corn.  Penicillin is one of the antibiotics made using a corn product – corn steep liquor, as it has nutrients needed for penicillin to grow. It was formerly considered a waste material, corn steep liquor became a crucial ingredient in the large-scale production of penicillin.

Aspirin: an oxidized starch paste, which dries to a clear, adherent, continuous film, is spread in a thin layer over the aspirin.

Paper Products: Paper products use raw starch in the manufacturing process. The properties of high paste viscosity and strong gels are useful in specially coated papers. Pyrodextrins are also used for paper manufacturing for the adhesive property on remoistenable gums for postage stamps and packaging tape.

FOOD PRODUCTS:

Beer: Beer manufacturing is a process of treating malt to convert and extract the barley starch to fermentable sugars using the amyloytic enzymes present in malt followed by yeast fermentation. However, demand for lighter, less filling beer, especially in the U.S., has permitted use of more refined carbohydrate sources of two types: a) dry adjuncts, primarily dry milled corn grits, broken rice, refined corn starch, and more recently, dextrose and b) liquid adjuncts, namely corn syrups.

Citric Acid: Used as preservative, pH control, and to add a tart flavor to foods. Citric acid can be found in fruit sauces, jellies, canned goods and many other types of foods. Citric acid can be derived from fruits, however in view of the fact that the isolation of citric acid from fruits is very expensive, it is commercially produced from sugar with the help of bacteria and yeasts.  (See the 331 page list of food items that use citric acid as an ingredient: http://blog.foodfacts.com/search/index.cfm?type=ingredient&query=citricacid)

Iodized Salt: Iodine, an essential nutrient, is found in iodized salt. It was originally added to salt to prevent goiters. Corn derived dextrose is also added to iodized salt to help retain the added iodine.

Many (understatement perhaps?) products can be made from corn. It is used as food for humans and feed for animals, as well as nonfood uses in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, detergents and more. As science has a tendency to do, it will most likely find many more uses for corn.

See this poster for more products which use corn: http://www.ncga.com/uploads/useruploads/cornusesposter.pdf

http://usda01.library.cornell.edu/usda/nass/CropProdSu//2010s/2011/CropProdSu-01-12-2011_revision.pdf
http://www.ncga.com/uploads/useruploads/woc-2011.pdf
http://www.gfo.ca/AboutUsMain/Community/ConsumerResourcesforCorn.aspx
http://herbarium.usu.edu/fungi/funfacts/penicillin.htm
http://www.food-info.net/uk/qa/qa-fi13.htm