Archive for August, 2015

Devil Is in the Detail – Importance of Labels – Part 1

Posted by -- August 31, 2015

Labelling ruse…how ‘fructose’ is fructose-overload-infographiccamouflage for HFCS-90

When the consuming public widely rejected products containing HFCS, many food manufacturers produced new formulations to address this concern, and shore up lost revenue.  Some also spent considerable resources repackaging and advertising to make clear HCFS was no longer used.  By and large, those efforts produced more healthy versions of products as far as sweeteners were concerned.

But we are concerned that many efforts to date have the optics right but not the substance–its great that HFCS is removed, but if that toxic industrial sweetener isn’t substituted with something better, then the only change is on the label, not what’s inside!  And what if the substitution is even WORSE than HFCS?  Some efforts we fear had the nefarious effect of spawning formulations even less healthy than the one consumers rejected.

Some manufacturers that removed HFCS from a product added back what is labeled ‘fructose’ as a sweetening ingredient (either solo or in combination with others). Many consumers believe fructose on the label is the naturally occurring sugar found in fruits, which is almost certainly not the case, because it would be prohibitively expensive to produce.   Until proven otherwise, safer to assume it’s HFCS-90 renamed “fructose” –an industry labeling norm according to the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) website.  Far sweeter than either table sugar or HFCS-42 or HFCS-55 (the two concentrations the FDA allows to be called HFCS) it uses less to achieve the same sweetness thus lowers the manufacturers production costs.

By naming the replacement sweetener something that sounds vaguely healthy, some food conglomerates get a pass from public scrutiny and may now be free to sell a really unhealthy product unfettered for years.  We advise consumers to be wary of this increasingly common substitute for HFCS.  Among the worst Culprits we found to date are: Nature Valley Chewy Protein Bars, General Mills Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Vanilla Chex Cereals, Welch’s Natural Raspberry Spread, and some versions of Kellogg’s Pop Tarts.  All use fructose as a sweetener, while their label proclaims “NO HFCS!”

So how do wise consumers remain vigilant in spotting this kind of ruse?  Before buying, they confirm not only that unhealthy ingredients are removed, but also that replacement ingredients are legitimately healthier. To this end, we have prompted the FDA to comment on the nature of ‘fructose’ in food labels.  We have not yet received a response, but our assumption is the FDA is not likely to comment on the nature of fructose as an ingredient at present.  This is because in acknowledging that ‘fructose’ was in fact the additive HFCS-90, a non-GRAS ingredient, the regulator would likely face intense public pressure to halt the sale of such products, via legal enforcement powers the FDA almost never exercises.

So for now, all you can do is ask your food manufacturers using ‘fructose’ as an ingredient if it’s the naturally occurring kind or the additive HFCS-90.  Until you get confirmation to the contrary from the food makers you ask, assume the ‘fructose’ additive on labels of mass produced food is in fact HFCS-90.

And in the meantime, simply stop buying it—especially if the product label shouts “No HFCS” while probably containing super sweet HFCS-90 disguised as fructose!

So what else can be done to get consumers enough information to make an informed choice about sweeteners?  Support Citizens For Health (CFH) efforts by signing its Petition filed with the FDA to amend the FDA Proposed Rules on Food Labelling.  CFH’s appeal to the FDA was meant to assist consumers to flush out such slimy tactics as the “HFCS-90 disguised as fructose” ruse.  So if you haven’t already, take a moment now and sign the CFH Petition via this link:

www.citizens.org/hfcs/

Coca Cola backed study : ‘Lack of Exercise, Not your Diet, Makes You Fat.”

Posted by -- August 21, 2015

Coke Blog Image

Headlines that challenge long-held health and diet wisdom usually cause two things:  1) Gets lots of people to read the supporting article 2)  Prompts most to scrutinize the research sponsor and motivation.  FIT looks to keep these types of discussions transparent, and so feels compelled to discuss a New York Times article from August 9, 2015 which trumpeted this research conclusion “Coca Cola funds scientists who shift blame for obesity away from bad diets

The research sponsor, Global Energy Balance Network, (GEBN) was launched in 2014, with a hefty $1.5 million dollar check from Coca Cola.   GEBN’s position is clear:  You can eat anything you want, you just have to exercise enough to burn it off.   Steven N. Blair, an exercise scientist and GEBN’s vice president, says “Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is, ‘Oh they’re eating too much, eating too much, eating too much’ — blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on,”. “And there’s really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause.”

So many things misleading in this quote, but let’s focus on two.   First, 95% of soda is sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), not with sugar, so that ‘sugary’ term probably misleads.  Second, complex processes like weight gain almost never possess a single cause, so it’s not news that a single cause cannot be identified.   Further, this statement buries the fact that weight gain and diet correlate very closely, a fact reflected in renowned university studies and USDA guidance, specifically:

  • Forty years of Harvard University research found a direct correlation between obesity rates and diets of syrupy sweetened high calorie sodas (again, 95% of sodas are HFCS-sweetened, so  your soda most likely contains NO sugar)
  • USDA guidelines on weight maintenance are based on diet (calories consuming food and beverages) as primary gauge for weight management.
  • FDA has even issued guidelines for consuming natural sugar, but none for syrupy substitutes, such as HFCS.

So this finding, in fact, probably restates the obvious: for superiorly fit individuals, diet has less impact on weight than it does for the general (non-active or sedentary) population.  Most of us could logically surmise the super fitness correlation on diet without bothering with the research.  Further, we would rule out any applicability to ourselves!  And it completely excludes the clinically supported fact that high soda consumption does have a pronounced negative effect on weight and health.  Demand for soda continues to drop materially, while soda use and excise taxes drive up soda price to customers.   Over the last two decades soda sales have seen a 25% drop and Coca Cola is digging into its deep pockets to convince you that Coke is Still the Real Thing and part of a healthy diet.   So who’s interested in circulating this research news that gives permission to consume without consequences?  (Hint:  Not top athletes…) Soda manufacturers, certainly.

GEBNs website is registered to donor Coke, who also covers the website’s maintenance costs. The optics of this donation suggest that GEBN’s very mouthpiece is subject to undue influence by Coke.  We welcome diverse research if it is objective.  We seek it out.   The research parameters in the Coke-funded studies we will attempt to secure and report back on in an upcoming blog.  For now, the objective data in this published report and the facts below imply a likely probability that GEBN is not free to present a balanced set of facts if they do not support sales of Coke.  Three other matters also call to question GEBN’s independence:

  • GEBN’s website omitted mention of Coke as donor until research disclosure was made public.
  • GEBN latest two reports include these disclosures “The publication of this article was supported by The Coca-Cola Company.”
  • Since 2008, Coca Cola has provided over $4 million dollars in research funding to GEBN’s founding members, Dr. Blair and Dr. Gregory Hand.

Our Takeaway:  Most among us do not exercise enough to heed the findings outlined in GEBN’s research; the study’s intent is purely commercial and may even pose a public-health risk by discouraging a focus on diet.  For most of us, diet has a MAJOR effect on our weight and health.  This common sense view is supported by objective data from reliable, unbiased sources like Harvard and the USDA.  The greater incidence of high calorie diets comprised of ever-larger doses of processed syrupy additives such as HFCS correlates with –and is linked by some studies –to the rise of obesity and many other disorders.

Despite attempts by GEBN to divert attention away from scrutinizing your diet, remain diligent regarding what you consume.   In particular, consumers concerned about making healthy changes are well advised to find alternatives to HFCS- sweetened soda.  Switch to natural sweeteners such as sugar in moderation and stay away from chemicals manufactured in factories that happen to have a sweet taste.  Finally, be mindful of a very telling pair of facts:

1) Per capita consumption of “sugar” in 2009 was the same as the per capita consumption of sugar in 1909 – so rising obesity rates in US are a function of factors OTHER than consuming larger quantities of sugar.

2) By contrast, HFCS consumption has skyrocketed concurrent with rising diabetes and obesity rates.

Good Guys Update: Who is making the change to ‘No HFCS’

Posted by -- August 12, 2015

 

NO HFCS

Time again to applaud companies and brands taking action to remove High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) from their products.   One caveat up front: we apply the Good Guys moniker to companies showing tangible efforts to move away from HFCS, e.g., a manufacturer that has improved some product formulations by replacing HFCS with natural sweeteners.   Nonetheless, Good Guys may still use HFCS in some products, so smart consumers still need to read each label to make informed decisions! That said, we remain cautiously optimistic; since our last post on the “Good Guys” we note a groundswell movement by US mega-brands to remove HFCS from their products.  Joining the list of healthier offerings:

Most recently General Mills has taken an enormous step in removing HCFS from many of its most popular cereals and they are not being shy about it. Airing over 7,552 Commercials produced by the McCann Erickson agency and featuring the song “Love First” by Kyle Andrews, touting “Whole grain is the first ingredient in every General Mills Big G cereals“ and ”No High fructose Corn Syrup” prominently in the commercial (in fact, this blog post’s title graphic IS part of this commercial!).

Sara Lee’s removal of HFCS from its Soft & Smooth and 100% Whole Wheat Breads because their consumers, particularly moms, indicated they would only buy bread without HFCS.  

Subway removed HFCS from its sandwich breads.

Yogurt giant Yoplait eliminated HFCS from all products, citing the change came from Tweets and emails from customers.

Kraft announced in February 2015 a decision to sweeten its drinks with sugar instead of HFCSleading to the elimination of HFCS from its Capri Sun Juice Drinks.  Kraft also removed HFCS from its Nabisco Wheat Thins and Premium crackers, and many Kraft salad dressings,

Heinz has created a sugar-sweetened version of its iconic ketchup, while Hunt’s removed HFCS from its entire retail ketchup line in 2010 (those little packets of wholesale ketchups kept HFCS)

Pepsi introduced a new line of soft drinks “made with real sugar.” Gatorade replaced HFCS as the sweetener in its sports drinks.  Coke Life is sweetened entirely with sugar.  (But read the labels, there are many other ingredients in all three products that merit scrutiny.) ;p;

Natural Brand Annie’s manufactures many products that are HFCS free:  including many salad dressings, their honey mustard, ketchup and BBQ sauce.

Chick-fil-A’s has taken High Fructose Corn Syrup out of its sauces and dressings.

Kroger Supermarkets is removing HFCS from its store-brand cereals following surveys with consumers.

Wild Oats announcing a new line of products at Walmart stores will not contain “the unwanted ingredient” HFCS.

On the horizon…

Snackwell’s announced recently that it has committed itself to removing high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil, and artificial flavors and colors from its snack foods

In December 2014, Hershey reported that its consumers seemed to prefer real sugar over HFCS, and that the company was looking into removing HFCS from its products permanently. Although at the time of this printing no further information is available about this transition.

Campbells has also announced intentions to reduce artificial ingredients throughout its range of products, but there are few details and no reformulations yet.

So Hershey’s , Snackwells, and Campbells….Next time, perhaps?!

 

 

Parents Need Correct Information About Sweeteners

Posted by -- August 6, 2015

FIT Blog post Title

 

by: James S. Turner Esq.

Board Chair Citizens for Health

Author “The Chemical Feast: The Nader Report On Food Protection at the FDA”

 

In response to, “The Evidence Supports Artificial Sweeteners over Sugar” article, by pediatrics professor Aaron E. Carroll (July 27, 2015 New York Times), Dr. Carroll’s article nails one powerful point—people, especially children, should stay away from calorie containing soft drinks.  He misses an equally powerful point—the calories in these drinks come from high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) not “sugar.” In 2012 FDA banned corn refiners from calling HFCS “corn sugar.” Dr. Carroll overlooks the message and calls HFCS “sugar”.  Still every study he cites shows that HFCS, not sugar, tracks soda risks.

Today per capita “sugar” consumption equals that of the 1909’s, while HFCS consumption has soared alongside soaring diabetes and obesity rates. Dr. Carroll is right–avoid caloric soft drinks and the HFCS that 95% of them contain. Dr. Carroll also misses on two artificial sweeteners.  Saccharin, removed from the list of known cancer causing chemicals in 2000, he calls safe. He fails to report that, for example, the Feingold Association worries that saccharine, a coal tar derivative, may contribute to hyperactivity in children.  “Cancer free” does not mean “shown safe.”  Additives harm in other ways. Nor does Dr. Carroll report that the Center for Science in the Public Interest questions the objectivity of the international committee that urged removing saccharin from the carcinogen list.

Even if saccharin fails to cause cancer, and we have a lot more to learn about cancer before we can be sure, saccharin studies suggest other potential risks that Dr. Carroll ignores and we need to consider. Dr. Carroll’s aspartame story leaves out even more important facts.  He says, inaccurately, “The initial studies showed that aspartame didn’t cause cancer in animals, so it was deemed safer than saccharin.”  In fact unexplained incidents of cancer in rats in initial aspartame studies led the 1980 FDA Public Board of Inquiry (PBOI) to unanimously reject the new sweetener.

President elect Ronald Reagan put Donald Rumsfeld, President of the GD Searle Drug Company, aspartame’s owner, on his transition team. That team picked a Reagan appointed FDA Commissioner who consulted to the 1970s Defense Department led by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.  As his first act this commissioner overturned the PBOI, releasing aspartame, a suspect sweetener, to an unsuspecting public. Data developed since aspartame’s approval has reinforced the cancer causing potential of aspartame.

The year following its introduction to the market, glioblastomas, the type of brain tumor that turned up in the original studies and troubled the PBOI, increased 10% in the American human population.  In this context later laboratory studies suggesting a possibility of a cancer/aspartame connection heightens concern. Even if Dr. Carroll and, in the case of saccharin the international committee he relies on, made the right call on cancer and saccharin and/or aspartame that does not make these artificial sweeteners safe for children.   Dr. Carroll says “It is true that people with phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare genetic disorder, need to limit their consumption of aspartame, since phenylalanine is one of its components.”  Again he is part right. At the time of the PBOI in 1980 about 30,000 Americans suffered from PKU.

Policy makers saw this as a small enough number of acutely risk aware individuals with a disease condition, screened for at birth, that they felt that a label statement offered enough public protection. In this relatively small, aware group recessive genes of both parents combine to create the PKU.  In genetic terms they are called homozygous recessive. At the same time one in 60 Americans, about fifty million, are heterozygous, one dominant and one recessive PKU gene.  The PBOI, already banning aspartame for cancer causing reasons, declined to address the possibility that the fifty million heterozygous might face a special aspartame risk. Dr. Carroll ignores the issue and stamps aspartame safe for children.

Parents need more caution. Dr. Carroll’s over arching point—data show that caloric sweeteners (95% of which are sweetened with HFCS) should be avoided—is sound.  His points about artificial sweeteners being preferable might work for him and his children but a risk averse parent might want to wait longer before rushing ahead to give their children no calorie soda.  Just because arsenic is not str

ychnine does not mean that it is safe. People, especially parents, need information about sweeteners.  For now data suggests that cane sugar, in moderation, adds up to less risk than either HFCS sweetened sodas (or other foods) or other artificial sweeteners.  Future instalments of Food Identity Theft will provide more detailed guides on how to read articles like Dr. Carroll’s and distinguish the sound information from the misguided.

Read Dr. Carroll’s article at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/28/upshot/the-evidence-supports-artificial-sweeteners-over-sugar.html?_r=0&abt=0002&abg=0