Author Archive

The kind of food you love best – might it really be ‘to die for’?

Posted by -- January 22, 2015

“Barbecue DSCF0013″ by Hedwig Storch – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Barbecue_DSCF0013.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Barbecue_DSCF0013.JPG

By BILL BONVIE

A recent edition of the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes contained what should have served as yet another wake-up call about the direct connection between diet and disease – but one you might only have heard if your were ‘listening between the lines’.

The segment to which I’m referring consisted of an interview by correspondent Lesley Stahl with U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican and “proud contrarian” who has tendered his resignation with two years remaining in his term after having been stricken with advanced prostate cancer.  While the interview focused mainly on Coburn’s personal friendship with President Obama, many of whose programs he has opposed, what struck me as most interesting about the conversation was where part of it was conducted – at the “favorite barbecue restaurant” of the senator and his wife.

When I heard that, it kind of rang a bell.  So I did some Googling, and quickly came up with a three-year-old article on Health.com (and featured on the CNN Health website) that appeared under the headline “Well-done red meat linked to aggressive prostate cancer,” along with a photo of some char-broiled burgers on a grille.

The article was about a study performed by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco that compared approximately 500 men who recently had been diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer to a cancer-free group of similar size who served as controls. The study’s conclusion was that men who consume a lot of ground beef and other red meat have a higher risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer — especially if the meat is grilled or well-done.

Participants who reported eating about two servings of hamburger or meat loaf per week were found to be more than twice as likely to have been diagnosed with this particular type of cancer as those who ate none. But what really seemed to make the difference was the way the meat was cooked.  The men whose preference was for well-done meat that had been grilled or barbecued doubled their odds of getting cancer, while those who ate theirs medium or rare had “a negligible increase in risk — just 12 percent.” Results were similar when grilled or barbecued steak was the meat involved.

These findings seemed to support previous animal studies that determined several types of cancer, including prostate cancer, are caused by two chemicals formed by cooking meat over an open flame at high temperatures.  “This is another piece of evidence for the notion that red meat, particularly grilled meat, contains carcinogens that may relate to prostate cancer,” noted Ronald D. Ennis, M.D., director of radiation oncology at New York City’s St. Luke’s–Roosevelt Hospital Center, who did not take part in the study.

All this isn’t to say that Sen. Coburn’s cancer was necessarily due to eating grilled meat. But the fact that he apparently likes it well enough to consider a barbecue place to be his favorite restaurant is enough to make us think that a preference for char-broiled meat might possibly have been a contributing factor. (Whether the senator, given his medical background, knew about the risk is another question – but what doctors themselves often don’t know about health concerns should make us all realize how much important advice they may not be providing us.)

And while winter isn’t exactly grilling season – at least in most of the country – the start of a new year is as good a time as any to take note of the fact that this popular form of cooking can be extremely hazardous to your health – especially if you’re a guy.

And on a broader note, it should serve to remind all of us that our diet may well be the thing that determines our destiny – and to make us ask ourselves whether any type of food, no matter how much we might like it, is really something “to die for.”

Bill Bonvie’s collection of previously published essays, “Repeat Offenders,” is available at Amazon.com

Taylor Swift’s ‘partnership’ with a toxic, addictive product evokes cigarette endorsements of old

Posted by -- January 20, 2015

taylor_coke

By BILL BONVIE

Most fans of pop singer Taylor Swift are probably unacquainted with Peggy Lee and Diahann Carroll. And unless they watch old movies, they may never have heard of John Wayne, Robert Young or Claudette Colbert (and though they may know Ronald Reagan was president, they might not know he was once a movie actor as well).

But Swift has now joined these big entertainment names of yesteryear – along with famous athletes like Jackie Robinson and Joe DiMaggio – in helping lead legions of star-struck fans down a primrose path of addiction to a distinctly unhealthy commodity.

While the pernicious product endorsed by those earlier celebrities was tobacco, what Swift is now promoting is Diet Coke, which is probably the nation’s best known soft drink to be laced with the toxic artificial sweetener aspartame.

The evidence of just how hazardous diet soda can be to your health has been growing steadily for years.  That was also the case with cigarettes when all those icons of movies, radio, television and sports were hired to pitch cigarette brands like Chesterfield, Camels and Lucky Strike (which is no doubt part of the reason they were recruited).

And if you compare those old tobacco ads with current promotions for products like Diet Coke, you’ll find another similarity as well. Hard as it may be to believe today, consumers were once told that various brands of cigarettes would help their digestion, soothe their throat, or were preferred by most doctors. One brand even tried to persuade women that smoking it will “keep you slim and beautiful.”

Which sounds a lot like the way diet drinks continue to be hyped, even though a growing body of research has shown that they can actually contribute to weight gain, as well as skin aging (and those may be the least of its adverse effects).

In fact, Swift (or rather the ad agency that conceived this particular campaign) has gone a step further in creating a glamorous image for Diet Coke by turning her endorsement for the synthetically-sweetened soda into an actual “relationship.”

Starting with a chummy greeting (“Hi guys, it’s Taylor”) she goes on to claim that she’ll “actually be making it official with one of the great loves of my life – Diet Coke.” She then invites the audience to become involved in “this partnership” involving “so many fun things” by going to (and liking) Diet Coke’s Facebook page, which is “the backstage pass to all of this” and will allow you to “know all kinds of stuff about it.”

Part of the “stuff,” apparently is the fanciful notion that every swig of Diet Coke will cause your cute and cuddly pet cat to multiply exponentially into a roomful of feline fuzziness. Or at least that seems to be the metaphorical message of yet another commercial video to be found at the product’s Facebook page.

The ‘stuff’ they’re not telling us

But there is “stuff” about Diet Coke (and other aspartame-laced beverages) that all of us — including Taylor Swift fans — really need to know before allowing ourselves to swallow either this hazardous liquid or the feel-good fantasies spun around it by creative con artists. And it’s the kind of information that Taylor, like many a smitten lass, seems to have ignored in proclaiming her “partnership” with this disreputable commodity.

In fact, she has already been asked to reconsider that union by Michael Jacobson, the executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Your endorsement carries great weight with your millions of young fans” whose risk of getting cancer might rise as a result, Jacobson noted. “Even if the increase in risk is small, we question whether you would want to lend your name, image, and reputation to any product linked to any increased risk of cancer,” he added.

But while that’s certainly a good recommendation, it could have been a lot stronger. Because the health issues related to aspartame go far beyond a “small” increase in the risk of getting cancer.

Aspartame, as regular readers of this blog should be well aware, has a rather notorious history of adverse “side effects,” thousands of which have been reported to the Food and Drug Administration as well as to the Aspartame Consumer Safety Network and other  support group for those who have experienced them. These can include things like migraines, seizures, mood swings and vision problems (perhaps accounting for the apparent multiplicity of cats in the ad) – which is why airline pilots are advised to stay away from products containing it.

In fact, the controversy surrounding this sweetener dates back to its original approval by an FDA commissioner over the opposition of the agency’s scientific advisers – one who later went to work for the industry – as a political favor, and the misrepresentation of test results, which linked it to brain tumor development in rodents and grand mal seizures in rhesus monkeys. (You can read more about that in our blog from last March here.)

In addition, aspartame is in the class of additives known as “excitotoxins” because of their ability to destroy certain brain cells by literally exciting them to death, which makes it especially dangerous to children and the elderly.

All of which is reflected in some the comments found on Diet Coke’s Facebook page (As one reader commented, “Love kittens and Taylor Swift. Too bad it has to be attached to Diet Coke.”)

And is why Taylor Swift would indeed be well advised to “Shake It Off” (as CSPI suggests) and get “Clean” away from her fledgling “partnership with Diet Coke, lest her embrace of this toxic bad actor end up being viewed in the same light as are those ill-starred celebrity endorsements for tobacco products.

Bill Bonvie’s recently published essay Collection “Repeat Offenders” is available at Amazon.com.

Role of diet in Alzheimer’s underscored by treatment that reversed symptoms

Posted by -- January 15, 2015

alzheimers

By BILL BONVIE

Could the typical American diet of fake processed foods – and the witches’ brew of toxic additives they contain — be a contributing factor to the steadily increasing number of Alzheimer’s cases and deaths that this country has been experiencing in recent years?

And might switching to genuinely natural and organic foods actually help prevent the development of this dread disease – or in many cases reverse its early symptoms?

These might once have sounded like idle questions.  But not anymore.

Because now we’ve been given a small, but still important indication that the answer to both could well be yes.

I’m referring to a stunning discovery reported in the Journal Aging– the results of a study done by the Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research at UCLA involving ten subjects between the ages of 55 and 75 who had been in various stages of dementia. After taking part in a revolutionary new treatment program, all but one reported that their cognition was either significantly improved or back to normal.

This particular therapy, however, didn’t rely on drugs, nor did it focus on any single cause. Instead, it addressed three dozen potential deficiencies, imbalances and sources of inflammation, each of which “contributes a small piece of the puzzle,” according to study author Dr. Dale Bredesen, the center’s director.

While such “pieces” included getting sufficient sleep and exercise, fasting and supplementation with things like vitamin D and fish oil, what especially struck me in reading a CNN article about the study that ran under the headline “We may be able to reverse signs of early Alzheimer’s disease” was the recurring emphasis on dietary change. Processed foods were given up entirely by the study volunteers, whose improvements were described in detail.

Processed food: a recipe for dementia

Of course, defenders of the status quo (especially those with an economic interest in it) would probably say this isn’t “proof” that such products are among the causes of Alzheimer’s. But I would reverse that by asking, “Why wouldn’t they be?”  Especially when you consider some of the ingredients they’re likely to contain, both individually and taken together. For example:

High fructose corn syrup:  This cheap laboratory sweetener, still found in numerous products (despite the increasing number from which it’s been dropped in recent years), has been identified by researchers as a cause of both obesity and diabetes, which have become epidemic since its introduction in the food supply as a substitute for old-fashioned sugar.  And according to Dr. Jeff Cummings, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Alzheimer’s is sometimes referred to as “type 3 diabetes” because of its strong link to obesity, which elevates brain proteins that are associated with the development of the disease.

MSG and aspartame: Both the flavor enhancers made from free glutamic acid (monosodium glutamate and other forms of MSG, such as hydrolyzed protein and sodium caseinate) and the artificial sweetener aspartame contain neurotransmitters known as “excitotoxins” because of their ability to literally excite certain brain cells to death. This neuron damage is especially apt to occur in children and elderly people whose blood-brain barriers have been compromised, and is believed by experts in neurology to be a contributor to the onset of dementia.

Aluminum: If there were ever any doubts about the direct link between this toxic metal and Alzheimer’s, they were dispelled last year by the discovery of aluminum deposits in the brain of a worker who died after developing an early-onset form of the disease. Yet aluminum-based ingredients can still be found in a variety of processed foods, especially those containing baking powder.

Partially hydrogenated oil: This artery-clogging shelf-life extender, which the Food and Drug Administration proposed banning over a year ago after estimating that the trans fats it produces are responsible for 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths annually, also appears to impact brain health. That became evident back in November when a University of California at San Diego study of 1,000 young and middle-aged men found those who regularly consumed it showed far worse memory when tested than those who didn’t.

Now, take just those four additives, which are commonly found in processed foods, and consider the effects they could well have on the brains of those who eat products that contain them – often in combination – on a daily basis.

And add to that the fact that most of these same “foods” have been largely stripped of the essential nutrients found in genuine whole (and especially organic) foods — and that the addition of synthetic vitamins can never really replace the versions that nature created.

And when you do, is it any wonder that Alzheimer’s has been increasing at such an alarming rate in recent years, now afflicting an estimated 5.2 million Americans (and killing approximately a half million every year)? Or that symptoms of the disease were actually reversed in individuals whose treatment included banishing these toxic foods from their diets?

Bill Bonvie is the author of the recently published essay collection “Repeat Offenders” available at Amazon.com
 

Corn refiners grasping at straws in effort to convince industry not to ditch HFCS

Posted by -- January 13, 2015

screenshot_8_30_12

 

By BILL BONVIE

What do you do if you’re the Corn Refiners Association and you’re running out of strategies for making an unhealthy and unpopular ingredient like high fructose corn syrup continue to seem appealing to food manufacturers?

Well, you could resort to a kind of “moderation” in your approach (sort of like the way you advise that products containing HFCS be consumed). For instance, how about acknowledging some of the virtues of organic food, which by definition contains no HFCS?

I know that sounds a bit bizarre – but it seems to be the new game plan of the CRA, if the current on-line edition of its industry-targeted “sweetener report,” CornNaturally.com is any indication.

Billed as “the latest insights on consumer attitudes and purchase behaviors surrounding sweeteners,” this newsletter actually offers more of an insight into how the corn refiners are attempting to “spin” the public’s growing rejection of their cheap, disease-causing sweetener and persuade food companies to stop dropping it from their products.

And judging from “the unprecedented Sweetener360 research” if offers, the association’s new modus operandi is apparently to run with any source of information or opinion it can find that seems to lend support to the idea that HFCS is no worse for us than sucrose and other natural sweeteners. Even if it means calling attention to things that reflect well on the organic industry, such as those found in a Consumer Reports article that ran in The Washington Post last month to which the CRA provides a link.

Under the headline “Good-for-you foods may not really be good for you,” the article discusses the “reality” behind some food-label claims. But it seems to have nothing but good things to say about organic foods such as “The ‘USDA Organic’ label is one of the best guarantees that the animal didn’t receive antibiotics.”

Among the other claims discussed are things we’ve talked about here at Food Identity Theft, particularly the fact that “zero trans fat” doesn’t necessarily mean the product has none, if partially hydrogenated oil among its ingredients. In that case, it can contain up to 0.5 grams of the artery-clogging additive per “serving” and still be labeled trans-fat free.

But the CRA’s apparent reason for providing a link to this particular article is a paragraph that begins, “If the label says “No high fructose corn syrup,” that doesn’t mean ‘no added sugar’.” It then proceeds to claim that “tossing high fructose corn syrup off an ingredients list has more to do with marketing than with science. Similar to sugar chemically, it’s often used because it’s cheaper and helps maintain color, texture and flavor. But it has roughly the same calories as sugar and similar health risks, notes Walter Willett, chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.”

Omission accomplished

What isn’t mentioned, however, is that Willett was one of 41 scientists and physicians who two years ago signed a letter to Food and Drug Administration commissioner Margaret Hamburg in support of a petition filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest urging the FDA to set “safe limits” of “high fructose corn syrup and other sugars in soft drinks.” Or that Willett and his colleagues, according to a 2013 CSPI news release, have conducted epidemiology studies that strongly link consumption of such “sugary drinks” (which is the term commonly used to describe beverages sweetened with HFCS) to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and gout.” Nor, of course, is there any reference to the various studies from leading universities and medical facilities showing that there are indeed sound scientific and health-related reasons for “tossing high fructose corn syrup off an ingredients list” – reasons that not only include obesity, heart disease and diabetes, but pancreatic cancer and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is now becoming a major health problem.

But those are risks that are likely overstated, according to another article to which a link is provided by CornNaturally.com – one appearing at the website BakeryandSnacks.com under the headline, “Naturally opposed? Balancing new technologies with consumer perceptions.”

This article talks about “Ingredient-based fears” (yes, the same ones the CRA has funded two separate studies on, as we’ve noted in previous blogs) often being the “result of exaggerations on the risk of the ingredient — like “leading to obesity or having unintended effects on the body” – and a “potential underestimation of any benefit the ingredient may provide,” with the examples cited being “possibly decreasing the price of products, extending their shelf life, etc.”

In other words, is it more important to you that an ingredient like HFCS might make you fat and have “unintended effects” in your body, or that a product containing it might “possibly” cost a bit less?

As for “extending shelf life,” that ‘s really not a purpose of adding HFCS, but rather of partially hydrogenated oil – the same additive that the Consumer Reports article warns might have its trans fat content misrepresented on the label.

Clearly, the CRA is now grasping at straws, if such flimsy and contradictory “insights” represent the best reasons it can come up with for why food companies shouldn’t continue dumping high fructose corn syrup overboard.

Proposal that could avert thousands of deaths called threat to ‘sprinkles’

Posted by -- January 8, 2015

sprinkles_screenshot

 

By BILL BONVIE

A number of years ago, a classic “Saturday Night Live” sketch featured comedian Buck Henry in the role of a radio talk show host who keeps upping the ante in his attempts to get listeners to phone in, until he finally exclaims, “killing puppies! We’re going to use your tax money to bus Russian communists to your house to kill your puppy!”

That little spoof was what came back to me upon viewing a segment from “Fox & Friends” on which fill-in host Clayton Morris asserted that the Food and Drug Administration was on the verge of instituting a ban on doughnuts with sprinkles – then introduced a ‘expert” who proceeded to imply that such an action could set the stage for an authoritarian police state.

All of which might be pretty funny, had it not been apparently intended to convince viewers that their freedom of choice is somehow threatened by a stalled proposal to reclassify a food ingredient that kills an estimated 7,000 people annually as no longer “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) and phase it out.

The proposed prohibition that has the folks at Fox spreading the alarm about endangered sprinkles is really on partially hydrogenated oil, or PHO, the primary source of artery-clogging dietary trans fat, And it’s one that, far from being imminent, seems to have been relegated to regulatory limbo since the FDA first came out with it in November of 2013.

The Fox & Friends segment (posted by Fox News with the heading “Seize the sprinkles! FDA may ban miniscule amounts of trans fat”) starts with Morris holding up a tray of doughnuts and declaring that you could “say good-bye to your favorite sprinkled doughnuts like these” because the “amount of trans fat needed to make something as small as a sprinkle on your doughnut may be banned.”

Then after asking whether the FDA doesn’t “have more important things to do than regulate sprinkles,’ he introduces us to a heavy hitter on the subject, Jayson Lusk, a “food and agriculture economist and author of The Food Police. Lusk begins by maintaining that the FDA had already taken action on trans fats by requiring that they be labeled some years back, and that as a result, food companies had cut back on using them (due in part to “consumer pressure”), that “consumption of trans fats has fallen pretty dramatically as a response to those labels” and that “it’s a littleunclear why they’re coming in now and adding this ban.”

Sprinkles today, your freedom tomorrow

Lusk further contended that while the “ban on sprinkles and doughnuts might not seem like that big a deal, the way you want to look at that is that if the government can involve itself in such small minutiae decisions of our daily lives as to whether we want to eat sprinkles or not, that’s really not much respect for the citizens’ choices – and if they’re willing to ban those small decisions, what kind of respect will they give citizens in the larger decisions in our lives about where to work or where to live, or some of the things that really matter to us?”

In other words, give them the right to take away your sprinkles, and the next thing you know they’ll be using your tax money to force you to give up your job and your house as well (and maybe even kill your puppy).

But before we make that cosmic (and comic) leap, let’s back up a moment to those sprinkles, which as it turns out, aren’t about to be taken away from anybody (nor are any other products) and need not contain trans fats in the form of PHOs, as some don’t.  If anything, the fact that certain food makers have already switched to trans fat-free products shows that the only “decisions” that would be affected by a ban on PHOs, were it to be enacted, are decisions being made by the food industry to add things that lengthen the shelf life of products while shortening the lives of people who consume them.

But what Lusk also failed to mention before wandering off into the realm of the ridiculous was (1) the labeling of trans fat allows any amount .5 grams or under to be labeled zero, which can allow someone to consume significant amounts of this risky additive without being aware of it, and (2) a study conducted last year found PHOs in a tenth of all processed foods still on the market.

And the trans fats those foods contain are not only a cause of fatal heart attacks, but impaired memory as well. That’s what researchers from the University of California at San Diego determined last fall based on testing involving 1,000 young and middle-aged men.

That’s why consumers should be demanding that the FDA proceed with the action to remove PHOs from the food supply that it actually appears to have deferred in the face of industry opposition. And no, there’s nothing more important it could do, given that what’s really at stake are many of thousands of lives – not hypothetical sprinkles on glazed doughnuts.

Bill Bonvie is the author of the essay collection Repeat Offenders, available at Amazon.com

New study (again) shows ‘there is a difference between HFCS and table sugar’

Posted by -- January 6, 2015

Rat eating fast foodThe start of a new year brings news of new findings that add to the growing body of scientific evidence implicating high fructose corn syrup as a major contributor to today’s health problems.

On Monday, a team of biologists at the University of Utah announced the results of a study funded by the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation and scheduled for publication in the March 2015 issue of The Journal of Nutrition. The study compared the effects of table sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup on mice given an otherwise healthy diet. One group received 25 percent of its calories from a mix of fructose-glucose monosaccharides like that in high-fructose corn syrup, while a second was fed an equivalent amount of sucrose.

According to the researchers, female rodents on the fructose-glucose diet had death rates 1.87 times higher than those on the sucrose diet, and produced 26.4 percent fewer offspring.

The study’s senior author, Biology Professor Wayne Potts, called it “the most robust study showing there is a difference between high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar at human-relevant doses.”  He emphasized the importance of such research by noting that “when the diabetes-obesity-metabolic syndrome epidemics started in the mid-1970s, they corresponded with both a general increase in consumption of added sugar and the switchover from sucrose being the main added sugar in the American diet to high-fructose corn syrup.”

James Ruff, the study’s lead author and a post-doctoral fellow in biology, said whatever caused the difference in mortality and reproduction in the female mice fed the two different sweeteners had to have happened “at the point of absorption or before – not once it is in the bloodstream, liver or brain.” He speculated that this could be related to the way they affected gut bacteria, given that “other research has shown differences in bacterial communities in the gut to be associated with metabolic diseases in rodents and in humans.”

Ruff also noted that on a worldwide basis, HFCS represents only about eight percent of sugars consumed, while it makes up 42 percent of the added sugars in the American diet. He added that a number of previous studies on both rodents and humans had linked consumption of pure fructose consumption to metabolic problems such as insulin resistance, obesity and abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels. (Fructose, as we noted in a previous blog, can now be the term used to describe HFCS-90, a sweetener containing 90 percent fructose that falls outside the official Food and Drug Administration-approved definition of high fructose corn syrup.)

********************************************

Those previous studies include a number that we’ve cited in past Food Identity Theft blogs. They include:

  • A University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine study that found countries using high-fructose corn syrup had rates of diabetes that were about 20 percent higher than countries that didn’t mix the sweetener into foods. Those differences remained even after researchers took into account data for differences in body size, population, and wealth.
  • A University of California at Davis study of examined 48 adults between the ages of 18 and 40, which found that those who consumed high fructose corn syrup for two weeks as 25 percent of their daily calorie requirement had increased blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, which have been shown to be indicators of increased risk for heart disease
  • A Princeton University study thatfound rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same, as well as abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides.
  • A Georgia Health Sciences University study of 559 adolescents, who consume more fructose than any other age group, which found such higher fructose consumption to be associated with multiple markers of cardiometabolic risk.
  • A University of Florida College of Medicine study showing that high fructose consumption can result in leptin resistance, a condition associated with weight gain and obesity.
  • A Rutgers University study that found soft drinks sweetened with HFCS may contribute to the development of diabetes, particularly in children, attributed to “astonishingly high’ levels of reactive carbonyls in those beverages, which were not present in table sugar,.

A year of revelations revisited: The best of Food Identity Theft from 2014 (part two)

Posted by -- January 1, 2015

In the second part of our Food Identity Theft “year in review,” revisit some of the most noteworthy revelations we’ve made in our twice-weekly blogs during the last six months of 2014.  (The first half of the year is covered in our previous blog.)

Corn conspires with Cornell

cornell2In July, we revealed how a supposed “study” by the head of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab – one that was aired by various media — about the reasons for ingredient-based “food fears” had involved no real scientific research into whether such concerns were justified, but rather a survey of mothers who were provided with selected information – and had actually been financed by a grant from the Corn Refiners Association.  We also talked about how the appeal of familiar products, coupled with health claims on the label, can divert us from examining the actual ingredients, which are often far from healthy.

 

‘Adulteration’ complaint added to petition

We began the month of August by reporting on how our sponsoring organization, Citizens for Health, had expanded its petition to the Food and Drug Administration seeking the labeling of specific amounts of fructose in products containing HFCS to include a request that “any product containing HFCS sweetener with more than 55% fructose is considered to be adulterated” under federal regulations and “cannot be sold in interstate commerce.”

Other blogs that month revealed what some renowned authorities on food science were saying about the health effects of HFCS and how studies using so-called placebos with their own “side effects” can’t really be trusted to give reliable results.

Aspartame chemical formula on school chalkboardNew evidence of harm

September’s FIT blogs included the results of more new research into the health effects of some of the ingredient we’ve consistently warned readers about. These included partially hydrogenated oils, the proposed FDA ban on which, as we discovered, was being stalled (possibly as a result of industry pressure); HFCS, which when consumed in soda for just two weeks, was found to bring about “a significant increase in blood concentrations of dangerous very-low-density lipoproteins and a 116-percent increase in markers of bodily inflammation.”  And artificial sweeteners, which an Israeli study showed actually contributed to weight gain and “obesity-related metabolic conditions,” such as type 2 diabetes.

A ‘food fears’ follow-up

We wound up the month by exposing how a second academic “study” of “food fears” was also being funded by the corn refiners and discussing what might be the real motivation behind the widely heralded plan to reduce by a fifth the “beverage calories” that Americans consume over a ten-year period.

In October, we revealed how “beer coolers” were actually engaging in an “adult version of the fruit fraud con” in which various unhealthy ingredients (especially HFCS) were being substituted for the “fruits” implied in their names. And how a new Harvard Medical School study had identified a mechanism by which high fructose consumption helped to cause obesity, diabetes and other health problems.

Why industry gets it way with the FDA?

cornfructoseWe also disclosed the support the FDA was getting from industry via a little-known organization and what it was about a comparative study of cooking oils that probably caused it not even to mention coconut oil, which should have been the top one on the list.

We started off the following month with a disclosure of how the Federal Trade Commission fell short of the mark in its lawsuit over Gerber’s claims about its “Good Start” infant formulas by failing to acknowledge the risk of the ingredient involved, which we followed up with a blog on two other worrisome ingredients in commercial formulas.

Other blogs in November talked about how TV advertising flew in the face of the Corn Refiners Association’s dismissal of consumer concerns; the implications of a proposal to classify people who worry too much about food ingredients as suffering from an “official” form of mental illness, and the discovery of a link between trans fat consumption and memory impairment that should be jump-starting the FDA’s year-old proposal to phase out partially hydrogenated oil.

High-octane HFCS where the label says none

This past month’s revelations included the fact that HFCS-90, a form of high fructose corn syrup that is 90 percent fructose and therefore outside the official criteria for HFCS, was now being described simply as ‘fructose” – and how one General Mills product that claimed to have “no HFCS” actually listed fructose among its ingredients.

accentWe also talked about a purportedly “natural” seasoning (and popular salt substitute) that could end up sending a Christmas dinner guest to the ER.  And also how consuming a little too much soy could pose hidden health hazards.

Of course, the above-mentioned blogs were only the highlights of the coverage provided by Food Identity Theft in 2014. Other blogs published here during the year offered highly useful information as well – for instance, comparative analyses of the contents of various food products that helped guide our readers in making smarter and healthier shopping choices. So whether you’re a long-time FIT fan or new to this site, any and all of these blogs – along with those from previous years – can be viewed in their entirety at our archives, free of charge.

Here’s wishing you a happy and healthy new year from all of us at Food Identity Theft!

A year of revelations revisited: the best of Food Identity Theft from 2014

Posted by -- December 30, 2014

Daily food ingredients that most people eat

 

Here at Food Identity Theft, we like to think of ourselves first and foremost as a news source. And just like the network news programs, we’d like to bid farewell to 2014 with a “year in review” of what we consider to be some of the most noteworthy stories we’ve covered (or broken) over the past year.

Oozing into detention

The first was one we reported last January – the fact that so-called “chicken ooze” had become a prison menu staple (which came to our attention when nearly 34,000 pounds of this “pink slime’ counterpart headed for a detention facility were recalled for bacterial contamination by Tyson Foods). This led us to ask why “anyone not doing time for a crime should want to voluntarily ingest the inferior and ‘institutional’ sort of junk food that’s routinely dished out to prisoners as part of their punishment.”

The following month, we tackled the common misidentification by the media of the widely used laboratory sweetener high fructose corn syrup with regular corn syrup, a much older product that, unlike HFCS, contains no fructose, and the misapprehension this tended to produce. We also noted how this had compounded the level of confusion created by the already misleading idea that HFCS is a form of “sugar.”

girlscout_cookiesDemerits for Girl Scout Cookies 

In March, we took on Girl Scout Cookies, highly popular commodities used to raise money for scouting activities that, unfortunately, all too often contain some very unhealthy ingredients – particularly artery-clogging partially hydrogenated oil that the Food and Drug Administration had proposed phasing out as a cause of thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.

That same month, we also revealed how the “phantom sweetener” Sweetmyx had become available to an unsuspecting public as a food and beverage additive, despite never having been approved by the FDA – and with unknown health effects.   And we did a “reality check” on the FDA’s newly proposed Nutrition Facts label.

An Old Bay-Seasoned Subterfugeoldbay1

April gave us one of our biggest “exclusives” yet – the expose of a dangerous deception involving the addition of the neurotoxic flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate to Herr’s Old Bay Seasoned Potato Chips, a product that many consumers might assume contained nothing more than the innocuous herbs and spices of Old Bay Seasoning.  We also revealed the shocking truth about the newly confirmed link between aluminum, which is an ingredient in various food products, and Alzheimer’s.

In May, we talked about how the neurotoxic synthetic sweetener aspartame was about to be disguised under a new product label and how the hype about HFCS offered on the website of the Corn Refiners Association somehow ended up as an “article” penned by a dietician in a supposedly reputable daily newspaper.  We wound up the month with a critical analysis by Citizens for Health Board Chair Jim Turner of the newly released movie, Fed Up, detailing both its merits and what it failed to tell us.

Label fables

June was a particularly eventful month at Food Identity Theft, which included a disclosure of a new study showing far higher levels of health-damaging fructose in HFCS-laced beverages than FDA regulations permitted (and the Corn refiners Association claimed).

We also talked about various other ways in which food labeling claims can be designed to deceive and came out with a “sequel” to our April “scoop” on Herr’s Old Bay-Seasoned Potato Chips, truviashowing how other Herr’s Old Bay Seasoned snack food items were also being laced with health-endangering monosodium glutamate.  In a subsequent blog, we discussed the implications of a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling cracking down on just such misleading label claims.

Finally, we revealed how Truvia, Cargill’s supposed “stevia-based” sweetener, and its actual main component had been found to shorten the lives of fruit flies and impede their motor skills.

We’ll be posting a review of the year’s second half worth of blogs on New Year’s Eve. Stay tuned.

The Night St. Nick Didn’t Show Up

Posted by -- December 24, 2014

cookies_santaBy LINDA and BILL BONVIE

‘twas the night before Christmas
and all through the land
folks were eating food
that should have been banned.

The stockings were filled
with fake flavors and dyes
while deadly trans fats lurked
in the crusts of the pies.

And visions of sugarplums
were turned really gross
by high fructose corn syrup
in place of sucrose.

And MSG provided
a flavor enhancer
with all kinds of ‘side effects’
(perhaps even cancer).

When the jolly old elf
That all awaited
instead left a message
none had anticipated.

And it said, “If you all insist
on making yourselves sick,
you can do it without me,
Sincerely, old St. Nick.”

When they got over their shock
they all suddenly understood
that the guy in the red suit
was looking out for their good

And those yucky ingredients
really needed to go
if they again wanted to hear
his hearty “ho,ho, ho!”

So into the garbage
those toxic foods flew
with New Year’s resolutions
to not buy them anew.

And before very long
the message got across
to the makers of the products
that were now being tossed

And who responded by scrapping
all additives unfit
For human consumption,
Lickety-split

And as a result
of being put ‘on their mettle’
everyone in the land
was in much better fettle

When St. Nick returned
the following year
to once again spread
some holiday cheer

And they heard him exclaim
As he drove out of sight
“Healthy Christmas to all
And to all a good night!”

Colorful holiday ‘goodies’ can conceal some pretty bad ingredients

Posted by -- December 23, 2014

cakemixChristmas is here again — along with all those colorfully packaged “goodies” that are really “baddies” in disguise.

And once again, we here at Food Identity Theft have taken it upon ourselves to scout the supermarket for products that could turn what should be a happy occasion into one that could be hazardous to your health.

Let’s start with that classic holiday favorite, fruitcake.

We all know the fruitcake is the butt of a lot of jokes, but it’s what most commercial fruitcakes contain that would be laughable — that is, if it were funny.  That’s certainly true of two versions we found being displayed to entice holiday food shoppers — Village Square Fruit Cake and TastyKake Fruit Kake.

Both are similarly packaged and have similar ingredients– including such dietary grinches as partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils (sources of those artery-clogging trans fats that the Food and Drug Administration acknowledges are responsible for approximately 7,000 heart disease fatalities a year); high fructose corn syrup, (HFCS), the laboratory sweetener that various studies have linked to obesity, diabetes, pancreatic cancer, heart problems and other health issues; the petroleum-based preservative TBHQ (just one gram of which has resulted in vomiting, delirium and collapse), and the artificial color Red 40, another petro-derivative linked to hyperactivity in children as well as to allergic reactions such as hives and facial swelling, and which has reportedly damaged the DNA of mice.

Making a “homemade” cake won’t be much better if you’re using some of those special holiday cake mixes that come in festively decorated boxes, like Duncan Hines Holiday Velvets Cake Mix. It seems those vivid hues are actually created by a combo of Red 40 and two other hyperactivity-inducing synthetic dyes, Yellow 5, or tartrazine (which is known to be an asthma trigger as well as having been linked to blurred vision, migraines, anxiety and fatigue) and Blue 1, or brilliant blue, which a recent study found can enter the bloodstream via the digestive tract. And that’s not to mention the aluminum it contains in the form of sodium aluminum phosphate – a heavy metal that has recently been linked to early onset Alzheimer’s.

Then there’s Pillsbury Holiday Funfetti Cake Mix, which besides pudding and candy bits, also gives you a whole bevy of harmful additives that, in addition to sodium aluminum phosphate, TBHQ, partially hydrogenated cottonseed and/or soybean oil and “lakes of four artificial colors, includes sodium caseinate, a form of MSG (that is, free glutamic acid) that can cause sensitive individuals to suffer a whole variety of symptoms, including migraines.

Our list of top holiday treats that we recommend removing from your shopping list also includes Smucker’s Toppings, all of which are sweetened with HFCS. In addition, the company’s chocolate fudge topping includes partially hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oil, while its caramel, butterscotch, strawberry and pineapple toppings are colored with various synthetic hues.

Finally, there’s this “classic” candy item, which now actually comes in a brightly bound holiday volume you might be inclined to buy without a second thought simply because the product is so familiar (and even nostalgic).  But the Life Savers in that Hard Candy Sweet Storybook contains both HFCS and all three of the aforementioned artificial colors.

And that’s something we can’t emphasize enough — just because something seems “traditional” doesn’t mean it’s the same as it once might have been in Christmases past. Which is why before you buy any brightly decorated  “goodies” — even those you remember from your childhood – you should always first look for that list of ingredients usually found on the side of the package and check it twice. It’s one way you help assure yourself and your family of a healthy holiday season.