Archive | May, 2010

Two of the best and greenest reusable food container brands

29 May

Many health-conscious individuals understand the value in preparing healthy food at home for both themselves and their children. Not only is this practice economical, but it provides a superior option to fast food and school lunchroom fare. In response to this growing trend, many companies have begun to spring up that make reusable eating ware.

Plastic bags and containers, which are most commonly used to tote food on-the-go, are now known to leech dangerous chemicals into food. So are there any practical, safe alternatives? In this review, I have evaluated two of the top reusable eating ware brands that are safe, environmentally-friendly, plastic-free and practical.

Eco Ditty
Eco Ditty makes sandwich and snack bags that are composed of 100 percent organic cotton. The idea was birthed out of the discovery that the founder’s daughter was allergic to PVC plastic and that a suitable alternative was needed.

The variety of unique exterior designs are printed with low-impact inks and dyes while the interior liners that come into contact with the food are un-dyed. (Although low-impact dyes are still petroleum-derived, they are the best available alternative to conventional dyes when printing vibrant colors on fabric. Low-impact dyes are commonly used on organic fabric products and are generally considered to be safe and non-toxic.)

The neat thing about Eco Ditty’s bags is that they are fully adjustable in size and can be washed in the dishwasher, by hand or in the washing machine. Because they are organic, you do not need to worry about GMO or pesticide contamination, which earned this company the top pick status in this category.

To learn more about Eco Ditty, please visit

ECO Lunchbox
ECO Lunchbox makes handmade lunch bags, napkins, stainless-steel food containers and sustainable bamboo and steel utensils, all of which can be purchased separately or in a single kit. All the pieces are lead-free, BPA-free, PVC-free and vinyl-free, and there are many different styles from which to choose. Founder Sandra Harris originally developed the products to provide a practical, safe and environmentally-friendly way to pack lunches for her children.

The neat thing about the company’s stainless-steel food containers is that even the lids are made from steel, ensuring that food does not come into contact with any plastic. At the same time, they are not 100 percent leak-proof like some other brands that use plastic are, so there is a trade-off involved. However aside from glass which is breakable, stainless-steel seems to be the best option for safe food containers.

The products are sustainably-produced, but the only current drawback is the company’s use of non-organic cotton in its napkins. Sandra Harris, founder of ECO Lunchbox, indicated that she is actively working towards bringing in a quality source for organic cotton to be used in the future.

Overall, both the company ethic and the product quality are impressive, so ECO Lunchbox earns a top spot for highly recommended reusable eating ware.

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Normal human problems are turned into medical conditions, spiking healthcare costs

29 May

Mainstream medicine has a huge new growth industry underway — the “medicalization” of the human condition. That’s the conclusion of a study headed by Brandeis University sociologist Peter Conrad that was just published in the journal Social Science and Medicine. The report, the first study of its kind, documents that over the last several decades, numerous common problems — many of which are simply due to being human — have been newly defined as medical disorders that supposedly need prescription drugs and other costly treatments.

For example, menopause is a perfectly natural part of womanhood but it is now considered a “condition” complete with symptoms that physicians often believe need treatment with hormones and anti-depressants. Likewise, normal pregnancies, taking longer-than-average time to get pregnant and impotence (now known by the medical term “erectile dysfunction”) are all now seen as medical conditions that may need intense medical monitoring and treatment. And if a child fidgets in class — bingo! He or she is frequently classified as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and quickly placed on stimulant drugs like Ritalin
Conrad and his colleagues used national data to estimate the costs of these and other common conditions — including anxiety and behavioral disorders; worries over body image; male pattern baldness; normal sadness; being overweight; difficulty in sleeping through the night and substance-related disorders. In order to document what role medicalizing these problems could be playing in escalating U.S. healthcare spending, the Brandeis research team evaluated current data showing just how much medical spending results from the diagnosing and treatment of these “conditions”.

Their findings? The researchers concluded there is a strong and undeniable trend toward a medicalization of human conditions, with a constantly increasing number of medical diagnoses and treatments for behavioral problems and what the researchers called “normal life events”.

When they analyzed payments to hospitals, pharmacies, doctors and other health care providers for medical treatments of these medicalized conditions, the researchers discovered that the costs accounted for $77.1 billion in medical spending in 2005. That amounts to almost 4 percent of the total U.S. healthcare expenditures.

“We spend more on these medicalized conditions than on cancer, heart disease, or public health,” Conrad said in a statement to the press.

Conrad added that medicalization of human problems may have several causes, including increased consumer demands for medical solutions and Big Pharma’s expanding markets for drugs. “By estimating the amount spent on medicalized human problems, we’ve raised the obvious question as to whether this spending is ‘appropriate’. The next question is whether we can more directly evaluate the appropriateness of these medical interventions and consider policies that curb the growth or even shrink the amount of spending on some medicalized conditions,” Conrad said in the press statement.

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Common herbicide used on U.S. crops castrates male frogs

27 May

The dangers associated with pesticide and herbicide use have been receiving increased attention in the media these days. Everything from their contamination of local water supplies to their residue on food has been making headlines. But a new study has found that one popular weed killer is actually causing a certain species of frog to turn from male to female.

Atrazine, a popular weed killer used in crop fields, has recently been implicated in a similar study to cause human birth defects. Scientists have found that atrazine and other agricultural chemicals are likely responsible for the significant rise of birth defects throughout the last several decades. But a recent report from the University of California-Berkeley (UC-B), indicts atrazine even further.

Biologists from UC-B found that long-term exposure to low levels of atrazine essentially castrated about 75 percent of the male frogs on which it was tested. Frogs were exposed to the toxic herbicide at levels of 2.5 parts per billion (ppb) in water, a level that is 16 percent lower than what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers safe for drinking water. One out of every ten frogs also ended up turning into a female frog.

Like other pesticides and environmental toxins, atrazine interferes with hormones. It is an endocrine disruptor that seems to replace testosterone, the primary male hormone, with estrogen, the primary female hormone. The result is a severe alteration of normal male function that can actually turn a male into a female.

“The effects of atrazine in the long term have been shown to demasculinize or chemically castrate, combined with complete feminization of some animals,” explained Tyrone Hayes, a biologist and herpetologist from UC-B that led the study.

The amazing thing about the frogs who experienced the sex change was that they actually began producing viable eggs. The male frogs who turned female were able to copulate with naturally male frogs and produce eggs. The other 90 percent of male frogs exposed to atrazine experienced decreased sperm count, lowered libidos and diminished fertility.

In typical fashion, some atrazine producers were quick to decry the findings.

“We haven’t seen these kinds of responses that Dr. Hayes reports. Some of these studies are poorly conducted and are entirely inconsistent,” explained Keith Solomon, an environmental toxicologist at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. Solomon also served as a consultant to Syngenta.

Syngenta’s principal scientist, Tim Pastoor, explained in a CNN interview that atrazine levels within the EPA’s guidelines are safe, and that political pressure is responsible for efforts to get atrazine re-evaluated. Syngenta’s website also purports that atrazine residue on crops and in water are not a health risk.

Yet of all the available studies on atrazine, only its manufacturers’ studies found that the pesticide is safe. All other independent studies and reviews have found significant dangers associated with it. It has been continually shown to lead to cancer, birth defects, and severe endocrine disruption.

In 2004, the European Union (EU) banned atrazine because it was finding levels of the chemical in its water supplies that consistently exceeded the 0.1 ppb established threshold. Yet in the U.S., atrazine continues to be used, and is considered to be acceptable at much higher levels.

Atrazine is most commonly used on corn crops, but is also used on sorghum and sugar cane. Many farmers love it because it eliminates the need to have to till the soil. In 2008, it was estimated that over 60 million pounds of atrazine were used on crops.

A 2006 study by the U.S. Geological Survey found atrazine in nearly three-quarters of stream water and in roughly 40 percent of all groundwater supplies. This was based on data collected between 1992 and 2001. It is difficult to say what kinds of levels would be found on samples taken today.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an advocacy group that works to protect the health of the environment, issued a report in 2009 indicating that water supplies near agriculture fields that use atrazine are the most contaminated. Particularly in some midwestern and southern states that have high agricultural land usage, atrazine levels can be particularly high.

Individuals can remove atrazine from their home water with carbon filters, and some municipal water systems use the technology as well. It is important to investigate and take proper measures to ensure that atrazine does not enter your home through your water.

Ideally, dangerous pesticides like atrazine will eventually be banned and eliminated from agricultural use. As people become more aware of the severe negative effects of such poisons on their health and well-being, not to mention on the environment, it can only be hoped that increased pressure to stop their use will ensue. And though it cannot be said for sure, atrazine likely has a similar effect on humans as it does on frogs, and should not be considered safe at any level.

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Support the Free Speech About Science Act and restore freedom of health speech

27 May

The Alliance for Natural Health, a nonprofit organization committed to protecting access to natural and integrative medicine, has recently come up with a Congressional bill designed to stop government censorship of truthful, scientific health claims about natural foods and herbs, and restore free speech to natural health. The Free Speech About Science Act (FSAS), also known as HR 4913, will allow manufacturers and producers to reference peer-reviewed, scientific studies that highlight the health benefits of a particular food or herb that they grow or sell.

For too long, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have blatantly censored the truth about food, herbs and dietary supplements. These government agencies are supposed to be protecting public health and well-being, but they accomplish precisely the opposite by actively censoring the truth about natural products and working to keep the public ignorant about the health benefits of nutritional products. It’s all part of the plan to prop up the profits of Big Pharma by eliminating the competition.

Current law restricts health claims to drugs only

The FDA says, ridiculously, that only pharmaceutical drugs are capable of preventing or treating disease. Even though this is scientifically false, the agency has structured the rules to categorize anything that treats or prevents disease as a drug. So if you eat walnuts, and those walnuts lower high cholesterol (which they do), the FDA declares your walnuts to be “drugs.”

Existing law dictates that if anything is advertised as providing health benefits without the FDA’s approval, it’s automatically considered to be an “unapproved drug”, even if it’s a common, everyday food like walnuts, cherries, grapes or oranges.

Amazingly, references to peer-reviewed scientific studies are not allowed to be made by companies without permission from the FDA because the agency considers this to be an illegal health claim. So if you sell walnuts, and your website merely links to published scientific studies that describe the cholesterol-lowering benefits of walnuts, then you can be threatened, arrested, imprisoned and fined millions of dollars by the FDA for selling “unapproved drugs.”

If you flee the country, you can be then be listed on INTERPOL as an international fugitive wanted for “drug offenses.” This is exactly what happened to Greg Caton, who was recently kidnapped from Ecuador by U.S. agents working on behalf of the FDA (…), brought back to the USA against his will, and sentenced to federal prison where he remains to this day.

The FDA thinks walnuts are drugs

If you’re skeptical that what I’m saying here is true, take a look at the warning letter the FDA sent to Diamond Food, Inc. back in February concerning the health claims the company had been making about its walnuts.

Diamond Food, Inc., a large producer of nuts and nut products, had put some information on its website about the health benefits of walnuts (which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids). Some of this information included the following statements (all of which are verifiably true):

1) “Studies indicate that the omega-3 fatty acids found in walnuts may help lower cholesterol; protect against heart disease, stroke and some cancers; ease arthritis and other inflammatory diseases; and even fight depression and other mental illnesses.”

2) “[O]mega-3 fatty acids inhibit tumor growth that is promoted by the acids found in other fats…”

3) “[I]n treating major depression, for example, omega-3s seem to work by making it easier for brain cell receptors to process mood-related signals from neighboring neurons.”

4) “The omega-3s found in fish oil are thought to be responsible for the significantly lower incidence of breast cancer in Japanese women as compared to women in the United States.”

All of these statements are true and have been demonstrated in various scientific studies about omega-3s. In fact, the University of Maryland has a complete reference page about the benefits of omega-3s that verifies the statements made by Diamond Food. Sixty-five different scientific studies are cited on that reference page alone!

But apparently the FDA has little concern with truth and science, because the agency wrote in its warning letter to Diamond that, “[b]ecause of these intended uses, your walnut products are drugs… they are not generally recognized as safe and effective for the above referenced conditions.” It goes on to say that, “they may not be legally marketed with the above claims in the United States without an approved new drug application.”

When all was said and done, Diamond was essentially coerced into removing virtually all the truthful information about the health benefits of walnuts from its website in order to stay in compliance with the FDA’s ridiculous demands.

So when science discovers the amazing health-promoting and healing abilities of natural, whole foods, you are not allowed to actually tell people about it. If you do, those foods automatically become unapproved drugs, according to the FDA, and they are subject to seizure. This is how the FDA enforces nutritional ignorance across America. The agency is actually an ANTI-EDUCATION group of knowledge destroyers who want the American people to remain ignorant of the health benefits of natural foods and supplements.

FDA flip-flop on the walnut issue

What’s interesting about this recent Diamond walnut case is that, back in 2004, the FDA (sort of) approved a request made on behalf of the California Walnut Commission to include information about the benefits of walnuts for lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.

The petition to the FDA included references to scientific information that backs these claims (which were largely rejected by the agency), but it did allow a modified version of the claim to be made that included the phrase “Supportive but not conclusive research shows…”. Some other details included a reference to eating a diet low in saturated fat.

But in the Diamond case, the FDA decided to launch an all-out attack on true health claims about walnuts, despite comprehensive evidence that they are extremely beneficial to your health in many scientifically-proven ways.

The FDA does not believe in nutrition, period!

It’s important to note here that the FDA believes there is no such thing as any food, vitamin, herb or supplement that has ANY beneficial effect on the human body. Sadly, this outrageously ridiculous and indefensible position has become the law of the land in the USA.

All foods are inert, the FDA claims. And the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals in those foods have no effect on your body. This impossible belief is what the FDA continues to maintain as “scientific” fact.

But it’s obvious to anyone with a couple of brain neurons still firing that the FDA’s position is pure madness. Of course foods have beneficial health effects on the human body! Foods contain more than mere calories… they are storehouses of phytochemicals and nutrients that have medicinal effects on the body.

The FDA is good at giving lip service

It’s important to note that a new drug application is not the only way certain health claims can be made. Similar to how the California Walnut Commission issued its request, producers and manufacturers can request permission from the FDA to make certain health claims about products, and the agency makes it sound as if it is more than willing to approve such claims as long as proper evidence is given. But in reality, no matter how much evidence is provided to back a set of claims, it’s almost never enough for the FDA to actually approve them.

Omega-3s are one of the most studied nutrients in recent years, but the FDA apparently considers all this research useless. It hides behind all kinds of legal mumbo jumbo in defending its position to reject credible science about the health benefits of omega-3s. To anyone paying attention, it’s becoming abundantly clear that the agency is completely irrational in the way it approaches the regulation of health claims and the definition of a “drug.”

Based on its track record of how it handles truthful health claims, it’s also clear that the FDA doesn’t actually care about the truth. The agency has decided that only drugs prevent and treat disease, and that’s the end of it. So only those companies that complete its expensive drug application process will be granted permission to make health claims — and the only organizations with the funding to do this are drug companies!

It’s sort of like the old floating witch test: Throw the suspected witch in a pond. If she floats, she’s a witch and gets burned at the stake. If she sinks, she wasn’t a witch… may she rest in peace after drowning. The test is rigged for failure by the “authorities.” And yes, the FDA’s assault on dietary supplements is a metaphorical witch hunt.

FDA threatened cherry growers in 2006

Of course this isn’t the first time the FDA has gone on a witch hunt to stop health claims from being made about healing foods. Back in 2006, the FDA demanded that 29 companies cease making claims about the health benefits of cherries.

Of course all the claims were true and backed by scientific studies, but this didn’t matter to the FDA or the FTC, which acts as the enforcement arm of the FDA. The agencies threatened to take action against these companies if they didn’t comply with removing the health claims, indicating that they would even go so far as to seek a court order to seize the products that were in violation.

An interesting fact about this case is that many of the scientific studies that supported the health claims being made were funded by none other than the USDA, another arm of the U.S. federal government. Talk about a bureaucratic failure!

All of this seems almost too crazy to actually be true, but it’s all quite real, I assure you. It happens all the time. Millions of taxpayer dollars are spent trying to reclassify food as drugs, censor truthful health claims and rid the market of safe, healthy items like raw dairy products. Meanwhile, drug companies are fraudulently marketing dangerous chemical medications that injure and kill milliosn of people every year around the world. But these chemicals are, of course, “generally recognized as safe and effective” by the FDA.

Cherries and walnuts, in other words, are dangerous. But statin drugs, antidepressants and rat poison blood thinners are all backed and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Frito-Lay snacks are ‘heart healthy’

Like almost everything else the FDA does, there’s a double standard in the enforcement of health claims. Over at the Frito-Lay website, there are a whole lot of ridiculous health claims being made about Frito-Lay snack foods that the FDA doesn’t seem too concerned about.

Statements include the following, which are in reference to “how much good stuff goes into your favorite snack”:

“Good stuff like potatoes, which naturally contain vitamin C and essential minerals. Or corn, one of the world’s most popular grains, packed with Thiamin, vitamin B6, and phosphorus – all necessary for healthy bones, teeth, nerves and muscles.”

Too bad all these ingredients are fried at really high temperatures and can’t be considered “healthy” by any stretch of the imagination. The page goes on to claim that its frying oils are filled with “good fats” that help to lower cholesterol (seriously, I’m not making this up).

Somehow Frito-Lay, a division of PepsiCo, gets away with marketing its junk food snack products as healthy, making all kinds of ludicrous claims about them, but walnut and cherry growers are the target of FDA investigations about labeling fraud.

The message? Raw natural foods and non-processed fruits and nuts are bad for you, but fried snack foods, dead foods and processed foods are incredibly healthy. In opposition to all common sense, this is the position the FDA now maintains.

Things are seriously out of control.

The Life Extension Foundation has also written about the madness of this situation. Read “FDA Says Walnuts are Illegal Drugs” at:…

The Free Speech About Science Act

There is some good news, though. My friends over at the Alliance for Natural Health have come up with a solution to take back our freedom to tell the truth about the health benefits of natural products. It’s called the Free Speech About Science Act, or HR 4913.

You can read the entire legislative text of the bill at the following link:

The bill is only seven pages long, and you can read it fairly quickly if you want to. Here’s a quick summary of its primary objectives with some added commentary:

1) Food producers and manufacturers, dietary supplement makers, and any others who sell or market natural health products will no longer be restricted from referencing and citing independent and respected scientific research that highlights the health benefits of natural products. (Current FDA guidelines are in violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits government restrictions on free speech, even those that relate to natural health.)

2) Referencing valid research will no longer convert food and dietary supplements into “unapproved drugs” in the eyes of the FDA.

3) Only legitimate research may be referenced, and guidelines for what is considered legitimate include studies that are conducted in accordance with sound scientific principles (because natural health is not in opposition to science; science actually supports the healing properties of foods and supplements).

4) The FDA and FTC will still be permitted to go after fraudulent claims, but they will no longer be able to censor the truth about healing foods and supplements.

Help end FDA tyranny against food and supplement companies

As it currently stands, most Americans are unable to make responsible, informed lifestyle decisions about foods and supplements because truthful information is restricted by agencies like the FDA and FTC. Mainstream society is flooded with drug advertising making all sorts of false claims, but true claims about natural products are routinely censored.

It’s time to put a stop to this FDA madness, and one way to go about that is to support the Free Speech About Science Act. Every American deserves access to the truth so that he or she can make informed lifestyle choices, and you can help make that happen by supporting this bill.

The Alliance for Natural Health has created a convenient legislative portal by which you can contact your Congressman and urge support for the bill.

Access the portal here:

To learn more about the bill itself, visit the following link:

In the mean time, keep on buying (and consuming) natural foods, medicinal herbs and truly natural supplements, because that’s where the real medicine in our world is found. The FDA can try to censor the claims about healing foods, but they cannot stop your body’s own innate healing process from being activated by those foods.

Eating healing foods, in other words, helps your body heal whether the FDA approves or not.

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Country Natural Beef goes humane

27 May

Vale-based Country Natural Beef announced in early February that it is hewing to a set of animal welfare standards it developed in conjunction with customers.

Country Natural Beef’s Raise Well humane animal treatment standards were endorsed by animal behaviorist Dr. Temple Grandin, according to Dan Probert, Country Natural Beef’s executive director. The cooperative started in 1986 with 14 ranches as an effort to create economies of scale for a sustainably raised product. Since then the member-owned coop has grown to include 120 member ranchers in most Western states. But it also faces more competition, Probert says. The move to document and certify the humane treatment of cattle raised, sold and processed by and for Country Natural Beef is a response to the more discriminating tastes of consumers who now have a plethora of “natural” choices on the market, he says.

Country Natural Beef’s standards include a three-tiered audit process designed by Grandin. All ranches undergo an audit by an independent third party and a self audit conducted by the cooperative, which also performs a corporate audit on all the companies with which it does business, including processors and packers.

Adhering to a standard of humane animal treatment doesn’t come without costs, Probert says, but benefits should outweigh them because the coop’s members are better managers than most ranchers. They must already stick to rules about not using antibiotics, and other sustainability requirements.

Country Natural Beef isn’t looking to grow its market share with the new standard, Probert says. It is meant to shore up its existing market by acting as a differentiator with other “natural” meat products, he says. “Growth for growth sake doesn’t make sense in our model.”

Country Natural Beef ranchers send about 50,000 head of cattle to market annually and bring in about $50 million in gross sales. They manage about 6 million acres of range land. It is certified by Food Alliance.

by Charles Redell – 2.10.10

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Factory Farms and Beef Slaughterhouse Cruelty

25 May

This exclusive clip from the movie All Jacked Up reveals the shocking truth about factory farming and beef slaughterhouses. Concerned about mad cow disease and “downer” cows? You should be. Cows are tortured and murdered to get their meat, and diseased cows who potentially have mad cow disease are routinely used in the human food supply

USDA toughens guidelines for ground beef purchases

25 May

Companies that sell ground beef used in federal food and nutrition programs, including school lunches, will need to meet tougher food safety guidelines beginning this summer, the U.S. Agriculture Department said on Friday.


USDA said ground beef purchased by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service will now be subjected to more frequent testing and it will ban the use of certain trimmings.

“AMS will also consider any vendor classified by (USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service) as having a long-term poor safety record as an ineligible vendor until a complete cause-and-effect analysis is completed,” USDA said in a statement.

The new requirements will be applicable to ground beef contracts awarded on or after July 1, 2010. They are part of a range of initiatives announced in February to improve the safety of food purchased for school lunch and nutrition assistance programs.

Overall, the government spends $17 billon a year on child nutrition, chiefly school lunches.

Nearly 32 million children are fed daily through the school lunch program and about 11 million pupils are in the school breakfast program. Some 63 percent of the meals are free or available at a low price.

USDA said earlier this year the National Academy of Sciences was reviewing its ground beef purchases.

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The Eco-Myth of Trader Joe’s

25 May

Trader Joe’s is widely viewed as a “green” company, attracting droves of eco-minded consumers who view its cozy, Hawaiian-themed stores as a cheaper alternative to Whole Foods or the neighborhood co-op. But as Sustainable Industries points out, it’s difficult to know how sustainable its operations really are—the company is “notoriously tight-lipped” about where its store-brand products come from.

A report on organic dairies from the Cornucopia Institute, a sustainable-agriculture watchdog group, warns consumers to be vigilant about the explosive growth in these sorts of “organic” store brands. Private-label organics like those in Trader Joe’s “seem to contradict what many thought the organic movement was all about: consumers understanding where their food comes from and how it is produced,” the report states. The Trader Joe’s brand of milk, for example, claims to be organic—but it won’t disclose which dairies it buys from. Ditto for the soybeans it uses in its brands of soy milk, tofu, and other products. And a recent report found that its store brand of veggie burgers are made using hexane-extracted soy protein.

“It’s a delicate balance for Trader Joes’s,” notes Sustainable Industries, “because while its customers want low prices for ‘natural’ grub, typically part of the value customers get out of Trader Joe’s is not just that its prices are low, but that they’re low for products that are perceived to be of high value.”

On a few occasions, customers have demanded certain standards: Widespread requests for cage-free eggs and GMO-free foods have been met throughout the company’s stores—according to Trader Joe’s, at least. “Neither claim is backed by a third-party auditing mechanism,” according to Sustainable Industries.

The company did recently agree to revamp its seafood policies, after a lengthy campaign by Greenpeace to get red-list fish out of its stores (“Traitor Joe’s”). Trader Joe’s has already removed the highly endangered orange roughy and red snapper from its shelves, and promises to “phase out” other frowned-upon fish by the end of 2012.

That’s a solid sustainable step—but if Trader Joe’s is going to live up to its reputation, it’s got a lot of fancy frozen meals and bags of trail mix to account for. For now, “customers are accepting that ignorance is bliss,” writes Sustainable Industries. “After all, it’s what keeps the prices low and the Two-Buck Chuck flowing.”

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Are Pesticides Lurking in Your Food?

25 May

All right, kids, it’s time for your wake-up call of the week. You know all those pesticides that we spray on our lawns to make them look like suburban Edens, and on our crops to keep the bugs away? Where do you think they ultimately end up? Let’s see: They accumulate in the soil, leach into groundwater, linger on the grass our kids run on in their bare feet, and hang out on the foods we eat. In other words, they end up in our bodies.

Considering that those chemicals were invented to, you know, kill things, what kind of effect do you think they’re having on us? This is territory that researchers have only recently begun to explore. And they’re turning up some disturbing connections: A recent large-scale National Institutes of Health epidemiological study found a dramatically increased risk of diabetes among farmers who routinely applied one of seven common pesticides to their crops. Research that has examined a broader group of chemicals called persistent organic pollutants (POPs) — including many pesticides, as well as the by-products of pesticide manufacture — has linked them to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. (Another cause for alarm: The word “persistent” refers to the fact that these chemicals stick around in the environment and in the food chain long after their use. Although many POPs have been banned in most parts of the world, they still turn up in people’s bodies years later.)

It’ll take more research to tease out the all the effects of pesticides on human health, but one thing seems clear: They are not good for our metabolisms. We’ve endured a toxic onslaught for years without knowing what it’s doing to our bodies. It’s getting clearer by the day that we must start paying very close attention to where our food comes from. I am not being alarmist when I say that what we eat could have lifelong ramifications for our health, hormones, and metabolism. Buy organic to avoid pesticides in your foods, and keep those nasty chemicals off your lawn!

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Heinz blasted over outrageous claims in infant formula ads

25 May

The H.J. Heinz company, most famous for producing Heinz brand ketchup, has been reprimanded by the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over an ad for its Nurture-brand infant formula.

According to the ASA, Heinz made “unsubstantiated” and “unacceptable” claims that its product could support the growth of infant brains, bodies and immune systems.

The ad, produced by the Abbot Mead Vickers BBDO agency, stated that each child needs a “special combination of nutrients to sustain the incredible growth in its brain, body and immune system.” It then went on to state that Heinz had produced Nurture specifically in order to “provide for those three essential aspects of growth.”

The commercial concluded by saying that Nurture would help “nourish, protect and develop your baby.”

Three complaints were submitted to the ASA claiming that there was insufficient scientific evidence to support Heinz’s claims regarding immunity and child development. When questioned by the ASA, Heinz claimed that the inclusion of iron, prebiotics and nucleotides would “protect” the immune system, omega-3s and omega-6s would help children’s brains and eyes “develop,” and milk protein and calcium would provide nourishment.

The ASA rejected these claims, ruling that the commercial falsely implied specific health benefits rather than general nutritional content.

“We concluded, therefore, that the claim was unsubstantiated and the ad was unacceptable,” the ASA said.

The decision follows a similar case in October, in which French company Danone claimed in ads that its probiotic-fortified yogurt drink Actimel was “scientifically proven to help support your kids’ defenses.” The ASA also rejected this ad.

Christine Haigh of the Children’s Food Campaign expressed concern over the prevalence of unsubstantiated health claims in ads for children’s food products.

“We believe the Food Standards Agency needs to investigate how widespread this practice is,” she said.

For example, Gerber has recently begun marketing baby food in the United States in packaging claiming that the product “helps support brain and eye development.”

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