Tag: Food

Colorado GMO Labeling Law Heading for Signature-Gathering Phase

GMORightToKnowColorado Ballot Initiative #48, the “Colorado Right to Know Act,” would require food manufacturers to include the words “Produced with Genetic Engineering” on the packaging of any products that contain genetically-modified organisms. If foods containing these organisms and are not properly labeled, they will be considered “misbranded.”

Federal law currently does not require foods containing genetically-modified ingredients to be labeled, so consumers unaware whether their food contains these organisms and unable to make an informed choice about consuming them.

The measure survived a Colorado Supreme Court challenge by biotech, pesticide and conventional grocery interests, which disputed the title, the “Colorado Right to Know Act,” as unfair, inaccurate, confusing and misleading.

Proponents of the measure will not start collecting signatures to get the measure on the November, 2014 ballot. If it passes, the law will go into effect on July 1, 2016, and would not apply to food or drink for animals, chewing gum, alcoholic beverages, restaurant or food freshly-prepared for consumption or medically-prescribed foods.

Supporters will need 86,105 valid signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

Help out, donate or keep up with the progress of the campaign for the Colorado Right to Know Act at RightToKnowColorado.org.

Seven Year Old Fights GMOs in Girl Scout Cookies

Seven year old Alicia Serratos is trying to get Girl Scouts to take GMO ingredients out of their cookies

YOU GO GIRL! Seven year old Alicia Serratos is trying to get Girl Scouts to take the GMO ingredients out of their cookies

Seven year old Alicia Serratos of Orange County, California has been a Girl Scout for almost three years, so when Girl Scout cookie season rolled around, Alicia got excited about the prospect of selling cookies to help raise money for her troop. But then Alicia and her mom read the ingredients on the cookie box and she found she didn’t recognize a lot of them and couldn’t pronounce some of them, either. Since she was six, Alicia has spent time learning about genetically-modified organisms and their dangers, like infertility and tumors. She knew that over 60 countries have either banned GMOs or forced companies to list GMO ingredients on their labels. Alicia recognized some of the ingredients in Girl Scout cookies as GMOs. She got alarmed that she was being asked to sell cookies made with GMOs, and so she wrote to the Girl Scouts and asked them to take GMO ingredient out of their cookies. Alicia also made a YouTube video asking Girl Scouts to remove GMO ingredients from their cookies, and started a petition on Change.org asking Girl Scouts to stop putting GMO ingredients in their cookies. She made YouTube videos showing how to make healthier, non-GMO versions of Thin Mints and Melty Mints, to prove it can be done. Alicia also created her own cookbook, called “Recipes to Grow,” with over 40 recipes for food kids love, all made from organic and non-GMO ingredients. Alicia will be selling her cookbook instead of Girl Scout cookies this year. She plans to donate proceeds from the book to help schools establish organic gardens on their grounds. So far, over 18,800 people have signed Alicia’s petition, and she’s trying to get 25,000 signatures. For its part, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. is resisting efforts to get GMOs out of their cookies and towing the GMO-biotech line. In a response to the growing uproar about GMOs in their cookies, Girls Scouts says, in part:

“It is important to note that there is worldwide scientific support for the safety of currently commercialized ingredients derived from genetically modified agricultural crops. The World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the American Medical Association all share this assessment. In addition, in the future, GMOs may offer a way to help feed an ever-increasing world population.”

A Freethinker Halloween

With the rates of obesity and diabetes skyrocketing nationally and the number of kids going hungry in Mesa County at an all time high, it was difficult to think of spending money on candy this Halloween. Last year 54 trick or treaters came to our door, so the candy expenditure on Halloween these days is not insignificant.

Last Halloween I did a test to gauge kids’ interest in candy. I held out two identical bowls to all of our trick or treaters. One had some pretty decent candy in it (chocolate bars and such), and the other was filled with small party favors, like toy cars, sticky frogs, cheap necklaces, etc. (The cost of the party favors was about equal to the cost of the candy, by the way.) The kids preferred the toys to the candy by a ratio of about 3:1. That told me candy wasn’t such a big deal to kids after all.

Something Really Good in Grand Junction!

RaiseNGlazeLogo

You are getting hungry….

One of the best-kept secrets in Grand Junction, Colorado right now is a new doughnut shop that opened up just off Patterson Road by Mesa Mall called Raise ‘n’ Glaze. Now, now… don’t yawn. This is not your run-of-the-mill doughnut shop. Unlike most doughnut shops, Raise ‘n’ Glaze’s bakers are possessed of an unusual creative impulse, and on weekends they go hog-wild and come up with mind-blowing creations, like lavender-pistachio doughnuts, key-lime pie doughnuts topped with merengue that they actually finish with a blowtorch, and banana-rum doughnuts drizzled with warm chocolate. But the best-kept secret at Raise ‘n’ Glaze is a little item they call a “Glasszant,” a hybrid of a croissant and a doughnut. The dough is flaky and tender like a croissant, and it’s kind of sweet-salty and buttery all at once, and to be honest, their Glasszant is basically the doughnut form of crack cocaine. After you eat one, the only thing you will be able to think of is how long until you can have another one. The Glasszant is Raise ‘n’ Glaze’s version of a Cronut™, a speciality pastry that took New York City by storm this spring. Created by famed New York pastry chef Dominique Ansel, Cronuts™(yes, the name is trademarked) got such glowing reviews on social media after they debuted last May that “Cromania” quickly swept the city.  Ansel makes one flavor Cronut each month, like Rose Vanilla, Lemon-Maple, Blackberry or Fig-Mascarpone. He started out making 200 Cronuts each day, and they sold out within minutes, so Ansel quickly upped production to 300/day, and now all of those sell out every day, too. People line up outside his bakery starting as early as 4:00 a.m. to get Cronuts. The crowd become so unwieldy that Ansel’s  bakery had to make rules like prohibiting cutting in line or saving spots for other people. Ansel charges patrons $5.00 apiece for his Cronuts before tax, and limits patrons to two of them. Even people who call and pre-order them can only get 6 per person. After Cromania hit New York City, Cronut knockoffs started appearing all over the country. Because the name is trademarked, bakers have to give their versions unique names like CroughDough, a Brioughnut, a Crullant, a Crowe-Gnut, Dough-Not.  Now we have them right here in Grand Junction, at Raise ‘n’ Glaze, sold as Glasszants.

Kroger-Owned City Market’s Fake “Your Health Matters” Ad Campaign

Can you count the number of lies in this sign?

Can you count the number of lies in this sign?

Recently City Market grocery stores, a chain owned by Kroger Company, started running billboards in Grand Junction, Colorado that say “Your health matters to us.” The ads boast that City Markets have dietitians, pharmacies, “natural and organic” foods, “health centers” and “NuVal,” a scoring program that ranks the nutritional value of some foods they sell on a scale of 1 to 100.  I called a local City Market store to find out how to get in touch with one of their dietitians but was told they didn’t really have any. “It’s misleading,” said Pansy Hubbard, a Grand Junction City Market service counter employee, about the billboard campaign. She said there aren’t any registered dietitians at any of the Grand Junction stores.  People with a computer and an Internet connection can find their way to Kroger’s website, where, if you dig a little you can find links to email addresses of dietitians, but the inference that City Markets have dietitians available at their stores is patently false, at least in our area. But the stores’ claim about dietitians isn’t even the most misleading part of the ad.  The biggest thing that negates City Market’s claim that “Your health matters to us” is that all their stores knowingly continue to sell a product that is well-known to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year: cigarettes. Cigarettes are a known addictive and deadly product, and City Market makes lots of money off them despite what they do to peoples’ health.  This makes it very clear that money is what matters to City Market and the Kroger Company, not their customers’ health.

Some other store chains besides Kroger/City Market can now make a more honest case that they care about their customers’ health. Target stores, for example, stopped selling cigarettes chain-wide in 1996, and are still very much in business. Other stores that truly promote healthy lifestyles have quit selling cigarettes and said publicly that selling tobacco products is not conducive to their pro-health mission.

They are absolutely right.

Subway Finds Size Really Does Matter

Subway's trademark "Footlong™" subs are coming up short all over

Subway’s trademark “Footlong™” subs are coming up short all over

Subway stores are in big PR trouble. It all started when earlier this month an Australian man posted a photo on Subway Australia’s Facebook page of a Footlong™ sandwich he had just bought, and asked why it was only 11 inches long. Soon, other Subway sandwich buyers started making similar posts and uploading images of their too-short “footlong” sandwiches. Then two men from New Jersey filed a lawsuit against Subway accusing the stores of selling trademark Footlong™ sandwiches that were really just 11 inches. Stephen DeNettis, the lawyer who represents the plaintiffs, said he measured sandwiches from 17 different Subway stores and they all came up short. He says Subway should either make sure its Footlong™ sandwiches are really a foot long, or stop advertising them as such. For its part, Subway issued a statement apologizing for it’s short sandwiches, saying “With regards to the size of the bread and calling it a footlong, ‘SUBWAY FOOTLONG’ is a registered trademark as a descriptive name for the sub sold in Subway Restaurants and not intended to be a measurement of length.” For good measure, Subway added that the length of each bread cannot be assured every time because the “proofing” process may vary. Buzzfeed called that answer “amazingly stupid.” One commenter on Buzzfeed wrote, “So…when I pay them with my TWENTY DOLLAR BILL™, and it turns out to be nothing more than an envelope of grass shavings, there will be no hard feelings, right?” Another wrote, “After closer measurement, I’m returning those inch worms I bought at a yard sale.” Who knows? Maybe Subway is shorting people as part of their  sponsorship of NBC’s reality show “The Biggest Loser.”  After all, shorter Footlong™ sandwiches will help people lose more weight and shorting patrons like this makes Subway customers the Biggest Losers.

FDA- Approved “Buttery” Food Flavoring Makes People Sick

diacetylA chemical flavoring used to create that delicious, buttery flavor in microwave popcorn, when heated, can cause a life-threatening, irreversible obstructive lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterates. The chemical, called diacetyl, was first found make popcorn manufacturing workers sick in 1985, after two workers employed in a factory where the flavoring was used developed a rare lung disease. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), tested the air in the employees’ workplace, found a high concentration of diacetyl, and confirmed a link between workers’ exposure to the chemical and their reduced lung function. Since then, hundreds of workers have reported becoming sick after working around the chemical. According to NIOSH, diacetyl is used extensively in the flavoring and food manufacturing industries. Diacetyl doesn’t just affect factory workers, either. Wayne Watson of Denver, Colorado, ate two bags of microwave popcorn every day for ten years and developed the lung disease now known as “popcorn lung.” In September, 2012, he was awarded $7.2 million in a lawsuit against Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation, which made the popcorn, and the Kroger and Dillon Companies, the grocery store chains that sold it. In his suit, Watson pointed out that neither the manufacturer nor the grocery stores warned customers that diacetyl — also recently linked to Alzheimer’s disease — was dangerous. In December, 2012, Sensient, a flavoring company in Indianapolis, Indiana, agreed to pay a fine for violating Indiana OSHA workplace standards for use of diacetyl. The company also agreed to reduce its use of the chemical. In 2004, a jury awarded another couple, Eric and Cassandra Peoples of Joplin, Missouri, a total of $20 million for health injuries they incurred due to workplace exposure to the chemical. So far, food manufacturers have paid out over $100 million in damages to workers who were exposed to the chemical and got sick. Despite this, FDA still lists the chemical as safe on its website. 

Resource: U.S. Centers for Disease Control 2011 Review and Recommendation for Standard for Use of Diacetyl  (pdf)

Twitter Facilitated Some of the Biggest PR Disasters of 2012

Burger King employee photo that caused one of the biggest PR disasters of 2012.

Business Insider has published a list of the biggest PR disasters of 2012. There are some doozies, and social media figured into many of them. An Ohio Burger King employee took a photo of an employee standing with both feet in tubs of lettuce (shoes on) and then posted it on the local newspaper’s Facebook page with a caption that said, “This is the lettuce you eat at Burger King.” KitchenAid was forced to quickly delete a tweet made from their account about Obama’s grandmother that someone sent out during one of the presidential debates. It said “Obamas gma [grandmother] even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president’.” American Apparel exploited Hurricane Sandy by running a “SandySale” in which they offered 20% off all merchandise. Gap did, too, but then apologized for it. (American Apparel did not.) Just hours after the horrific theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, in which a crazed gunman murdered 12 innocent people, The National Rifle Association’s magazine, American Rifleman, tweeted “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?” A Taco Bell employee tweeted a photo of himself urinating on a plate of nachos and asked his Twitter account followers what he should pee on next. Dan Cathy, the Chief Operating Officer of Chick-Fil-A came out against gay marriage, causing a national uproar and protests at Chick-Fil-A restaurants from coast to coast. McDonalds started a PR campaign in which they asked people to tweet stories about McDonald’s food to #McDStories. No doubt they hoped to get positive stories they could use in future advertising campaigns, but instead they got an avalanche of tweets from people who found gross foreign objects in their food or got hospital-grade food poisoning from their McDonalds’ meal. McDonalds pulled the #McDStories campaign after an hour.

Source: Business Insider, December 3, 2012

 

Have People Had Enough of Food Chemicals and Additives?

Food additives that sound more like chemicals from a lab are turning people off.

People who cringe at the weird-sounding chemical additives in food, like sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, guar gum or disodium EDTA, are starting to create and share home-made versions of their favorite processed foods that are free of artificial chemicals and additives. On Pinterest, a social media website that facilitates sharing of recipes, a growing number of people are concocting and sharing chemical-free versions of their favorite highly-processed foods. One member shared a recipe for home-made “Condensed Cream of Something Soup,” offered as a chemical-free thickener to use in casseroles instead of expensive and additive-filled  canned Campbell’s “Cream of” soups. Another person posted a recipe for home-made Oreos that has gotten raves. Still another person shared a way to make her favorite childhood processed food, Pop Tarts, at home using recognizable ingredients. Someone who claimed to be “disgusted” by processed, bottled Bleu cheese dressing posted a simple recipe for home-made Bleu Cheese dressing. Still someone else shared an easy recipe for do-it-yourself red enchilada sauce, saying “you’ll never go back to the canned, store-bought stuff again.” A substantial portion of our modern food supply is manufactured in factories using chemicals and additives, some of which, according for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, are poorly tested and may not be worth the risk of ingesting them.

Monsanto, Big Food Battle California GMO Disclosure Measure

Big food, candy and chemical companies are pouring tens of millions of dollars into fighting California’s Proposition 37,  which would require foods be labeled as to whether they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Genetically-modified foods have their DNA artificially altered in a laboratory, for example Monsanto genetically engineered a type of sweet corn to make it also contain an insecticide. GMOs have been linked to allergies, organ toxicity and other ailments. The problem is, consumers are in the dark about whether the foods they buy contain GMOs because food producers have not been required to identify foods that contain them.  Monsanto has paid over $4.3 million to fight Proposition 37,  followed by DuPont, ($4 million), Pepsi ($2.1 million), Bayer ($2 million), Dow ($2 million), Coca Cola ($1.69 million), Nestle ($1.46 million) and ConAgra Foods ($1.1 million). Other companies working to defeat the disclosure law include familiar household companies that dominate the grocery stores, like Campbell’s Soup, General Mills, Bumble Bee (tuna), Hershey’s, Heinz, Kellogg, Kraft, Land O’Lakes (butter), McCormick (spices), Nestle (cocoa), Tree Top (apple juice), Smuckers (jam), and Welch’s (grape juice). The big food and chemical companies have hired former tobacco industry operatives to apply big Tobacco’s playbook to fight the initiative. Hiring out professional PR flacks to oppose the measure also distances the companies from the unpopular effort and helps shield their valuable brands from backlash. The “No” campaign is using the tobacco industry tactic of  hiding behind a front group made to appear as though it is made up of small businesses, family farmers and the like, to give the public the impression that the anti-37 effort is a “grassroots” campaign by real people. Far from it. The “Yes on 37” campaign points out that many of the wealthy companies secretly bankrolling the fight against Prop. 37 are the same ones that for years assured Americans that cigarettes were safe, and DDT and Agent Orange were harmless.

Exposed: Sweet Lies from the Sugar Industry

Misleading May, 1971 ad in LIFE magazine ad encouraging sugar intake

The November/December issue of Mother Jones magazine has an explosive new analysis of more than 1,500 pages of internal documents from the archives of now-defunct sugar companies that reveals that for 40 years, the sugar industry engaged in a massive PR campaign to sow doubt about studies linking sugar consumption to disease.  After a growing body of independent research started implicating sugar as a significant cause of heart disease, tooth decay, diabetes and other diseases, the sugar industry responded by developing a PR scheme that included secretly funding scientists to perform studies exonerating sugar as a source of disease. The sugar industry also secretly created a front group, the Food and Nutrition Advisory Council, that they stocked with physicians and dentists who were willing to defend sugar’s purported place in a healthy diet.  Sugar companies also worked to shift the conversation about diabetes away from sugar and boost the notion that dietary fats, especially saturated fats, were a bigger culprit in causing heart disease than sugar. 

Biotech Giant Syngenta Facing Criminal Charges Over GM Corn

Spontaneous abortion, one of the symptoms seen in livestock eating genetically-modified corn feed.

The big biotechnology firm Syngenta is facing criminal charges for covering up a U.S. study that showed cows died after eating the company’s genetically-modified (GM) corn. The charges came after a long struggle by Gottfried Gloeckner, a German dairy farmer and former supporter of genetically-modified crops, agreed to participate in authorized field tests of “Bt176,” a corn variety manufactured by Syngenta that was genetically-modified to express an insect toxin and a gene that made the corn resistant to glufosinate herbicides.  Gloeckner allowed the GM corn to be grown on his farm from 1997 to 2002, and fed the resulting corn to his dairy herd. By 2000, Gloeckner was feeding his cows exclusively Bt176 corn. Shortly after, several of Gloeckner’s cows became sick. Five died and others had decreased milk yields. Syngenta paid Gloeckner 40,000 euros as partial compensation for his losses and veterinary costs. Gloeckner brought a civil suit against Syngenta over the loss, but Syngenta refused to admit its GM corn could be in any way related to the illnesses and deaths of Gloeckner’s cows. The court dismissed the civil case and Gloeckner received no further payments from Syngenta, leaving him thousands of Euros in debt. Gloeckner stopped using the GM feed in 2002, but continued to lose cows. In 2009, Gloeckner discovered Syngenta had commissioned a study in the U.S. of its GM feed in 1996. In that study, four cows died within two days of eating the GM feed, and the study was abruptly ended.

FDA Rejects Corn Industry’s Request to Rename High Fructose Corn Sugar

After people started avoiding high-fructose corn syrup in the foods they buy, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to change the name “high fructose corn syrup” to a more wholesome-sounding name on nutrition labels: “corn sugar.” That was in 2010. Around the same time corn refiners started a widespread TV ad campaign to try and convince people there is no significant difference between their product and regular, granulated white sugar — a claim that prompted refiners of granulated sugar to file a lawsuit against the CRA accusing them of deceiving the public. Now comes more bad news for the corn guys: May 30, 2012, the FDA squashed CRA’s hopes for renaming its much-maligned product when the agency officially rejected their requested change. FDA told CRA that the agency defines sugar as a dried, crystallized solid — not a syrup. In a press release, the CRA said the “vast majority of American consumers are confused” about high-fructose corn syrup and claimed FDA denied its application on “narrow, technical grounds.” Changing names to escape a PR debacle is common. Two examples: Cigarette maker Philip Morris changed its name to “Altria” to relieve its food companies of the taint of tobacco, and the mercenary firm Blackwater changed its name to “Xe” after its agents engaged in the Nisour Square massacre in Iraq in 2007.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, May 30, 2012

The Average Soda is 6 Times Bigger Than in the 1950s?

The average fast food restaurant meal today is over four times bigger than it was in the 1950s, according to a new website by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The site, MakingHealthEasier.org, encourages healthy behaviors to help head off chronic disease. CDC finds that portion creep has resulted in a “new abnormal” for food portions in American society. In the 1950s, the average fountain soda at a fast food restaurant was just 7 ounces. Today it’s 42 ounces. The average hamburger was 3.9 ounces, and today it’s 12 ounces. A portion of french fries in the 1950s was just 2.4 ounces and today it is 6.7 ounces. Since the early 1900s, the average size of a chocolate bar has increased by 1,233 percent. Since the 1960s, the weight of the average American woman has increased by 24.5 pounds and the average weight of a man has increased by 28 pounds. As portions have grown, so have obesity and diabetes, and the problems and medical expense they bring.  In 1958, only about one percent of the country’s population had diabetes. By 2009, that number had risen 22 percent. In 2011, an estimated  25.6 million (11.3%) (pdf) of people age 20 and above were diagnosed with diabetes in the U.S., with an estimated 7 million more undiagnosed. Medical expenses for diabetics are over two times greater than people without diabetes.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control, May 21, 2012

Burger King Announces It Will Change to Cruelty-Free Foods

Fast-food giant Burger King announced this week that it will no longer buy pork from pig producers that use gestation crates, and will now use only 100 percent cage-free eggs. Gestation crates are confinement cages that commercial pig farmers use that are so small that pigs cannot turn around inside them. Female pigs raised on factory farms spend almost their entire lives in these tiny crates. U.S. egg producers typically cram millions of chickens into cages that offer only about 67 square inches of space per bird — less space than a single sheet of paper — on which the birds spend their entire lives. Burger King’s policy changes came about in large part due to the efforts of the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS), which has been tackling cruel practices in commercial agriculture, like the use of veal crates, battery cages and tail-docking of dairy cows. HSUS is forming state Agricultural Councils across the U.S. to promote humane food production practices on farms and ranches. The group’s goal is to move agriculture away from a system that treats living creatures as biological “machines,” keeping them confined in conditions that maximize efficiency but are extremely cruel and inhumane, to a more ethical, humane and sustainable system.

Campaign Urges Hospitals to Evict McDonalds Restaurants

Corporate Accountability International (CAI), a group that challenges corporate abuses, posted an  open letter on its website asking hospitals that house McDonalds restaurants to end their contracts with the fast food chain to “stop fostering a food environment that promotes harm, not health.” The letter points out that the rates at which children suffer from diet-related illnesses like diabetes are “staggering,” and the problem is related in part to the consumption of junk food. Locating McDonalds stores in  hospitals is part of a marketing strategy, CAI says, that is aimed at imparting an aura of healthfulness to the food — a goal that is inconsistent with the goals of a health institution.  “Health professionals are devoted to caring for sick children and adults and to preventing illness. But these efforts cannot compete with the profit-driven mechanisms by which McDonalds and the fast food industry operate their business, and the toll that McDonalds’ practices have had on children’s health,” the letter states. CAI’s petition to get McDonalds out of hospitals is here.