Why I Avoid Milk

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Milk is a controversial topic in health circles. But for me, it is not controversial, I was diagnosed in 2009 with an IgG mediated dairy allergy, and so I try and avoid it as much as possible. My problems with dairy began many years ago, I just did not know dairy was the problem.

For almost as long as I can remember, I had trouble with acne, and not just during my teenage years. My acne began when I was about 9 years old. My dear mom tried everything she could think of, over the counter products, masks, doctors. After my mom passed away when I was 10, my dad and grandma took on the task. They tried everything they could think of, there was no treatment too expensive or too far. They offered me everything possible. I saw many more doctors, and tried many more treatments, oral and topical, prescription and over-the-counter. Nothing worked. And I know it hurt them almost as much as it hurt me, because they could see how it affected my self-esteem. But nothing seemed to work.

Then, one day, when I was a sophomore in college, I was home on break and sitting at my grandma’s kitchen table. I was reading a natural health magazine and saw an article by a naturopath about the link between dairy and acne. She cited no scientific research to back up her claim, but I figured it was worth testing out – after all, I did eat and drink a lot of dairy…a whole lot.

I experimented cutting dairy out of my diet, and for about two weeks, I stuck to a very simple and unprocessed diet, to make sure I was not getting any dairy. Within about a week and a half, my acne disappeared, completely. What had persisted for over 10 years, despite the best doctors and medicines, disappeared by changing my diet. But I was not well-educated on how to detect dairy in processed foods. I knew to avoid drinking milk with my cereal and ice cream, but I did not realize how many processed foods often have dairy (and often times by the name of the specific dairy protein, such as ‘whey’), foods like bread, cookies, salad dressing, chips, cake, marinades, etc. So when I returned to eating processed foods, my acne would flair up again occasionally. I also started acknowledging that I had stomach discomfort after almost every meal, something I thought was normal, until I realized my friends on the Irish Dance team could eat dinner around 6 and be at practice, ready for rigorous exercise, around 7pm.  A few years later, I met a doctor who thought to test me for milk allergy, and sure enough, I tested positive. And he was the one that taught me how to identify dairy in processed foods. It has made such a huge difference to my quality (and maybe even quantity) of life. I still slip up every now and then, especially when I go to someone’s home for dinner, milk is such a popular ingredient in the American diet and kitchen, that it is hard to be a gracious dinner guest and avoid dairy. But on the whole, I avoid dairy, and feel (and look) so much better.

Recently, I learned about a research study that confirmed the link between milk and acne. For more information, click here.

DAIRY ALLERGY VERSUS LACTOSE INTOLERANCE

Sometimes my friends or family suggest I eat something that is ‘lactose free’ or drink Lactaid instead of milk, but for someone with a milk allergy, the ‘lactose’ is not the problem. Those with a dairy allergy are allergic to one or more of the proteins in milk, this is not the same as lactose intolerance. Those who are lactose intolerance are intolerant of the milk sugar ‘lactose’ and therefore milk does not sit well with them. As a remedy, they can either consume lactose-free milk or take enzyme pills that provide the enzyme necessary to break down lactose (lactase), which their body either does not produce, or does not produce in sufficient quantity. A large portion of the population is lactose intolerant.

In humans, lactase stops being produced when the person is between two and five years old. The undigested sugars end up in the colon, where they begin to ferment, producing gas that can cause cramping, bloating, nausea, flatulence and diarrhea. If you’re American or European it’s hard to realize this, but being able to digest milk as an adult is one weird genetic adaptation.

It’s not normal. Somewhat less than 40% of people in the world retain the ability to digest lactose after childhood. The numbers are often given as close to 0% of Native Americans, 5% of Asians, 25% of African and Caribbean peoples, 50% of Mediterranean peoples and 90% of northern Europeans. Sweden has one of the world’s highest percentages of lactase tolerant people.

Being able to digest milk is so strange that scientists say we shouldn’t really call lactose intolerance a disease, because that presumes it’s abnormal. Instead, they call it lactase persistence, indicating what’s really weird is the ability to continue to drink milk.

I suspect I have both lactose intolerance and a dairy allergy, but at the very least, I have a dairy allergy and more importantly, I actually feel a big difference when I consume dairy, and it is not a pleasant feeling. So I avoid dairy as much as possible. But it can be tough, especially since so many processed foods contain dairy, even staples like whole wheat bread, if purchased from a conventional super market, usually have some form of dairy.

But there are other reasons why some argue that dairy is bad for humans, reasons that have nothing to do with allergies or intolerance. These reasons can become controversial because often times they are cited without research to back them up or suggest their validity. I am not a scientist, nor am I a nutritionist, so I will not weigh in on the debate about dairy. But I can tell you some of what I do know, and I encourage you to evaluate this (and other) information, and come to your own conclusion.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST DAIRY

Some (particularly those who follow a Paleo Diet and many alternative health practitioners), argue that dairy is not healthy. Unfortunately, their arguments are often time unsupported. They argue that dairy is only appropriate for the baby animal whose mother produced that type of milk, and that dairy causes mucus in the human digestive track. But these claims are often times stated, without references to back them up.

However, there is at least one source I have been able to find that does provide references to back up the claims against dairy – an article by Dr. Mark Hyman, a medical doctor and family physician who has dedicated his career to identifying and addressing the root causes of chronic illness through the practice of Functional Medicine. He is currently medical editor at the Huffington Post and on the Medical Advisory Board at The Doctor Oz Show.Dr. Hyman has testified before the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and has consulted with the Surgeon General on diabetes prevention. He has testified before the Senate Working Group on Health Care Reform on Functional Medicine, and participated in the White House Forum on Prevention and Wellness in June 2009. Dr. Hyman was nominated by Senator Tom Harkin for the President’s Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion and Integrative and Public Health, a 25-person group to advise the Administration and the new National Council on Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health.With Drs. Dean Ornish and Michael Roizen, Dr. Hyman crafted and helped to introduce the Take Back Your Health Act of 2009 into the United States Senate, to provide for reimbursement of lifestyle treatment of chronic disease. In other words, he is not merely an extremist who voices his opinion without just cause to hold that opinion. Many may disagree with him on certain points, but he is an educated and well-respected medical doctor.

According to an article by Dr. Hyman, there is a doctor by the name of Walter Willet, M.D., PhD – who is the second-most-cited scientist in all of clinical medicine and the head of nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health, who claims that the USDA’s food pyramid is “udderly ridiculous” including its recommendation for dairy. According to Dr. Hyman, Dr. Willett has done many studies and reviewed the research on dairy and has concluded there are many reasons to pass up milk, including:

1. Milk doesn’t reduce fractures.(i) Contrary to popular belief, eating dairy products has never been shown to reduce fracture risk. In fact, according to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, known as the Nurses’ Health Study, dairy may increase risk of fractures by 50 percent. The study can be found here: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/calcium-full-story/

2. Less dairy, better bones. Countries with lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (like those in Africa and Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis.

3. Calcium isn’t as bone-protective as we thought.(ii) Studies of calcium supplementation have shown no benefit in reducing fracture risk. Vitamin D appears to be much more important than calcium in preventing fractures.

4. Calcium may raise cancer risk. Research shows that higher intakes of both calcium and dairy products may increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer by 30 to 50 percent.(iii) Plus, dairy consumption increases the body’s level of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) — a known cancer promoter.

5. Calcium has benefits that dairy doesn’t. Calcium supplements, but not dairy products, may reduce the risk of colon cancer.(iv)

6. Not everyone can stomach dairy.(v) About 75 percent of the world’s population is genetically unable to properly digest milk and other dairy products — a problem called lactose intolerance.

Based on such findings, Dr. Willet has come to some important conclusions:

• Everybody needs calcium — but probably not as much as our government’s recommended daily allowance (RDA) and calcium from diet, including greens and beans is better utilized by the body with less risk than calcium supplements.

• Calcium probably doesn’t prevent broken bones. Few people in this country are likely to reduce their fracture risk by getting more calcium.

• Men may not want to take calcium supplements. Supplements of calcium and vitamin D may be reasonable for women.

• Dairy may be unhealthy. Advocating dairy consumption may have negative effects on health.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently asked the UDSA to look into the scientific basis of the claims made in the “milk mustache” ads. Their panel of scientists stated the truth clearly: Milk doesn’t benefit sports performance, there’s no evidence that dairy is good for your bones or prevents osteoporosis — in fact, the animal protein it contains may help cause bone loss, dairy is linked to prostate cancer, it’s full of saturated fat and is linked to heart disease, dairy causes digestive problems for the 75 percent of people with lactose intolerance, and dairy aggravates irritable bowel syndrome.

Dr. Hyman says that “due to these concerns, many have begun to consider raw milk an alternative. But that isn’t really a healthy form of dairy either …Yes, raw, whole, organic milk eliminates concerns like pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and the effects of homogenization and pasteurization — but to Dr. Hyman, these benefits don’t outweigh dairy’s potential risks. He contends that our bodies just weren’t made to digest milk on a regular basis. Instead, most scientists agree that it’s better for us to get calcium, potassium, protein, and fats from other food sources, like whole plant foods — vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and seaweed.

So here is his advice for dealing with dairy.

6 Tips for Dealing with Dairy

• Take your Cow for a Walk. It will do you much more good than drinking milk.

• Don’t rely on dairy for healthy bones. If you want healthy bones, get plenty of exercise and supplement with 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily.

• Get your calcium from food. These include dark green leafy vegetables, sesame tahini, sea vegetables, and sardines or salmon with the bones.

• Try giving up all dairy. That means eliminate milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream for two weeks and see if you feel better. You should notice improvements with yoursinuses, post-nasal drip, headachesirritable bowel syndrome, energy, and weight. Then start eating dairy again and see how you feel. If you feel worse, you should try to give it up for life.

• If you can tolerate dairy, use only raw, organic dairy products. I suggest focusing on fermented products like unsweetened yogurt and kefir, occasionally.

• If you have to feed your child formula from milk, don’t worry. The milk in infant formula is hydrolyzed or broken down and easier to digest (although it can still cause allergies). Once your child is a year old, switch him or her to real food and almond milk.

ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF DAIRY

I am not a scientist, so I do not feel qualified to authoritatively interpret all the data on the subject, but I do think well-educated consumers can make better choices. So here is some information that I find interesting, if not compelling, in favor of moderate dairy consumption. I will preface it however, by saying that even these examples of healthy cultures that eat dairy have something unique to them that dairy consumption in the US does not have, a naturally produced milk supply. These examples of cultures that are healthy and consume dairy consume a different kind of dairy than the average American consumer, they consume one that is often times raw and unpasteurized, from cows that are grass-fed and not routinely fed antibiotics and hormones. Therefore, I will say this, I think that to the extent dairy consumption can be beneficial for some, it is not all dairy that is beneficial, but rather, raw, unpasteurized, grass-fed, organic milk, produced without the use of hormones or routine antibiotics.

One of my favorite sources for nutrition information is the Weston Price Foundation. They advocate dairy for a healthy human diet, in large part because of research on native populations that are extremely healthy, and do consume dairy. However, even their dairy endorsement is only for raw, unpasteurized, grass-fed, organic dairy that is produced without the use of hormones or routine antibiotics. And their advice, as far as I can tell, does not take into account the large portion of the American population that is lactose intolerant. However, if you are not lactose intolerant, and want to include dairy in your diet, I would suggest reading some of their resources on the health and economic benefits of raw milk.

References

(i) Feskanich D, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA. Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: a 12-year prospective study. Am J Public Health. 1997 Jun;87(6):992-7.

(ii) Feskanich D, Willett WC, Colditz GA. Calcium, vitamin D, milk consumption, and hip fractures: a prospective study among postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Feb;77(2):504-11.

(iii) Tseng M, Breslow RA, Graubard BI, Ziegler RG. Dairy, calcium, and vitamin D intakes and prostate cancer risk in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Epidemiologic Follow-up Study cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 May;81(5):1147-54.

(iv) Huncharek M, Muscat J, Kupelnick B. Colorectal cancer risk and dietary intake of calcium, vitamin D, and dairy products: a meta-analysis of 26,335 cases from 60 observational studies. Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(1):47-69.

(v) Brannon PM, Carpenter TO, Fernandez JR, Gilsanz V, Gould JB, Hall KE, Hui SL, Lupton JR, Mennella J, Miller NJ, Osganian SK, Sellmeyer DE, Suchy FJ, Wolf MA. NIH Consensus Development Conference Statement: Lactose Intolerance and Health. NIH Consens State Sci Statements. 2010 Feb 24;27(2).

(vi) Bartley J, McGlashan SR. Does milk increase mucus production? Med Hypotheses. 2010 Apr;74(4):732-4.

(vii) Luopajärvi K, Savilahti E, Virtanen SM, Ilonen J, Knip M, Akerblom HK, Vaarala O. Enhanced levels of cow’s milk antibodies in infancy in children who develop type 1 diabetes later in childhood. Pediatr Diabetes. 2008 Oct;9(5):434-41.

(viii) El-Hodhod MA, Younis NT, Zaitoun YA, Daoud SD. Cow’s milk allergy related pediatric constipation: Appropriate time of milk tolerance. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2009 Jun 25.

Many of my friends and family assume that if food is sold in a US grocery store, it is at least safe and free from serious and immediate health risks, but as this Bloomberg Magazine article from October 12, 2012 reveals, we should not take our food safety for granted

Food Sickens Millions as Company-Paid Checks Find It Safe By Stephanie Armour, John Lippert & Michael Smith

October 11, 2012

William Beach loved cantaloupe — so much so that starting in June last year he ate it almost every day. By August, the 87-year-old retired tractor mechanic from Mustang, Oklahoma, was complaining to his family that he was fatigued, with pain everywhere in his body.

On Sept. 1, 2011, Beach got out of bed in the middle of the night, put his clothes on and walked into the living room. His wife, Monette, found him collapsed on the floor in the morning. At the hospital, blood poured from his mouth and nose, splattering sheets, bed rails and physicians.

Food Report: Asian Seafood Raised on Pig Feces Approved for U.S.Consumers

He died that night, a victim of Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that can lead to a blood infection and damage to the brain and spinal cord, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its November issue.

Beach was one of 33 people killed by listeria that was later traced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and state officials to contaminated cantaloupes from one Colorado farm. It was the deadliest outbreak of foodborne disease in the U.S. in almost 100 years.

“He died in terror and pain,” says his daughter Debbie Frederick.

About seven weeks after Beach started eating cantaloupes, a private, for-profit inspection company awarded a top safety rating to Jensen Farms, the Granada, Colorado, grower of his toxic fruit. The approval meant retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) and Wegmans Food Markets Inc. could sell Jensen melons.

NO FDA INSPECTION

The FDA, a federal agency nominally responsible for overseeing most food safety, had never inspected Jensen.

During the past two decades, the food industry has taken over much of the FDA’s role in ensuring that what Americans eat is safe. The agency can’t come close to vetting its jurisdiction of $1.2 trillion in annual food sales.

In 2011, the FDA inspected 6 percent of domestic food producers and just 0.4 percent of importers. The FDA has had no rules for how often food producers must be inspected.

The food industry hires for-profit inspection companies — known as third-party auditors — who aren’t required by law to meet any federal standards and have no government supervision. Some of these monitors choose to follow guidelines from trade groups that include ConAgra Foods Inc. (CAG), Kraft Foods Inc. and Wal-Mart.

The private inspectors that companies select often check only those areas their clients ask them to review. That means they can miss deadly pathogens lurking in places they never examined.

3,000 KILLED

Food sickens 48 million Americans a year, with 128,000 hospitalized and 3,000 killed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates. The rate of infections linked to foodborne salmonella, which causes the most illnesses and deaths, rose 10 percent from 2006 to 2010.

The U.S. had 37 recalls of fruits and vegetables in 2011, up from two in 2005. Many of the victims of contaminated food are those with under-developed or weakened immune systems, such as children and the elderly.

What for-hire auditors do is cloaked in secrecy; they don’t have to make their findings public. Bloomberg Markets obtained four audit reports and three audit certificates through court cases, congressional investigations and company websites.

Six audits gave sterling marks to the cantaloupe farm, an egg producer, a peanut processor and a ground-turkey plant — either before or right after they supplied toxic food.

‘CERTIFICATES MEANINGLESS’

Collectively, these growers and processors were responsible for tainted food that sickened 2,936 people and killed 43 in 50 states.

“The outbreaks we’re seeing are endless,” says Doug Powell, lead author of an Aug. 30, 2012, study on third-party monitors called “Audits and Inspections Are Never Enough.” Powell, a professor of food safety at Kansas State University, says Americans are at risk whenever they go to a supermarket.

“You need to be in a culture that takes food safety seriously,” Powell says. “Right now, what we have is hidden. The third-party auditor stickers and certificates are meaningless.”

In some cases, for-hire auditors have financial ties to executives at companies they’re reviewing. AIB International Inc., a Manhattan, Kansas, auditor that awarded top marks to producers that sold toxic food, has had board members who are top managers at companies that are clients.

WONDER BREAD

Executives of Flowers Foods Inc. (FLO), which makes Tastykake, and Grupo Bimbo SAB in Mexico City, which makes Entenmann’s pastries, Sara Lee baked goods and Wonder Bread, serve or have served on AIB’s board.

“There’s a fundamental conflict,” says David Kessler, a lawyer and physician who was FDA commissioner from 1990 to 1997. “We all know about third-party audit conflicts. We’ve seen it play out in the financial world. You can’t be tied to your auditors. There has to be independence.”

As flawed as the inspection system is in the U.S., it’s more problematic with imported food, especially coming from countries with lower sanitary standards, says Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety. In some emerging markets, farms growing food for export to the U.S. aren’t inspected at all.

The U.S. will import half of its food by 2030, up from 20 percent today, Doyle says. Bloomberg Markets visited growers in China, Mexico and Vietnam and found unsanitary conditions for produce, fruit and fish exported to the U.S.

ANOTHER $3 BILLION

The FDA is trying, so far without success, to wrest back control of food inspection from the industry. In 2008, the agency estimated that it would need another $3 billion — quadrupling its $1 billion annual budget for food safety — to conduct inspections on imported and domestic food, the FDA’s former food safety chief David Acheson says.

Instead, the food industry lobbied for, and won, enactment of a law in January 2011 that expanded the role of auditors — and foreign governments — in vetting producers and distributors of food bound for the U.S.

The Food Safety Modernization Act, which passed Congress with bi-partisan support, will allow the FDA to certify private companies to audit producers of imported food on its behalf.

The law mandates that these auditors submit their reports to the agency. These rules don’t apply to domestic inspection companies, which still won’t be approved by the FDA and don’t report their findings.

LIKE BOOKKEEPING

Under the 2011 law, the FDA will require high-risk producers to be inspected every five years starting in 2016, according to the agency’s website.

Sometimes, what passes for inspection in the food industry isn’t inspection at all; it’s more like bookkeeping. In many cases, auditors award top safety ratings without testing production facilities for bacteria, says former auditor Jeffrey Kornacki, who now owns Kornacki Microbiology Solutions, a microbiology consulting company in McFarland, Wisconsin.

Sometimes, auditors don’t set foot in production areas of the companies they report in audits as safe, Kornacki says. Kornacki says he got a lesson on the limits of auditing 15 years ago, when he spent a day and a half studying whether a food factory was following its own safety guidelines.

Kornacki gave the plant, which he declined to identify, a score of 95 out of 100. The manager thanked him and then asked him a question.

‘HELP ME’

“Can you help me find the source of this salmonella in our plant?” the manager asked. Kornacki says he didn’t know there was salmonella at the facility.

“Most companies won’t let third-party auditors look for pathogens,” Kornacki says. “They don’t want your results shutting them down.”

Auditors evaluate their clients using standards selected by the companies that pay them, says Mansour Samadpour, owner of IEH Laboratories & Consulting Group in Lake Forest Park, Washington, which does testing for the FDA. The auditors sometimes follow a checklist that the company they’re inspecting has helped write.

“If you have a program for adding rat poison to a food, the auditor will ask, ‘Did you add as much as you intended?”’ Samadpour says. “Most won’t ask, ‘Why the hell are we adding poison?”’

Not only has the government outsourced auditing to the food industry; the auditors themselves often outsource their vetting to independent contractors — people over whom they don’t have direct management control.

CANTALOUPES APPROVED

It was such a contractor who blessed the cantaloupes at Jensen Farms in Colorado shortly before the melons would sicken 147 Americans and kill 33 others, including William Beach.

On July 25, 2011, Santa Maria, California-based Primus Group Inc. — whose PrimusLabs unit bills itself as the largest produce safety company in the Western Hemisphere — sent a subcontractor to Jensen Farms. The property, 181 miles (291 kilometers) southeast of Denver, was then a mosaic of fields where trucks churned up dust clouds on dirt roads and cantaloupes grew beneath power lines.

The subcontractor, Bio Food Safety Inc. of Rio Hondo, Texas, was represented by James Dilorio, who spent four hours on site. Using a checklist, he documented practices such as the cleaning of cantaloupes, washing of employees’ hands and labeling of detergents, according to his report.

Dilorio scored Jensen 96 out of 100.

“Yes, all food contact surfaces are clean,” his report says. “Yes, all products and food contact packaging were within acceptable tolerances for spoilage or adulteration.”

GETTING SICK

By the time Dilorio gave his stamp of approval to Jensen, William Beach had already been eating cantaloupe from the farm almost every day for seven weeks. In June 2011, his wife began buying the melons at the Homeland grocery in Mustang, Oklahoma.

That same month, at a routine medical checkup, William’s doctor told him he was in good health. By August, though, Beach, a father of six daughters, was in constant pain; he was hospitalized for two days. Doctors didn’t test him for listeria.

Beach died on Sept. 1, just one day before the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment alerted the federal CDC in Atlanta that patients throughout the state were falling ill with listeriosis. Beach’s infection was caused by the listeria-tainted cantaloupe, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Acting on reports from several people who said they got sick after eating Rocky Hill brand cantaloupe — grown in southeastern Colorado — state and FDA inspectors went to Jensen Farms on Sept. 10, 2011. They collected 13 samples from the Jensen processing line and packing area that tested positive for listeria.

POTATO CLEANER

The FDA found that the equipment used to clean the fruit may have spread listeria. Jensen had actually installed that machinery, previously used to clean potatoes, after Bio Food Safety’s president, Jerry Walzel, who had audited the farm in 2010, recommended that the farm change its cleaning equipment.

The FDA says the replaced machinery may have been a cause of the listeria contamination.

“Because the equipment is not easily cleanable and was previously used for handling another raw agricultural commodity with different washing requirements, Listeria monocytogenes could have been introduced,” the FDA said in its report.

On Sept. 14, 2011, Jensen announced a 17-state recall of cantaloupes.

Dilorio and Walzel didn’t return requests seeking comment. Robert Stovicek, chief executive officer of PrimusLabs, declined to talk about the Jensen audit, citing pending civil litigation against his company. Bill Marler, a Seattle food safety attorney, says he has filed 13 lawsuits resulting from the outbreak, including four that name PrimusLabs.

‘VIOLENT DEATH’

The Beach family is suing Jensen and says Jensen’s faulty safety system killed Beach. Brenda Beach Hathaway, one of Beach’s daughters, says the third-party audit system is a sham.

Related: Girl Dies After Kissing Grandfather Made Sick by Burgers

“The auditor just says everything is all right even when it’s not,” she says. “It’s wrong. My daddy wasn’t ready to die, and he died such a violent death.”

While PrimusLabs declined to comment directly for this story, it did supply a response from its law firm, Kaufman Borgeest & Ryan LLP in New York. Auditors, the statement says, serve at the pleasure of their clients and cannot go beyond what they are asked to do.

“Third-party auditing will continue to be as effective as those requiring the audits (buyers/suppliers) and the audited suppliers make them,” the law firm writes. James Markus, a lawyer representing Jensen, didn’t return calls seeking comment.

FALLING INTO VATS

The U.S. government has played a role in food inspection for a little more than a century. In 1905, Upton Sinclair penned “The Jungle,” a scathing book about the Chicago meatpacking industry, with workers falling into vats of boiling beef trimmings and other horrors.

The next year, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, which proved ineffective. In 1938, after more than 100 people died from the antibiotic sulfanilamide, Congress passed the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, strengthening the FDA. For the first time, a federal agency had the power to inspect, approve or reject all food and pharmaceutical products.

From the outset, though, the FDA lacked the resources to inspect all of the country’s food producers.

FILLING VACUUMS

The food industry moved to fill that vacuum with private auditors in the 1990s. Danone SA (BN), Kraft, Wal-Mart and other companies created the Paris-based Global Food Safety Initiative in 2000 to write guidelines for third-party auditors.

The program, whose vice chairman is Frank Yiannas, Wal- Mart’s vice president for safety, requires companies to be audited once a year. It doesn’t mandate testing for pathogens. In 60 manufacturing plants, Wal-Mart suppliers reported a third fewer recalls in the two years after adopting GFSI standards, Yiannas says.

In some cases, companies use their own auditors to check suppliers. In 2002 and 2006, Nestle USA, a subsidiary of Vevey, Switzerland-basedNestle SA (NESN), refused to use Peanut Corp. of America as a supplier. Nestle inspectors found rodent carcasses and pigeons in Peanut Corp.’s Plainview, Texas, plant.

Nestle’s rejection didn’t stop Lynchburg, Virginia-based Peanut Corp. from doing business with other customers or seeking approval from third-party auditors. In 2008, AIB International auditor Eugene Hatfield gave Peanut Corp.’s Blakely, Georgia, plant a “superior” rating.

DIARRHEA AND FEVER

“This operation had established a formalized program for the control of bacteria,” Hatfield wrote on March 27, 2008.

About nine months later, Nellie Napier, an 80-year-old grandmother of 13 living in a long-term-care facility in Medina, Ohio, came down withdiarrhea and a fever. Napier frequently ate peanut butter to help regulate her blood sugar.

On Jan. 9, 2009, she was admitted to Summa Barberton Hospital in nearby Barberton, with salmonella raging in her blood, according to her medical records. Her kidneys shut down, and she suffered a mild stroke.

After it became too difficult to swallow, she refused a feeding tube. With her children grasping each hand, she died on Jan. 26, 2009.

“The deeper we dig, the madder we get,” says Randy Napier, Nellie’s son, a designer in Raleigh, North Carolina. “These inspections should be made public. It’s just dollars and cents to the auditors. My mother wasn’t worth anything to them. I’m just shaking, I’m so angry.”

‘NOBODY ACCUSED ME’

Napier was a victim of an outbreak that sickened 714 people and may have contributed to nine deaths in 46 states, according to the CDC. In January 2009, FDA inspectors visited the Blakely plant and found dead cockroaches in a washroom and water stains from skylights above a packing line.

“Proper precautions to protect food cannot be taken because of deficiencies in plant construction,” the FDA wrote on Jan. 27, 2009. The next day, Peanut Corp. recalled all peanut products the plant had made for nearly two years.

AIB, the Peanut Corp. auditor, says on its website that the Blakely plant lacked an on-site manager for four months after its 2008 audit — enough time for conditions to deteriorate. Maureen Olewnik, AIB’s vice president for auditing, says Peanut Corp. didn’t show it all of its procedures and areas.

Peanut Corp. is now defunct, barraged by dozens of civil lawsuits and a Department of Justice criminal investigation. Its former CEO Stewart Parnell says he never knowingly shipped salmonella-tainted products.

“Nobody accused me of it except some personal injury lawyer trying to drum up business,” he says. He declined to comment further.

‘OH MY GOD’

AIB auditors also gave their stamp of approval to Wright County Egg farms in Iowa. The firm rated the egg producer “superior” twice in 2008 and four times in 2009.

On May 29, 2010, Sarah Lewis, 32, a mother of two in Freedom, California, was attending her sister’s college graduation banquet, where she ate a custard tart. The tart was made with eggs from farms in Iowa.

Two days later, she got diarrhea and began vomiting. She spent 12 hours in the emergency room in Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz and then another three days in intensive care. Two and a half weeks later, she was back in the hospital, so dehydrated that doctors had to put a catheter into her bicep, according to her medical records.

Salmonella came from the custard tart, according to the California Department of Public Health. The bacteria caused her heart to race, a condition known as tachycardia.

“It was scary,” says Lewis, an office manager for a butcher. “My mom was with me the whole time, sitting in the corner like, ‘Oh, my God.”’

MANURE PILES

Less than two weeks after Lewis fell ill, AIB inspected Wright County’s egg farms in Iowa again, and again gave them top marks. The audit cover sheet is titled “Recognition of Achievement.”

It says, “Wright Co., #4, Clarion, Iowa, was inspected by a qualified AIB International Inspector on June 7-8, 2010, and at that time was found to have fulfilled the requirements of the AIB International Consolidated Standards.”

By the time of that sterling review, the CDC was already noticing an uptick in a strain of salmonella infections nationwide; it started in May 2010, and peaked that July. Federal, state and local health officials traced the outbreak to Wright County eggs.

The FDA found 8-foot-high (2.4-meter-high) piles of chicken manure and rodent burrows at Wright County and Quality Egg LLC’s egg operations in Galt, Dows and Clarion, Iowa.

“Live and dead maggots too numerous to count were observed,” the FDA wrote of the henhouses in an Aug. 30, 2010, report.

PREDNISONE FEVER

The outbreak sickened 1,939 people, including Sarah Lewis, and led to a recall of half a billion eggs from Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST), Wal-Mart and other retailers. On its website, AIB says it hadn’t been asked to audit portions of the plant where the FDA found contamination.

Today, Lewis still suffers from gastrointestinal pains caused by her weakened immune system. She takes Humira, a rheumatoid arthritis medicine, and Prednisone, a steroid, to treat inflammation. She expects to be on the drugs for the rest of her life.

HUMAN FECES

Flaws in the U.S. inspection system are magnified when food originates in other countries. In Mexico, some fields contaminated by animal and human feces and dirty water aren’t being monitored by government inspectors or third-party auditors.

Almost half of the vegetables and 26 percent of the fruit imported into the U.S. last year came from Mexico, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service says.

Some farms are breeding grounds for bacteria, says Trevor Suslow, a University of California, Davis, food safety professor who has done field research at farms in Mexico.

At the San Juan farm 30 miles south of Culiacan, Mexico, about 100 men, women and children work in filth to harvest grape tomatoes that grower Agricola Pauher SA says are verified as meeting international farming practices.

On a sweltering hot day in mid-May, wind whips through an open-air latrine, carrying a cloud of dust reeking of human excrement across the field. Flies swarm in a squalid bathroom. Tomas Ramirez, 11, who says he’s worked the whole harvest with his parents in the field, says he uses some bushes instead of the feces-smeared bathroom.

“I’m always dirty because there is nowhere to wash,” he says.

‘WE MAKE DO’

The field foreman, Martin Fuentes, says his crew has nowhere to wash their hands.

“This is all the boss gives us,” he says. “We don’t get anything here, so we just make do.”

Pauher general director Ernesto Padilla declined to comment.

Poor farm worker hygiene can make people sick, Suslow says. “That is one of the key risk factors for transmitting infectious agents to consumers: hand-to-product contamination,” Suslow says.

A few miles from the field, weeds surround Agricola Pauher’s packing plant. Piles of tomatoes rot on the ground. Inside, cardboard shipping boxes display a PrimusLabs logo that reads, “Audited by PrimusLabs.com–When food safety counts.”

PrimusLabs’ outside attorney, Steven Weiner, declined to say whether the company has ever audited Pauher. PrimusLabs’ website names 118 certified clients and Pauher isn’t on the list.

Pauher shipped this year’s harvest to supermarkets in the U.S. and Canada, says Jan Lillywhite, who managed the company’s office in Nogales,Arizona, this year.

‘GARBAGE CHOKED CANAL’

Forty-nine miles south, men pick nira onions for San Bernardino, California-based Lucky Farms Inc. in a field irrigated with garbage-choked canal water. A laborer comes out of the only bathroom — a feces-smeared wooden pallet. He handles onions without washing his hands.

Lucky Farms operations manager Gary Liaou says the onions are grown safely in Mexico.

Mexican food producers aren’t compelled to make their products safe even when local government officials inspect companies on behalf of the FDA. In 2011, 106 Americans in 25 states got salmonella from papayas that the FDA traced to a plantation near Mexico’s border withGuatemala.

The FDA then ordered every Mexican papaya load stopped at the U.S. border and tested for salmonella by a private laboratory. In Tecoman, 940 miles west of the farm that caused the outbreak, grower Parra Agroproductos SA found a way to get around the order.

HEALTH TIME BOMB

In October 2011, the FDA rejected nine Parra loads for salmonella. So, the company joined a Mexican certification program run by the government that is supposed to report findings to the FDA.

The program sent inspector Alberto Romero to Parra, where he found pickers with unwashed hands on Oct. 21, 2011. Packing areas were exposed to a pigsty and chickens, according to his report. Since he has no authority to order improvements or close food facilities, his report led to no immediate changes.

A few months later, in February, the FDA exempted Parra from salmonella testing after Mexico said the grower had joined the certification program.

On a return visit to Parra in mid-May this year, this time accompanied by a reporter, Romero watches workers rinse in filthy water papayas bound for U.S. supermarkets. A pigeon lies dead near the packing line, and a roach scampers under a crate. Romero says Parra hasn’t made the requested changes.

“There is 100 percent risk of infection here,” Romero says. “It’s horrible, like a public health time bomb waiting to go off.”

MASKS AND GLOVES

Across town, papaya exporter Red Starr Spr de R.L.’s enclosed, spotless packing plant is another world. Workers wearing masks and gloves wash papayas in water laden with fungicides and bleach to kill salmonella.

“We operate like a sterile lab,” says Nazario Rodriguez, Red Starr’s co-owner.

Four months later, in September, Romero’s boss, Samuel Barajas, says he found that Parra improved conditions and meets sanitary standards. Marco Antonio Parra, co-owner of the company, says his operation follows U.S. food safety guidelines.

“We have to, because we sell our papayas in supermarkets all over the U.S.,” Parra says. The FDA says it’s trying to make imported food safer by helping exporting countries ensure safe farming practices.

CARGILL GROUND TURKEY

The 2011 food law will help by requiring importers to prove they can match the same safety standards as U.S. producers, the FDA says.

The recurrence of contaminated food outbreaks has hit even the largest agricultural processor in the U.S., privately held Cargill Inc. Two auditors awarded top safety grades to the company’s Springdale, Arkansas, ground-turkey plant after — according to the CDC — 120 people had been sickened by the meat.

Brandon and Melissa Lee say they’ll never forget the first time they fed cooked ground turkey to their baby daughter Ruby. It was in June 2011, and within hours of eating the turkey, Ruby, who was 10 months old, became lethargic. Then she had diarrhea so severe they had to change her diaper almost every hour.

Melissa took Ruby to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland within days. The baby had a fever of 104.1 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). Doctors told Melissa that Ruby had drug-resistant bacteria swimming through her bloodstream.

“They put her on antibiotics but told us they didn’t know if it would work,” says Melissa, 25, a Home Depot Inc. clerk.

A PERFECT SCORE

Ruby was one of 136 people in 34 states infected with a virulent pathogen strain called Salmonella Heidelberg, according to the CDC. One person died. Ruby survived. Doctors have told her mother the child may suffer from respiratory problems and arthritis later in life.

The CDC traced Ruby’s salmonella to Cargill’s Springdale plant. On Aug. 3, 2011, Cargill recalled 36 million pounds (16 million kilograms) of ground turkey. Even in the midst of this recall, third-party auditors gave the plant high marks.

On Aug. 23, 2011, San Antonio, Texas-based Food Safety Net Services Ltd. awarded Springdale a perfect score for animal welfare and handling. The next day, Food Safety Net, acting as a subcontractor for Netherlands-based ISACert BV, gave Springdale slaughtering and processing an “A” grade using GFSI standards.

USDA FINDS SALMONELLA

After a USDA test found a high level of salmonella, Cargill recalled ground turkey produced on Aug. 23 and Aug. 24, 2011. Cargill says it doesn’t know what caused the outbreak.

“We believe the illnesses reported to the CDC came from a variety of sources, not just our ground turkey,” says Mike Robach, Cargill’s head of food safety.

Salmonella is so common that Wal-Mart accepts ground turkey after tests find 49.9 percent of samples have bacteria. That’s the maximum allowed by law. Costco rejects shipments with any trace of salmonella.

Companies can take steps to prevent foodborne infections — although those measures cost money that producers and retailers aren’t always willing to spend. One company that changed its ways is Earthbound Farm, which sells bagged lettuce and spinach. The company put in a new testing system — after tragedy struck.

In 2006, Kathleen Chrismer and Matthew Tateishi had driven with their daughter Rylee Gustafson to celebrate her ninth birthday at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California when she got diarrhea that soon turned to gushing red blood. They rushed her to San Francisco, where doctors put her in intensive care at the University of California’s Children’s Hospital.

‘LIKE I WAS DYING’

A few days later, her kidneys and pancreas failed.

“I remember not being able to hear or see,” says Rylee, who’s now 15 and lives in Henderson, Nevada. “I felt like I was dying.”

Three weeks after that, the CDC traced the E. coli that had sickened Rylee and 204 others to spinach packed at Earthbound Farm in San Juan Bautista, California. The company, which had been getting high marks from third-party auditors NSF Cook & Thurber and PrimusLabs, announced a recall on Sept. 15, 2006.

Charlie Sweat, Earthbound’s CEO, says that when he learned the outbreak had killed three people, including 2-year-old Kyle Allgood of Chubbuck, Idaho, he fell to his knees and thought he may have to shut down his company.

“If we couldn’t reduce the risk, we said we’d walk away,” Sweat says.

MICROBIAL TESTS

Sweat started doing microbial tests at regular intervals on both incoming lettuce shipments from growers and on packed salads before they were sold to retailers. He now says he won’t allow the shipments to move until test results show they’re free of pathogens. He hasn’t had an outbreak or recall since starting this process in October 2006.

Earthbound’s operations chief Will Daniels says the testing adds 3 cents to the cost of a bag of lettuce. That’s too much for many growers, says IEH Laboratories’ Samadpour, who designed Earthbound’s testing.

“It’s retailers and food service companies who have to say, ‘Here are three pennies for safety,”’ says Samadpour, the lab owner who does testing for the FDA. “Only a few do it. The rest pressure growers to cut costs, and safety is the first victim.”

One big retailer that’s willing to pay for Earthbound’s testing methods is Costco. It pays Earthbound the extra 3 cents per bag.

‘WE NEED REGULATIONS’

“We need regulations saying you can’t ship your product until you have a microbial testing program in place,” says Craig Wilson, vice president of food safety at Costco.

Rylee Gustafson was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in June 2012, a result of her weakened pancreas.

In five food-caused outbreaks in the past six years, private auditors didn’t test for bacteria and failed to stop deadly outbreaks. Federal inspectors later looked in the right places and identified the cause of the illnesses and deaths — including the cantaloupe-borne listeria that killed William Beach.

Two other victims of the Jensen Farms listeria are Michelle Wakley-Paciorek and her daughter, Kendall, of Fishers, Indiana. Michelle, who was 29 weeks pregnant with Kendall, was getting a pedicure on Sept. 21, 2011, when sudden contractions left her doubled over in pain. Her labor was triggered by listeria, according to the county health department. She gave birth that day, three months early.

“At one point, my baby wasn’t breathing,” says Wakley- Paciorek, a retail manager. “She looked wrinkled, red, almost transparent.”

‘WHAT’S BETTER THAN CANTALOUPE?’

Weighing 3 pounds, 11 ounces, Kendall was whisked into a neonatal unit at St. Vincent Carmel Hospital in Carmel, Indiana. She stayed there for three months. Kendall had stomach surgery and started her life with a feeding tube in her belly. She may suffer delays in cognitive development, Wakley-Paciorek says doctors told her.

“The third-party auditor passed Jensen, and they should have stopped it right away,” Wakley-Paciorek says. “I was pregnant and trying to eat right. I thought, ‘What’s better for you than cantaloupe?”’

To contact the reporters on this story: Stephanie Armour in Washington at sarmour@bloomberg.net

John Lippert in Chicago at jlippert@bloomberg.net;

Michael Smith in Santiago at Mssmith@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jonathan Neumann at jneumann2@bloomberg.net

original article available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-11/food-sickens-millions-as-industry-paid-inspectors-find-it-safe.html

Shredded Coconut

Drew’s mom makes the best granola I have ever tried, and I’ve tried quite a few. It never lasts very long when she mails Drew a fresh supply of her homemade granola from Indianapolis. The original recipe does not call for shredded coconut, but Kathleen adds some, and Drew loves that part. He likes adding shredded coconut to foods (even ground beef, which tastes real good). So, I try and always have shredded coconut on hand.

Coconut has lately received a lot of attention for all its health properties. And it does have several. However, it should be noted that not all packages of shredded coconut are processed the same way.

Several (sometimes most) varieties found in grocery stores contain added ingredients, ingredients that many consumers may want to avoid, such as added sweeteners, sulfites, or preservatives. Thankfully, as consumers become more discerning and demanding, healthier versions of shredded coconut are becoming more popular in regular grocery stores – you do not always need to shop at a Whole Foods type market to find these healthier versions of shredded coconut.

For example, the ingredient list for one popular brand, Kraft Bakers ,

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reads as follows: coconut, sugar, water, propylene glycol (preserves freshness), salt, sodium metabisulfite (retains coconut whiteness). And it is advertised as being “The moistest Coconut on the market! It sells for approximately $3.30 for a 14-ounce bag, or $.23 per ounce on Amazon.com

For other brands, such as Bob’s Red Mill,

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the ingredient list reads as follows: Natural, Unsulphured Coconut. It sells for approximately $3.09 for a 12 ounce bag, or $.77 per ounce on Amazon.com.

Now, many may be wondering what is the difference, other than price, between these two options. It all comes down to the ingredients, let’s take a closer look at the conventional brand’s ingredients: coconut, sugar, water, propylene glycol (preserves freshness), salt, sodium metabisulfite (retains coconut whiteness). The coconut in conventional brands may well be very similar to the coconut used in more unprocessed varieties. But the conventional brand also adds sugar, which is most likely conventionally produced and refined sugar (which is typically made white by granular activated carbon [GAC], or ion exchange resin which removes less colour than GAC but also removes some of the inorganics present. The conventional brand also adds propylene glycol, which though it shows a very low acute oral toxicity , and large quantities are required to cause perceptible health damage in humans, it is still an additive that many consumers would rather avoid. The conventional brand also includes salt, which is a generic term to describe one of many different kinds of salt. Most likely, conventional brands of shredded coconut use refined table salt, a form of salt that typically has added anti-caking chemicals, and added iodine. Refined salt is also processed at high temperatures, altering the molecular structure of the salt and removing the beneficial trace minerals. Unrefined salt is approximately 84% sodium chloride and 16% other minerals. Refined salt is approximately 97.5% sodium chloride and 2.5% chemical additives. Lastly, the conventional brand of shredded coconut had added sodium metabisulfite, a popular conserving and antioxidizing agent used in food, drugs, and cosmetics, to which a small portion of the population is allergic.

For consumers trying to avoid food additives and excess sugar and salt, alternatives to conventional shredded coconut brands is probably a good idea.

Here is the granola recipe Kathleen shared with me:

granola2

Ingredients
4 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup shelled, raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1 1/2 cups slivered raw almonds
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups pure Grade A dark amber maple syrup
1/3 cup canola oil
Kathleen also adds shredded coconut, barley flakes and flax meal as well (and then a bit more oil and maple syrup to help coat the extra dry ingredients)Directions
1) position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees
2) Place oats, sunflower seeds, almonds and cinnamon in large bowl and stir to combine.  Add the maple syrup and oil and stir until dry ingredients are moistened.
3) Spread granola on 12×17 inch rimmed baking sheet.  Bake granola until it begins to brown about 25 minutes, then stir with a spatula.Continue to bake until light golden brown, dry and fragrant- about 15-20 minutes longer.  Stir once more and watch during final minutes because it can burn quickly.
4) Place on a cooling rack and add raisins- stir to combine.  Let cool completely and transfer to airtight container.  Can be stored at room temperature for 1 month or frozen for 6 months.

The Duchess of Cambridge Grocery Shopping

I just adore Kate Middleton. I don’t enjoy following celebrities, at all, except Kate. She is just such a classy young lady. Of course, you can never tell what a celebrity is like in real life, based solely on what the press reports. But, since I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Kate, the press is all I can go on. And she certainly does seem like a very graceful, confident yet humble, and gracious princess.

So yes, I do occasionally pick up a magazine when I see her on the cover….oh who am I kidding, I always pick it up if I see her on the cover.

But what does this have to do with food law and more importantly, your grocery store shopping experience, oh I am so glad you asked.

In honor of Kate Middleton and her sightings at Tesco’s (the local British grocery store), here are some interesting tidbits about what you will find in American grocery stores, that you will not find in any British ones.

(but first some pictures of the newly married Princess Catherine, doing groceries for her and her hubby)

Catherine does the grocery shopping

 Kate+Middleton+Kate+Middleton+Buys+Groceries+5iXhsk7pmILl

Now, back to the food and law business.

Kate reportedly purchased a lot of fruits and veggies on this particular outing, and also, some ice cream. Now ice cream may seem pretty universal to the average consumer, but you are no average consumer, and now you will understand why we in America have certain options when it comes to our ice cream selections that Kate did not have on that April day when she went to the local Tesco’s in Anglesey Wales.

This side of the pond, many of our grocery stores carry ice cream varieties that include artificial food colors (or, as the Brits say, “colours”). There are currently seven different artificial food colors that are approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The three most popular are Red #40, Yellow #5, and Blue #1

Many popular ice cream brands in the US use artificial colors. Take for example Edy’s Slow Churned Mint Chocolate Chip – one of my boyfriend’s favorite ice cream flavors (but he doesn’t buy Edy’s, he scopes out the organic section at our local grocery store for specials and avoids all these less than desirable ingredients, which is why we get along). This particular product has the following ingredients: non-fat milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, chocolaty chips (sugar, coconut oil, cocoa processed with alkali, fractionated palm kernel oil, cocoa, soy lecithin, salt, natural flavor), whey protein, buttermilk, molasses, acacia gum, carob bean gum, guar gum, yellow 5, blue 1, carrageenan, natural flavor. There are two artificial colors found in this flavor that Kate probably would not find in any of the ice cream flavors available to her at Tesco’s.

That is because in the UK, several major companies have voluntarily chosen not to use artificial colors in their products, even though they continue to manufacture the same product for the US market with the inclusion of the artificial color.

A little background first.

Lately, there has been quite a bit of talk about the science of artificial food colors (both lakes and dyes). Do artificial colors contribute to hyperactivity in children? This is the question that has dominated much of the conversation. The answers are not clear-cut. In analyzing the conflicting answers, it is important to always keep another question in mind – “who funded the research?”

Many of the studies relied upon by FDA to assess the safety of artificial food colors were funded by food companies that manufacture artificial colors. FDA has concluded there is not enough evidence to demonstrate a link between artificial food colors and hyperactivity in children, and has further concluded they should remain permitted in the American food supply. Of course, this position does not preclude parents and other consumers from avoiding them, it just means the parent or consumer needs to be intentional about avoiding them.

Interestingly, many companies, such as Kraft, Coca Cola, Wal-Mart, and even Mars (makers of M&Ms candy) have already removed these artificial food colors from products they distribute in some other countries, such as England – and they did so voluntarily. They have reformulated their product lines in other countries to no longer include these artificial food colors, a move they made, again, voluntarily, in response to consumer demand and an important study called the Southampton Study.

The Southampton Study was unique in that it tested the synergistic effect of multiple food colors, because children are seldom exposed to only one artificial color – usually they are exposed to a combination (for example, Yellow #5 and Blue #1 in Edy’s Slow Churned Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream). The Study was also unique in that it was funded, not by industry, but by the British national food safety agency. It was this Study and the consumer reaction to its findings that prompted even American companies to remove artificial colors (and sodium benzonate, a preservative) from their U.K. products. For example, the strawberry variety of the Kellog’s Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars have two formulations,

I am particularly impressed by the fact that these companies removed these artificial colors voluntarily. For example, Asda, the U.K. branch of Wal-Mart, acted one week after details were leaked to the UK press about the results of the Southampton Study. They did not even wait for the study to be published before making their move.

In an article published by the Food and Drink Federation, a Web site that monitors food issues in Europe, Jess Halliday reported that “Asda [U.K. Wal-Mart] has pledged to remove any artificial colours or flavours from its 9,000 own label products, as well as aspartame, hydrogenated fat, and flavour enhancers such as monosodium glutamate.” And the Study did not even mention those last three items.

According to Asda/U.K. Wal-Mart food trading director Darren Blackhurt, “We know that our customers, particularly those that are mums and dads, are becoming more and more concerned about what’s in the food they buy.” And in 2008, Coca-Cola announced it would remove sodium benzonate from its products, but only in the U.K.

“We know that artificial colours are of concern to consumers, which is why, in 2006, Mars began a programme to remove them from our products. . . in November 2007, Starburst Chews became free from all artificial colours. . . . in December 2007, Skittles were made free from all the artificial colours highlighted in a landmark study by Southampton University. . . We have already removed four colours mentioned in the Southampton study from Peanut and Choco M&M’s, and are in the process of removing the final one so they too will be free from these artificials during 2008.”—Mars UK

“From September 2007, the UK’s favourite kids’ chocolate brand—Milky Bar—is to be made with all natural ingredients.”—Nestlé UK

“We are committed to replacing all artificial colours in our sweets. We note the Southampton University findings, but we had begun this process already because we are continually listening to our customers.” —UK Cadbury Chocolate division

A BBC report quotes Asda/U.K. Wal-Mart as saying that in “its decision to halt the use of artificial colours and flavours, [it] was acting because ‘mums and dads are becoming more and more concerned about what’s in the food they buy.’” An Asda/U.K. Wal-Mart press release elaborates: “Reformulation was hard work, but it was a labour of love.”

Mums and Dads in the UK are certainly affecting the nature of the foods their children will grow up eating and what foods are even available in the grocery stores – I wonder what kind of food Kate and William will feed the new prince or princess! Well, according at least to the press, an insider of the soon-to-be first time mom told Us Weekly, “Kate promised herself she would only eat healthy until the birth,” the insider said, adding, “As soon as she can eat normally again, she’ll be avoiding processed foods.”

And here is one last picture of Kate, this time expecting her first baby 🙂

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

 

Genetically Engineered Salmon

Salmon is one of my favorite types of fish, for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it is so healthy. And many of my friends and family consume a lot of salmon as well, for the same reason. But what many people perhaps do not know, is that not all salmon is the same, and not all types of salmon are as healthful as others, either for those of us who consume it or for the environment.

Salmon consumed in the United States varies by species, product, origin (domestic and imported) and type (wild and farmed). There are significant differences between Pacific and Atlantic salmon consumption in products, origin and

Species: Americans consume five species of Pacific salmon (chinook, sockeye, coho, pink and chum) as well as Atlantic salmon. These species vary considerably in size, taste and suitability for different kinds of products.

Origin: Americans consume both domestic and imported salmon.

Product: Americans consume salmon that is initially processed or imported in three major product forms: canned, frozen and fresh.

Type: Americans consume both farmed and wild salmon.

But there could soon be another classification of salmon on the market, genetically engineered.

The following is from an article published by Reuters on December 21, 2012, which states that a controversial genetically engineered salmon has moved a step closer to your grocery store and restaurant table after the US. Food and Drug Administration said Friday the fish didn’t appear likely to pose a threat to the environment or to humans who eat it.

AquAdvantage salmon eggs would produce fish with the potential to grow to market size in half the time of conventional salmon. If it gets final approval, it would be the first food from a transgenic animal – one whose genome has been altered – to be approved by the FDA.

The AquAdvantage Atlantic salmon egg was developed by AquaBounty Technology to speed up production to meet global seafood demand.

“With respect to food safety, FDA has concluded that food from AquAdvantage salmon is as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon, and that there is a reasonable certainty of no harm from consumption,” the FDA assessment states.

AquaBounty officials said they were caught by surprise by the news that its product was a step closer to approval as years of controversy had followed the company’s application for a go-ahead from the regulator.

“We are encouraged that the environmental assessment is being released and hope the government continues the science-based regulatory process,” said AquaBounty Chief Executive Ronald Stotish.

Critics say the new salmon is a “dangerous experiment” and have pressured the FDA to reject it. They say the FDA has relied on outdated science and substandard methods for assessing the new fish.

“We are deeply concerned that the potential of these fish to cause allergic reactions has not been adequately researched,” said Michael Hansen, a scientist at the Consumers Union. “FDA has allowed this fish to move forward based on tests of allergenicity of only six engineered fish, tests that actually did show an increase in allergy-causing potential.”

There were also concerns the FDA would not require the genetically modified salmon to be labeled as such, and some critics said they may file a lawsuit to prevent what they fear could be the imminent approval of the engineered fish.

“Congress can still keep FDA from unleashing this dangerous experiment,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, a consumer advocacy group. “Although this latest FDA decision is a blow to consumer confidence, we encourage everyone to contact their members of Congress and demand this reckless decision be overturned.”

The Center for Food Safety, another non-profit consumer protection group, was highly critical of the FDA report, and officials said they might sue the regulator over the issue.

“It is extremely disappointing that the Obama Administration continues to push approval of this dangerous and unnecessary product,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety. “The GE salmon has no socially redeeming value. It’s bad for the consumer, bad for the salmon industry and bad for the environment.”

FDA spokeswoman Morgan Liscinsky said no final decisions have been made on labeling or on the application for approval.

“The release of these materials is not a decision on whether food from AquAdvantage Salmon requires additional labeling; nor is it a decision on the new animal drug application currently under review. It also does not provide a final food safety determination,” Liscinsky said.

The AquAdvantage salmon would be an all-female population with eggs produced in a facility on Prince Edward Island in Canada and shipped to a “grow-out facility” in Panama, where they would be reared to market size and harvested for processing.

_________________________________________________

I’ll keep you posted on the outcome of the pending FDA approval

in the meantime, here is one of my favorite recipes for salmon, my friend Dani and I discovered it on Allrecipes.com a few winters ago when I was staying with her and her mom in Connecticut.

Untitled

Ingredients:

4 cloves of garlic

6 tablespoons of olive oil

2 teaspoons dried basil

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

2 table spoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh parsley

2 (6 ounce each) fillets of salmon

Directions:

In a medium glass bowl, prepare the marinade by mixing garlic, light olive oil, basil, salt, pepper, lemon juice and parsley. Place salmon fillets in a medium glass baking dish, and cover with the marinade. Marinate in the refrigerator about 1 hour, turning occasionally.

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees

Place filets in a baking dish, cover with marinade and aluminum foil.

Bake 35 to 45 minutes, or until fish is easily flaked with a fork.

We like serving it with homemade sweet potato fries.