Archive | food safety

The Milk Industry Wants to do What??? {Know The Facts}

What the Milk Industry really wants

Have you heard the latest craziness?   In 2009, the Milk industry petitioned the FDA to allow the use of artificial sweeteners in milk without additional labeling on the front of the package.  Labels such as “reduced calorie” or “reduced sugar” are required now when artificial sweeteners are added to dairy products as an extra notice to consumers.  

FDA is now asking for comments on this petition and articles are flying around the internet.  The problem is that quite a few articles are incorrect or unclear on what the petition is actually asking.  Many are claiming that the milk industry wants to add artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame) without including that ingredient in the ingredient list.  This is not true.   Other articles are claiming that the industry is asking to be allowed to add artificial sweeteners to milk.  They already can!  What they are actually asking for is to remove the additional front of the package labeling.

I did quite a bit of reading of the actual petition and this is my interpretation and that of the Huffington Post and Snopes.

Straight from the petition:

The IDFA (International Dairy Foods Association ) and NMPF (National Milk Producers Federation) jointly submitted a citizen petition (Ref. 1) on March 16, 2009, requesting that FDA amend the standard of identity in part 131 (21 CFR part 131) for milk (§ 131.110). Specifically, the petition requests that FDA amend § 131.110(c)(2) to allow the use of “any safe and suitable” sweetener in optional characterizing flavoring ingredients used in milk.”
What does this mean?  They want to redefine the word “milk” to include “any safe and suitable” sweetener – i.e. artificial sweeteners, also known in biz as “non-nutritive sweeteners”.  Nutritive sweeteners such as sugar and high fructose corn syrup are already part of the definition.  This does NOT mean that they don’t need to be listed in the ingredient list.  Just that by definition, milk can contain these items and still be called just plain old “milk” without any qualifiers on the label – the front of the label.  So why bother you might ask, well…..

The petition goes on to say:

“The petition acknowledges that the use of non-nutritive sweeteners in optional characterizing flavoring ingredients in milk is allowed under the existing regulatory scheme, with certain additional requirements. …  Therefore, while the milk standard of identity in § 131.110 only provides for the use of “nutritive sweetener” in an optional characterizing flavor, milk may contain a characterizing flavor that is sweetened with a non-nutritive sweetener if the food’s label bears a nutrient content claim (e.g., “reduced calorie”) and the non-nutritive sweetener is used to add sweetness to the product so that it is not inferior in its sweetness property compared to its standardized counterpart. 

Artificial sweeteners can already be added to milk, as long as there is additional labeling on the packaging.  We usually see something like “reduced sugar” or certain ingredients have an asterisk with a note such as “*Ingredients not in regular milk”.  I recently found this on a yogurt container with Sucralose.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize at the time that sucralose is code for Equal.

So what is their reasoning for this.  Again from the petition:   “However, IDFA and NMPF argue that nutrient content claims such as “reduced calorie” are not attractive to children, and maintain that consumers can more easily identify the overall nutritional value of milk products that are flavored with non-nutritive sweeteners if the labels do not include such claims. Further, the petitioners assert that consumers do not recognize milk—including flavored milk—as necessarily containing sugar. Accordingly, the petitioners state that milk flavored with non-nutritive sweeteners should be labeled as milk without further claims so that consumers can “more easily identify its overall nutritional value.”

OK, so let me get this straight.  I, as a consumer, don’t recognize that milk should contain sugar. Right, plain milk shouldn’t.  Flavored milk however?  Unless it’s broccoli flavored milk, I’m pretty sure there is a sweetener of some kind in there.  But let’s keep going…. if I see “reduced sugar” on a bottle of chocolate milk I might get confused and think this isn’t milk?????  So they are doing me a favor.  And the piece d ’resistance” children are not attracted to a product that is labeled “reduced sugar”.

Personally, I think this is another marketing tactic and I do not agree with it.  Yes, the ingredients will still be listed but it is getting more and more difficult to decode ingredient lists.  I have added comments to this effect on the FDA petition.   

Comment period on the petition ends May 21, 2013.  Here is good read on the subject.

Misleading articles and the damage they do

With a little reading of the actual petition I could tell there was something not right about the initial articles I was reading.  Writers:  Do your due diligence!  You are hurting the environmental movement by jumping to conclusions and getting people riled up about something that is not true.  Many articles refer to petitions asking to stop the FDA from “adding aspartame to milk” or to require it in the ingredient list.  These petitions are asking the wrong thing.  Many people are submitting comments to the FDA on the wrong issue!  The FDA will be dismissing these comments as not relevant.  I hope these article are corrected and the petitions amended.  

What are your thoughts on this change?   Were you confused about the petition?

This post was shared at Green Sisterhood


Tomatoes, Trader Joe’s and BPA

trader joes tomatoes

Recently I posted an article titled 7 Foods Even Food Safety Experts Won’t Eat.  Item #1 is canned tomatoes.  The linings of cans contain Bisphenol-A (BPA) which has received a lot of attention in recent years.  It sparked a discussion on the Facebook page about which tomato cans were now BPA-free.  Tomatoes are especially concerning because the acidic nature of the tomatoes can increase the likelihood of toxins leaching from the can.  

There was some confusion about Trader Joe’s, so I emailed the company.  Here is their response to me on Feb. 19, 2013:

Dear Ms. Greene,
Thank you for contacting us.  Here is the deal with BPA.  First, regarding Tetra, all Tetra Pak is BPA-free.
Second, every glass jar item has a metal lid. All metal lids do have a layer of BPA coating. However, there is another coating put on after that. There is no direct contact of BPA to food. We have multiple supplier testing results showing there is no BPA detected from metal lids.
All our canned fish (and our canned chicken and beef too) are now in BPA-free cans EXCEPT: Sardines, Crab, Cherrystone Clams & Oysters (our suppliers are working for a solution next year).
All our canned fruits, beans and vegetables (including tomatoes, and the Organic Canned Pumpkin) are in BPA-free cans EXCEPT: Mandarins, Hatch Chilies, Artichokes, Organic Baked Beans (expecting transition this Fall).
All of our canned Soups and Stews (and including Joe’s Os) are in cans that DO have BPA. Some of our suppliers are expecting they will be able to make transition next year.
Lastly, Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream is in a BPA-free can.
I hope this helps!
Customer Relations 

While I am glad they are making strides to rid BPA from their cans, I wonder what it is being replaced with.  Some replacements may not be any safer than BPA.  And Consumer Reports recommends choosing fresh over canned when possible after finding BPA in many canned products.

Ideally, I avoid canned foods when possible, like cooking my own beans.  Tomatoes are difficult.  I want to can or freeze my own, but we’ll see how that goes this summer.  I have heard the Eden has tomatoes in amber glass jars, but I haven’t found them around here yet.  Anyone know where they can be purchased?

 Do you avoid  BPA where you can?  If so, how?

Top Photo by St0rmz used under Creative Commons license

This post has been shared at Frugal Days Sustainable Ways


Fresh {Friday Film Fest}

Fresh film review
Joel Salatin, Polyface Farms
credit: Polyface Farms

The movie Fresh, produced in 2009 by Ana Sofia Joannes, focuses on the troubles with conventional farming. By discussing what people around the country are doing to combat the negative effects of big agriculture, the film does a great job of explaining the problems and giving solutions. 

The film shows Virginia farmer Joel Salatin who raises cattle, pigs and chickens using natural methods – mimicking nature and therefore not needing antibiotics for disease or having other issues coming about when too many of one thing are in the same place.  One of the main points for me was that nature has this sustainability thing figured out already.  We humans are messing with it and we aren’t seeing that connection.  By confining one species to one small location (as what happens in conventional meat production) we introduce many diseases and problems not seen in nature.  Now you have to combat those issues (giving antibiotics to keep livestock healthy) which introduces other issues.  The cycle goes on and on.

I have heard these figures before but they really sunk in this time.  70% of the corn produced goes to feed cattle, which by the way are not designed to eat corn.  They are herbivores and should be eating grass.  70%!!  Think of all the people that could be fed with that amount of land.

The other point I found most interesting and contrary to what is normally heard is the profitability of Joel Salatin’s farms.  He stated that his farm can yield $3000 per acre while his conventional farming neighbors makes closer to $165 per acre.

The film balances these points by interviewing other farmers who feel like they have been forced into growing corn or soybeans to survive.  It opened my eyes to the struggles the small farmer faces.

The more I learn, the more I think vegetarians and vegans are on to something.  Meat eating seems to be the root of so many problems – health, environmental, even financial to some extent.  

Have you seen Fresh?  What did you think?

Please leave you comments or if you are a blogger feel free to link up a post.

If you’d like to join the Friday Film Fest, take a look at the complete list of films.
Up next week is Plastic Planet. 


Ways To Avoid Pesticides in Produce on a Budget

Ways To Avoid Pesticides on a Budget

Conventional produce has pesticides even after washing.  Ideally it would be great if you could buy organic for all of your produce.   However, that’s not always possible – either you can’t afford or can’t find organic produce for everything you eat.  Now, what do you do?  
The Environmental Working Group has created a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides which ranks pesticide contamination for almost 50 popular fruits and vegetables.  The 12 most contaminated foods are called the ‘dirty dozen’.  They include apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines (imported), grapes (imported),  sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries(domestic), lettuce, spinach, kale/collards.   There is also the ‘clean 15’ which are the 15 least pesticide ridden.  They include onions,  sweet corn, pineapple, avocados, asparagus, sweet peas (frozen), mango, eggplant, cantaloupe (domestic), kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, mushrooms.  
The obvious answer is to buy organic for the dirty dozen.  If that is not an option, the EWG still says “Eat your fruits and vegetables!  The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.”  Aim to reduce your pesticide exposure if you can’t totally eliminate it.  And let’s face it, eliminating it totally is probably going to be pretty tough.
Here are other ways to reduce your pesticide exposure:
  1. Buy from a local farm that is organic or uses other methods of pest control.  With summer approaching, farmers markets will be everywhere!
  2. Don’t buy the dirty dozen as frequently.  Even if you reduce the amount of strawberries you eat by half, that’s half the amount of pesticides.
  3. Exchange one of the dirty dozen for something lower on the list, ideally the clean 15.  For example, choose sweet potatoes over regular or cantaloupe/watermelon for peaches or nectarines.
  4. Try organic frozen varieties of the dirty dozen.  They are often less expensive.  I love this for smoothies.  Plus, it helps to satisfy the craving for that fruit, which means I don’t need to buy it fresh as often.
  5. To reduce residual pesticide, wash your fruits and vegetables well. 
  6. Do some pricing research.  You can find organic produce at pretty good prices if you look around.
  7. Take a look at other areas where you can save money so you can shift some of your budget to organics.
  8. Grow your own!
  9. Take a look at what you eat the most and concentrate on reducing the pesticides on those.  For example, even though carrots are not in the dirty dozen, they are still pretty high on the list and we eat lots of them.  I choose to buy these organic.  Costco used to have them at a fantastic price.  But I haven’t seen them in Nashua for a month!
Here are some specifics I have found:

Celery – I have seen organic for not much more.  You could just leave it out of your recipe, or substitute chopped cabbage, cucumbers or water chestnuts for the crunch and celery seed/salt for the flavor.  If you do buy organic celery and won’t use it all, try freezing it.   I have chopped celery, frozen it and used it in soups with much success.

Apples – Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s regularly have organic apples.  Since they keep so long, I stock up when I can.  Also, remember to buy organic applesauce.   Trader Joe’s has reasonably priced unsweetened organic applesauce that even my sweet tooth daughter loves!
Blueberries (Domestic) – Sounds odd, but try to look for imported blueberries.
Spinach –   For cooked dishes, broccoli is an option which is also high in carotenoids, vitamins A and C and folate.   If you can use frozen, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have organic frozen spinach at a reasonable price.
Kale/Collard Greens– I see organic kale at Hannaford quite regularly for not much more.
Potatoes –Try sweet potatoes.  They are more nutritious too.  I recently bought organic potatoes at Hannaford for the same price as non-organic.  The only difference being that I had to buy them in a 5 lb bag instead of choosing them individually.  Trader Joe’s also has them at a reasonable price.
Grapes (Imported) – I have been buying domestic grapes at Hannaford.  Although from January until about April, they are not available so we don’t buy as many grapes.
Just knowing which ones are high in pesticides will help you make better choices.  I often find myself opting for the lower pesticide fruits and veggies automatically now.  There are still plenty of great options that do not need to be organic. 
As a general rule of thumb, items lower on the pesticide scale tend to be fruits and veggies with thick skins that you do not eat – melons, mangoes, pineapples, grapefruits, kiwi, peas, corn.  Of course then there are cranberries and eggplant that mess that up, but it’s a start!
In case you still can’t remember all this, there is a pocket guide!  As soon as I posted this, the EWG updated their guide for 2011.  This post has been updated for the 2011 EWG guide.

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday and Seasonal Celebration Sunday.





Popcorn please, hold the carcinogen

Friday night is movie night at our house, complete with popcorn. When I started going green I stumbled across some information on microwave popcorn that I did not like.

According to an article on Care 2 – Dangers of Microwave Popcorn, microwave popcorn contains diacetyl in the fake butter flavoring. While the real concern for exposure to diacetyl seems to be concentrated on people who work in popcorn factories, there isn’t any proof that we as consumers of microwave popcorn are not being exposed as well. Diacetyl can cause a condition called popcorn lung.

Another concern with microwave popcorn is with the coating used on the bags. The FDA indicates that this chemical coating breaks down into a substance called perfluorooctanoic (PFOA). Nasty stuff according the EPA which identifiues PFOA as a “likely carcinogen”. Not what I had in mind when we started Family Movie night!

So, the solution, pop your own. At first I thought, “OK this will take a little more time, but I am NOT going to be feeding that stuff to my kids.” Well, it is soooo easy, tastes way better and is cheaper! Who doesn’t like that?

My Method:
Paper bag
¼ cup popcorn kernels
seasoning of your choice

Place the popcorn into a sandwich sized paper bag.
Fold the top over twice.
Place in microwave sitting upright.
Cook on High for 2 – 4 minutes. I found that it takes this method the same 2 minutes in my microwave that the store bought packages did.
Done! Add real butter, salt, whatever you like.

The first time I made this, my kids LOVED it better than the microwave kind. The best part, I have found that Whole Foods sells organic popcorn, in bulk for $1.39 per lb.! That is the best price I have found anywhere. It is comparable in price to non-organic popcorn at Market Basket! The total cost for this homemade version is 25 cents. The equivalent microwave bag of popcorn, purchased at BJ’s, would cost 34 cents. Cheaper, better for you, and easy! Win, win and win!

Yes you are using a paper bag, but the health concerns outweigh that small amount of paper in my book. You can save the bag and use it a few times to cut down on the bags. After a while the steam causes holes in the bag. But you can recycle the bag at that point.

There are microwave poppers available. Most I found were plastic – not a big fan of putting plastic in the microwave so those were out. Of course there is the stove top method or using a hot air popper which would reduce the need for a paper bag.

Can’t wait for movie night now!

[Top photo used under Creative Commons license by Ayelie/Flickr]


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