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Wednesday, November 26, 2014
By Dr. Mercola
When you eat processed foods, you can virtually guarantee that you’re also consuming any number of questionable food additives. More than 10,000 such additives are allowed in food when you factor in those that are added directly to your food as well as those in the packaging (which can migrate to your food).
Additives are used in food processing to slow spoilage, prevent fats and oils from going rancid, prevent fruits from turning brown, and fortify or enrich the food with synthetic vitamins and minerals to replace the natural ones that were lost during processing.
They’re also added to improve taste, texture, and appearance, as many processed foods would be as dull and bland as cardboard without some artificial help.
Unfortunately, many of these additives have been linked to health concerns, while others have been granted “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) status without pre-market review or approval. As the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reported:
“This system makes sense for benign additives such as pepper and basil, but there are enormous loopholes that allow additives of questionable safety to be listed as GRAS.
Manufacturers can decide whether these compounds are safe without any oversight by the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] – and in some cases obtain GRAS status without telling the FDA at all.”
12 Worst Food Additives to Avoid
To help you sort through the questionable compounds on food labels, EWG has released their Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives.1 It includes additives already linked to health concerns, those that have been banned or restricted in other countries, and substances that simply have no business being in food.
1. Nitrites and Nitrates
Sodium nitrite is a synthetic preservative added to meats like hot dogs and deli meat to help them maintain that nice pink color. The problem is, in the presence of heat—especially high heat—nitrites can combine with amines in processed meat to form nitrosamines, and these are carcinogenic.
Nitrosamines inflict cellular damage and have been linked to cancer, typically in your colon, bladder, stomach, or pancreas.2 The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment is currently considering listing nitrite in combination with amines as a known carcinogen.
Nitrates are present in many vegetables, such as beets, celery, lettuce, spinach, and most other leafy green vegetables, and this has lead to some confusion. Nitrites and nitrates are not inherently bad for you—in fact, they are the precursor to nitric oxide (NO), which lowers your blood pressure and exerts mild anti-inflammatory effects.
Remember, it is the nitrosamine formation that is dangerous. Processed meats are far more prone to nitrosamine formation than vegetables, due to being higher in amines and intensively heat processed.3
2. Potassium Bromate
You might not be aware of this, but nearly every time you eat bread in a restaurant or consume a hamburger or hotdog bun you are consuming bromide, an endocrine-disrupting chemical commonly used in flours.
The use of potassium bromate as an additive in commercial breads and baked goods has been a huge contributor to bromide overload in Western cultures.
Bromated flour is “enriched” with potassium bromate. Commercial baking companies use it because it makes the dough more elastic and better able to stand up to bread hooks. However, Pepperidge Farm and other successful companies manage to use only unbromated flour without any of these so-called “structural problems.”
Studies have linked potassium bromate to kidney and nervous system damage, thyroid problems, gastrointestinal discomfort, and cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies potassium bromate as a possible carcinogen. Potassium bromate is banned for food use in Canada, China, and the European Union (EU).
3. Propyl Paraben
Propyl paraben is an endocrine-disrupting chemical used as a food preservative. It’s commonly found in tortillas, muffins, and food dyes and may also contaminate foods via packaging.
Research has shown that 91 percent of Americans have propyl paraben in their urine, and tests on beverages, dairy products, meat, and vegetables found the chemical in about half of the samples.4
Propyl paraben has weak estrogenic activity, which makes it relevant when it comes to estrogen-sensitive cancers like breast cancer. This substance has been found to accelerate the growth of breast cancer cells, impair fertility in women, and reduce sperm counts and testosterone levels.5
4. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a preservative that affects the neurological system of your brain, alters behavior, and has the potential to cause cancer. It can be found in breakfast cereal, nut mixes, chewing gum, butter spread, meat, dehydrated potatoes, popcorn, chips, and beer, just to name a few.
BHA is known to cause cancer in rats, and may be a cancer-causing agent in humans as well. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, National Toxicology Program's 2011 Report on Carcinogens, BHA "is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”
The international cancer agency categorizes it as a possible human carcinogen, and it’s listed as a known carcinogen under California’s Proposition 65.
BHA may also trigger allergic reactions and hyperactivity. BHA is banned from infant foods in the UK and is banned from use in all foods in certain parts of the EU and Japan. In the US, the FDA considers BHA to be a GRAS additive.
5. Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
BHT is chemically similar to BHA and the two preservatives are often used together. While BHT is not considered a carcinogen like BHA, it has been linked to tumor development in animals.
It’s also been linked to developmental effects and thyroid changes in animal studies, which suggests it may be an endocrine-disrupting chemical. In the US, BHT is given GRAS status.
6. Propyl Gallate
Propyl gallate is a preservative used to prevent fats and oils from spoiling. It’s often found in sausage, frozen pizza, and other processed foods that contain edible fats. The National Toxicology Program reported that propyl gallate is associated with tumors, including rare brain tumors, in rats. EWG also reported:6
“A 2014 opinion by the European Food Safety Authority concluded that the available reproductive studies on propyl gallate are outdated and poorly described. In addition, there is incomplete data on whether propyl gallate is an endocrine disruptor; some evidence suggests it may have estrogenic activity.”
Theobromine is an alkaloid found in chocolate. It has effects similar to caffeine, and is the reason why chocolate is so highly toxic to dogs. In 2010, a company (Theocorp) requested that the FDA grant theobromine GRAS status so it could be added to bread, cereal, sports drinks, and other foods. The FDA raised several important questions, including whether reproductive and developmental effects seen in animals exposed to theobromine would apply to humans.
They also estimated that human consumption could be up to five times higher than the company reported as safe. The company withdrew their GRAS request, but it was later granted GRAS status anyway, and now is used in foods “outside of FDA oversight.” As EWG reported:7
“Theobromine is just one example of an enormous loophole in the FDA’s voluntary GRAS notification process. The food additive industry is allowed to designate a substance as GRAS without even notifying the agency, relying instead on ‘expert panels.’ Theocorp’s submission triggered important questions from FDA scientists about the additive’s safety. Instead of addressing them, the company withdrew the request, and the GRAS designation was made later without FDA approval. In some cases, companies forego FDA’s notification process altogether.”
8. Natural and Artificial Flavors
What’s particularly alarming when you see a word like “artificial flavor” or even “natural flavor” on an ingredients label is that there’s no way to know what it actually means. It could mean that one unnatural additive is included, or it could be a blend of hundreds of additives. Strawberry artificial flavor can contain nearly 50 chemical ingredients, for example.8
Most people assume that a natural flavor describes something like strawberries, garlic, or chili pepper used to naturally season food. In reality, most natural flavors are created in a laboratory, just like artificial flavors. The only difference is that natural flavors must be sourced from a natural product, whereas artificial flavors do not. According to the Code of Federal Regulations:9
“The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis. These contain the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”
In the end, natural flavors often bear little resemblance to the natural product from which they came. Many times, the resulting chemical may even be identical to those created synthetically to make artificial flavors, yet it will likely be more expensive. Some natural flavors even contain propylene glycol, a solvent, or the preservative BHA! Genetically engineered flavor enhancers can also be listed under the artificial flavor (or natural flavor) label. One exception is certified organic natural flavors, which must meet more stringent guidelines and cannot contain synthetic or genetically engineered ingredients.
9. Artificial Colors
Every year, food manufacturers pour 15 million pounds of artificial food dyes into US foods -- and that amount only factors in eight different varieties.10 As of July 2010, most foods in the EU that contain artificial food dyes were labeled with warning labels stating the food "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children." The British government also asked that food manufacturers remove most artificial colors from foods back in 2009 due to health concerns.
Nine of the food dyes currently approved for use in the US are linked to health issues ranging from cancer and hyperactivity to allergy-like reactions -- and these results were from studies conducted by the chemical industry itself.11 For instance, Red # 40, which is the most widely used dye, may accelerate the appearance of immune system tumors in mice, while also triggering hyperactivity in children.
Blue # 2, used in candies, beverages, pet foods and more, was linked to brain tumors. And Yellow 5, used in baked goods, candies, cereal, and more, may not only be contaminated with several cancer-causing chemicals, but it's also linked to hyperactivity, hypersensitivity, and other behavioral effects in children. Even the innocuous-sounding caramel color, which is widely used in brown soft drinks, may cause cancer due to 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI), a chemical byproduct formed when certain types of caramel coloring are manufactured.
The artificial flavoring called diacetyl is often used as a butter flavoring in microwave popcorn. It’s also used to flavor dairy products, including yogurt and cheese, and exists in some “brown flavorings,” including maple, strawberry, and raspberry flavors. Research shows diacetyl has several concerning properties for brain health and may trigger Alzheimer’s disease. Diacetyl has also been linked to respiratory damage, including inflammation and permanent scarring of the airways, in workers at a microwave popcorn plant.12
Phosphates are added to more than 20,000 products, including fast food, baked goods, and processed meats. They’re used to reduce acid, improve moisture retention, and facilitate leavening. Phosphates have been linked to some concerning health conditions, including heart disease. The European Food Safety Authority is currently reevaluating adding phosphates to food, but the results of their study aren’t expected until the end of 2018.
12. Aluminum Additives
Sodium aluminum phosphate, sodium aluminum sulfate, and many other aluminum additives are found in processed foods as stabilizers. This metal can accumulate and persist in your body, especially in your bones, and animal studies show aluminum may cause neurological effects, including changes in behavior, learning, and motor response. A link between Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders and aluminum exposure may also exist.
What Happens When You Eat Processed Foods?
Processing modifies or removes important components of food, like fiber, water, and nutrients, changing the way they are digested and assimilated in your body. Unlike whole foods, which contain a mix of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fiber, and water to help you feel satisfied, processed foods stimulate dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter, making you feel good even though the food lacks nutrients and fiber. This artificial dopamine stimulation can lead to excessive food cravings and, ultimately, food addiction.
Mood swings, memory problems and even depression are often the result of a heavily processed-food diet. In fact, the greatest concentration of serotonin, which is involved in mood control, depression, and aggression, is found in your intestines, not your brain! Many scientists believe that your gut is your second brain and they work in tandem, each influencing the other. Your intestinal health can have a profound influence on your mental health, and vice versa – and why eating processed foods that can harm your gut flora can have a profoundly negative impact on your mood, psychological health and behavior.
Plus, refined carbohydrates like breakfast cereals, bagels, waffles, pretzels, and most other processed foods quickly break down to sugar. This increases your insulin and leptin levels, and contributes to insulin and leptin resistance, which are the primary underlying factors of nearly every chronic disease and condition known to man, including weight gain. And, because processed foods are stripped of nutrients your body needs, you could be eating a large number of calories but still become malnourished. In just three generations, a nutrient-deficient diet can lead to infertility, which is on the rise in the US.13 Plus, processed foods often contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients, which are also linked to reproductive problems and additional health concerns.
The Easiest Way to Eliminate Processed Foods from Your Diet?
When it comes to staying healthy, avoiding processed foods and replacing them with fresh, whole foods is the "secret" you've been looking for. This might sound daunting, but if you take it step-by-step as described in my nutrition plan it’s quite possible, and manageable, to painlessly remove processed foods from your diet. Remember, people have thrived on vegetables, meats, eggs, fruits, and other whole foods for centuries, while processed foods were only recently invented. Many of the top executives and scientists at leading processed-food companies actually avoid their own foods for a variety of health reasons!
I believe you, too, should spend 90 percent of your food budget on whole foods, and only 10 percent on processed foods (unfortunately most Americans currently do the opposite). This requires that you plan your meals in advance. Ideally, this will involve scouting out your local farmer's markets for in-season produce that is priced to sell and planning your meals accordingly, but you can also use this same premise with supermarket sales. You can generally plan a week of meals at a time, make sure you have all ingredients necessary on hand, and then do any prep work you can ahead of time so that dinner is easy to prepare if you're short on time in the evenings (and you can use leftovers for lunches the next day).
If cravings are a problem for you, please see my article on how to eliminate junk-food cravings. One of the most effective strategies to eliminate sugar cravings is intermittent fasting, along with diet modifications that effectively help reset your body’s metabolism to burn fat instead of sugar as its primary fuel. If your carb cravings are linked to an emotional challenge, a psychological acupressure technique called the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can rapidly help you control your emotional food cravings. If you're currently sustaining yourself on fast food and processed foods, cutting them from your diet is one of the most positive life changes you could ever make.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Americans Have More Toxic Flame Retardants in Their Bodies Than Previously Thought... Free Test Can Determine if You’re Sitting on Toxic Furniture
By Dr. Mercola
While odorless, flame retardants like polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, are far from innocuous. They were recently identified as one of 17 "high priority" chemical groups that should be avoided to reduce your breast cancer risk,1 for instance.
Previous studies have shown that an estimated 90 percent of Americans already have flame-retardant chemicals in their bodies, making this an issue well worth considering—especially if you have young children, or are of child-bearing age.
Worse yet, recent tests2 have revealed that many Americans have no less than six different types of toxic flame retardants in their system.
The presence of chlorinated tris (TDCIPP) was particularly surprising, as this chemical was phased out of children's pajamas in the 1970s. As reported by Medicine Net:3
“The researchers tested urine samples from California residents and found detectable levels of a rarely studied group of flame retardants known as phosphates, and one -- tris-(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP) -- has never been seen in Americans before.
TCEP, a known carcinogen that can also damage people's nervous and reproductive systems, was detected in 75 percent of the people tested...”
Are You Sitting on Toxic Furniture?
Buying a new couch for your home is exciting, but once it's delivered and in your family room, you might notice a strong chemical scent wafting from the cushions, especially if they're made of polyurethane foam.
Your cozy couch cushions are likely to be doused in chemicals by the manufacturer. The ones that give off the "chemical" scent are probably toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) while another equally (if not more so) dangerous class of chemicals – flame retardants – have no smell at all.
Duke University has an excellent program as part of their Superfund Research Center that allows you to send in a sample of foam and have it tested for flame retardants… for free! It's virtually the only way for the average person to find out what's really lurking in their couch cushions (see the details below)…
How Flame Retardants Came to Reside in Your Couch (and in Many Other Household Items)
Flame-retardant chemicals were developed in the 1970s, when 40 percent of Americans smoked and cigarettes were a major cause of fires. The tobacco industry, under increasing pressure to make fire-safe cigarettes, resisted the push for self-extinguishing cigarettes and instead created a fake front group called the National Association of State Fire Marshals.
The group pushed for federal standards for fire-retardant furniture, and in 1975 California Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117) was passed. It required furniture sold in California to withstand a 12-second exposure to a small flame without igniting.
Because of California's economic importance, the requirement has essentially become a national standard, with manufacturers dousing their furniture with the chemicals whether they're going to be sold in California or elsewhere in the States.
Since then, their use has skyrocketed. Research published in Environmental Science & Technology revealed that 85 percent of couch foam samples tested contained chemical flame retardants.4 And as of July 1, 2007, all US mattresses are required to be highly flame retardant, to the extent that they won't catch on fire if exposed to a blowtorch.
Aside from couches and mattresses, such chemicals were detected in 60 percent of car seats tested by The Ecology Center5 while a separate study in Environmental Science & Technology also detected flame-retardant chemicals in 80 percent of the following children's products tested:6
Nursing pillows Baby carriers Car seats Changing table pads High chairs Strollers Bassinets Portable cribs Walkers Baby tub inserts and bath slings Glider rockers Sleeping wedges
Does Your Couch Contain Flame Retardants? Get It Tested for FREE
Are you wondering if your couch (or another household item) contains flame retardants? Scientists at Duke University’s Superfund Research Center will tell you. Only polyurethane foam can be tested, but this is commonly used in upholstered furniture, padded chairs, car seats, and more.
All you need to remove is a sample the size of a marble, and Duke will accept up to five individual samples per household. Each will be tested for the presence of seven common flame retardants. Here’s how it works:
1. Complete an electronic sample request to generate your Sample ID Number
2. Prepare your sample
- Cut a piece of foam, 1 cubic centimeter in size (a little bigger than the size of a marble)
- Wrap the foam in aluminum foil
- Place each foam sample in its own re-sealable sandwich bag; be sure to completely seal the bag
- Attach or write the Sample ID Number on the re-sealable sandwich bag
3. Mail it in
Enclose the following in a box or envelope:
- Foam sample with Sample ID Number written on bag (Step 2)
- Copy of confirmation email (Step 1)
Box 90328 - LSRC
Durham, NC 27708
As Linda Birnbaum, the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which funds the lab, told The Atlantic:7
“Saying to anyone, ‘Send me your sample and I’ll tell you what it is’—I don’t know of anyone else who does it… If you’re dealing with something like a mattress or a camping tent or a TV, you’re not told what it’s made of
…And I think that many consumers would like to be able have that information readily available, and then they can make their own decision [on] whether this is something that they want.”
Duke University Discovers Unidentified Flame Retardant
By offering free flame-retardant testing to Americans, Duke’s lab, which is supervised by environmental chemist Heather Stapleton, has received an ongoing stream of valuable information about the types of chemicals found in Americans’ homes.
They’ve even recently uncovered a flame retardant that is not yet identified in the academic literature. The chemical is a chlorinated organophosphate similar to TDCPP, buts its health effects are unknown. TDCPP was removed from children's pajamas in the 1970s amid concerns that it may cause cancer, only to later become a ubiquitous addition to couch cushions across the US.
Stapleton and colleagues have been behind some of the most revealing flame-retardant studies to date. For instance, they recently found traces (and more) of TDCPP in every study participant tested.
Aside from that, the researchers found the average concentration in children was close to five times that of their moms.8 High levels of flame-retardant chemicals used to make FireMaster flame-retardant products were also detected (Firemaster 550 has been used to replace two other PBDEs that were removed from the market9).
In a separate study, the Duke researchers uncovered that children who wash their hands at least five times a day have 30 percent to 50 percent lower levels of flame retardants on their hands than children who wash their hands less frequently,10 adding credence to the theory that household dust (which then coats your hands) may be a primary route of exposure to these (and other) toxic chemicals.
Health Risks of Flame Retardants Revealed
PBDEs resemble the molecular structure of PCBs, which have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems, and impaired fetal brain development. Like PCBs, even though certain PBDEs have been banned in some US states and the European Union, they persist in the environment and accumulate in your body – and can still exist in products imported from other countries.
Higher exposures to PBDEs have been linked to decreased fertility,11 which could be in part because the chemicals may mimic your thyroid hormones. Previous research has suggested PBDEs can lead to decreases in TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone).12 When present with normal T4 levels, low TSH is typically a sign that you're developing hyperthyroidism, which can have significant ramifications both for you and your unborn child if you're pregnant.
As for cancer, one type of PBDE (decaBDE) is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), while the others remain largely untested. A study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley also revealed that both in utero and childhood PBDE exposures were associated with neurodevelopmental delays, including poorer attention, fine motor coordination, and cognition in school-age children.13 Earlier this year, yet another study also found that children whose mothers were exposed to flame retardant chemicals during pregnancy have lower IQ and are more prone to hyperactivity disorders.14
Adding Fuel to the Fire: Flame Retardants Are Ineffective
In the CNN video above, you can see a comparison of two burning chairs, one treated with flame-retardant chemicals and one without. In less than a minute, the differences in visible flames between the two chairs are minimal. Inez Tenenbaum, chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, testified before the Senate that:
“The fire-retardant foams did not offer a practically significant greater level of open flame safety than the untreated foams.”
Andrew Mcguire of the Trauma Foundation also reported to CNN that flame retardants put into furniture foam are not effective because the foam is not ignited by a match, open flame, or cigarette. Instead, it’s the fabric that ignites first, and the flames from the burning fabric overwhelm the flame-retardant chemicals.15 Research has also shown that certain flame-retardant chemicals (halogen-based flame retardants) actually increase the amounts of toxic carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide gas released into the air during a fire.16 Inhalation of these gasses, not burns, is actually the leading cause of death in fires!
New Regulations May Help Reduce the Use of Toxic Flame Retardants
The chemical industry has spent millions to keep California’s TB117 in place, but as of January 1, 2014, new regulations (TB-117-2013) kicked into effect that will hopefully make toxic flame retardants less prominent in the average home. As reported by Scientific American:17
"The change does not prevent manufacturers from using flame retardants, but it does make it feasible to avoid their use while still clearing regulations. The new requirements state that upholstered furniture sold in the state must not continue to 'smolder' some 45 minutes after a lit cigarette is placed on it—protecting against a cigarette carelessly dropped on a couch rather than a lit candle.
Manufacturers can meet the requirement without the use of fire retardants, by using fabrics that better withstand such exposures or by lining furniture with a fire barrier such as polyester batting. Furniture manufacturers nation-wide have ensured that their wares met the stringent California flammability standards for the past few decades, so the new requirements are expected to have ripple effects across the industry that will trigger a reduction in the use of flame retardant in our home furnishings."
In early January, Chemtura Corp., a leading manufacturer of flame-retardant chemicals, filed a lawsuit18 against California, challenging the regulatory changes. The trial began in August 2014 in Sacramento Superior court, but fortunately the Superior Court Judge rejected Chemtura’s bid.19 In California, furnishings that are in compliance with the new flammability standards will carry a "TB 117-2013" tag indicating its compliance. Look for this tag, or ask the retailer whether a particular piece contains flame-retardant chemicals.
You Can Help Limit Your Exposure to Flame Retardants
Until these chemicals are removed from use entirely, tips you can use to reduce your exposure to PBDEs around your home include:20
- Be especially careful with polyurethane foam products manufactured prior to 2005, such as upholstered furniture, mattresses, and pillows, as these are most likely to contain PBDEs. If you have any of these in your home, inspect them carefully and replace ripped covers and/or any foam that appears to be breaking down. Also avoid reupholstering furniture by yourself as the reupholstering process increases your risk of exposure.
- Older carpet padding is another major source of PBDEs, so take precautions when removing old carpet. You'll want to isolate your work area from the rest of your house to avoid spreading it around, and use a HEPA filter vacuum to clean up.
- You probably also have older sources of the PBDEs known as Deca in your home as well, and these are so toxic they are banned in several states. Deca PBDEs can be found in electronics like TVs, cell phones, kitchen appliances, fans, toner cartridges, and more. It's a good idea to wash your hands after handling such items, especially before eating, and at the very least be sure you don't let infants mouth any of these items (like your TV remote control or cell phone).
- As you replace PBDE-containing items around your home, select those that contain naturally less flammable materials, such as leather, wool, and cotton.
- Look for organic and "green" building materials, carpeting, baby items, mattresses, and upholstery, which will be free from these toxic chemicals and help reduce your overall exposure. Furniture products filled with cotton, wool, or polyester tend to be safer than chemical-treated foam; some products also state that they are "flame-retardant free."
- PBDEs are often found in household dust, so clean up with a HEPA-filter vacuum and/or a wet mop often.
Can You Find a Chemical-Free Mattress or Couch?
It’s possible if you look for those made of natural materials and made by environmentally conscious manufacturers. You should take special precaution with your mattress, however, since you spend a large amount of your life sleeping on it. Mattress manufacturers are not required to label or disclose which chemicals their mattresses contain. They may even claim that their mattresses are chemical-free, when in reality they are not. To avoid this toxic exposure, I recommend looking for a mattress made of:
- 100% organic wool, which is naturally flame-resistant. Even if you hold a match to wool, it will self-extinguish in moments. This is why I use one of our wool mattresses, as it's free of these dangerous fire retardants like PBDE
- 100% organic cotton or flannel also tends to be flame-resistant
- Kevlar fibers, the material they make bulletproof vests out of, which is sufficient to pass the fire safety standards. Stearns and Foster is one brand that sells this type of mattress
If in doubt, remember you can have a sample of polyurethane foam cushions tested for free to be sure. This is particularly useful for items you already have around your home, as it will help you determine which harmful products need replacing.
By Dr. Mercola
There are many reasons to switch to grass-fed beef.1 For example, I've discussed the nutritional differences between organic pastured beef2 and that from animals raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) on many occasions.
Here, I will focus more on the current farming model, which is what makes CAFO beef such an inferior product in the first place, and the regulatory restrictions that sometimes make grass-fed meats hard to come by in the US.
Our food system is in dire need of change in order to protect human health, but it's a system that is difficult to change. It's not impossible, but it will require more people to change their shopping habits in order to drive up demand, and hence the industry's resolve to address the shortcomings.
Multi-Faceted Problems Stemming from Industrial Farming Practices
Industrial-scale farming has wide-ranging problems. Typically, the focus is on deteriorating food quality and safety. Certainly, the factory farm model directly contributes to Americans' increasing reliance on processed junk foods; the very same foods that are making us obese and riddled with chronic disease.
Emerging diseases in livestock, wildlife, and humans are also traceable to industrial farming practices. This includes antibiotic-resistant diseases, mad cow disease in cows, and chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer and elk.
Infectious proteins causing mad cow and CWD have also been implicated in Alzheimer's disease in humans—the only differentiating factor being the time it takes for symptoms and death to occur.
According to one estimate, up to 13 percent of all Alzheimer's victims may actually have mad cow infection, acquired from eating contaminated CAFO meat.
The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) also attribute nearly 133,000 illnesses each year to contaminated chicken parts. The agency has set a goal to reduce illness by 34 percent.
As for salmonellosis cases, the USDA estimates contaminated chicken and turkey cause about 200,000 illnesses a year. FSIS' goal is to reduce that number by at least 25 percent by 2020. Factory farmed chicken is by far the greatest culprit when it comes to food poisoning.
Beef is also frequently tainted, and a USDA rule requiring labeling of mechanically tenderized beef has been under consideration for six years already, for the fact that the procedure compresses pathogens from the surface down into the meat, where it can more easily thrive and survive cooking. Mechanically tenderized beef has been blamed for at least five E.Coli outbreaks between 2003 and 2009.
But like a multi-headed hydra, the adverse effects of industrial farming sprout in many other directions as well. For example, large-scale factory farming is also responsible for:
- Loss of water quality through nitrogen and phosphorus contamination in rivers, streams, and ground water (which contributes to "dramatic shifts in aquatic ecosystems and hypoxic zones")
- Agricultural pesticides also contaminate streams, ground water, and wells, raising safety concerns to agricultural workers who use them
- A decline in nutrient density of 43 garden crops (primarily vegetables), which suggests possible tradeoffs between yield and nutrient content
- Large emission of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide
- Negative impact on soil quality through such factors as erosion, compaction, pesticide application, and excessive fertilization
Industrial Farming Is Destroying Food Quality
"How do you alert people to the problems of industrial-scale farming?" a recent article in National Geographic3 asks.
"The issues are urgent, but they are also difficult to confront: The indifference to animal welfare, the strip-mining of poor countries' resources to feed the rich, the environmental damage and antibiotic overuse can be so hard to face that many people just turn away."
Philip Lymbery, an animal-welfare activist and author of the book Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat, notes that one of the techniques used to perpetuate factory farming is secrecy. For example, in Europe, eggs from caged hens are marked "battery eggs," whereas in the US, those same eggs are labeled as "farm fresh" or "country fresh."
If you don't know there's a problem, you won't root for change, and that is exactly why the food industry is fighting tooth and nail to prevent labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the US, as well as legislation that would prevent them from fraudulently labeling GMOs as "Natural."
It is imperative for the food and chemical technology industries that currently monopolize agriculture to keep you in the dark about how your food is produced.
They've even lobbied for gag laws that make it a felony to video tape animal cruelty or other heinous activities occurring on factory farms, lest sympathy start upsetting the proverbial apple cart... When asked if he's opposed to animal farming for food altogether, Lymbery replies:4
"This is not, in any way, a call to vegetarianism. This is a call to put animals back on the farm. Pasture is one of the most ubiquitous habitats on the planet, covering 25 percent of the ice-free land surface.
This is about using that ubiquitous habitat to produce great food in a way which is environmentally friendly and kinder to animals, leaving much-scarcer arable to grow crops directly for people...
Three times a day, through our meal choices, we have an opportunity to change our lives and thereby help change the world.
It's as simple as buying free-range eggs, pasture-raised beef and chicken, and looking for milk that has come from cows that have been able to graze... We'll start to support family farms, will help to support a better environment, and will help to feed the world in a more humane and efficient way."
The US Meat Racket
Most all conventional meat and poultry (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, etc.) is raised in CAFOs. It's a corporate-controlled system characterized by large-scale, centralized, low profit-margin production, processing, and distribution systems.
This is the cheapest way to raise meat, for the largest profits. But the ultimate price is high, as there's a complete disregard for human health, the environment, and ethical treatment of animals and plant workers alike.
A series of recent articles, listed on NewAmerica.org,5 delve into the various aspects of the monopoly that is America's meat market. In one, titled "The Meat Racket," Christopher Leonard reveals how the US meat industry has been seized by a mere handful of companies, and how this tightly controlled monopoly drives small livestock farmers out of business.
Other articles detail the drugs used in CAFO farming, and the risks this drug based farming poses to human health. One side effect is the creation of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, which I've addressed on numerous occasions.
Martha Rosenberg also recently highlighted a USDA Inspector General Report,6 which revealed that beef sold to the public have been found to be contaminated with a staggering 211 different drug residues, as well as heavy metals.7, 8
Hazardous growth-promoting drugs like Zilmax and Ractopamine are also routinely used in American CAFOs, and as much as 20 percent of the drug administered may remain in the meat you buy. Their use is disturbing when you consider that side effects in cattle include brain lesions, lameness, heart failure, and sudden death. Salon Magazine also recently ran an article9 on the subject of factory farming, penned by Lindsay Abrams, in which she discusses journalist Ted Genoways' new book, The Chain—an expose of the American pork industry. She writes in part:
"What journalist Christopher Leonard recently did for Tyson and the chicken industry, Genoways... does for pork, recounting the history of Hormel Foods... as it evolved from humble beginnings to an industrial giant with a nearly myopic focus on expansion and acceleration, regardless of the costs.
And boy, are there costs... a mysterious neurological disorder linked to a machine that has workers breathing in a fine mist of pork brains... abuse suffered by the animals on whom workers' frustrations are instead taken out; and a decline in food safety that, unbelievably, is set to become the new industry standard."
Genoways book reveals how societal issues "fan out in all directions," as he puts it, from the way our pork is produced. Sure, there are many disturbing safety issues, but it doesn't end there. According to Genoways, another hidden issue is that many of the health hazards that affect plant workers affect already exploited immigrant workers to a disproportionate degree.
Agricultural Subsidies Fleece American Taxpayers to Keep Meat Monopoly Going
As detailed in a previous article by Food Revolution,10 CAFOs and the products they produce are largely sustained by American taxpayers. In essence, we're being shrewdly fleeced to keep this flawed and unhealthy system going. Taxpayer-subsidized grain prices, for example, save CAFOs billions of dollars each year. Grass-fed cattle operations, on the other hand, receive no benefit at all from such agricultural subsidies, and hence the price of grass-fed beef is markedly higher. But that's not the end of that story either. As the article explains:
"Federal policies also give CAFOs billions of dollars to address their pollution problems, which arise because they confine so many animals, often tens of thousands, in a small area. Small farmers raising cattle on pasture do not have this problem in the first place.
If feedlots and other CAFOs were required to pay the price of handling the animal waste in an environmentally health manner, if they were made to pay to prevent or to clean up the pollution they create, they wouldn't be dominating the US meat industry the way they are today. But instead we have had farm policies that require the taxpayers to foot the bill. Such policies have made feedlots and other CAFOs feasible..." [Emphasis mine]
Why Is Most Grass-Fed Beef Sold in the US Imported?
Did you know that most of the grass-fed beef sold in the US is actually imported from Australia and New Zealand?11 One estimate, which is based off of the USDA's import/export data,12,13,14 suggests as much as 85 percent of grass-fed beef sold in the US may be imported, although it's virtually impossible to ascertain a definite number. Some grass-fed beef is also sourced from countries like Mexico, Nicaragua, Brazil, and Uruguay.15
To many, that will probably come as a big surprise. According to National Journal,16 the restaurant franchise Chipotle is one of the latest companies to turn to Australian ranchers to meet demand for grass-fed beef, as American suppliers are falling short, and/or cannot compete with Australia's lower prices. In a Huffington Post op-ed published earlier this summer, Chipotle founder Steve Ells said:17
"Over the years, we have had great success serving the premium beef we call Responsibly Raised... Nevertheless, sometimes the existing supply of the premium meats we serve is unable to meet our growing demand... Rather than serve conventionally raised steak, we recently began sourcing some steak from ranches in Southern Australia, which is among the very best places in the world for raising beef cattle entirely on grass.
The meat produced by these ranchers is 'grass-fed' in the truest sense of the term: The cattle spend their entire lives grazing on pastures or rangelands, eating only grass or forages... In the short-run, the grass-fed beef purchased from Australia will continue to supplement the premium Responsibly Raised beef we have long purchased from across the U.S. But over time, we hope that our demand for grass-fed beef will help pave the way for more American ranchers to adopt a grass-fed program, and in doing so turn grass-fed beef from a niche to a mainstream product."
Some of the reasons driving the import of grass-fed beef include the fact that Australia and New Zealand have a climate that permits grazing year-round. You also need a lot of land to allow herds to graze, and grasslands are plentiful Down Under. In fact, 70 percent of all Australian cattle are pasture-raised and finished, and many of the grass-fed cattle operations are massive. Volume makes it cheaper, so Australians can sell their meat for less than American grass-fed cattle ranchers can.18
The question is, is it really "impossible" for American ranchers to produce enough grass-fed beef? Probably not. Neither climate nor lack of grasslands is a factor in certain states. However, there is one factor that severely hobbles American cattle ranchers, and that is slaughterhouse shortage...
USDA's Stranglehold on American Cattle Ranchers
All farmers must use USDA-approved slaughterhouses, and laws place special restrictions on grass-fed slaughtering. If a grass-fed rancher doesn't have access to a slaughterhouse, he cannot stay in business. This is yet another shrewd if not perverse strategy that effectively maintains the status quo of CAFOs. Large slaughterhouses can also refuse smaller jobs, as they—just like CAFOs—operate on economy of scale. As explained by The Carnivore's Dilemma:19
"At harvest time, small family farmers are forced to transport their animals to the nearest legal 'processing plant' that will accept their animals. These plants often do not conform to the high standards farmers have for their animals' welfare, but the farmers have no choice. Humane certification requires humane slaughter, which only some slaughterhouses do. From an animal welfare standpoint, how animals die is as important as how they live. So unless the farmer is lucky enough to have access to an outstanding small slaughterhouse with transparent policies, they can't get the certification, even if they did the right thing every day of the animals' lives."
Basically, there may be plenty of demand for grass-fed beef, and plenty of supply, but USDA rules and regulations prevent the American-bred supply from ever reaching the customer... Across the US, smaller slaughterhouses catering to grass-fed ranchers have been closing up shop, pushed out by larger processors, adding to the shortage of processing facilities to choose from. A recent article in the Nutrition Business Journal20 addresses the question of: why are there so few meat processors in the US?
The answer is complex. Part of the problem is that once refrigeration came into play in the 1950s, slaughterhouses started moving from the downtown areas of bigger cities to more rural areas, from where the meat was then distributed to consumers. Again, economy of scale made this the less expensive option, once meats could safely be chilled and boxed. And, since rural slaughterhouses were no longer constrained by limited amounts of space, they grew increasingly larger. Eventually, they began to consolidate into fewer companies.
Today, the market is consolidated in the extreme. Just FOUR companies, Cargill, Tyson Foods, JBS, and National Beef Packaging Co, control more than 80 percent of all cattle slaughtered in the US. As noted in the cited article:21 "The Big Four's grip on the market make everything—from slaughter to distribution to face-time with stretched-too-thin USDA inspectors—more problematic for small operations."
Small processing facilities are more costly to run across the board, compared to large-scale slaughterhouses. They cut everything by hand, which takes longer, and requires workers with a high degree of specialized skill. The seasonality of grass-fed beef is another hurdle. Grass-fed beef is typically slaughtered in the fall, after a full summer of grazing, whereas CAFO beef doesn't follow that same seasonal pattern. For a slaughterhouse to stay in business, it needs business year-round.
Small slaughterhouses also struggle to meet USDA's strict, and costly, regulations—many of which are geared toward mechanized plants and not a small-scale hands-on butchery. Adding to the list of complications are restrictive zoning and eco-impact regulations. Again, change is needed on many fronts, but I am hopeful that change will be forced to occur once public demand becomes too overwhelming to ignore.
Greenwashing Meat Industry Standards
A Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef (GRSB) recently presented new "sustainability principles and criteria" for beef production. The proposal has been vehemently rejected by nearly two dozen consumer, animal welfare, worker, public health, and environmental groups. The initiative has the potential to shape the definition of sustainable beef production around the world. As reported by Common Dreams:22
"In a letter23 to the Roundtable's Executive Committee, 23 groups...criticized the principles and criteria, stating: 'We—and no doubt many other organizations like us—must overwhelmingly reject the Principles and Criteria for Global Sustainable Beef. Unless the GRSB addresses the fundamental flaws outlined in our letter, the document will represent nothing more than an industry-led attempt to greenwash conventional beef production at a time when real, measurable, and verifiable change is so desperately needed.'"
For starters, the GRSB fails to address the overuse of antibiotics in farming. Nor does it adequately address workers' rights, animal welfare, environmental sustainability, waste management systems, or the establishment of a solid verification system. The latter leaves the door wide open for greenwashing beef products that are anything but sustainable. According to Andrew Gunther, Program Director at Animal Welfare Approved:
"We urgently need to change the way we farm and feed ourselves, yet the GRSB's Principles and Criteria for Global Sustainable Beef promises nothing more than 'business as usual' beef. The collective failure of GRSB members to acknowledge—let alone address—some of the fundamental faults of modern intensive beef production reveals a staggering lack of accountability and foresight at the very heart of the beef industry, particularly when we know public trust in beef is already at an all-time low."
Rethink Your Shopping Habits to Protect Your Family's Health
Part of the problem is that the current model is focused on growth; not steady profit, and certainly not sustainability. I believe the movement toward sustainable food and ethical meat is very important, both in terms of human health and animal welfare. Organic, grass-fed and finished meat that is humanely raised and butchered is really about the only type of meat that is healthy to eat. Many grocery chains are now responding to customer demand, and will provide at least a small assortment of grass-fed meats.
If your local grocer still doesn't carry any, go ahead and ask the purchasing manager to consider adding it. Some stores, like Publix, will even stock specialty items requested by a single customer... The least expensive way to obtain authentic grass-fed beef though is to find a local rancher you can trust, and buy it directly from the farm. Alternatively, you can now purchase grass-fed beef from organic ranchers online, if you don't have access to a local source. The following organizations can also help you locate farm-fresh foods in your local area that has been raised in a humane, sustainable manner:
- Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
- Eat Wild: With more than 1,400 pasture-based farms, Eat Wild's Directory of Farms is one of the most comprehensive sources for grass-fed meat and dairy products in the United States and Canada.
- Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.
- Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
- FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.
Monday, November 24, 2014
By Dr. Mercola
Starbucks has an image of being a socially responsible, environmentally friendly company. In 2013, 95 percent of their coffee was ethically sourced, and their goal is to reach 100 percent by 2015.1
Other goals include reducing water consumption by 25 percent in their company-operated stores by 20152 and mobilizing their employees and customers to contribute 1 million hours of community service per year.3
They even removed all the high fructose corn syrup and artificial trans fats, flavors, and dyes from their entire menu… so the news that this forward-thinking company might be supporting Monsanto, the world leader in genetically modified (GM) crops and seeds, in their bid to block a GMO labeling bill in Vermont might seem strange.
Is Starbucks really in cahoots with Monsanto? Are they really trying to keep you in the dark about what kinds of genetically modified ingredients are in your food and beverages? Absolutely, albeit by proxy.
It Started with Vermont's Historic GMO Labeling Bill…
On April 16, 2014, the Vermont Senate passed the first no-strings-attached GMO labeling bill (H.112) by an overwhelming margin—28-2. The bill sailed through a House/Senate conference committee and was approved by the House of Representatives on April 23.
On May 8, Governor Peter Shumlin signed the historic bill into law, which will require any genetically modified food sold in Vermont to be labeled by July 1, 2016.4 Foods containing GM ingredients would also not be allowed to be labeled "natural."
Though the bill was passed in Vermont, it has wide-reaching implications for GMOs in the US. As noted by Ronnie Cummins in the Huffington Post:5
"Strictly speaking, Vermont's H.112 applies only to Vermont. But it will have the same impact on the marketplace as a federal law.
Because national food and beverage companies and supermarkets will not likely risk the ire of their customers by admitting that many of the foods and brands they are selling in Vermont are genetically engineered, and deceptively labeled as 'natural' or 'all natural' while simultaneously trying to conceal this fact in the other 49 states and North American markets.
As a seed executive for Monsanto admitted 20 years ago, 'If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.'"
Monsanto and GMA Sued Vermont to Overturn GMO-Labeling Bill
Long before the bill passed through the legislative branches, Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) had openly threatened to sue, should Vermont pass such a law.
As promised, GMA (along with the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association, and the National Association of Manufacturers) filed the lawsuit in federal court on June 13, trying to challenge the law's constitutionality.
To date, 60 other countries have either banned GMOs or require mandatory labeling on foods that contain them, but the GMA is upset that US consumers might soon be able to distinguish between the foods that contain GM ingredients and those that do not.
Vermont estimated that eight out of ten foods at grocery stores would be affected by the new labeling requirement.6 As Cummins said, the lawsuit is an attempt to intimidate other states considering similar GMO labeling laws.
The GMA is also pushing a bill in Congress that would preempt all states from passing GMO labeling laws -- the "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014," dubbed "DARK" (Denying Americans the right to know) Act. Cummins told the Burlington Free Press:7
"Every U.S. citizen should be concerned when a multi-billion dollar corporate lobbying group sues in federal court to overturn a state's right to govern for the health and safety of its citizens."
Starbucks Is a Member of the GMA
If you're wondering what all of this has to do with Starbucks, here's the rub: Starbucks is a member of the GMA, right along with Monsanto. So they are, in essence, teaming up with Monsanto to keep you in the dark about the ingredients in your food.
Once word gets out, Starbucks' image will be tarnished, so let's hope the pressure from their customers will help them make positive change. As SumOfUs reported:
"Monsanto might not care what we think -- but as a public-facing company, Starbucks does. If we can generate enough attention, we can push Starbucks to withdraw its support for the lawsuit, and then pressure other companies to do the same."
To get involved, you can sign this petition from SumOfUs.org, which calls for Starbucks to withdraw its membership in the GMA, and in so doing also its support for the lawsuit against Vermont's food-labeling law.
The revelation of Starbucks' meddling with the GMA has already drawn ire from many of its fans. Among them, musician Neil Young recently announced that he is boycotting the coffee chain after learning of their dealings with Monsanto and their involvement to sue Vermont. According to Rolling Stone, Young wrote on his website:8
"'I used to line up and get my latte everyday, but yesterday was my last one,' Young wrote. 'Starbucks has teamed up with Monsanto to sue Vermont, and stop accurate food labeling.'"
As members of the GMA organization—as in any organization—no single member can decide actions on behalf of the group. Similarly, no single member is individually responsible for what the group as a whole decides.
So, Monsanto and Starbucks are correct in saying that neither is individually part of the lawsuit. However, in reality they are part of it by virtue of their membership in GMA.
Additionally, since neither Starbucks nor Monsanto currently has representation on the GMA Board of Directors—which makes decisions for the group—both can technically say their individual companies didn’t participate in the decision to sue Vermont.
What all this adds up to is semantics—word play that Starbucks and Monsanto legally can use to deflect finger-pointing from them individually. It really doesn’t make any difference whether they’re involved directly or not – the parent organization is still trying to keep you in the dark about what’s in your food.
What Else You Should Know About the GMA
The GMA, whose 300-plus members include Monsanto, Coca-Cola, and General Mills, is pushing a Congressional bill called the "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014."
As mentioned, the bill, dubbed the "DARK" (Denying Americans the Right to Know) Act, would actually preempt all states from passing GMO labeling laws.
It would also bar states from enacting laws that make it illegal for food companies to misrepresent their products by labeling GE ingredients as "natural." Last but not least, the DARK Act would also limit the FDA's power to force food companies to disclose GE ingredients.
And that's not all. By suing Vermont, this is the second time in mere months that the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is suing a state for the right to pull the wool over your eyes. During the Washington labeling campaign, the GMA got caught in a money-laundering scheme aimed at protecting the identity (and hence the reputation) of members who donated funds to the anti-labeling campaign.
The GMA was forced to reveal the donors to the aggressive anti-labeling campaign, but shortly thereafter it sued the state of Washington, arguing they should be allowed to hide their donors—which is a direct violation of state campaign disclosure laws—in order to "speak with one voice" for the interests of the food industry. Clearly, there's a concerted effort to hide who is behind this radical front group.
Earlier this year, I named the GMA "the most evil corporation on the planet," considering the fact that it consists primarily of pesticide producers and junk-food manufacturers who are going to great lengths to violate some of your most basic rights—just to ensure that subsidized, genetically engineered and chemical-dependent, highly processed junk food remains the status quo.
The primary GM crops grown in the US are corn, soy, and sugar beets, and the primary ingredients in processed food are high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats), and refined sugar. Add in all the pesticides and hazardous fertilizers used in this chemical agriculture system, and you have the perfect formula for environmental destruction, disease and premature death.
This is the business model the GMA is protecting, and labeling GM foods will surely severely cripple it. This is why the GMA is willing to resort to everything, from illegal money-laundering schemes to irrational and wholly ludicrous lawsuits arguing for "the right" to violate disclosure laws. Your health, your rights to make your own decisions, and your financial wellbeing have absolutely nothing to do with the GMAs objections to GMO labeling. They're not protecting you from confusion, unnecessary complexities, or higher prices. They're protecting their own profits, and those profits depend on widespread consumer ignorance.
The Great Boycott Is Here
The insanity has gone far enough. It's time to unite and fight back, which is why I encourage you to vote with your wallet and boycott every single product owned by members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), considering the fact that it consists primarily of pesticide producers and junk food manufacturers who are going to great lengths to violate some of your most basic rights.
This is just to ensure that subsidized, genetically engineered and chemical-dependent, highly processed junk food remains the status quo. This includes both natural and organic brands. You can start by using the list in the table below. The recent GM labeling victory in Vermont clearly shows that we have the power to incite great change. In this case, you can help change the food system by taking decisive action with your food dollars.
"We flood their Facebook pages, tarnish their brand names. We pressure financial institutions, pension funds and mutual funds to divest from Monsanto and the other GMA companies. Our motto for Monsanto and GMA products must become: Don't buy them. Don't sell them. Don't grow them. And don't let your financial institution, university, church, labor union or pension fund invest in them," Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) writes.9
"As soon as the GMA files a lawsuit against Vermont, the Organic Consumers Association, joined by a growing coalition of public interest groups, will launch a boycott and divestment campaign directed against all of the 300 GMA companies and their thousands of brand name products—including foods, beverages, seeds, home and garden supplies, pet food, herbicides and pesticides."
So far, between 2012 and 2014, Monsanto and the GMA have successfully blocked GMO labeling legislation in over 30 states, at a price tag of more than $100 million! These funds were received from the 300+ members of the GMA, which include chemical/pesticide, GE seed, processed food industries… and Starbucks! Together, these industries are working in a symbiotic fashion to grow, subsidize, and manufacture foods that have been clearly linked to growing obesity and chronic disease epidemics. As noted by Ronnie Cummins:
"Until now the GMA colossus has ruled, not only in Washington DC, but in all 50 states. But now that Vermont has passed a trigger-free GMO labeling law, and Oregon is poised to do the same in November, the balance of power has shifted. Monsanto, the GMA and their allies are in panic mode. Because they know that when companies are forced to label or remove GMOs, and also are forced to drop the fraudulent practice of labeling GE-tainted foods as 'natural' or 'all natural,' in one state, they will have to do it in every state. Just as they've been forced to do in Europe, where mandatory GMO labeling has been in effect since 1997."
Are You Supporting Those Who Have Repeatedly Taken a Stand Against Your Health and Right to Know?
To defeat the GMA lawsuit against Vermont, money must be raised for legal assistance to the state. We must also intensify any and all efforts to educate others and put pressure on the marketplace to quell the GMAs radical power grabs. To this end, please make a donation to the Organic Consumers Fund today.
Other equally if not even more important ways you can help is by refusing to invest in GMA member companies—even if indirectly through retirement and mutual funds. With enough pressure, we can pressure institutional investors like Fidelity, Vanguard, and State Street to dump the stocks they have in these companies. Moreover, we need to boycott ALL of the 300 companies who are still members of the GMA. Combined, they produce more than 6,000 brand name products, and all of these products are on the boycott list. This includes:
Foods Beverages Seeds Home and garden supplies Pet foods Herbicides and pesticides for home and professional use
This may seem as a monstrously difficult task... but if we work together and individually make an effort, collectively we can do it. There are 316 million that live in the US, and each person makes multiple purchasing and investment decisions each and every day of the year. Every action you take from here on counts. Pro-organic consumer groups will also launch programs placing emphasis on boycotting "Traitor Brands," meaning natural and organic brands that are actually owned by members of the pro-GMO GMA. As noted by Cummins:
"Health-conscious and green-minded consumers often inadvertently support the GMA when they buy brands like Honest Tea, Kashi, Odwalla and others whose parent companies, all members of the GMA, have donated millions to defeat GMO labeling initiatives in California (Prop 37) and Washington State (I-522)."
As a sign of solidarity, please sign the Boycott Pledge now.
While I cannot list all of them here, some of the 50 "natural" and/or organic Traitor Brands targeted by this boycott include those listed below. The reason for not focusing the boycott on the conventional parent companies is because pro-organic health-conscious consumers rarely buy Coca-Cola, Diet Pepsi, or sugary breakfast cereals to begin with. The only way to really put pressure on these parent companies is by avoiding the brands they market to organic consumers; the brands you actually typically buy.
"Let's be clear. Junk Food and beverage companies who are members of the GMA are gobbling up organic and 'natural' brands because they recognize the huge profit potential in the fast-growing organic and natural markets. They want our business. If we stop buying their brands, they know there's a good chance we'll find alternative brands. And we might never look back," Cummins writes.
Natural/Organic Traitor Brand Owned By/Parent company IZZE PepsiCo Naked Juice PepsiCo Simply Frito-Lay PepsiCo Starbucks Frappuccino PepsiCo Honest Tea Coca-Cola Odwalla Coca-Cola Gerber Organic Nestle Sweet Leaf tea Nestle Boca Burgers Kraft/Mondelez Green and Black's Kraft/Mondelez Cascadian Farm General Mills Larabar General Mills Muir Glen General Mills Alexia ConAgra Pam organic cooking sprays ConAgra Bear Naked Kelloggs Gardenburger Kelloggs Kashi Kelloggs Morningstar Farms Kelloggs Plum Organics Campbells Wolfgang Puck organic soups Campbells RW Knudsen Smuckers Santa Cruz Organic Smuckers Smuckers Organic Smuckers Dagoba Hersheys Earthgrain bread Bimbo Bakeries Simply Asia McCormick Thai Kitchen McCormick
Nine Additional Ways to Take Your Power Back
In addition to not buying Traitor Brand foods or beverages (even if they're certified organic), here are nine ways you can take power back from the corporate bullies that make up the Grocery Manufacturers Association:
- Stop buying all non-organic processed foods. Instead, build your diet around whole, unprocessed foods, especially raw fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats from coconut oil, avocadoes, organic pastured meat, dairy and eggs, and raw nuts
- Buy most of your foods from your local farmer's market and/or organic farm
- Cook most or all your meals at home using whole, organic ingredients
- Frequent restaurants that serve organic, cooked-from-scratch, local food. Many restaurants, especially chain restaurants (Chipotlé is a rare exception), use processed foods made by GMA members for their meals
- Buy only heirloom, open-pollinated, and/or organic seeds for your garden. This includes both decorative plants and edibles
- Boycott all lawn and garden chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) unless they are "OMRI Approved," which means they are allowed in organic production. If you use a lawn service, make sure they're using OMRI Approved products as well
- Become an avid label reader. If a GMA member company owns the product, no matter what it is, don't buy it
- Download the Buycott app for your smartphone, which allows you to scan products to find out if they're part of the boycott before you buy them
- Join the Organic Consumers Association's new campaign, "Buy Organic Brands that Support Your Right to Know"
To learn more about this boycott, and the traitor brands that are included, please visit TheBoycottList.org. I also encourage you to donate to the Organic Consumers Fund. Your donation will help fight the GMA lawsuit in Vermont.
Voting with your pocketbook, at every meal and coffee-shop stop, matters. It makes a huge difference. By boycotting GMA member Traitor Brands, you can help level the playing field, and help take back control of our food supply. And as always, continue educating yourself about genetically engineered foods, and share what you've learned with family and friends.
By Dr. Mercola
Salads are most people’s first encounter with raw foods. Quick and easy to make, they are an easy and delicious way to get live, biodynamic foods into your diet. Mistakes abound however, that could turn an otherwise healthy meal into something less than ideal.
As noted by nutrition editor Cynthia Sass in a recent article for Time Magazine,1 “imbalances can either prevent a salad from being slimming, or lead to missing out on key nutrients.”
She points out five common salad mistakes that many people make. These are certainly valuable pointers. Here, I will address a couple of them, and make some additional recommendations of my own.
- Too little or too much protein
- Insufficient variety in your choice of greens
- Too little or too much fat
- Skipping starch
- Insufficient seasoning
Whenever Possible, Opt for Organic Produce
Fresh organic vegetables are generally both healthier and tastier. In terms of nutrition, it’s important to remember that it’s not just about the nutrient levels themselves, which do tend to be higher in organically grown foods, it’s also about what they don’t contain, namely pesticides.
Most of us significantly underestimate the amount and variety of chemicals sprayed onto the produce we eat. Tests, however, suggest most people are exposed to hundreds of them, and they accumulate in your body over time.
They can also easily be transferred to your unborn child during pregnancy. In 2009, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) published a study that found 232 chemicals in the placental cord blood of American newborns!
Organophosphate pesticides, which are commonly used on conventionally-grown produce, are well known for their hazards to human health. Prenatal exposure has been linked to delayed brain development, reduced IQ, and attention deficits.
I’ve also pointed out the compelling links between agricultural chemicals and autism, and new research (known as the CHARGE study2, 3) shows that living within a mile of pesticide-treated crops increases your chances of bearing children with autism.
The recently published CHAMACOS Study, which followed hundreds of pregnant women living in the agricultural mecca of Salinas Valley, California, also found that exposure to organophosphates during pregnancy was associated with lower IQ and poorer cognitive functioning in children, among other health effects.
Glyphosate, another prevalent herbicide used both on conventional and genetically engineered crops at about one billion pounds a year, may be one of the most important factors in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies. The more of it you can avoid, the better.
Homegrown Sprouts Can Maximize the Nutrition of Your Salad
One of the simplest and most effective strategies to avoid harmful chemicals is to eat organic food. Another option is to grow your own. Among the easiest foods to grow at home are sprouts. As luck would have it, they’re also among the most nutritious, and they’re an excellent addition to a fresh salad.
Some of the most commonly sprouted beans, nuts, seeds, and grains are listed below. My personal favorites are pea and sunflower sprouts, which have the added benefit of providing some of the highest-quality protein you can eat.
Homegrown sprouts have radically improved the nutrition of my own primary meal, which is a salad at lunch. They’re also a perfect complement to fermented vegetables. It is hard to imagine a healthier combination that provides the essentials of nutrition, and at a very low cost.
Broccoli: known to have anti-cancer properties, courtesy of the enzyme "sulforaphane" Alfalfa: a significant dietary source of phytoestrogens. Also a good source of vitamins A, B, C, D, E, F, and K Wheat grass: high in vitamins B, C, E, and many minerals Mung bean: good source of protein, fiber, and vitamins C and A Clover: significant source of isoflavones Lentil sprouts: contain 26 percent protein, and can be eaten without cooking Sunflower: contains minerals, healthy fats, essential fatty acids, fiber, and phytosterols. It's also one of the highest in protein Pea shoots: good source of vitamins A and C and folic acid and one of the highest in protein
Most Commercial Salad Dressings Will Do More Harm Than Good...
Perhaps the most common mistake people make with their salads is their choice of salad dressing. The vast majority of commercial salad dressings are far from healthy, as they’re chockfull of high fructose corn syrup and highly processed omega-6 GMO oils full of toxic herbicides like glyphosate.
Low-fat dressings also need to be avoided. When fat is removed from a food product, it’s usually replaced by sugar/fructose in order to taste good, and this is a recipe for poor health. Excess fructose in your diet drives insulin and leptin resistance, which are at the heart of not only diabetes but most other chronic diseases as well.
So what constitutes “healthy fat,” and why do you need to add it to your salad? For starters, fats help your body absorb important minerals and vitamins, including vitamins A, D, and E. If you don’t have enough fat with your meal, your body may not be able to properly absorb these, and other, fat-soluble nutrients.
Adding healthy fat to your salad will also make it more filling, as fats are among the most satiating. In fact, many do not realize this, but frequent hunger may be a major clue that you're not eating enough fat.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Fats
The featured article notes that full-fat dressing increases absorption of valuable antioxidants compared to reduced-fat versions, but fails to make any distinction between healthy and unhealthy types of fat.
First, it’s important to realize that the use of processed omega-6 fats have increased 1,000 times in the last century, which disturbs the vital omega 6-3 ratio. If you eat any processed foods you are getting too much omega-6 fats and need to avoid any processed omega-6 oils like corn and soy and any generically branded “vegetable” oils.
Also, as revealed by investigative journalist Nina Teicholz,4 author of The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, while the food industry has reduced the use of harmful trans fats, they’ve reverted back to using regular vegetable oils, and this is far from an ideal replacement.
Especially when heated, vegetable oils like peanut, corn, and soy oil degrade into highly toxic oxidation products that appear to be even worse than trans fats! One category of these byproducts, called aldehydes, are of particular concern. In animals, even low levels of aldehydes oxidize LDL cholesterol and cause high levels of inflammation, which is associated with heart disease.
Cyclic aldehydes have also been shown to cause toxic shock in animals through gastric damage, and this seems consistent with the rise in immune problems and gastrointestinal-related diseases in the human population. Even when used cold, such as in salad dressing, processed vegetable oils are best avoided. If you order salad with a house vinaigrette in a restaurant, be sure to ask what kind of oil it contains. Olive oil is ideal. If they use any other kind of vegetable oil, you may be better off skipping it. Other sources of healthy fats to include liberally in your salad include:
Olives Shredded coconut Raw nuts, such as macadamia or pecans Organic pastured egg yolks Avocados Grass-fed meat, but limited to protein level below
Adding Too Much Protein to Your Salad May Be Counterproductive
Your body needs protein. It’s a main component of your body, including muscles, bones, and many hormones. However, most Americans tend to eat far too much low-quality protein for optimal health. I believe few people really need more than one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. When it comes to protein from animal sources, you also want to make sure it’s been raised on pasture, to avoid exposure to pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), hormones, antibiotics, and other potentially harmful drugs and chemicals.
To determine your lean body mass, find out your percent body fat and subtract from 100. This means that if you have 20 percent body fat, you have 80 percent lean body mass. Just multiply that by your current weight to get your lean body mass in pounds or kilos. Those that are aggressively exercising or competing and pregnant women typically need about 25 percent more, but most people rarely need more than 40-70 grams of protein a day.
The rationale behind limiting your protein this: when you consume protein in levels higher than recommended above, you tend to activate the mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) pathway, which can help you get large muscles but may also increase your risk of cancer. There is research suggesting that the "mTOR gene" is a significant regulator of the aging process, and suppressing this gene may be linked to longer life. Generally speaking, as far as eating for optimal health goes, most people are simply consuming a combination of too much low-quality protein and carbohydrates, and not enough healthy fat.
Translating Ideal Protein Requirements Into Foods
Substantial amounts of protein can be found in: meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and nuts. As noted earlier, pea and sunflower sprouts also provide some of the highest quality protein available. To determine whether you’re getting an appropriate amount of protein, calculate your lean body mass as described above, then calculate the amount of protein you’re getting from all sources.
Again, your daily requirement is likely to be around one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. This places most average people in the range of 40 to 70 grams of protein per day. To determine the grams of protein in each food, you can refer to the chart below or simply Google the food in question.
Red meat, pork, poultry, and seafood average 6-9 grams of protein per ounce.
An ideal amount for most people would be a 3-ounce serving of meat or seafood (not 9- or 12-ounce steaks!), which will provide about 18-27 grams of protein
Eggs contain about 6-8 grams of protein per egg. So an omelet made from two eggs would give you about 12-16 grams of protein.
If you add cheese, you need to calculate that protein in as well (check the label of your cheese)
Seeds and nuts contain on average 4-8 grams of protein per quarter cup Cooked beans average about 7-8 grams per half cup Cooked grains average 5-7 grams per cup Most vegetables contain about 1-2 grams of protein per ounce
Ramp Up Your Nutrition with Herbs
Adding fresh herbs to your salad can also go a long way toward improving your nutrition, as many are densely packed with vitamins and various phytonutrients. Because of their nutrient density, they're also thermogenic, meaning they naturally increase your metabolism. Herbs are also easy to grow at home, and many have medicinal properties to boot. A recent article in Prevent Disease5 lists seven staple herbs that belong in every kitchen, and make a great addition to any salad—either mixed in fresh, or added to homemade oil and vinegar dressing. These include:
Parsley Cilantro Oregano Thyme Sweet Italian basil Rosemary Dill
Your Food Choices Play a Key Role in Disease Prevention and Health
I believe that food can be “medicine.” It’s certainly the best preventive strategy I can think of, and getting more raw organic food in your diet is a key point. Besides eating more salads, juicing is another great way to get more vegetables into your diet. However, as noted in a recent article in The Atlantic,6 which details the trials and triumphs of Luke Saunders, a 28-year old entrepreneur and owner of Farmer’s Fridge, even when fresh salad is available as an option, many simply won’t make that choice...
If you fall into this category, I urge you to reconsider. Remember, if you’re avoiding salad because it doesn’t “fill you up,” it’s probably because you’re not adding enough healthy fat to it. That said, making fresh produce more readily available, especially in low-income areas, is part of the solution to many Americans chronic health problems, and Farmer’s Fridge is leading the charge:
“Saunders is confronting any number of challenges. Among them is a question that has stumped many of America’s top food-policy experts for decades: If healthy food were more convenient, would more people eat it?...
This month, Farmer’s Fridge is rolling out two more machines. If its efforts pay off, it will eventually expand to dozens of locations all over Chicago, and possibly in other cities after that. One of Saunders’ dreams... is to install machines in more low-income neighborhoods, at prices locals can afford.
He hopes that, eventually, the dual threats of poor nutrition and obesity can be treated with fresh produce, rather than with pharmaceuticals. Efforts like Saunders’ won't improve public health single-handedly, and he knows it. But his business does seem like one potential answer to a long-standing concern in the food-policy world: That there’s not enough cheap, healthy food in low-income areas...”