Thursday, April 27, 2006

USA Food Fight

Just over a month after the National Uniformity for Food Act was approved by the House of Representatives, introduced on October 27th by Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Congressman Ed Towns (D-NY), opposition is flying in on all fronts ...creating one of the biggest food fights over USA food safety labelling requirements in recent years.

Supporters of the Act claim the legislation would establish a uniform national system of food safety. Opponents say the bill will dissolve State food safety protections.

Meet some of the opposition:
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Senator Feinstein
Senator Barbara Boxer
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif (see news quote)
National Conference of State Legislatures
Consumer's Union - the non-profit publishers of Consumer Reports magazine
And MANY more!

Meet some of the supporters:
ConAgra Foods
General Mills
Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)
National Uniformity for Food Coalition (comprised mostly of food industry GIANTS)
Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
And 283 Members of Congress, representing 44 states, including Califonia

One of the state laws that would be particularly affected by the National Uniformity for Food Act is California's Proposition 65, which requires that food manufacturers alert customers about the existence of cancer-causing compounds in food.

Other state laws that could be affected by the proposed bill include laws in Illinois and Pennsylvania regulating the safety of eggs; laws in California, Florida, and Louisiana requiring warning labels on shellfish; regulation for smoked fish in Wisconsin and Michigan; and laws in Maryland requiring that labels disclose if "fresh" food was previously frozen and thus should not be refrozen.

“...The legislation passed by the House would do away not only with Prop. 65, but with more than 200 food safety laws and regulations on the books in all 50 states. Overriding these stringent consumer protections gambles with the health of hundreds of thousands of Americans. I will do everything in my power to stop this legislation from passing the Senate,” said Senator Feinstein. “Any weakening of Proposition 65, or any other state or local food safety measure, could undermine the health and safety of all Americans."

So watch out, folks... we have a major food fight on our hands ...and our health and safety is at the heart of it!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Obesity Diabetes Link

A 41 percent increase in diabetes in American adults from 1997 to 2003 indicates -- yes, there is a serious growing problem here.

"US researchers examining the dramatic rise in people suffering form diabetes have confirmed that obesity is a major factor in the disease. They warn that measures must be taken to prevent obesity in order to halt the growing diabetes epidemic." Source: FoodNavigator

"Among US adults aged 18–79 years, the incidence of diagnosed diabetes increased 41% from 1997 to 2003. During this period of rapid change, incidence increased at a greater rate among obese people, resulting in obesity being more prevalent among incident cases at the end of the time period than at the beginning,” said the researchers.

“Altogether, these data suggest that obesity is a large factor - although not the sole factor - in the increasing incidence of diagnosed diabetes."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Microwave Ovens and your health

Can using a microwave oven to heat or cook your food have a negative affect on your health?

It can have a tremendous negative affect on the food you heat/cook with it. Here's an excerpt from ETR...

"For openers, microwaves destroy and deplete vital nutrients. In one study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, broccoli microwaved with a little water lost up to 97 percent of its antioxidants, while steamed broccoli lost only 11 percent.

Microwave energy also rearranges the molecules of anything exposed to it. Swiss food scientist Dr. Hans Hertel concluded that this could alter a food's nutrients to such a degree that it could cause changes in the blood. And in his studies, he showed that eating microwaved food resulted in increased cholesterol levels, increased white blood cells (suggesting your body is fighting something it does not recognize), decreased red blood cells, and decreased hemoglobin."

Want further evidence? Take a look at what microwaved water does to plants.

One more thing: Lots of mothers put breast milk or baby formula in the microwave to warm it up. Bad idea. Warm it under tap water.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Nutrition, Cell Communicators and Longevity

"Nutrients have two key functions. They feed the body, and they also engage energies that flow through cells and keep those cells in a state of aliveness and optimism. Body cells want that positive outlook, that forward-looking anticipation. Without it, they go into a slow decline." Quote ~ Dr. Laura Thompson

But what happens when your cells can't absorb nutrients effectively?

About Malabsorption & Aging: Some of the physiological changes that occur with aging affect the way the body absorbs and uses nutrients. In many older adults, the production of certain digestive enzymes and acids diminishes, interfering with protein breakdown and with the absorption of vitamin B12, folate, and possibly calcium and iron. Lack of vitamin B12 can have a devastating effect on the nervous system, leading to an unsteady gait, muscle weakness, slurred speech and psychosis — signs and symptoms similar to those of such age-related diseases as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Other illnesses — cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, inflammatory bowel disease and even diarrhea — can interfere with absorption. (Source: MayoClinic)

Perhaps this is one of the biggest reasons why some experts are so excited about the discovery of four completely unique polysaccharides found and produced naturally in a certain family of goji berry from Himalayan decent -- the botanical family known as Solanaceae, of the genus Lycium Barbarum.

The active polysaccharides to which I refer were named after the berry -- Lycium Barbarum Polysacharides 1, 2, 3 and 4. (LBP1, LBP2, LBP3 and LBP4)

You may have heard the term "cell communicators" used when describing these unique molecules found ONLY in the goji berry. (That's right. You won't find them in any other food on the planet!)

To understand what is meant by the term, you need to learn more about bioactive polysaccharides, also called proteoglycans -- complex carbohydrates that are bound to proteins.

"They [proteoglycans] are produced by some plants as an extremely effective defense mechanism against attack by viruses, bacteria, fungi, soil-borne parasites, cell mutations, toxic pollutants and environmental f-ree redacals. Fortunately for humans, many of these protective effects are conferred upon us when we eat plants that are rich in polysaccharides." (Source: Himalayan Health Secret)

LBP polysaccharides have proven to be glycoconjugates, meaning that they are exceptional sources of the essential cell sugars -- rhamnose, xylose, glucose, mannose, arabinose and glactose -- which are necessary for proper immune function and intercellular communication. (In fact, goji may be the richest source of glyconutrients yet found by scientists!)

So, how does intercellular communication work?

Let's take a look at electricity, which is basically a continuing handoff of electrons from one atom to a neighboring one that doesn't have enough. In essence, electric current moving through a copper wire is very much like a bucket brigade, or, better still, a game of hot potato. Each copper atom receives an electron from its neighbor, and just can't wait to dump it off onto the next atom down the line -- until someone turns off the switch and the circuit goes dead.

Nobel laureate Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi asserts that energy exchange, life's most important form of cellular communication, can only occur when there is a natural flow of electrons, a biological form of electricity, coursing throughout the body. All of the body's functions are directed, controlled and regulated by this flow of electricity.

"Health exists when there is smooth flow of electrons, illness encroaches when the flow is significantly restricted, and death occurs when the energy transfer from this electron flow stops."

Now, picture glycoconjugates as cell enablers that attach to your cells allowing them to receive/absorb the nutrients your system is constantly using up in the "biological electricity flow" -- and you just begin to see how important cellular communication is for health and longevity.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Cyanide Alert - Bitter Apricot Kernels and More

Cyanogenic glycosides are present in a number of food plants and seeds. Hydrogen cyanide is released from the cyanogenic glycosides when fresh plant material is macerated as in chewing, which allows enzymes and cyanogenic glycosides to come together, releasing hydrogen cyanide.

Bitter apricot kernels (which have recently become available as a health food on the UK market) when ingested, can produce cyanide. Apparently the dosage sheet accompanying the product indicates that consumers could take a maximum of 10 kernels a day -- this is five times the limit recommended by the Food Standard Agency's (FSA) scientific committee on toxicity of chemicals in food, consumer products and the environment (COT). COT considers a safe intake is equivalent to one to two kernels a day.

As well as bitter apricot kernels, low levels of cyanide are also present in almonds, sweet apricot kernels and in the stones of other fruits such as cherries.

A number of other cyanogenic glycosides are present in foods including linamarin (cassava, lima beans), prunasin (ferns) and sambunigrin (elderberries).

Cyanide is one of the most potent, rapidly acting, poisons known. Cyanides inhibit the oxidative processes of cells causing them to die very quickly.

Because the human body rapidly detoxifies cyanide, an adult human can withstand 50 -60 ppm for an hour without serious consequences. However, exposure to concentrations of 200-500 ppm for 30 minutes is usually fatal. Aside from death, acute cyanide toxicity at small doses can cause headache, tightness in throat and chest, and muscle weakness. The effects of chronic (long-term) exposure to cyanide are less well known. (Source -

In closing, I'd like to leave you with a comment from the website:

"While we usually think of toxic substances as coming from man-made sources, many occur naturally. For example, toxic mussel outbreaks in the ocean have claimed lives and caused illness because the mussels consumed contained an algal toxin. Fresh water is not without toxic substances, either. For example, a group of fairly common organisms called cyanobacteria produce toxins called microcystins. Deaths of cattle, wildlife, and family pets have been traced to drinking water containing microcystins, as have several liver-related illnesses in humans. Although naturally occurring toxins are all around us, if one is educated to where and how they occur, steps can be taken to avoid them."

Apricot kernels withdrawn over cyanide concern - Europe
Cyanogenic glycosides -

Los Angeles County Bubonic Plague Case

By now you've probably heard about the confirmed case of bubonic plague reported in Los Angeles County, USA. It's the first human case of plague in a L.A. County resident since 1984. The affected individual resides in the Country Club Park area of the city of Los Angeles.

Although the investigation is continuing, it's believed the woman affected may have been exposed to fleas in the area around her home.

A few facts about bubonic plague:

"Bubonic plague is not usually transmissible from person to person," says Jonathan Fielding, M.D., M.P.H, Director of Public Health and Health Officer, Los Angeles County. "Fortunately, human plague infection is rare in urban environments, and this single case should not be a cause for alarm in the area where it occurred."

Plague is an infectious disease of animals and humans caused by a bacterium named Yersinia pestis.

People usually get plague from being bitten by a rodent flea that is carrying the plague bacterium or by handling an infected animal. Both male and female fleas can transmit the infection.

Bubonic plague is endemic among ground squirrels around Tehachapi, Lake Isabella, Frazier Park, and in the Angeles National Forest between Los Angeles and Antelope Valley. Los Angeles County health officials annually send out warnings for campers, hikers and residents in those areas to take precautions against the disease mainly by avoiding ground squirrels and their fleas.

Bubonic plague symptoms:

"Plague is characterized by fever, muscle aches, nausea, headache, sore throat, fatigue, and swollen, tender lymph nodes associated with the arm or leg that has flea bites and is treatable with antibiotics," states Dr. Roshan Reporter of the Acute Communicable Disease Control Program. "The disease often causes illness serious enough to warrant hospitalization, but if treated is rarely fatal."

Millions of people in Europe died from plague in the Middle Ages, when human homes and places of work were inhabited by flea-infested rats. Today, modern antibiotics are effective against plague, but if an infected person is not treated promptly, the disease is likely to cause illness or death. (Source: Center For Disease Control)

For further info regarding bubonic plague, here are a few helpful resources:

1. CDC Plague Home Page
2. LA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SERVICES - Official News Release on the Plague Case
3. California Department of Health Services Plague Brochure (.pdf format)

LA area emergency responders and professional health care providers might also be interested in joining the Los Angeles County's Health Alert Network (HAN) Partner Registry which launched on March 10, 2006. Here's the link for further details.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Law Suits Filed Over Benzene in Soft Drinks

Law firm McRoberts, Roberts & Rainer LLP have joined forces with a former state prosecutor to file class action lawsuits against In Zone Brands, who make Bellywashers drinks, and Polar Beverages.

The lawyers, who have filed lawsuits in Boston and Tallahassee, released independent lab tests that reported one BellyWashers 2/3 Less Sugar drink with benzene several times higher than the World Health Organisation's (WHO) 10 parts per billion water limit.

The same lab found a Polar Diet Orange Dry drink containing benzene below this limit, but above the FDA's water limit.

The lawyers have called for the affected products to pulled from shop shelves.

Visit this link for the full story:

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Soft Drinks - Benzene Risks Heat Up

How do you dramatically increase the benzene content in certain soft drinks?

Just add increased heat and light for a short period of time, says former industry scientist, and benzene levels "could dramatically increase to beyond the WHO 10 parts per billion water standard."

Both the FDA and the UK's Food Standards Agency, said they suspected benzene was being formed by two common ingredients "sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid" reacting together in the drinks, a fact known for 15 years by the FDA and US soft drinks association, revealed by internal FDA memos.

Glen Lawrence, a scientist who helped the FDA with testing back in 1990, also published a journal article in 1993 detailing how sodium benzoate could break down to form benzene in drinks also containing ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).

Both the FSA and the FDA say the levels found in drinks to date should not pose an immediate health risk, although 4 drinks were recently recalled in the UK owing to the discovery of high levels of benzene contamination.

However one scientist said testing drinks after exposure to heat and light is now crucial.

"When those 38 drinks that [the UK Food Standards Agency] tested positive for benzene are subjected to even short periods of heat and light, they could dramatically increase to beyond the WHO 10 parts per billion water standard."

"Heat is a major factor," according to Mike Redman, an American Beverage Association scientist who also represented the industry in meetings with the FDA on benzene back in 1990/1991.

Britain's Food Standards Agency has not tested soft drinks for benzene after heat exposure; although a European Commission spokesperson said new guidelines on benzene testing, now being drawn up by the soft drinks industry, were likely to include "predictive testing to simulate storage".

Industry testing on soft drinks 15 years ago is thought to have found that temperatures of 30°C and exposure to UV light for several hours were enough to more than triple benzene residues in some drinks.

The tests were designed to simulate the worst case scenario, and "were not necessarily representative of what the consumer was receiving", according to Greg Diachenko, a scientist with the US Food and Drug Administration, who also took part in negotiations with soft drinks makers over benzene in 1990 and 1991.

Benzene, a cancer-causing chemical linked to leukemia, can form naturally and is found in forest fires, gasoline and cigarette smoke. It's widely used in industrial production to make plastics, rubber, detergents, drugs and pesticides.

Benzene can also form in soft drinks made with Vitamin C and sodium or potassium benzoate. Heat, light and shelf life can affect whether benzene will form, according to FDA.

While scientists and doctors disagree on how hazardous benzene is to human health, the Environmental Protection Agency requires public notification and alternative water supply for drinking water contaminated with levels of 5 ppb. Even "relatively short periods" of exposure at that level can "potentially cause … temporary nervous system disorders, immune system depression [and] anemia," according to the agency. A lifetime of exposure, says the EPA, can cause "chromosome aberrations [and] cancer."

Even the latest round of tests would not have been conducted if it weren't for documents posted on the internet late last year by an industry whistleblower named Larry Alibrandi, according to one article on AlertNet. Those papers concern an undisclosed study at Cadbury-Schweppes in 1990 called Project Denver, which found that certain soft drinks, particularly diet orange-flavored sodas, had the tendency to form benzene when exposed to heat and light.

According to AlertNet, judging from their ingredients, dozens of products now on the shelves could potentially have the same problem, including such popular brands as Sunny Delight, flavored Diet Pepsi and Fanta Orange. (The Environmental Working Group has posted a partial list of possibly risky products -- particularly risky for children. Chances are high you will recognize some of the brands indicated.)

The question is, how many soft drink consumers have occassionally left their soft drink sitting in the sun on a hot summer day -- before eventually drinking it? How many people have left their case of pop sitting in the sun at camp? Are any of the public health/food saftey authorities even considering what happens to those soft drinks AFTER they leave the store shelves?

And the BIG QUESTION: Is there a need for further public education on benzene risks relating to soft drinks?

Heat tests key for benzene in soft drinks
UK benzene in soft drinks recall
The benzene trail
Hard Times for Soft Drinks
Benzene Levels in Soft Drinks Above Limit
Environmental Working Group - avoid any amount of benzene in drinks intended for children

What USA Doctors Don't Know

In 1985 the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) reported that 21 hours of education in nutrition was required but found that many medical schools did not offer nutrition courses. Almost 60 per cent of US medical schools do not meet recommendations for nutrition education for med students, according to a new survey published recently.

The new survey, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Vol. 83, pp. 941S-944S), took a serious look at the state of nutrition education in 106 medical schools in the USA -- and the results were far from satisfactory.

“Remarkably, less than one half (41 per cent) of the responding schools provided the minimum 25 hours or more recommended by the NAS in 1985,” said lead author Kelly Adams from the University of North Carolina at Chapel ill.

“Also surprising was the finding that 17 schools (18 per cent) required only [less than or equal to] 10 hours of nutrition instruction,” she said.

The researchers also found that during the clinical years (third to fourth year) 36 per cent of schools offered less than five hours of teaching nutrition.

Eighty-eight per cent of the instructors questioned also indicated that the students needed more tuition.

“Thus, it appears that we are producing a pool of physicians who feel largely unprepared to counsel their patients about nutrition,” concluded Adams.

Other surveys in the literature have reported that physicians feel unprepared to deal with the growing problem of obesity, with 32 per cent of US adults clinically obese. Shockingly, the number of overweight children is reported to have tripled since 1980.

“With the rising epidemic of obesity in the US population and the knowledge that prevention is more likely to be successful than treatment, it is clearly imperative to ensure that medical students are adequately prepared,” wrote the researchers.

Dr Daniel Fabricant, vice president of scientific affairs for the industry association, the National Nutritional Foods Association, applauded the authors of the study, but said that it seemed to confirm what many in the research community have long believed to be true.

There is an ever increasing amount of good science that demonstrates how very important nutritive factors, like the use of dietary supplements, are for not only maintaining health, but in preventing disease.

Based on the study, information on nutrition, diet and supplementation cannot be accurately provided to the public by their physicians, which means that the public, who works longer hours and has more demands on their time than ever, making it harder to find good information, suffers the most.”

Fabricant said that the NNFA hoped that such studies would be the “impetus for major wholesale changes in medical education to implement curriculum and instructors that provide the tools to best serve the public with.

Additionally, if the majority of physicians are not properly educated on these topics is it really surprising that many stories appearing in journals/publications geared towards physicians are misinterpreted and sometimes misleading?”

The American Medical Association refused to comment on the study since it was published in a non-AMA journal.

Source: FoodNavigator

Thursday, April 06, 2006

World's Largest Food Companies Not Serious About Our Health?

25 of the world's largest food companies are not taking health seriously enough, according to a new report titled "The Food Industry, Diet, Physical Activity and Health: a Review of Reported Commitments and Practice of 25 of the world’s Largest Food Companies" published by the Centre for Food Policy, City University in the UK is available on their website.

"The research is the first attempt to monitor whether and how these powerful companies are reporting on their impact on diet and health. We set out to shine a light on what these mostly publicly quoted companies are doing, or report they are doing. Our findings are worrying. There is a pretty poor overall picture, with too many companies appearing not to care a jot," conclude the City team. "The smallest company we investigated had a turnover five times that of the World Health Organization's entire annual budget, so they cannot use lack of resources as an excuse."

Retailers, who often present themselves as the consumer’s friend, in fact came out worst performing sector, according to the report.

The 80 page report from The City University also praises outside "unpaid watchdogs" for their efforts, indicating their efforts appear to be the most effective in facilitating positive changes in the food industry, particularly with regard to some changes made by giants in the industry.

Read the press release and find a link to the report at the London City University website here:

Mass Medication of the Population

Mandatory folic acid fortification of bread in the UK will be recommended by the UK's Food Standard Agency, according to FoodNavigator/Europe... but the "Consumers for Health Choice" (CHC) are not happy about it.

The fortification is being recommended in an effort to reduce the incidence of pregnancies affected by neural tube defects (NTDs) such as spina bifida and anencephaly which are the most common NTDs. "Both conditions occur in the very early stages of pregnancy, often before women are aware that they are expecting."

Dietary folate occurs naturally in foods such as grains, lentils, chick peas and green leafy vegetables, and is known to reduce the risk of these conditions.

Folic acid, on the other hand, is a synthetic form of the nutrient which, according to the National Council on Folic Acid in the US, is actually better absorbed by the human body.

In a document published in advance of the meeting to recommend folic acid fortification, the FSA indicated: "Bread would be an appropriate vehicle because it has a relatively uniform consumption across subgroups of the population."

According to the FSA, this would mean that folate consumption would increase in a predictable way across the population.

"The preferred point of fortification would be at the milling stage (with the exception of wholemeal flour), rather than at the bread-making stage. This is because there is already a requirement in place to fortify milled flour with iron, calcium, thiamine and niacine, so the new requirement would build on existing technology and regulation." -- FoodNavigator

According to the document, mandatory fortification would not replace the advice that women supplement their diet with folic acid, but rather complement this advice.

"This is not the first time that the FSA has considered mandatory fortification. In 2002 SACN opted not to adopt it because of concerns that folate consumption in excess of 1000 micrograms per day could delay the detection of vitamin B12 deficiency in older people, which can have severe neurological consequences." -- FoodNavigator

However some of the latest research indicates that B12 deficiency would be masked only with folate consumption of more than 5000 micrograms per day. I haven't seen the source of this research yet, so I'm unable to provide the full details of who completed it and/or where you can find it.

CHC believes the B12 deficiency issue in older people has still not been fully addressed. They contend that better education for women of childbearing age, particularly those who become pregnant and/or are likely to become pregnant, is a better way to go than mass medication of an entire population.

"We feel what is needed is better education of women of childbearing age about the consequences of not consuming enough folate. We should still have the choice if we are not in that group."

Mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid is already in place in several countries, including the US, Canada, and Chile.