Tag: Food

Is USDA Organic Certifiably Insane?

| September 2, 2010 | Reply
Is USDA Organic Certifiably Insane?

I saw a very brief and hurried post from ERV on ScienceBlogs. In it, she noted that organic farmers let their animals die from treatable diseases, because to do otherwise would deny them the valuable ‘organic’ label.

WTF?

In Europe, organic livestock MUST be treated humanely, and may receive therapeutic medication (including antibiotics) – to do otherwise is a complete denial of everything science and medicine has learned in the past three hundred years.

But, apparently, that’s what Organic means in the US!

As ERV says

‘Organic’ farmers? All concerned about their free-range, cage-free, at harmony with the Mother Goddess animals? They let their fucking animals die from treatable diseases, because if they treat them with even one dose of antibiotics, the animals are no longer ‘organic’.

She quotes Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the Organic Consumers Association

Allowing one-time therapeutic antibiotics is “a slippery slope”, and would “undermine consumer confidence in organics. It’s the same position [I have] as on human vaccines. They are dangerous, and that’s why I didn’t vaccinate my kid.”

Never mind the epic FAIL in Ronnie Cummin’s statement about the dangers of vaccines – that woo is worthy of a post all by itself! The issue is that animals are allowed to die, often painfully, from completely preventable and treatable diseases.

Why is this so?

ERV linked to her source (this article at the blog “In These Times”). According to that article,

Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations defining organic standards mandate that if [a] calf had gotten one dose of antibiotics, even to save her life, she could never give organic milk—even after the two years it takes for her to become a milker, and even though neither she nor her milk would retain any trace of antibiotics.

So why would the USDA have such nonsensical standards for ‘organic’?

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Egg recall shows (again) how broken our industrial-foods model has become

| August 23, 2010 | 17 Replies
Egg recall shows (again) how broken our industrial-foods model has become

How many times will it take for the consumer to wake up? Back in May, I wrote a post about the generally dismal state of regulation in matters of food safety, which allows large producers all the slack in the world at the expense of the consumer. I wish I could say that the state of affairs had changed dramatically in the meantime, but the current recall of over half a billion eggs reveals that nothing has changed.

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The mystery of early puberty

| August 10, 2010 | 7 Replies
The mystery of early puberty

A new study available from the journal Pediatrics (subscription required) shows that girls are entering puberty at steadily younger ages. WebMD explains:

The researchers assessed the onset of puberty by a standard measurement of breast development.

They compared the findings to a 1997 study of age of puberty. They found the following in a study of girls aged 6-8:

  • 10.4% of white girls in the current study had breast development, compared to 5% in the 1997 study.
  • 23.4% of African-American girls had breast development, compared to 15.4% in the 1997 study.

The early onset of puberty is found to be correlated with both race and body-mass index (BMI). But what’s causing girls to enter puberty sooner?

The researchers also collected urine and blood specimens from the girls to look at levels of compounds called endocrine-disrupting chemicals, Biro says, to see what role these environmental exposures might play in early puberty.

”It appears that some of the endocrine-disrupting chemicals are interacting with body composition and this may be the reason some girls are going into puberty earlier and others later,” Biro tells WebMD. “That would have to be speculation,” he says of the interaction idea. “But we do know BMI is doing it.”

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What’s behind the rise in ADHD?

| May 18, 2010 | 8 Replies
What’s behind the rise in ADHD?

Now a new study published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, links pesticide use with the rise in ADHD disorders among children. The study’s authors examined data on over 1,100 children, and determined that elevated levels of pesticide metabolites in the urine was associated with a diagnosis of ADHD. In fact, children with levels higher than the median of the most commonly detected metabolite (known as dimethyl thiophosphate), were twice as likely to be diagnosed as ADHD compared with children that had undetectable levels of the metabolite. The elevated risk factor remained even after controlling for confounding variables like gender, age, race/ethnicity, poverty/income ratio and others.

The pesticides studied belong to a class of compounds known as organophosphates. Time explains:

[Study author Maryse] Bouchard’s analysis is the first to home in on organophosphate pesticides as a potential contributor to ADHD in young children. But the author stresses that her study uncovers only an association, not a direct causal link between pesticide exposure and the developmental condition. There is evidence, however, that the mechanism of the link may be worth studying further: organophosphates are known to cause damage to the nerve connections in the brain — that’s how they kill agricultural pests, after all. The chemical works by disrupting a specific neurotransmitter, acetylcholinesterase, a defect that has been implicated in children diagnosed with ADHD. In animal models, exposure to the pesticides has resulted in hyperactivity and cognitive deficits as well.

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(Marginally) tougher food safety rules mean (marginally) safer food

| May 11, 2010 | 8 Replies
(Marginally) tougher food safety rules mean (marginally) safer food

“There is no more important mission at USDA than ensuring the safety of our food, and we are working every day as part of the President’s Food Safety Working Group to lower the danger of foodborne illness. The new standards announced today mark an important step in our efforts to protect consumers by further reducing the incidence of Salmonella and opening a new front in the fight against Campylobacter,” announced Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Monday.

Under these new proposed regulations, 7.5% of the chicken at a processing plant may test positive for salmonella. In 2009, average salmonella levels were at 7.1%, so I guess these giant food conglomerates won’t have to stretch too hard to meet the proposed rule. I suppose it’s better than the 20% salmonella contamination that’s allowed under current regulations. But perhaps current regulations are not the best standard with which to judge the new rules, given that they don’t regulate campylobacter at all. Campylobacter causes diarrhea, cramping, fever, and there are no federal standards governing how much of it can be in your food. Under the proposed regulations, companies may not have more than 10% of their carcasses “highly-contaminated” by campylobacter, and no more than 46% may be contaminated at a “low-level.” I feel better, don’t you?

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Pesky unecological habits

| April 14, 2010 | Reply
Pesky unecological habits

William James once wrote that “habit” functions as “the enormous fly-wheel of society, its most precious conservative agent.” (Principles of Psychology, Vol. 1, p. 121). With regard to transportation, I’d like to think that I’ve taken care of more bad habits than most people. For instance, on most workdays, I commute by bicycle, and it’s a 10-mile round trip (my odometer just rolled to 14,000 miles, accumulated over 11 years). Although I don’t often go on trail rides for fun, I do ride 5-miles to work, 5 back home again, 5, 5, 5, 5 . . . . I also pride myself on walking one or two mile distances every few days, distances many people would insist on driving.

A couple days ago, I was buying a replacement hard drive at a local computer store. After coming out of the computer store, I decided to pick up a few food items at a Trader Joe’s that was located about 100 yards away, across a big parking lot. It occurred to me that I should get in my car and drive the 100 yards in order to shop at Trader Joe’s, and I almost did get into my car for that purpose.

Then it occurred to me what an absurd thing it would be, so incredibly unhealthy, to not walk 100 yards. To fail to walk would be to turn down a chance to get the blood flowing–free exercise. After scolding myself, I walked briskly across the lot, which took all of one minute, and then wondered how it ever got to be this way that anyone would consider driving such a short distance. I took a photo of that “long” walk after returning to my car (see below)–I wanted to drive the point home with an image, to remind myself that it should never be an option to drive a car 100 yards. Never. Yet I know that numerous people would have driven 100 yards rather than walked. It’s part of American culture to waste fuel and avoid exercise. distance-to-trader-joes

I used to live next door to a family that often drove their cars 1/4 mile to the nearby church and school, even though they were perfectly able to walk. I often see another neighbor taking almost 45-minutes to cut his small lawn with a power mower. He’s needlessly out there breathing 2-cycle engine fumes three times longer than necessary. What gives? For some people, I think the problem is that they forget how to walk fast. Walking fast turns walking into a bona fide mode of transportation (the Obama Administration has recently recognized this).

I know people who will always wait for elevators rather than walk even one flight of stairs. The St. Louis County, Missouri, Courthouse escalator has been broken for a few months, and I have seen dozens of people dragging their bodies up a single set of stairs as if they were about to die. I know what the problem is: they are not used to walking up stairs. Much of the time, these people weigh 50 – 100 pounds too much. Two-thirds of Americans are not physically active on a regular basis, and one-fourth get no exercise at all. Two-third of Americans are overweight or obese.

It’s so easy to slip back into bad habits, especially when in a hurry. We’ve designed our environment so that it’s easy to not walk and it’s too easy to eat lots of high-calorie non-nutritious food that we pop into our mouths with or fingers while we watch television. Anyone looking at our situation and our physiques from the outside would immediately know that we are living an unhealthy/dysfunctional lifestyle. It’s not just a matter of opinion.

I think that I’m getting more and more tuned to these issues of bad eating and poor exercise because I’ve been watching a fantastic new show called Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (on ABC). Check it out, and you’ll be amazed at the dozens of hurdles we put up to keep ourselves and our children from being healthy. It’s truly mind-twisting. And I’ve decided that Jamie Oliver is one of my heroes, and I’m not alone in this thinking–he was recently awarded the 2010 TED Prize. You can watch the Food Revolution trailer and all of the individual episodes on the Internet here. It’s time to get angry about the way that we are abusing ourselves and our children, just like Jamie says on his show and at his recent TED lecture–it’s time to join Jamie’s revolution. Give just 20-minutes to watching this video and get angry enough to do something. Talk it up with the people you care about.

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Our bad food is as addictive as cocaine

| March 29, 2010 | 4 Replies
Our bad food is as addictive as cocaine

Slate reports:

A new study published in Nature Neuroscience suggests that high-calorie, high-fat foods may be just as addictive as cocaine and heroin. “When rats consume these foods in great enough quantities, it leads to compulsive eating habits that resemble drug addiction, the study found,” Health.com reported.

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Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

| February 14, 2010 | 3 Replies
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

Jamie Oliver is a chef who wants to talk about people who are killing themselves by eating dangerous food. Obesity is killing us in huge numbers, though the media still would rather scare us about homicides, which are relatively rare. We have become so big that there is a significant market for double-sized coffins.

The system is rife with misinformation. We are a country where food manufacturers make prominent “no fat” labels when the food (including milk) is full of sugar. One of his messages is that we’ve got to stop trusting food manufacturers to properly label their food products. What we do to our children by feeding them crappy food is “child abuse.” Our schools are complicit, along with food manufacturers.

Oliver’s talk is an up front and personal look at the perpetrators and victims of the problem, and they are often the same people. But consider, also, that we now live is a system where accountants choose our food, not nutritionists.

The low-light of the video is at the 11-minute mark. How well do our kids recognize fruits and vegetables? Not well at all. We are failing miserably at educating our children about food.

We can do a lot better, and Jamie offers some promising solutions that all focus on educating our families and children. Oliver offers a positive energy and an urgency that we desperately need.

Here’s Oliver’s wish:

jamie-oliver-food-wish

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Eating local fresh food

| February 4, 2010 | 3 Replies
Eating local fresh food

Would you like to eat local fresh food, but you’re wondering what is grown locally and when? The NRDC (National Resource Defense League) has the answers you seek.

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