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High-Fructose Corn Syrup Revisited

Over a year and a half ago, I wrote an entry regarding the discovery of trace amounts of mercury in high-fructose corn syrup.  Since that time, I’ve seen an increasing number of products switching back to good old-fashioned sugar.  That is encouraging.

Personally, I do not drink soft drinks because soft drink companies are among the largest producers of HFCS-laden products.  Recently, however, I saw a 20 oz. bottle of Limited Edition Pepsi-Cola while standing at the checkout.  I picked it up and read the ingredients, which included sugar, but NOT high-fructose corn syrup!  Also, there was no sodium benzoate (which, through digestion, produces benzene, a known carcinogen).  I bought it.  I know, I know!  Sugar is not good for you in any form, but let’s face it, I have a sweet tooth.  The soda was delicious and I immediately noticed that it didn’t have the weird metallic aftertaste I’ve noticed before when drinking colas.

Because I would rather see soda companies make the switch from HFCS to sugar, and because certain restaurants like Jason’s Deli are being met with resistance from soft drink companies to make this switch, I thought I would go to Pepsi.com and put my $.02 in.  Here was my short and sugar-sweet comment:

Several years ago, I stopped consuming colas and soft drinks because the use of high-fructose corn syrup was ubiquitous.  The other day, standing in the checkout lane of our neighborhood grocery store, I saw a “Limited Edition” Pepsi-Cola sweetened with good old-fashioned sugar.  I purchased it and it was delicious.  I thought I should tell you that I would purchase Pepsi products if they contained sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup.  Until then, like your promotional Pepsi-Cola, I will be a “Limited Edition” customer.

Sincerely,

Joseph

On 9/24/10, the Pepsi team responded:

Dear Joseph,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us at Pepsi-Cola to tell us that you are enjoying Pepsi Throwback. It means so much to us when we receive such positive feedback from those whose opinion matters the most—our customers!

Your feedback is important to us. Even though there are no current plans to reintroduce this product, I’ll be sure to share your comments with our beverage team for future consideration.

Thanks again for your message. We appreciate your interest in our company and our products.

Julieann Benes
Consumer Relations Representative

As consumers, we can help steer this change.  Feel free to stop by Pepsi.com or any of your favorite manufacturers and urge them to remove this unnatural ingredient from their products.   If you read your labels like any good, health-conscious consumer should, you’ll find that it is everywhere.

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Posted by on September 20, 2010 in Call to Action, Current Health News, Food, Health & Wellness

 

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Report: Baby Magic (and others) Contain Formaldehyde and 1,4-Dioxane

Is formaldehyde the "magic" in Baby Magic?

Is formaldehyde the "magic" in Baby Magic?

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A new report released regarding a study of 48 different baby bath products revealed that 28 of them contained the contaminants formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, both of which are known carcinogens.   The report stresses that these substances are not intentionally added and so do not show up on an ingredient list.  They are contaminants in the true sense of the word, a byproduct of the manufacturing and production of certain ingredients, but certainly avoidable.

Among the worst was Baby Magic, which contained the highest levels of formaldehyde, and American Girl products, which were found to contain the highest levels of dioxane.  Consumers beware!  For more information about harmful products may be in your personal hygiene products, visit the Cosmetics Database at EWG.org.

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U.S. News: Children’s Bath Products Contain Contaminants

U.S. News and World Report, By Amanda Gardner
Published March 12, 2009

THURSDAY, March 12 (HealthDay News) — Many baby and child-care products contain the chemicals formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, both of which have been linked to cancer and various skin conditions, a new report contends.

But the chemicals aren’t listed on the labels of bubble bath, shampoo and other common products, according to the report from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetic Use.

“Companies can obviously do better, and we need to demand that they do better,” said Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetic Use and co-author of the report, released Thursday. “Many companies are already making great products that don’t have any of these chemicals [and] many companies in the natural products industry have reformulated to get rid of that problem. We also know many companies are using preservatives that don’t use formaldehyde.”

According to the authors, the report, called No More Toxic Tub, is the first to document contamination of children’s products with these chemicals. The Environmental Working Group was involved in the analyses.

Both formaldehyde and dioxane are considered “contaminants,” Malkan said.

A contaminant “is a chemical that is not intentionally added to the product but is a byproduct,” she said. “Those are all exempt from labeling laws … Companies don’t even have to know themselves.”

Dioxane is a byproduct of chemical processing and formaldehyde is released from some of the chemicals that are used as preservatives, Malkan said.

John Bailey is chief scientist for the Personal Care Products Council, a national trade association for the cosmetic and personal care products industry. Responding to the report, he said, “These are issues that have been around for many, many years, so it’s not new news. The thing that impressed me was the low levels of dioxane that were found in these products, which indicates to me that the industry is doing its job in keeping this potential contaminant down to a low level.”

Bailey also said there were wasn’t enough information in the report to gauge how accurate the determinations of formaldehyde levels were.

Malkan and her co-authors tested 48 bubble baths, shampoos and other baby and children’s products for dioxane and 28 of those products for formaldehyde.

Among their findings:

* Almost two-thirds of the 28 products contained both chemicals, including Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and Huggies Naturally Refreshing Cucumber & Green Tea Baby Wash.
* Eighty-two percent of products tested contained formaldehyde; the highest levels were found in Baby Magic Baby Lotion.
* American Girl shower products had the highest levels of dioxane among products tested.

“The good news is that there are great products without any of these chemicals,” Malkan said. “The challenge is you have to do some research to find them. It’s not a simple matter of looking at the label.”

According to Malkan, the U.S. Department of Agriculture “organic seal” indicates that none of these chemicals are present.

“The best advice for consumers is that simple is better, products with fewer ingredients overall,” she said. “There are things consumers can do to make better choices at the store but we also need to change regulations and require companies to list all ingredients in the products and to make the safest products they can, especially products for babies.”

Harmful chemicals and contaminants in children’s products is a subject of continuing controversy. Earlier this week, it was announced that baby bottles made with the controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) will no longer be sold in the United States by the six largest manufacturers of the products.

BPA, which is found in a wide range of products, mimics the hormone estrogen and may disrupt the body’s endocrine system. The chemical poses a particular threat to fetuses, infants and children because it can interfere with cell function when their bodies are still developing, public health experts say. The chemical has been linked with diabetes, heart disease, cancer and developmental delays in children.

 
 

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Produce Consumer’s Best Friend

When shopping for organic produce, what items are 'ok' to buy conventional?

When shopping for organic produce, what items are 'ok' to buy conventional?

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For those of you who may not already know, one of my areas of interest include the problem of human body pollution, also called the human body burden (* see also the Human Toxome Project).  One of the ways that consumers can help minimize the number of harmful chemicals our bodies are exposed to is by choosing organic products.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG)  has done outstanding work over the past few years raising the awareness of this problem, which I believe is even more pressing than Global Warming.  For example, they have developed a database of consumer hygiene products, which consumers can use free of charge to discover just how toxic or Earth-friendly the product it.

They also have a Produce Shopper’s Guide, listing the dirty dozen of produce – that is, those types of produce that were tested and found to contain high levels of synthetic pesticides and other chemicals.  The list also provides a list of 15 of the “cleanest” produce varieties, in a downloadable and printable business card format for ease in shopping.   I call this the produce shopper’s best friend.   If you can’t afford to buy all organic, or not all varieties are available at your local store, use this guide to help shop for the varieties that are “cleaner” for you and your family.

Stop by and download the newest version, updated this week at EWG.org.

 

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Bittersweet Study Discovers Mercury in Foods Containing High- Fructose Corn Syrup

mercury-warning2

According a new report, fish and other seafood aren't the only dietary sources of toxic mercury.

[Mercury] damages the central nervous system, endocrine system, kidneys, and other organs, and adversely affects the mouth, gums, and teeth.  Exposure over long periods of time … can result in brain damage and ultimately death.  Mercury and its compounds are particularly toxic to fetuses and infants … Mercury exposure in young children can have severe neurological consequences, preventing nerve sheaths from forming properly.

Wikipedia, mercury poisoning

Consumers should take heed of a recent study, which discovered the presence of low doses of the toxic heavy metal, mercury (Hg), in foods containing high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Researchers at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP – http://www.iatp.org/) have released the findings of a study performed on 55 foods containing HFCS, which discovered that 31% of the foods tested – 1 out of every 3 samples – contained traces of mercury “several times higher than the lowest detectable limits”.

Mercury was found in minute quantities up to 350 ppt (parts per trillion), a level that food manufacturers and the Corn Syrup Refiners Association say is far below any threshold set by Federal Agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Such exposure is safe, they argue, and to inflate these findings and cause public alarm is “irresponsible” – at least, according to Tom Forsythe, spokesman for General Mills, maker of Yoplait® yogurt.  The FDA seems to share this opinion.

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration was alerted of the presence of mercury in HFCS-containing foods four years earlier, but chose to ignore the information.  In 2005, Renee Dufault, then researcher for the FDA and lead author for Environmental Health journal, conducted tests similar to the IATP’s and highlighted her findings of mercury in 9 of 20 samples in a report given to the agency.   They apparently did nothing to address this toxic threat. Her results were cited in the Environmental Health journal in January 2009 (abstract available).

[High-Fructose Corn Syrup] now appears to be a significant additional source of mercury, one never before considered … [but is a] completely avoidable problem.

IATP January 2009 release

The news caused an immediate stir in the online community, especially among health proponents who have monitored the presence of mercury in vaccines and seafood for the past several years.  Many health advocates warn of the presence of mercury in common products such as canned tuna, vaccine preservatives, and fluorescent light bulbs, as well as the associated risks and negative health effects this particular element has on the human body and the environment.

Mercury, they argue, is a known toxin even at minute quantities – indeed, it is the most toxic naturally occurring, non-radioactive metal on Earth.  It is particularly damaging to developing infants and small children, and, coincidentally or not, children represent the largest consumers of HFCS’s, second to teenagers.

Undoubtedly, this study has enormous implications because it is well-known by the scientific community that mercury – in any form – is extremely toxic and bioaccumulative, meaning that trace amounts of this element accumulate in the tissues and organs of living beings.  Over time, the presence of this toxin wreaks havoc on all bodily systems and can manifest in many different ways.

In this regard, and in my opinion, it is somewhat a moot point to argue that the mercury levels in the sampled foods are safe because they contain only a miniscule quantity of mercury, a position obviously taken by General Mills.  Poisons that accumulate in our bodies simply have no business being in our foods, especially if their presence is completely avoidable.

Why Mercury?

The inevitable question presents itself, “How did mercury get there?”

The answer is simple: certain producers of high fructose corn syrup use “mercury-grade caustic soda” (lye) to separate corn kernels from corn starch, thereby contaminating the corn starch with toxic mercury vapors, which is then further processed into HFCS – a very common sweetener in many processed foods.

Caustic soda can be produced in three ways: by utilizing mercury cells, membrane cells, or diaphragm cells.  These cells are basically vats of aqueous solution containing salt (NaCl).  These vats are electrically charged through a process called electrolysis, which chemically breaks apart the sodium molecules to produce chlorine and caustic soda (NaOH).  As NaOH is produced, it will chemically react with the chlorine unless one of the three cell methods is utilized.

Using the mercury cell process, the sodium ions (Na) are further reduced to a sodium amalgam through the introduction of liquid mercury.  This sodium amalgam is then reacted with water to produce caustic soda.   Lye produced utilizing this method is considered to be the highest-grade available, while the membrane cell method utilizes less electricity.

hgnaohelectrolysis1

This diagram shows the mercury cell process, which is far more technical than the simplified explanation above.

A somewhat dated fact sheet (2002) stated that “approximately 13% of electrolytically produced Caustic Soda in North America is produced” using the mercury cell method.

According to the EH abstract cited above, mercury-grade caustic lye is used to produce sodium benzoate and citric acid – two other potentially contaminated food sources.  One may assume that since corn starch is produced using lye, corn starch itself may also be cotaminated.

What has not been publicly recognized is that mercury cell technology can also contaminate all the food grade chemicals made from it, including caustic soda.

IATP January 2009 Release

The Study

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy obtained 55 samples of foods containing high-fructose corn syrup, manufactured by brand name companies such as Kraft, Hunt’s, Hershey’s and Quaker, as well as one private label store brand, Market Pantry.  The foods sampled included typical foods snacked on by average consumers: soft drinks, snack bars, barbecue sauces, yogurt, chocolate milk, jelly, toaster treats and ketchup, among others.

According to the results of the study, published directly by the IATP in January 2009, 17 of the sampled items contained “elevated mercury levels”, and at least 9 of them had mercury levels between 100 and 350 ppt.   The sampled foods with levels of mercury detected included (mercury amounts expressed in parts per trillion*):

Quaker Oatmeal to Go, manufactured by PepsiCo (350 ppt)

Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce, manufactured by Heinz (300 ppt)

Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup (257 ppt)

Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce (200 ppt)

Nutri-Grain Strawberry Cereal Bars, manufactured by Kellogg Company (180 ppt)

Manwich Bold Sloppy Joe (canned sauce), manufactured by ConAgra Foods (150 ppt)

Market Pantry Grape Jelly, manufactured by Target Corporation (130 ppt)

Smucker’s Strawberry Jelly, manufactured by J. M. Smuckers Company (100 ppt)

Pop-Tarts Frosted Blueberry, manufactured by Kellogg Company (100 ppt)

Hunt’s Tomato Ketchup, manufactured by ConAgra Foods (87 ppt)

Wish-Bone Western Sweet & Smooth, manufactured by Unilever (72 ppt)

Coca-Cola Classic (62 ppt)

Yoplait Strawberry Yogurt, manufactured by General Mills (60 ppt)

Minute Maid Berry Punch, manufactured by Coco-Cola (40 ppt)

Yoo-hoo Chocolate Drink, manufactured by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (30 ppt)

Nesquik Chocolate Milk, manufactured by Nestle (30 ppt)

Kemps Fat Free Chocolate Milk (30 ppt)

(see full chart)

Surprisingly, while the typical soda contains 17 teaspoons of HFCS’s (page 6), mercury was not found in the large majority of soft drinks tested besides Coca-Cola Classic.  Among those that fared favorably were: Dr. Pepper, A & W Root Beer, Kool-Aid, Sunny-D, Powerade, Lipton Green Tea, Pepsi Cola, 7-Up, and Hi-C.  Regardless, the IATP’s study reports that teenagers (ages 13-18) consume an average of 85 gallons of soda per year, which translates into 9,180 teaspoons of HFCS just by drinking soda alone!  In fact, the average person consumes about 12 teaspoons of HFCS each and every day – an amount that can significantly increase one’s exposure to mercury if eating typical items like those found in the list above.

How Much Mercury Are We Talking About, And How Much Is Considered Safe?

The FDA has set maximum exposure amounts for mercury in regard to public drinking water and seafood.  The maximum mercury concentration in water is set at 2 parts per billion (ppb), while the maximum concentration in seafood cannot exceed 1 part per million (ppm). The FDA states that the 1 ppm threshold is set at 10 times less than “the lowest levels associated with adverse effects”.

To help visualize the amount of mercury concentration expressed in ppm: the legal limit (1 ppm) is merely one drop in a standard bathtub filled to the overflow.  At that level, the FDA warns that consumers should not eat more than seven ounces of fish per week – approximately two and a half small cans of tuna.  On the other hand, the 2 ppb level set for drinking water is approximately 2 drops in 500 barrels of water.

Finally, to put the above discovered mercury concentrations in perspective, try to visualize 20 Olympic-size pools, each 2 meters deep, stacked on top of one another with one drop of mercury in them.  That represents 1 ppt.  That is an incredibly small amount, for sure, but still a potentially bioaccumulative source of toxic mercury – a source that, according to IATP and health advocates, is entirely avoidable.

Once it’s in the body, mercury can limit normal brain activity and nervous system functions … It is especially dangerous for developing infants and small children and can cause decreased motor skills and learning disabilities at even low levels of exposure.

Linda E. Greer, Ph.D., Director of Natural Resources Defense Council’s Health Program

Adverse Effects of Mercury Poisoning:

Because of mercury’s bioaccumulative nature, excess mercury can collect in the brain, tissues and organs of the affected individual, resulting in a wide variety of symptoms, including psychological disturbances, digestive problems, cardiovascular issues, respiratory problems, loss of speech and neurological problems resulting in mood swings and aggressive behavior.

It has long been established that mercury is destructive to the brain, which gave rise to the phrase, “mad as a hatter” – an accurate label for hatters who used to use mercury to cure the felt in their hats.   Most of these “mad hatters” went insane and/or died at an early age because of mercury poisoning.  This has led many to believe that there is a connection between vaccinations containing the mercury-laden preservative, Thimerosal, and the onset and rising prevalence of autism.  Still others speculate that mercury is a leading cause for such disorders as attention deficit and possibly alzheimer’s.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG – http://www.ewg.org) states that mercury toxicity causes “damage to the brain and nervous system, immune system, enzyme system and genetic system.”  EWG adds that developing fetuses are especially vulnerable to the destructive effects of mercury.  Scientists have shown that mercury destroys the dendrites and axons of neurons, leaving only an empty “nerve sheath” (see video below).

According to research performed by EWG in 2004, ten babies were found to have mercury present in their umbilical cord blood.   Another study in 2006 showed that 72 of 73 individuals tested positive for traces of methylmercury.

Wikipedia lists the effects of mercury poisoning as “excessive timidity, diffidence, increasing shyness, loss of self-confidence, anxiety, and a desire to remain unobserved and unobtrusive”.  These characteristics also mirror  the destruction of personality often present in children at the onset of autism.

Consumers can be sure that the debate over mercury’s presence in our lives will only be ignited by this new study.

Main study conducted by IATP:

http://www.healthobservatory.org/library.cfm?refid=105026

For more information on HFCS:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_fructose_corn_syrup

http://www.hfcsfacts.com/ High Fructose Corn Syrup Refiners

Related articles:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/lifestyle/health/chi-mercury-corn-syrupjan27,0,2801323.story

http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2009/1/26/132619/467/?source=most_popular

More information on mercury toxicity:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_(element)#Safety

http://www.ewg.org/chemindex/term/470

Videos:

http://commons.ucalgary.ca/mercury/ – This video shows how damaging the presence of mercury is to neurons.  Watch as the dendrites wither, leaving only an empty nerve sheaths.  Scientists have already established that mercury is bioaccumulative, a good portion of which concentrates in organs and in the brain.  What sort of damage are we doing to our delicate nervous systems?

http://www.michigan.gov/mdch/0,1607,7-132-2945_5105_47868-181553–,00.html – This is an outstanding video showing how exposed mercury quickly dissipates into the air, wreaking havoc as an environmental toxin.  This video also shows how difficult mercury is to remove, without causing it to become even more volatile.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ylnQ-T7oi – I found this a couple of years ago regarding silver amalgam fillings.  Thankfully, I don’t have any silver amalgam fillings.  Perhaps this will convince some readers to have theirs removed.  If you do, be sure that all necessary precautions are taken to avoid exposing yourself further or your dentists.

http://www.newmoa.org/prevention/mercury/imerc/video.cfm – This is a short five-minute video showing the cycle of mercury pollution and contamination.

Biomagnification:

http://www.on.ec.gc.ca/community/classroom/millennium/m3-science-assign2-e.html – This simple exercise allows one to see how quickly minute quantities of toxic chemicals like mercury can build up in animals higher up the food chain.  As humans are at the top of the food chain, it would be wise for us to be prudent in our exposure to mercury, especially when it is avoidable.

See also: Bioaccumulation

 

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An Environmental Issue More Pressing Than Global Warming

Gas masks: freakish fashion trend of the future? The body burden our children are inheriting might make this an unavoidable accessory.

One of the main issues this blog addresses and one which I regularly speak to friends and family about is the human body burden. The phrase “body burden” refers to the condition of body toxicity that has resulted from the use of largely synthetic chemicals since the early 1900’s. Many of these chemicals are known carcinogens, neurotoxins, hormone disruptors, and wreak havoc on many systems within the body. The health effects range from common to severe, from headaches and mild gastrointestinal problems to cancer, permanent syndromes and even death.

Every human being on this planet shares in this body burden.

Because the previous statement is so important, I’ll repeat it again: Every human being on this planet shares in this body burden.

While I do not want people running around scared and paranoid about toxic chemicals in their body, I also do not encourage ignorance of real problems that confront us because of our collective actions as the human species. Body pollution is one of those serious concerns that should not be ignored. While many people suffer from unexplainable illnesses, the prevalence of cancer is rising, the development of new illnesses and syndromes is on the rise, and many are suffering from hormone imbalances, reproductive problems and mental disturbances, it behooves us as a species to understand that there are explainable causes to all of these.

One major contributor to our deterioration in health and the rise in preventable diseases (yes, preventable) is the presence of up to 700 toxic chemicals in our body and bloodstream.

According to studies released by the Environmental Working Group and the EPA, blood and tissue samples of several random American citizens revealed the shocking truth: all of us, whether or not we work around hazardous chemicals or live near facilities that handle toxins or release them into the atmosphere, are plagued by the presence of these toxins, many of which are bioaccumulative. This means that trace amounts, over time, build up within our bones, our organs and our tissues and produce significant systemic results, including cancer and death.

These chemicals are in the foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the toys we play with, the personal hygiene products we smear on our bodies, the cleaning products we use, the fragrances we douse ourselves with, and the items we use at our workplace. We live in a toxic atmosphere created by the technologies, manufacturing, and industrial endeavors of our species.

Most of this has occurred within the past 100 years and is reversible at this stage. The longer we wait, the more we pollute ourselves and our environment, the more difficult it becomes to reduce our exposure to these chemicals. Future generations will, therefore, have to suffer an even greater burden.

In fact, recent studies of umbilical cord blood in newborns revealed a shocking discovery: our babies are being born with this burden as well!

Research shows that many of these chemicals easily pass through the placenta and concentrate in the developing fetus. Can you imagine what these chemicals can do to such a vulnerable body and brain? While scientists and doctors remain baffled regarding the rise in autism, developmental disorders, mental conditions and other problems, the culprit could very well be the chemical cocktail we serve up on a daily basis in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, churches and workplaces.

Currently, there is a movie in production called 287, which tackles these important issues and will present them to the larger viewing audience. The producers want 287 to be “for your internal environment” what Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth was for the external environment. I have many reservations about Al Gore’s movie and his conclusions, but after spending much time researching the “body burden”, I believe this issue to be even more important than global warming.

According to the Environmental Working Group in 2005, children are born into this world with an average of 287 toxic chemicals in their system. 287 reasons for Americans and citizens of the world to take pause and grapple with this problem. It is not going away, it will not get better if we continue staying the course we are on to our own destruction. Fixing the problem means a radical, personal change on a collective level.

I encourage everyone to read more about our Body Burden at ewg.org. I ask that you help the producers of 287 with any support or assistance you can provide. Frequent the 287 The Movie blog here at WordPress. Find out your own personal Body Burden (this site may take a few moments to load). Use the personal hygiene products database to clean out your medicine cabinet and replace the products with healthier versions. Check back with Toxin Free Now as they develop their website to help you live healthier. Research the common chemical culprits that are widespread in our society. Stand up and fight the bureaucracies that are maintaining our current course. Talk to others about the burden we all share.

Many of these toxins can be removed by our personal and collective choices. As a consumer, you can make a large impact as many of the largest offenders are manufacturers of household cleaning products and personal hygiene products.

What are some things that have I done? It’s not much, but it’s what anyone can do:

Switched to an organic diet. My animals, too.

Eliminated all toxins from the foods I eat (mostly present in processed foods).

Changed and stopped using many personal hygiene products.

Stopped wearing fragrance.

Purify all of my water for drinking and cooking.

Switched household cleaners to “green” versions.

Educate others around me.

 

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BPA leaches from ‘SAFE’ products

Originally called a radar range, the microwave heats food using a form of radiation.

Originally called a "radar range", the microwave heats food using a form of radiation. Using plastic in a microwave increases the number of harmful compounds transferred to your food - including BPA.

Our home came with a microwave oven, but we never – and I repeat – NEVER use it.

If we have to heat something up, it goes in a pan or in the oven. In my opinion, it is unnatural and unsafe to heat food up using microwaves. Some studies have shown that microwaving destroys nutrients, breaks apart vital enzymes, and changes the chemical structure of the food. (Now, it is true that traditional cooking does this, to some extent, as well.  Researchers are especially concerned because microwaves quickly and thoroughly degrade the food into non-bioavailable matter and turns the food into carcinogenic compounds.  Read this article to find several international studies regarding the dangers of microwave cooking.) With that said, I would never – and I repeat – NEVER heat up anything in the microwave in a plastic container. I do not like the idea of radiating my food with microwaves, which are related to gamma and X-rays, nor the idea of those waves causing plastic containers to release deadly chemicals into my food.

In my opinion, the food that manufacturers make to put into microwaves are barely “food” to begin with, let alone as a finished, microwaved product that has been destroyed by radiation. Michelle’s sister works at a day care, and the majority of the kids are sent to school with nothing but microwaveable meals everyday – breakfast, lunch and snack: Chef Boy Ar Dee mini meals, TV dinners, Hot Pockets, you name it. They’re all laden with preservatives, Genetically Engineered products, added synthetic vitamins (to make it healthier!), MSG, sodium and over-processed ingredients. I saw it as a grocery manager: more and more people are relying more and more upon microwaved foods. Gross. And we wonder why we get sick, feel fatigued, need to eat more, and suffer from a host of symptoms, all known to result from toxic chemical exposure.

In case you need one more reason NOT to use microwaves, it turns out that the estrogen-copycat Bisphenol-A leeches from plastic bottles when placed in a microwave – even those labeled as “microwave safe”.  Think of the poor infants who are being fed this way several times a day.   The age of convenience and technology is poisoning our future.  Read the following article for more:

The reality of one in every four will have cancer is that we are exposing ourselves at the earliest ages to dangerous chemicals.

The reality of "one in every four will have cancer" is that we are exposing ourselves at the earliest ages to dangerous chemicals that are known carcinogens.

MJ Sentinel: BPA leaches from ‘safe’ products

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Susanne Rust and Meg Kissinger

Published November 17, 2008

Products marketed for infants or billed as “microwave safe” release toxic doses of the chemical bisphenol A when heated, an analysis by the Journal Sentinel has found.

The newspaper had the containers of 10 items tested in a lab – products that were heated in a microwave or conventional oven. Bisphenol A, or BPA, was found to be leaching from all of them.

The amounts detected were at levels that scientists have found cause neurological and developmental damage in laboratory animals. The problems include genital defects, behavioral changes and abnormal development of mammary glands. The changes to the mammary glands were identical to those observed in women at higher risk for breast cancer.

The newspaper’s test results raise new questions about the chemical and the safety of an entire inventory of plastic products labeled as “microwave safe.” BPA is a key ingredient in common household plastics, including baby bottles and storage containers. It has been found in 93% of Americans tested.

The newspaper tests also revealed that BPA, commonly thought to be found only in hard, clear plastic and in the lining of metal food cans, is present in frozen food trays, microwaveable soup containers and plastic baby food packaging.

Food companies advise parents worried about BPA to avoid microwaving food in plastic containers, especially those with the recycling No.&ensp7 stamped on the bottom.

But the Journal Sentinel’s testing found BPA leaching from containers with different recycling numbers, including Nos.&ensp1, 2 and 5.

“There is no such thing as safe microwaveable plastic,” said Frederick vom Saal, a University of Missouri researcher who oversaw the newspaper’s testing [emphasis mine].

The American Chemistry Council disputed the findings, saying publishing the results amounts to a “serious disservice by drawing a conclusion about product safety that simply cannot be drawn from either this study or the overall body of scientific research.”

Food company officials say the doses detected in the tests are so low that they are insignificant to human health.

“These levels are EXTREMELY low,” wrote John Faulkner, director of brand communications for Campbell Soup Co. Tests of the company’s Just Heat & Enjoy tomato soup showed its container leached some of the lowest levels of BPA found. “In fact, you might just be able to find similar levels in plain old tap water due to ‘background’ levels. We are talking 40 to 60 parts per trillion (ppt). What is 40 to 60 ppt? 40 to 60 seconds in 32,000 years!”

But the Journal Sentinel identified several peer-reviewed studies that found harm to animals at levels similar to those detected in the newspaper’s tests – in some cases, as low as 25 parts per trillion. Scientists with an expertise in BPA say the findings are cause for concern, especially considering how vulnerable a baby’s development is and how even tiny amounts of BPA can trigger cell damage.

Harm done during this critical window of development is irreparable and can be devastating, they say.

“This is stuff that shouldn’t be in our babies’ and infants’ bodies,” said Patricia Hunt, a professor at Washington State University who pioneered studies linking BPA to cancer.

Scientists say BPA and other chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system do not act like other toxins that become more potent as their doses increase. BPA behaves like a hormone. It mimics estrogen with effects that are ultra-potent. Even tiny amounts can trigger cell change.

[please read the entire posting at ewg.org]

Other posts re: BPA by Withonebreath:

That Chemical Cocktail is Killing You

Canada Bans BPA; US FDA Under Attack From Critics, Scientists and Lawmakers

The Body Burden: Toxic Chemicals in Our Bodies

Also see:

“Microwave Water Kills Plants” For what it is worth, this is an experiment conducted by a child. Her finding was that the microwaved water killed her plant. This was only one plant and was not a double-blind experiment, so anything could have gone wrong. It’s likely that this was a fluke, but it is, nevertheless, an interesting experiment.

“The Hidden Hazards of Microwave Cooking” @ http://www.health-science.com

 
 

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The Terrible Truth About Trans Fats

After years of touting the safety of margarine and products like Crisco® over traditional butter and lard, health professionals and scientists have reversed their position on trans fats by one-hundred and eighty degrees. Trans fats are now believed to be one of the largest contributors to coronary heart disease and stroke. This has led some restaurants and manufacturers to voluntarily remove trans fats from their menus and product ingredients, and the banning of trans fats in restaurants in two major U.S. cities and one state. What is the alarm? What are trans fats? How much trans fat does the average consumer ingest? How much dietary trans fats should one consume?

High-pressure hydrogenation system for producing partially- and fully-hydrogenated oils.

High-pressure hydrogenation system for producing partially- and fully-hydrogenated oils.

Short History of Hydrogenation

In the early 1900’s, German chemist Wilhelm Normann developed a process of hardening liquid vegetable oil using the process of hydrogenation, which chemically introduces extra hydrogen atoms to the fatty acid molecules present in the oil. Basically, this process is performed by heating the oil and passing hydrogen bubbles through it. This chemical alteration of the oil produces a slightly harder oil (semi-solid) at room temperature, called partially hydrogenated oil. This process can also change liquid oil into a completely solid state, which is known as hydrogenated oil.  Both partially- and fully-hydrogenated oils are known as  trans fats. Nearly a decade later after Normann patented this process, Proctor & Gamble bought the rights to Normann’s hydrogenation facility and marketed the hydrogenated oil commercially, known as Crisco®.  (Note: Some oils, like coconut oil, are naturally solid at room temperature and should not be confused with the artificially-produced trans fats.)

In Jan

From Wikipedia: "In January 2007, faced with the prospect of an outright ban on the sale of their product, Crisco® was reformulated to meet the US FDA definition of "zero grams trans fats per serving" (that is less than one gram per tablespoon)"

Crisco® (and later, margarine) enjoyed much popularity for many years, especially after doctors and scientists began asserting the dangers associated with the consumption of saturated fats, especially those found in butter and lard.  These common substitutes for oil are very high in saturated fat and cholesterol, however, Crisco®, as well as other hydrogenated oils, is produced from monounsaturated oils and contains no cholesterol.  Proctor and Gamble capitalized on this, pushing Crisco® into millions of pantries, assisted by the giveaway of free cookbooks calling for Crisco® in every recipe.  In addition to making the oil appear healthier, the hardening process also makes the oil shelf-stable for much longer than traditional oils, making it resistant to rancidity. Hydrogenated oils are also much less-expensive than traditional animal-based products like butter.

Manufacturers soon learned that using hydrogenated oils made their products appear healthier (because of reduced saturated fat and cholesterol), helped them control their production costs, and increased the shelf-life of products containing them, therefore increasing the manufacturer’s profit margins. This resulted in the universal use of hydrogenated oils in nearly all processed foods.  In recent years, however, doctors, health officials and scientists have done a complete 180-degree turn with regard to their position on the safety of trans fats, now stating that the traditional animal fats like butter are far healthier in comparison to hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils. Why is this?

New Information Regarding the Safety of Trans Fats

As it turns out, the process of hydrogenation changes the chemical structure of the oil in a very fundamental way, making it appear, act and respond in the body more like a saturated fat. (Saturated fats are believed to be a large contributor to coronary heart disease.) New studies indicate that trans fats are even more dangerous than normal, saturated fats because the change in the chemical structure of the fat produces an artificial that the body does not recognize and cannot process effectively.  According to one source, “One long-term study of more than 80,000 women showed that, compared to carbohydrates, every 5 percent increase in saturated fat consumption resulted in a 17 percent increase in the risk of coronary heart disease, while every 2 percent increase in trans fat resulted in a 93 percent increase” [emphasis added]. That is a remarkable increase in the prevalence of heart disease versus a lesser amount of saturated fat. Recent studies also indicate that consumption of trans fatty acids increases blood LDL-cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) levels, while simultaneously lowering blood HDL-cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol).  This is a double-whammy to one’s circulatory health.  Each of these factors alone increase the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), but together spell big trouble. The American Heart Association reports that CHD results in 500,000 deaths each year and is the leading cause of death in the United States.

According to the Mayo Clinic, trans fats also increase the amount of triglycerides in the blood, which contributes to plaque along the arterial walls, increase lipoproteins, another form of LDL-cholesterol, and causes inflammation as it appears that trans fats “damage the cells lining blood vessels“. In addition, consumption of high amounts of trans fats increase the prevalence of diabetes, immune disorders and obesity, although much more research is needed in order to make a formal, official statement linking cause and effect. Another article I discovered at a prostate cancer survivor website had this to add about trans fats:

“Brian Olshansky, M.D., a cardiologist and University of Iowa Health Care professor of internal medicine, ‘involves putting hydrogen atoms in the wrong place. It’s like making a plastic.’

‘The problem with trans fatty acids is that your body doesn’t know what to do with them,’ Olshansky said in a press release in 2003 which we carried on this page. ‘Trans fatty acids may help preserve food so that it tastes good, but your body can’t break them down and use them correctly,’ Olshansky said. ‘Normal fats are very supple and pliable, but the trans fatty acid is a stiff fat that can build up in the body and create havoc.’

Now, I do not assume that Dr. Olshansky is a chemist so the statement about trans fats being like “a plastic” should be taken with a grain of salt.  However, what he says about the body’s inability to process trans fats is important to note.

FDA Changes Nutritional Labeling Requirements for Trans Fats

All of this bad press has led to the banning of trans fats in restaurants in at least three U.S. cities (Philadelphia, New York, and Tiburon, California) and the subsequent reformulation of hundreds of products by product manufacturers such as Kraft and Proctor & Gamble. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also began new product labeling requirements in 2006, requiring companies to disclose the amount of trans fats in their products. The new regulations require the amount of trans fat per serving to be listed on the Nutrition Facts panel, in a separate line directly below the saturated fat content. Trans fat content is to be expressed as grams per serving to the nearest 0.5-gram increment below 5 grams, and to the nearest gram increment if that amount is above 5 grams. If the amount of trans fat per serving is less than 0.5 gram, the content is to be expressed as 0. The important point here is that the product may still contain trans fats, as long as the amount is less than .5 gram per serving, and the label will read zero grams. (source *.pdf)

The new nutritional label requires the listing of total trans fat, per serving.

The new nutritional label requires the listing of total trans fat, per serving.

A Deceiving New Label

This new requirement is deceiving in many ways. First of all, the unaware consumer may be led to believe that the product they are consuming contains no trans fats. One sure way to tell is to read the label and look for “partially-hydrogenated” oil or “hydrogenated” oil. If the product contains either of these, it also contains the artificial “bad” fat, trans fat. Secondly, the labeling makes calculation of total dietary trans fat impossible. Many foods that contain hydrogenated oils are snack foods, and oftentimes the serving size is relatively small. Most people consume at least a serving of these types of foods every time they eat them. If the product contains .45 grams of trans fat per serving and lists zero grams on the label, and if one consumes two or three servings, they just consumed nearly a gram and a half without knowing it. Move on to the next product which has been deceptively labeled in this manner and it becomes impossible to know how much one has consumed. And just how much trans fat is okay? Doctors and health officials have stated that no amount of trans fat is safe, while the FDA asserts that one should not remove trans fats from one’s diet because poor health could develop! Early drafts of the regulations also called for an asterisk (*) in the column for recommended percentage daily allowance, with a warning to consume as little trans fats as possible. This requirement was later dropped.

How much trans fat is bad?

As the studies indicate, even a small amount of trans fat has an exponential effect on the rate of heart disease. According to one source, the National Academy of Science has concluded that “there is no safe level of trans fat consumption. There is no adequate level, recommended daily amount or tolerable upper limit for trans fats. This is because any incremental increase in trans fat intake increases the risk of coronary heart disease.” Because of this fact alone the current labeling requirements are insufficient and give consumers a false sense of security. Under these current regulations, I recommend that consumers read the product ingredients and avoid products containing partially hydrogenated oils. As you look, you will be shocked at how many products contain this dangerous fat.

This is one reason why the FDA issued a statement that one should not remove trans fats completely from one’s diet: “According to experts, eliminating trans fat completely from the diet would require such extraordinary dietary changes (e.g., elimination of foods, such as dairy products and meats that contain trans fatty acids) that eliminating trans fat could cause an inadequate intake of some nutrients and create health risks.” This is an astonishing statement. The FDA also states that the average daily intake of trans fats is about 5.8 grams. If one’s diet includes fast food, crackers, chips, desserts, candy, and margarine in higher than average amounts, this number can easily double. This short ten minute video focuses on trans fats. As it explains, trans fats are an artificial fat that the body simply does not know how to process. It ends up getting stored (one of the reasons it is believed to correlate with obesity) or it clogs up the system as is found in arterial plaque build-up.

The above quote really drives home the point that even the FDA recognizes that this artificial fat is found in so many prepared and processed foods that it is extremely difficult to avoid eating it altogether. If you eat out at all it is even more difficult, but this is changing due to customer demands for healthier cooking oils.  Luckily, many restaurants are changing their product formulations to remove trans fats.  In light of the aforementioned FDA standards of “zero grams of trans fat” per serving, one should be especially wary of ingesting incremental amounts of trans fats that bypass this requirement by shrinking the portion size.  Keep in mind that the average consumer eats more than the suggested serving size.

KFC Chicken is one of the largest offenders of trans fat use.  Combined with their use of MSG in everything, my suggestion is to avoid this restaurant altogether.

Certain restaurants like KFC and Jason's Deli now boast "Zero Grams of Trans Fat" per serving in their foods.

Sampling of Trans Fat Content in Common Restaurant and Pantry Items

To illustrate the widespread use of trans fats even better, consider this list of common food items:

One McDonald’s® large fries contains 8 grams of trans fat

A McDonald’s® apple pie contains 4.5 grams of trans fat

Four Girl Scout® shortbread cookies contain 1.5 grams of trans fat

A large order of KFC® Popcorn Chicken contains 7 grams of trans fat (prior to being reformulated)

KFC’s® Chicken Pot Pie contains 14 grams of trans fat (prior to being reformulated)

A typical 3-piece KFC® Extra Crispy combo meal, with a drumstick, two thighs, potato wedges, and a biscuit contains 15 grams of trans fat (source of the above) (prior to being reformulated)

1 TB Stick Margarine contains 3 grams of trans fat

A 42.5 gram bag of potato chips contains 3 grams of trans fat

1 Fried Doughnut contains 5 grams of trans fat

A standard candy bar contains 3 grams of trans fat

One slice of pound cake contains 4.5 grams of trans fat (source)

One Pillsbury® crescent roll contains 1.5 grams of trans fat (source)

Ready-made frostings contain 1 gram of trans fat per 1 tablespoon (source)

Although some restaurants are making changes to reduce or eliminate trans fats, there is currently no requirement alerting the average American consumer of the dangers associated with the food they are eating in restaurants! Would you eat a box of fries that carried an image of the skull and cross bones on the packaging, or a black box warning against coronary heart disease like one sees on a carton of cigarettes? You can be an informed consumer, however, and ask your favorite restaurants if they use partially hydrogenated oils, margarine, or shortening in the foods they offer. Many restaurants have been forced to make the switch from trans fats because of negative customer reaction. This past summer, California became the first state to ban trans fats in all restaurants. That’s a step in the right direction.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, the above information is enough to make you a more conscious shopper when it comes to the safe foods you eat and feed your family. It may be natural to disregard some of the new information regarding trans fats, after all, they told us the same things about butter many years ago and now they are telling us its good. Until more studies are performed and the results scrutinized by the medical community and health professionals, I always encourage consumers to err on the side of caution, especially when some of the data indicates such a higher prevalence of health problems associated with trans fat consumption. Remember that nutritional labels are misleading and confusing. Do not try to gauge your trans fat intake going by the label alone. Read the ingredients and scan for partially- or fully-hydrogenated oil. If either are present, the product contains trans fats, but was probably re-formulated by the manufacturer to get below the limit set by the FDA’s labeling guidelines. In this case, assume that the product has nearly .5 gram per serving.

For more information on fats, click here.

More information on trans fats can be found at www.bantransfats.com and, for what it is worth, at the FDA’s own site at www.fda.gov.

The Straight Dope on Trans Fats

ABC News Article on Trans Fats

The Fit Shack article on Trans Fats labeling

Medicine.net article on Trans Fats

FDA News

 

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