You thought carbon trading was all about reducing dependence on fossil fuel? Think again. A proposed trial of a personal carbon trading scheme will also aim at getting people to reduce consumption of “fatty foods” in the name of targeting obesity. The three-year project will involve giving everyone on Norfolk Island, a small island in the Pacific Ocean located between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia, a card pre-loaded with “carbon units.” They will pay for their power and gasoline with carbon units—and from the second year also their food. “If people are thrifty,” says Professor Garry Egger, an organizer of the program, “and don’t buy a lot of petrol or power or fatty foods, they will have units to spare, which they can cash in at a bank. If they aren’t frugal and produce a lot of carbon and consume unhealthy [fatty] foods, then every year they will have to buy extra units” (www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au, October 28, 2010). Looks like carbon trading is morphing from a plan to “save the planet” into a social engineering and public policy scheme. If carbon rationing becomes widespread, the same system can be used to ration food and make government nutrition objectives mandatory.
ADVANCES IN FOOD TECHNOLOGY
For those trying to reduce their consumption of saturated fat, as per the USDA dietary guidelines, the food industry has come up with a variety of “non-dairy whipping cream” products for use as cake decoration, pastry fillings, ice cream and. . .whipping cream. Always looking for ways to make things cheaper and harder to distinguish from real food, the company Premium Ingredients has launched “a new blend of hydrocolloids and emulsifiers” for vegetable whipping cream that offers “high versatility, cost savings and freeze-thaw stability.” Most important, the product is “cheaper than traditional dairy cream and any other vegetable cream alternative.” One reason the product is cheap is because it has a “very high overrun of more than 250 percent.” This figure expresses the percentage of expansion of cream that can be achieved from an amount of air incorporated into it. According to a company spokesperson, “unlike conventional cream that is very soft and struggles to hold its shape for very long, its vegetable alternative is relatively high strength. . . the blend maintains its strength through time and can withstand freezing and thawing cycles to maintain stable emulsion without breakage” (foodnavigator.com, October 21, 2010). Unfortunately, those who try to nourish themselves on this food-like product may indeed struggle to hold their shape, as they will need to eat and eat and eat in an effort to obtain nourishment for their starving bodies.
HAVE A STATIN WITH YOUR CROISSANT
It is truly incredible the lengths to which scientists invested in the lipid hypothesis will go to explain away all the contradictions to their theory. The French Paradox, for example, derives from the observation that the French have low rates of heart disease even though they consume a lot of saturated fat in the form of butter, cream, whole cheeses, paté, sausage and meat fats. According to Timo Strandberg from the University of Oulu, Finland, “Fewer coronary deaths during the 1970s and 1990s in France than in Britain (or in the US) were simply reflecting much lower saturated fat consumption and lower cholesterol levels in France during earlier decades. While saturated fat consumption started to increase in Britain from the late 19th century and reached a plateau during the 1930s, this increase did not happen in France, a Mediterranean country, until from the 1970s” (Financial Times. Letters, October 16, 2010). What are you smoking, dear Timo? Your editor visited France for the first time in 1959, and remembers cream cheese, whipped cream, soufflés and plates swimming with butter. Even today, saturated fat consumption by the French is the highest in Europe, while rates of heart disease are lowest (www.heartstats.org/uploads/documents%5CPDF.pdf). According to Professor Strandberg, low levels of heart disease in France today are due to the use of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. “Eating lots of cream cheese and butter-rich croissants may not be so dangerous if you are on a statin,” says the professor. What’s really dangerous is advice from academics so blinded by their own dogma that they cannot distinguish fact from fiction, and who continue to promote the very lowfat or wrong-fat diets that are obviously killing us.
INVESTING IN DIABETES
One thing the USDA Dietary Guidelines have surely contributed to is an increase in diabetes, since the Guidelines gave Americans the green light to eat lots of carbs and demonized the healthy animal fats that help normalize blood sugar levels and provide key nutrients for the pancreas and adrenal glands, the main organs involved in blood sugar regulation. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that currently one US adult in ten has diabetes, mostly type-2 diabetes, and predicts that by 2050, one in three Americans could be diabetic (http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com, October 25, 2010). While public health officials wring their hands, the diabetes epidemic translates into a lot of profit for certain industry groups, starting with the pharmaceutical industry. At a September, 2010 meeting for the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), Dr. John Betteridge declared that all diabetics over forty should be on cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. Other beneficiaries include makers of food products for diabetics, such as low- and no-calorie sweeteners, and “functional fibers,” said to blunt blood sugar spikes after eating. Alas, more and more people are opting for real food instead of food-like substitutes. Even more alarming to the likes of Dr. Betteridge is the refusal of many to remain on the drugs. Betteridge complains that he has seen many patients “in whom statins have been stopped inappropriately, either by the patient or by their doctors. Patients in particular are bombarded with information about the potential dangers of statins.” When patients complain, “you have to reassure [them] that the side effects are most unlikely due to the drug, or you have to look for other causes and counsel them that this is a very important drug for them to take” (www.theheart.org/article/1129713.do). Dr. Betteridge has received honoraria and research funding from AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Know, Merck Sharp & Dohme and Pfizer.
The food police seem more determined than ever to remove the last scrap of animal fat from children’s diets. In an article on obesity in the October, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, authors Jill Reedy and Susan M. Krebs-Smith bemoan the fact that, “Nearly 40 percent of total calories consumed by 2-18 year olds were in the form of empty calories from solid fat and from added sugars. Half of empty calories came from six foods.” And which are the foods contributing to “empty” calories? Soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza. . . and whole milk! Dairy desserts (that is, ice cream), pizza and conventional whole milk, bad as they are, at least provide desperately needed saturated fats in the diets of growing children. The proposed solution: artificial sweeteners in sodas and desserts, lowfat milk, and fake vegetable oil- and soy-based ingredients in ice cream and pizza.
LOWFAT FOR FOOTBALL PLAYERS
“Redskins catch on to healthy habits” was the headline of a Washington Post article about Jane Jakubezak, nutritionist for the Washington, DC football team (September 16, 2010). Thanks to Jane’s urging, veteran running back Clinton Portis now eats lean protein and vegetables, avoids butter and cream, and shuns his mother’s comfort foods. The weird, birdfood diet Jakubezak recommends for these star athletes includes whole grain cereal, skim milk, energy shakes, lowfat chocolate milk (after workouts), lean meat, egg white omelets, peanut butter and jelly, and lots and lots of whole wheat bread. By Thanksgiving, the Redskins had the longest list of injured players in the league—fourteen in all, including Portis. By contrast, the Philadelphia Eagles, whose trainers recommend a more caveman-like diet and pickle juice during practice, have one of the lowest injury rates in the league.
NO BUTTER OR CREAM IN RESTAURANTS EITHER
Just because you’re not an athlete or a child doesn’t mean that you’re not a target of the food police. First Lady Michelle Obama is prodding restaurants to remove butter and cream from their dishes, use lowfat milk and provide apple slices or carrots as a default side dish on the kids’ menu (news.yahoo. com, September 13, 2010). Nothing wrong with the apple slices or carrots, but in this case the vegetables are serving as a shill for vegetable oil products, which will replace butter and cream when chefs remove them. And where, oh where are the voices urging removal of industrial fats and oils from restaurant meals? The food industry coined the term “solid fats” to refer to both trans and saturated fats, but when it comes to demonization, only healthy fats like butter and cream get the blame.
CELL PHONES AND BRAIN CANCER
Does epidemiological evidence show an association between long-term cell phone usage and the risk of developing a brain tumor? Yes, it does. A recently published meta-analysis indicates that use of a cell phone for ten years or more approximately doubles the risk of being diagnosed with a brain tumor on the same side of the head as that preferred for cell phone use. For two types of cancer (glioma and acoustic neuroma) the data showed statistical significance (Surgical Neurology, 2009 Sept;72(3):205-14). What to do? Send text messages, use a land line and limit cell phone use to short emergency calls. Above all, eat plenty of good fats, especially choline-rich egg yolks, which will protect your brain.
AIRPORT SCANNER SCANDAL
Government officials insist that because the new airport scanners emit only a very low dose of radiation, they are safe. But unlike other scanners, these new devices operate at relatively low beam energies. The majority of their energy is delivered to the skin and the underlying tissue. Thus, while the dose would be safe if it were distributed throughout the volume of the entire body, the dose to the skin may be dangerously high. In a letter to Dr. John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, four scientists from the University of California, San Francisco expressed concerns about the backscatter X-ray airport security scanners, noting the lack of safety data and the probable increased risk to the elderly, children and adolescents, pregnant women, and those at risk for breast and skin cancer. Potential targets for damage include the cornea, the thymus and the sperm. They noted that while the X-ray dose from these devices has often been compared in the media to the cosmic ray exposure inherent to airplane travel or that of a chest X-ray, this comparison is very misleading: both the air travel cosmic ray exposure and chest Xrays have much higher X-ray energies and the health consequences are appropriately understood in terms of the whole body volume dose. In contrast, these new airport scanners are largely depositing their energy into the skin and immediately adjacent tissue, and since this is such a small fraction of body weight and volume, possibly by one to two orders of magnitude, the real dose to the skin is now high. The scientists also expressed concern that TSA personnel, already complaining about resolution limitations, might be tempted to raise the dose (www.npr.org/assets/news/2010/05/17/concern.pdf). All passengers have the option to refuse the backscatter X-ray scan, but the alternative is a body pat down which some find embarrassing or invasive. Many citizens are just refusing to fly until the scanning policies are changed. Be sure to complain to your representative and senators.
DIETS FOR BABIES
Traditional wisdom deems a chubby baby a healthy baby, a joy to behold, a baby that asks to be cuddled. Now, with USDA focusing its beady eyes on infants as well as children and adults, claiming that obesity starts in the womb, many parents are putting their babies on diets. In one extreme case, a Washington state couple was found guilty of starving their baby by putting laxatives in her bottle so she wouldn’t gain weight. Many parents simply restrict food for their infants, especially healthy fats. How can parents be blamed when they get such mixed messages from the so-called experts? “We need to stop the notion that fat, cuddly, cute babies are a good thing,” says Dr. Jatinder Bhatia, chairman of the nutrition committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics. But then Bhatia moans, “I have seen parents putting their infant and one-year-old on diets becaus of history [of obesity] of one parent or another.” The experts have lots of suggestions, including breastfeeding, frequent checkups at the pediatrician, and withholding the bottle when baby cries-everything but what growing infants really need, that is, nutrient-dense sacred foods to support the optimal development of the endocrine system and ensure a complete supply of nutrients so that overeating becomes unnecessary (parentdish.com, December 1, 2010).
A VICTORY AGAINST GMOs
On December 1, a federal district judge issued a preliminary injunction ordering the immediate destruction of hundreds of acres of genetically engineered sugar beet seedlings planted in September, after finding the seedlings had been planted in violation of federal law. Plaintiffs in the case argued that USDA had violated the law by allowing the plantings without analyzing the potential environmental, health and socioeconomic impacts of growing GE sugar beets. A ban on the planting of genetically modified alfalfa, imposed in 2007, remains in place (commondereams. org, December 2, 2010).
Fifth International Conference for Food Safety and Quality
Kim Schuette, our San Diego Chapter Leader, attended this meeting of industry microbiologists and corporate food safety experts in Redondo Beach, California, November 2-3.
The first speaker was food safety lawyer, William Marler, who called for more government surveillance, more cooperation between government agencies, training and certification for food safety handlers, stiffer license requirements, increased inspections, reform of government agencies and better food tracing technology to make industrial food safe for consumers . . . in short more and more expensive bureaucracy to make industrial food safe. One interesting suggestion was to require vaccination of all food handlers.
Vijay Juneja, PhD, summarized the major existing technologies for food preservations. These include reduction in temperature, water activity and/or pH, removal of oxygen, modified atmosphere packaging and addition of preservatives. Pasteurization and sterilization inactivate microorganisms by heating, and aseptic processing and packaging restrict access of microorganisms to food. “New and emerging technologies” for food preservation include antimicrobials and microbial products—this would include the ancient technique of lacto-preservation, which lowers pH. Physical food preservation technologies include irradiation, high hydrostatic pressure, electrical methods and ultrasound. . . . which leads to the question, if ultrasound can preserve our food, what does it do to people when used as a diagnostic technique or to the fetus when used to determine the condition and sex before birth?
William Hallman, PhD, a psychologist from Rutger’s Department of Human Ecology, summed up the corporate attitude towards consumers who want local, organic, natural, safe, exotic, blemish-free food year round with two words: “Good luck.” He bemoaned the “romantic” interest in agriculture versus the reality of CAFOs—which, he said, “make interesting pictures for the media”—and industrial processing.
One speaker singled out “Prepared-But-Not-Ready-To-Eat Foods (NRTE)” such as potpies as especially dangerous because these foods are often microwaved and not thoroughly cooked. “Thermal imaging has shown great variability in microwave heating,” he said, “and we have to assume the consumer is not going to do the right thing.”
Dong-Hyun Kiang, Associate Professor, Washington State University, noted that FDA is looking into using UV radiation for “cleaning pasteurized milk.” He then made a telling admission: “A concern is that this may become a sole method.” In other words, small farmers may use the low-cost, gentle UV radiation to treat milk and then sell it directly to the public. Interesting that the industry recognizes the fact that pasteurized milk is not always clean.
Stan Bailey, a senior research scientist for the USDA served as an expert consultant to the Foreign Agricultural Organization of the UN, and technical expert to the USDA negotiating team that secured agreements with Russia which led to $350 million a year in exports by the US poultry industry. According to Bailey, the precipitous drop in consumer confidence over the last few years is actually due to the government doing its job in detecting food contamination and outbreaks. “The challenge is in educating the public as to the good job being done by the FDA.”
Bailey noted the ubiquitous presence of microorganisms. Microbes outnumber humans by many orders of magnitude. Food-borne illnesses cost the industry between three and five billion dollars annually. He noted the challenges of Listeria monocytogenes, which he said was a processing plant problem, not animal production problem. Globally, campylobacter is most problematic (primarily in poultry). He called for increased environmental testing, especially for listeria, due to increased presence on dry foods like peanuts and dried fruit. “Interventions on animal products have to be made at farm level through vaccines and other hygiene methods.” Bailey is firmly in the commodity agriculture camp so said nothing about the obvious solution—getting animals back on pasture.
Erdozn Ceylan, Director of Research at Silliker, a network of accredited food testing and consulting laboratories, spoke with approval about irradiation, noting, “The biggest hurdle is consumer acceptance; [consumers] think they will get cancer” if they eat irradiated food. Ceylan noted that it is not necessary to disclose irradiation if done prior to the finished product, that it can be an “in-process” step. “This is the best solution,” said Ceylan. Ceylan noted the negative effects of various chemicals proposed to kill microorganisms on food.
Bottom line is that the industry is grappling with how to ensure the safety of industrial food without actually ruining it, while denigrating the natural solution—small scale production, artisan processing and old fashioned home cooking. Thank you to Kim Schuette for sitting quietly through the meeting and taking excellent notes.