Judge Rules General Mills Can Label Nature Valley Granola Bars “Natural”

A California federal judge has ruled that General Mills may continue to label its Nature Valley granola bars as “natural,” despite tests which showed they contained traces of the chemical glyphosate, the main ingredient in the herbicide RoundUp and a multitude of other weedkillers. [1]

Judge Michael Davis dismissed a lawsuit filed by the nonprofit consumer groups Organic Consumers Association, Moms Across America, and Beyond Pesticides, which alleged General Mills was misleading buyers by claiming the granola bars were “Made with 100% natural whole grain oats.”

The groups said third-party laboratory testing detected 0.45 parts per million (ppm) of glyphosate in the granola bars, and believed oats were the culprit.

The case was thrown out by Davis last week, who noted in the dismissal order that the amount of glyphosate was permissible under law, even for certified organic foods.

The EPA’s tolerance level for cereal grains is 30 ppm, and food labeled “organic” can contain chemical pesticide residue of less than 5% of that amount.

Davis also said that even if the oats contain trace amounts of glyphosate, the groups had not alleged that the oats, themselves, were not natural.

He wrote:

“The packaging does not state that the product. as a whole, is ‘100% natural’.”

He added:

“It is implausible that a reasonable consumer would believe that a product labeled as having one ingredient — oats — that is ‘100% Natural’ could not contain a trace amount of glyphosate that is far below the amount permitted for organic products.

There is no dispute that the products were made with whole grain oats that, themselves, are ‘100% Natural’. Even if the glyphosate traces are present on the oats, there is no allegation that the oats, themselves, are not natural. The packaging does not state that the product, as a whole, is ‘100% Natural.’

It is not plausible that a representation that one ingredient in a product — in this case, oats — is ‘100% Natural’ means that the product as a whole does not contain traces of synthetic ingredients. Plaintiffs cannot claim a breach or misrepresentation based on a warranty that defendant never gave.” [2]

What is “Natural” Anyway?

In the fall of 2015, the FDA opened a public comment period for people to share their thoughts on what the word “natural” means, as it pertains to food products, because there is no set definition. Food companies commonly toss terms around like “natural,” “all-natural,” and “made with natural ingredients” but make no effort to specify what they mean.

General Mills has had legal problems pertaining to its Nature Valley bars in the past, including in 2014, when, as part of a settlement, it was required to remove the label “100% Natural” from more than 20 of its products because the bars contained high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and other synthetically-produced ingredients.

Other companies have faced similar legal action over claims that their products are natural, including Kellogg’s Kashi brand, and PepsiCo’s Naked Juices.

Sources:

[1] BakeryAndSnacks

[2] Food Business News


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Chemicals Banned in Kids’ Toys Found in Mac and Cheese

Boxed macaroni and cheese is often a favorite food among youngsters, but a recent study suggests the packaged food contains dangerous, endocrine-disrupting chemicals that have been banned in toys: phthalates. [1]

Phthalates are a group of toxic additives in plastics. They’re used to make plastics soft and flexible, and are commonly found in artificial fragrances, inks, coatings, adhesives, and other consumer and industrial products, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) explains.

These chemicals are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in equipment and materials for food handling, processing, and packaging. Because of this, phthalates often wind up in high-fat, highly-processed foods.

The Coalition for Safer Food Processing & Packaging – which includes the NRDC – recently sent a small sample of mac and cheese and other popular cheese-food items for laboratory testing, and received some unsettling results.

Phthalates were found in 10 varieties of macaroni and cheese, including 8 out of 9 Kraft products. [2]

It’s Time to Remove Phthalates from Food Products

The coalition believes the federal government should step in to regulate and ultimately ban phthalates, but since that is unlikely to happen anytime soon, the onus is on Kraft Heinz to remove phthalates from its food products.

Kraft not only has the largest market for powdered cheese in the industry, but the company has taken action in the past to remove unsafe ingredients from its products (largely due to increasing consumer pressure). For example, in 2016, the company quietly removed artificial dyes from its Mac & Cheese recipe and replaced them with paprika, annatto, and turmeric.

In total, the coalition tested 30 samples – 10 cheese powder, 5 sliced cheese, and 15 natural cheese samples – and 29 of them were found to contain phthalates. Some of the products tested were labeled organic. The highest levels of phthalates were found in the powdered macaroni and cheese samples.

Mike Belliveau, the executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, said:

“The phthalates concentrations in powder from mac and cheese mixes were more than 4 times higher than in block cheese and other natural cheeses like shredded cheese, string cheese, and cottage cheese.” [3]

These chemicals are accidentally making their way into the food system, via processing and packaging. It’s not that Kraft workers are standing over giant vats of powdered cheese, dumping phthalates into them. The key to keeping dangerous substances out of the bellies of hungry kiddos is to ensure safer food processing and packaging methods are in place. [2]

The European Union (EU) has already taken the crucial step of banning phthalates in food contact materials.

Coalition member Peter Lehner said in a statement:

“Parents and their children should not have to wait longer to know that their food does not contain toxic chemicals. We are asking manufacturers to act now.”

No word from Kraft Heinz just yet.

Tom Neltner, the chemicals policy director for the Environmental Defense Fund, said:

“A chemical is not allowed in food unless there is a reasonable certainty it will cause no harm. We don’t think the FDA can say there is a reasonable certainty of no harm.” [3]

Phthalate Dangers

Once you consume phthalates, they can travel through your bloodstream to your organs. Prenatal phthalate exposure is especially concerning, since the chemicals can easily cross from the mother’s body into the placenta. Phthalates can also wind up in breast milk. [1]

Researchers have linked prenatal phthalate exposure to impaired neurological development in children, lower IQ, learning and memory impairment, and antisocial behavior. Boys that are exposed to phthalates in-utero run the risk of genital defects.

In 2008, Congress prohibited the use of DEHP, a chemical known to negatively affect the development of the testicles and the production of normal sperm in young animals, in toys and childcare products. It is considered a “gender-bending” chemical because it can cause males of all species to adopt more female traits.

In 2015, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) proposed a ban on several additional phthalates used in toys and other children’s products, but the proposal has yet to be finalized.

A report released in late 2015 showed that more than 81% of 164 dollar-store products tested contained concerning levels of at least 1 toxic chemical. Everything from toys to jewelry, to personal care products contained chemicals that were carcinogenic, or otherwise hazardous.

Sources:

[1] Natural Resources Defense Council

[2] New York Daily News

[3] Popsugar


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Food Industry Study Slams Recommended Sugar Intake Limits

A study made headlines after stating that there is no way of knowing just how much sugar consumption is too much, and the methods used to create dietary sugar intake limits are flawed.

CNN’s headline reads: “How much sugar is OK? Paper adds to debate.” Hmm, not really. The study was funded by the North American branch of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), a nonprofit with ties to Hershey’s, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, McDonald’s, Mars, and Kraft Foods. [1]

There’s not much of a debate when the companies funneling money into research make soda, candy, and processed foods.

The Claims

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that people consume no more than 10% of their daily calories from sugar. It’s much easier to consume that amount than you might think. Drinking just 1 can of soda can put you over the recommended limit. So it’s not surprising that Coca-Cola – yet again – has its tentacles in a study hinting that you might be able to consume even more of the sweet stuff.

Study author Bradley Johnston, a clinical epidemiologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, says those recommendations “are not trustworthy.”

Johnston reviewed the studies and methodology used to create the guidelines. He doesn’t disagree that people should limit their sugar intake, but he says there is no solid answer to the question: “How much is too much?”

Johnston says:

“Sugar should certainly be limited in the diets of children and adults, no question.”

The epidemiologist argues that there is no convincing evidence to support cutting sugar intake to 10%, or even 5%.

He explains:

“There’s a lot of uncertainty about the thresholds that appear in guidelines. What’s happening is that guideline panelists are making strong recommendations based on low-quality evidence.”

Source: McMaster University Daily News – Bradley Johnston

The paper reviewed 9 sugar-intake guidelines from around the world, including the WHO’s guideline and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which were updated in 2016.

Furthermore, Johnston argues, current guidelines on dietary sugar do not adhere to standards set by the American non-governmental organization Institute of Medicine in 2011.

He says:

“Although our findings question the specific sugar recommendations from guidelines produced by leading authorities, the findings should not be used to justify high or increased consumption of sugary foods and beverages.

… results from our review should be used to promote improvement in the development of trustworthy guidelines on sugar intake.” [2]

What in the Hell is Going on Here?

Johnston and his colleagues seem to have arrived at some relatively benign conclusions. They don’t recommend that people start eating more sugar. They don’t even really suggest that eating more sugar might be safe.

So what in the hell is going on here?

If there is one thing the 2016 political season taught us, it’s that planting even the smallest doubt in people’s minds can have an overwhelming effect. That is what’s going on here.

The likes of Hershey’s, Coca-Cola, and Kraft are trying to plant doubts in people’s minds. And why wouldn’t they? It’s good for business. Inevitably, at least a few people will have that extra piece of chocolate, that extra glob of mac ‘n’ cheese, or 1 more can of soda because, after all, no one is sure how much sugar is bad for you.

Source: Business Insider

There will be people who get duped, but Johnston’s conclusions haven’t duped many scientists. They see what’s going on here, and they’re calling him out on it.

Read: PepsiCo Sued for Allegedly Misleading Buyers of Sugar-Laden Naked Juice

Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor at New York University who was written extensively about the soda industry, says:

“This is a classic example of industry-funded research aimed at one purpose and one purpose only: to cast doubt on the science linking diets high in sugars to poor health. This paper is shameful.” [1]

Dr. Dean Schillinger, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco who wrote an editorial accompanying the study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, says:

“In essence, this study suggests that placing limits on ‘junk food’ is based on ‘junk science.’ Studies are more likely to conclude there is no relationship between sugar consumption and health outcomes when scientists receive financial support from food and beverage companies.” [2]

Gosh, y’think? The sugar industry in the 1960’s paid Harvard scientists to downplay the link between sugar consumption and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the cause instead. It worked magically. Fat became the enemy of health, and the market was soon flooded with all sorts of low-fat and non-fat foods. And those foods generally contain about 20% more sugar than full-fat products.

In the study, the researchers wrote that “the rationale and evidence used to make each recommendation were inconsistent.” [2]

Baloney, says Schillinger. For one thing, he explains, the researchers reviewed guidelines published over a 20-year period. It’s no surprise that they found inconsistencies, as “science evolves over time.”

According to Schillinger, Johnston and his crew failed to even use proper research methods in their work. He says:

“In addition, their claims regarding the low quality of guidelines are based on the application of inappropriate metrics.”

He says that one of the methods the “scientists” used in the paper “is the wrong tool for the job and virtually guaranteed that they would falsely conclude that guidelines are of low quality.”

He also cites the sugar industry-fat debacle of the 60’s, calling it a “major limitation.”

In October, the American Journal of Preventative Medicine revealed how Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have sponsored national health and medical organizations. (In that case, even the American Diabetes Association, a government organization, took money from the companies.)

Schillinger says:

“Added sugars not only provide unnecessary and ’empty’ non-nutritious calories but also appear to affect unique and specific unhealthy metabolic pathways that contribute to obesity and diabetes and heart disease, irrespective of calories.

We are in a public health war against diabetes, and we need to create smart strategies to win this war and prevent needless suffering and death. This is serious business.”

There is no doubt that the added sugars pushed on buyers by Coca-Cola, Hershey’s, and Kraft, are causing disease, limb amputations, and deaths, Schillinger says.

“Nearly all experimental studies that examined whether eating added sugars contributes to obesity and [Type 2] diabetes-related outcomes show a cause-and-effect relationship.” [1]

Johnston swears that he, and ILSI, have good intentions:

“We hope that the results from this review can be used to promote improvement in the development of trustworthy guidelines on sugar intake.” [3]

If the spoonfuls of added sugar don’t make you sick, the veiled attempts at making more money off of the poor health of the average buyer just might.

Sources:

[1] NPR

[2] CNN

[3] Fortune

McMaster University Daily News

Business Insider


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