Despite Decline in Meat Consumption, America Is Still #1

Per capita meat consumption is not one of the categories where you want to lead the world, if you’re concerned about the health of your people.

Agricultural subsidies and other policies that continue to encourage overconsumption are damaging to the environment, our health, and, of course, the animals.

Americans are eating less and less meat: Consumption is projected to drop 12.1 percent just between 2007 and 2012.

That being said, we still eat a lot of meat, about three times more than your average Ukrainian and 12 times more than a Bangladesh resident. In fact, the United States holds the title for highest per capita meat consumption, just barely edging out Australia. Here’s what that looks like in map form, via NPR:

Gambling with Our Genetic Future: GMOs and the World Food Supply

This interview with Jeffrey Smith appears in the June 2012 issue of Pathways, a Washington, DC, community quarterly. The web version here includes a list of references at the end which is not included in the print version.

Jeffrey M. Smith is a consumer advocate who has written extensively about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). As executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, he advocates against their inclusion in the food supply.

In this interview with Dr. Daniel Redwood, Smith describes the scientific studies that raise red flags about the safety of GMOs; several European nations’ current bans on GMOs in foods and how their regulatory processes differ from the United States; the British scandal in which veteran scientist Arpad Pusztai’s work was suppressed until revealed by a Parliamentary inquiry; court documents revealing that FDA scientists were overruled by a political appointee to allow the first introduction of GMOs into the U.S. food supply in the 1990s; and the revolving door that has allowed a top Monsanto official to rotate back and forth multiple times between corporate and regulatory positions of power in the U.S. federal government.

Smith also explains that as a non-scientist writer and advocate, he follows a policy of having his writing reviewed for accuracy by at least three scientists prior to publication.

Smith’s first book was Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating. His second, the comprehensively documented Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, covers research linking GMOs to a wide variety of health risks in humans and animals. In his foreword to Genetic Roulette, former UK Environment Minister Michael Meacher writes, “This is a brilliant book which combines shrewd dissection of the true nature of GM technology, a devastating critique of the health and environmental hazards of GM crops, and scarifying examples of the manipulation of both science and the media by the biotech industry.”

Jeffrey Smith has lectured in 30 countries and has been quoted in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC World Service, Nature, The Independent, Daily Telegraph, New Scientist, The Times (London), Associated Press, Reuters News Service, LA Times, Time Magazine and Genetic Engineering News. His radio and TV appearances have included BBC, NPR, Fox News, Democracy Now and the Dr. Oz Show. He writes an internationally syndicated column, Spilling the Beans, and has a regular blog on The Huffington Post.

Pulitzer Prize winning ecological poet and essayist Gary Snyder was once asked what he feared most. This was a broad question—his answer could have been Alzheimer’s, starvation, fascism or anything else. His answer was, “Contamination of the gene pool.” You’ve devoted your life to this issue. To begin at the beginning, what is a genetically modified organism and how do these GMOs become part of the food supply?

GMOs are organisms—plant, animal, etc.—where genes from the DNA of one species are forced into the DNA of other species. In our food supply, foods like soybeans and corn have been genetically engineered with bacteria genes, allowing the crop to withstand doses of herbicide, or in the case of corn, to also produce their own toxic pesticide.

They were introduced into our food supply through deception and manipulation. The person in charge of policy at the FDA was Michael Taylor, the former attorney to biotech giant Monsanto, who claimed in the policy of the FDA that the agency was not aware of information showing that these foods were significantly different. Therefore, companies like Monsanto, who had previously told us that PCBs, Agent Orange and DDT were safe, were able to determine whether their GMOs were safe–no safety studies were required. They can introduce a new GMO without having to tell the FDA or consumers.

But documents made public from a lawsuit, Alliance for Biointegrity v. Shalala, revealed that the policy at the FDA was based on a lie. In fact, the overwhelming consensus among the FDA’s own scientists was that genetically modified foods were not only different but dangerous and could create hard-to-detect allergens, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems. They had urged their superiors to require testing but were ignored.

Michael Taylor then went on to become Monsanto’s Vice President and chief lobbyist.  He is now back at the FDA as the U.S. food safety czar.

Supplements, Especially Those for Bodybuilding and Weight Loss, Linked to Liver Disease

Today’s MedPage includes a report on a study linking supplement use to liver damage.

A few comments…

I find it revealing that the study’s authors report a long list of drug company conflicts of interest and that “supplements” are to a large extent lumped into one overall category, which has the effect of creating a generalized anti-supplement narrative.

That said, the fact that bodybuilding and weight loss supplements seem to be the main culprits appears to be an important finding.

It would be most helpful to find out exactly which supplements we’re talking about. But all we’ve got at this point is an abstract from a poster presentation at a digestive diseases conference.

I will be interested to see if this results in a flurry of anti-supplement stories in major media in the coming days, despite the lack of publicly available data to analyze the findings and respond to the clearly anti-supplement narrative.

If certain supplements are dangerous, that’s definitely worth publicizing. But to tar all supplements with the same brush is disingenuous at best.

Food Lobby Dominates Policy Making, Follows Trail Blazed By Tobacco Industry

Since joining the Association for Healthcare Journalists recently, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of investigative reporting and analysis more than ever.

Here’s a recent post on the AHCJ website highlighting the scope of Big Food’s toxic influence on health policy.

 

After aggressive lobbying, Congress declared pizza a vegetable to protect it from a nutritional overhaul of the school lunch program this year. The White House kept silent last year as Congress killed a plan by four federal agencies to reduce sugar, salt and fat in food marketed to children. 

And during the past two years, each of the 24 states and five cities that considered “soda taxes” to discourage consumption of sugary drinks has seen the efforts dropped or defeated.

At every level of government, the food and beverage industries won fight after fight during the last decade. They have never lost a significant political battle in the United States despite mounting scientific evidence of the role of unhealthy food and children’s marketing in obesity

That success has come through what the authors imply is a sort of big-tobacco model, in which the industry combines promises of self-regulation with huge amounts of money, and thus creates an irresistible package for lawmakers. For a blow-by-blow on how the lobbying muscle swayed the decision-makers in recent battles, I strongly recommend you read the full piece, which draws heavily from both data and extensive interviews. Particularly interesting? The examples of how the Citizens United decision has impacted far more than just election politics.

Medical Doctors Teaching Nutrition

Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.

David Eisenberg, MD, is director of the complementary and alternative medicine program at Harvard Medical School and a long-time leader in the field.

From the Well Blog at the New York Times:

This isn’t neurosurgery,” Dr. Eisenberg said as he whacked a garlic clove with the cleaver. “This is hearty, affordable, cravenly delicious food.”

The son of a Brooklyn baker, Dr. Eisenberg is the founder and chief officiant of “Healthy Kitchens/Healthy Lives,” an “‘interfaith marriage,” as he calls it, among physicians, public health researchers and distinguished chefs that seeks to tear down the firewall between “healthy” and “ crave-able” cuisine. Although physicians are on the front lines of the nation’s diabetes and obesity crises, many graduate from medical school with little knowledge of nutrition, let alone cooking….

To Dr. Eisenberg, flavor is a health issue. Now in its eighth year, the sold-out event is in the vanguard of a major shift in attitude among a young generation of medical professionals who grew up with farmers’ markets. Their ranks include students at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who have hired a chef to teach cooking skills, and a doctor in suburban Chicago who was so inspired by “Healthy Kitchens/Healthy Lives” that he went home and installed a demonstration kitchen in his medical office.

 

 

 

Pink Slime Update Plus USDA Proposal to Remove Federal Inspectors from Industrial Chicken Operations

An excellent discussion from the Up with Chris Hayes show, featuring Mark Bittman of the New York Times, whose excellent food columns I read regularly. 

This 20-minute video offers a perspective rarely seen on television.

h/t Erik Marcus

Sugar Babies

A story that illustrates well the ways diet can influence children’s behavior. The author’s honesty and her willingness to rethink her own actions are what makes this blog post a standout.

The transformation happened in mere minutes. My 3-year-old nephew listed against me as we stood in a chilly, wet schoolyard, waiting for his 8-year-old sister. He popped the hood on his raincoat, rubbed his eyes, and lethargically complained about the cold.

When my niece emerged from her classroom, she handed her brother a sweet treat. One dark chocolate granola bar later, my nephew practically flew on the walk home, a textbook example of a “sugar rush” in action.

Pink Slime Surprisingly Unpopular for School Lunch Menus

Who could have guessed?

Today’s New York Times has an up-to-the-minute pink slime report. Apparently, this is a fast-moving story.

The Miami-Dade school district, one of the nation’s largest, has already said it would opt for pink-slime-free beef, even though it expected it to cost more (exactly how much remained uncertain). State officials in South Carolina said they would procure only the pink-slime-free ground beef once it became available.

But for some school districts — with administrators fielding phone calls from concerned parents and fretting about past food scares — next fall is not soon enough. The Boston school district, among others, has taken the step of purging all ground beef from its menus. Other districts, like the New York City schools, have begun phasing out ground beef containing the additive from their lunchrooms.

Michael Peck, the director of food and nutrition services for the Boston schools, said the district had decided to hold and isolate its entire inventory of ground beef, leaving over 70,000 pounds of beef — worth about $500,000, Mr. Peck estimated — confined to a warehouse until the district knows more about what is in it.

“It’s another example of the alteration of our food supply,” said Mr. Peck, who is concerned about the use of ammonia hydroxide gas to kill bacteria in the product. “Have we created another unknown safety risk?”

The district will put the meat back into circulation if it finds that it is free of the filler, but like many districts, it is frustrated by the difficulty of determining what does and does not contain lean finely textured beef, which does not have to be listed as an ingredient.

“It does speak to the U.S.D.A.’s ability to trace,” Mr. Peck said. He added that the ground beef would be donated or thrown out if the district found that it contained pink slime.

Possible Junk Food Ad Ban in Scotland

We’re not likely to see anything like this in the U.S. anytime soon. Still, one can dream.

Junk food ads face being banned from prime-time TV in a bid to curb childhood obesity.

The Scottish Government have demanded that adverts for products high in fat, sugar and salt are not shown before the 9pm watershed.

Junk food and sugary snacksads are already banned during children’s TV programmes.

But ministers fear that youngsters are being influenced in their eating habits by adverts shown during talent shows such as The X Factor and soaps.

Westminster Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has been urged by Scottish ministers to introduce a ban across the UK.

But, if he refuses, the Scottish Government will move to introduce a ban north of the border.

Scottish Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said: “Broadcast advertising influences the choices made by children and can shape their attitudes to food as they grow into adulthood.

“Tackling obesity and encouraging people to make healthier life choices is one of the most important things we can do to improve the health of our nation.”

Products banned before the watershed would likely include burgers, chicken nuggets, fries, cereals high in sugar, crisps and chocolate.

White Rice Joins White Bread and Sugar in Increasing Diabetes Risk

Whole, unprocessed foods are best. This is just one example.

Because diabetes is intimately linked to heart disease, hypertension, and obesity (as part of the Metabolic Syndrome), this is really about far more than diabetes.

Patients who ate the greatest amounts of the grain had a 27% greater risk of developing the disease than those who ate the least, and the relative risk was higher among Asian patients, Qi Sun, PhD, of Harvard, and colleagues, reported in BMJ.

“Although rice has been a staple food in Asian populations for thousands of years, this transition [to more sedentary lifestyles and greater availability of food] may render Asian populations more susceptible to the adverse effects of high intakes of white rice, as well as other sources of refined carbohydrates, such as pastries, white bread, and sugar sweetened beverages,” they wrote.

The glycemic index of white rice is higher than that of other whole grains, largely due to processing. It’s also the primary contributor to dietary glycemic load for populations that consume rice as a staple food, such as Asians.