Category Archives: Food & Farming

Coca-Cola Pays Nutritionists to Promote Coke as Heart Healthy

SM Gibson reports for Anti Media:

‘Did you realize that last month was American Heart Month? Coca-Cola sure did.

The corporate soft drink giant, who has been trying to combat declining sales in the United States, has begun partnering with fitness experts and nutritionists to promote a mini-can of Coke as a ‘healthy’ snack. In February, the idea of drinking a mini-Coke for heart health was suggested on many nutrition blogs and even in major newspapers and websites.

“We have a network of dietitians we work with,” said Coca-Cola spokesman, Ben Sheidler. “Every big brand works with bloggers or has paid talent.”’

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Agricultural insecticides pose a global risk to surface water bodies, researchers find

Science Daily reports:

Streams within approximately 40 percent of the global land surface are at risk from the application of insecticides. These were the results from the first global map to be modelled on insecticide runoff to surface waters, which has just been published in the journal Environmental Pollution by researchers from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the University of Koblenz-Landau together with the University of Milan, Aarhus University and Aachen University. According to the publication, particularly streams in the Mediterranean, the USA, Central America and Southeast Asia are at risk.’

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Nestlé to Remove Artificial Colours and Flavors from its U.S. Confectionery Products

Monsanto earnings fall 34% after a year of global protests

The Associated Press reports:

Monsanto said Wednesday its earnings fell 34% in its first fiscal quarter, as South American farmers cut back on planting corn, reducing demand for the company’s biotech-enhanced seeds.

US farmers harvested record crops of soybeans and corn last year, sending prices on those food staples to their lowest levels in years. That has resulted in farmers in South America and elsewhere reducing the number of acres they dedicate to corn. Monsanto said its business was also affected by reduced cotton planting in Australia.

The agriculture products company’s revenue fell more than 8% to $2.87bn in the period, on lower sales of corn seeds and herbicide. Analysts expected $2.96bn, according to Zacks.’

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‘Suppressed’ EU report could have banned pesticides worth billions

Arthur Neslen reports for The Guardian:

As many as 31 pesticides with a value running into billions of pounds could have been banned because of potential health risks, if a blocked EU paper on hormone-mimicking chemicals had been acted upon, the Guardian has learned.

The science paper, seen by the Guardian, recommends ways of identifying and categorising the endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that scientists link to a rise in foetal abnormalities, genital mutations, infertility, and adverse health effects ranging from cancer to IQ loss.

Commission sources say that the paper was buried by top EU officials under pressure from big chemical firms which use EDCs in toiletries, plastics and cosmetics, despite an annual health cost that studies peg at hundreds of millions of euros.’

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Sugar content in breakfast cereals has risen 20% with supermarket own brands the worst offenders

Food & Drink Europe reports:

Tesco Special Flakes saw the biggest sugar rise since 2012 - up 35.8% to 16.3 g of sugar per 100 g servingSugar content has risen in a fifth of UK ready-to-eat breakfast cereals since 2012 with the largest spikes coming from retail own brands, finds Action on Sugar research.

The public health lobby group looked at the listen sugar and salt content of 50 RTE UK breakfast cereals – the same products Which? Investigated in 2012 – to make nutritional comparisons. Brands included Kellogg, Nestle, Weetabix and Quaker, as well as private label products by Tesco, Aldi, Asda and Sainsbury’s among others.

Findings showed that 10 out of the 50 cereals contained more sugar than in 2012 and 18 contained the same levels of sugar. Of the 10 products containing more sugar, seven were private label.’

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New Study Raising Alarms About ‘Superbugs’

Study: Vast Majority of Vegetarians and Vegans Return To Meat

Fast Company reports:

‘After decades of a growing appetite for meat, U.S. consumption is finally dropping after hitting “peak meat” a decade ago. But while many people are eating less meat, giving it up totally is much harder. Few people stick with their decision to become vegetarian or vegan.

In an attempt to move animal-free diets “from the margins more towards the center,” the Humane Research Council just put out the first study to put numbers to the lapsed vegetarian phenomenon. Their main takeaway is essentially what people have said for years: getting people to reduce their meat and dairy intake will be more effective overall than demanding “purity,” or complete elimination of animal products from their diet.’

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Most Brits don’t eat five a day (unless you count chocolate)

Georgie Keate reports for The Times:

Fruit and vegetables‘More than three million people have not eaten any greens in the past week with most of them believing chocolate, cheese and meat are part of their five fruit and vegetables a day.

A recent study has found that despite the Department of Health issuing guidelines in 2002, men eat only 2.4 portions a day on average, while women are only slightly healthier, eating 2.7 daily portions.

Birds Eye, which commissioned the reserach, discovered that 10 per cent of adults were earting fewer greens than they did as a child, while 11 per cent claimed bad memories of school dinner.’

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Crickets Are The Latest Health Food Craze

Ag-tech: High-tech farming poised to change the way the world eats

Heather Somerville reports for the Contra Costa Times:

‘Investors and entrepreneurs behind some of the world’s newest industries have started to put their money and tech talents into farming — the world’s oldest industry — with an audacious and ambitious agenda: to make sure there is enough food for the 10 billion people expected to inhabit the planet by 2100, do it without destroying the planet and make a pretty penny along the way.

Silicon Valley is pushing its way into every stage of the food-growing process, from tech tycoons buying up farmland to startups selling robots that work the fields to hackathons dedicated to building the next farming app.

“The food sector is wasteful and inefficient,” said Ali Partovi, a Bay Area investor with large stakes in sustainable agriculture startups. “Silicon Valley has a hubris that says, ‘That’s stupid. Let’s change it.”‘

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How a national food policy could save millions of lives

Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, Ricardo Salvador and Olivier De Schutter write for The Washington Post:

‘How we produce and consume food has a bigger impact on Americans’ well-being than any other human activity. The food industry is the largest sector of our economy; food touches everything from our health to the environment, climate change, economic inequality and the federal budget. Yet we have no food policy — no plan or agreed-upon principles — for managing American agriculture or the food system as a whole.

That must change.

The food system and the diet it’s created have caused incalculable damage to the health of our people and our land, water and air. If a foreign power were to do such harm, we’d regard it as a threat to national security, if not an act of war, and the government would formulate a comprehensive plan and marshal resources to combat it. (The administration even named an Ebola czar to respond to a disease that threatens few Americans.) So when hundreds of thousands of annual deaths are preventable — as the deaths from the chronic diseases linked to the modern American way of eating surely are — preventing those needless deaths is a national priority.’

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The UK’s big supermarkets sowed the seeds of their own decline

Deborah Orr reports for The Guardian:

‘If Britain’s big supermarkets fondly imagined that they’d come roaring back to health once the recession ended, then they’ve been sorely disappointed. Instead, as the new Sainsbury’s chief executive, Mike Coupe, put it: “The reality is that the market has changed more rapidly in the last three to six months than I’ve seen in my 30 years in the industry.”

And Sainsbury’s isn’t even the company most in trouble. Tesco has been caught cooking its books in order to make its fall in profits look slightly less vertiginous. The conventional wisdom is that this is all because shoppers are flocking to Aldi and Lidl. Maybe that’s part of it. But figures from August confirm that the big four – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – still have a market share of nearly 75%. Between them, Aldi and Lidl have 8.4%. The real difference is that, with their pared-down approach, those two sell at a decent profit.

The success of Aldi and Lidl does mean something, of course. But I suspect that Britain’s changing grocery habits are the consequence of much more than mere bargain hunting. As a society, we are a bit different post-recession. I think a lot of people’s lives and priorities have changed.’

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90,000 animals were stolen from British farms last year – a rise of 24%

Emine Saner reports for The Guardian:

Livestock rustling - for sat features‘[…] Livestock thefts have increased on British farms during the past few years, and jumped again by 24% last year. According to figures from the insurance company NFU Mutual, which insures around three quarters of the UK’s farmers, around 90,000 animals were stolen last year – mostly sheep, though pigs and cattle have also been targeted – costing farmers £6.5m. The word rustling sounds almost quaint, with its connotations of centuries-old mischiefs, or wild west-style lawlessness, but it can be hugely damaging to many farmers’ livelihoods, has serious welfare issues for the animals taken and could have terrible consequences if diseases are spread. It can even affect the health of the customers who buy illegal meat.’

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New ‘zero waste’ store in Berlin may be supermarket of future

CTV reports:

‘A packaging-free supermarket has opened in Berlin, targeting eco-minded consumers by positioning itself as a “zero waste” store.

The concept of “Original Unverpackt” is simple: there is none of the usual superfluous supermarket packaging which either requires extreme levels of urban recycling or results in waste.

Instead, customers bring their own containers (tubs and recycled bags can be bought at the store) and help themselves to dry goods and non-foodstuff items which are stored in giant bins and dispensers.’

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Bacteria found in bees show potential as an alternative to antibiotics

Fiona MacDonald reports for Science Alert:

bees‘A team of researchers from Lund University in Sweden has identified a unique group of 13 lactic acid bacteria (LAB) that come from the honey stomach of bees, and are found in fresh honey, that have an impressive ability to fight pathogens. The honey stomach is one of two stomachs found in bees, and it stores nectar, which worker bees later suck out and store in the hive.

Together, these live bacteria produce a number of active microbial compounds, such as hydrogen peroxide, fatty acids and anaesthetics, that can kill other harmful bacteria – it’s believed that this is the formula that protects the bee colony against collapse. Unfortunately, these LAB are processed out of the honey we buy in shops, but the researchers now believe they could be used to help treat anitibiotic resistance.’

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Chemical Industry using TTIP ‘to attack the precautionary principle’

Axel Singhofen reports for Chemical Watch:

‘The last 12 months have seen a surge of attacks against the EU’s precautionary principle. Some law firms consider it as a potential obstacle to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and UK Conservative MEP Julie Girling considers that “the EU’s expanding embrace of `precautionary’ regulation… may well be the biggest threat” to an agreement being signed off.

Last October, 12 CEOs of mainly chemical companies wrote to the presidents of the European Commission, Council and Parliament, calling for the formal adoption of an “innovation principle” as a counterbalance to “precautionary legislation”, because they were concerned that “the necessary balance of precaution and proportion is increasingly being replaced by a simple reliance on the precautionary principle and the avoidance of technological risk.’

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Pesticide drift from conventional farms is a persistent problem for organic and small farms

Steve Karnowski reports for The Associated Press:

‘Pesticide drift is a serious concern for organic farmers and they’ve come up with several defences, such as buffer strips. Twelve states are part of a registry of farms that tips off aerial and ground sprayers to areas they need to avoid. The aerial spraying industry and pesticide manufacturers, meanwhile, say they’ve made big strides in controlling drift through pilot education and new technologies.

Organic and specialty crop growers are trying to profit off the rising consumer interest in locally grown, natural foods. But those smaller farms are often islands surrounded by a sea of conventionally grown crops that get sprayed with herbicides, insecticides and fungicides.’

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McDonald’s Sees Biggest Sales Drop in a Decade

Editor’s Note: Long may the slump continue. Why so many people are obsessed with the shite that McDonald’s serves has always been baffling. I hear people say “it’s great hangover food” but the last time I had some of their “food” it gave me a bloody hangover! And it’s not just the food that leaves you feeling sick, it’s the company as a whole and the way it has operated over the years. 

Dan Kedmey reports for Time:

‘McDonald’s posted its worst monthly sales decline in more than a decade in August, according to new figures the company released Tuesday, as same-store sales dropped precipitously in Asia and ebbed across the rest of the world.

Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa led the downturn, with a 14.5% drop in sales in August. The overall sales drop of 3.7% was the worst since February of 2003, the Wall Street Journal reports. Sales fell fastest in China and Japan, after news broke of a supplier in Shanghai attempting to pass off expired meat to its customers, most prominently, McDonald’s.’

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The Government-Industry Conspiracy that Promotes Crap Food in School

Michele Simon writes for Al Jazeera America:

‘People often ask me, “How does lobbying work?” Last week it was with fat and sugar, when the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) hosted its 32nd annual Capitol Hill Ice Cream Party. Some 6,000 bowls of ice cream were served up to Sen.Tom Harkin, Reps. Pete Sessions, Robert Aderholt, Jeff Denham, John Shimkus, Ron Kind and Lamar Smith, among others, according to Politico.

Dairy lobbyists are ever present in Washington, and their efforts usually pay off. For example, last year when the IDFA implored the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to give dairy foods a pass in the new snack food guidelines for schools, the agency capitulated, opening school doors to even more junk food, such as YoCrunch Lowfat Yogurt with M&Ms.

This is just one of many examples I uncovered in a report I published last month, “Whitewashed: How Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods” (PDF). The dairy industry, propped up by government, has convinced us of the health benefits of milk and other dairy products. The assumption that eating dairy is essential to the diet has obstructed our ability to criticize federal government support for unhealthy dairy products, of which there are many.

One of the most important forms of government support is the federally mandated collection of industry fees for checkoff programs that promote milk and dairy.’

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Official report into horsemeat scandal ‘blocked’ amid new food safety fears

Felicity Lawrence reports for The Guardian:

Horsemeat scandal[…] The findings are likely to embarrass ministers. The Guardian understands they are similar to conclusions in the interim report submitted last year highlighting the impact of deep spending cuts on frontline enforcement and inspection in the food industry. It said confusion reigned when the horsemeat scandal broke because the coalition had stripped the FSA of overall responsibility for the integrity of food.

The report concluded that the industry’s own audits were inadequate to protect the public and that unless audits were unannounced, they were of little value. He also told a conference of food experts in May he had been warned by a senior civil servant that his report into the horsemeat scandal was so hard-hitting the government might want to bury it. This week, he declined to comment other than to say he was still awaiting notification of the publication date.’

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6 Shocking Facts About Seafood Production

Katherine Martinko writes for Tree Hugger:

‘Gone are the peaceful afternoons of waiting for a fish to bite the line. The seafood industry is a vicious and brutal one, both for animals and humans. Farmed fish are subjected to terrible lives, wild fish are caught unfairly and mindlessly, and all face inhumane deaths. Even humans are enslaved to put cheap shrimp on your dinner table. Here are just a few reasons why you should think twice about eating fish, or go out and catch it yourself.’

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NHS hospital cafés and junk food outlets ‘are helping to fuel the obesity crisis’

Laura Donnelly, Rosie Shields and Lily Waddell report for The Telegraph:

‘Medical experts urged the health service to “get its house in order” and clear its hospitals of junk food companies such as Burger King and Subway and coffee shops selling muffins and high-sugar drinks. Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, said the health service had to take “hard-nosed action” to end the sale of junk food in hospitals, to help tackle the obesity crisis. Health campaigners said they were particularly disturbed by the march of Costa Coffee, which has recently come under fire for selling fruit drinks with four times the recommended daily sugar limits.

The investigation by The Sunday Telegraph found 92 branches of the company among the 160 NHS trusts, alongside a host of burger chains, pizzerias, muffin shops and patisseries. The latest figures show that two- thirds of Britons are overweight or obese. A leading cardiologist said allowing companies such as Burger King, Subway and Greggs bakeries to operate from NHS premises was damaging the health of staff, patients and visitors. Senior managers at some of the hospitals said they wanted to close fast-food outlets, but faced being stung by financial penalties from their subcontractors.’

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Farming practices and climate change at root of Toledo water pollution

Suzanne Goldenberg reports for The Guardian:

lake erie water‘The toxins that contaminated the water supply of the city of Toledo – leaving 400,000 people without access to safe drinking water for two days – were produced by a massive algae boom. But this is not a natural disaster.

Water problems in the Great Lakes – the world’s largest freshwater system – have spiked in the last three years, largely because of agricultural pollution. Toledo draws its drinking water from Lake Erie.

…The main cause for such algal blooms is an overload of phosphorus, which washes into lakes from commercial fertiliser used by farming operations as well as urban water-treatment centres. Hotter and longer summers also promote the spread of the blue-green scum.’

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Doctors often do more harm than good in a culture of over-investigation and over-treatment

Dr. Aseem Malhotra writes for The Guardian:

‘Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine last year, Dr Harlan Krumholz, professor of medicine at Yale, described a syndrome that starts to develop close to discharge from hospital. Physiological systems are impaired, reserves are depleted, and the body cannot effectively mitigate health threats. It is instructive to note that this syndrome – created by the stressful hospital environment – is a significant contributor to hospital re-admissions. It is estimated that 10-20% of patients discharged from hospital in the UK and US will be re-admitted within 30 days, often with a condition entirely unrelated to their original admission. Poor sleep and inadequate nutrition have an adverse effect on physical performance and co-ordination, cognitive function, immunity, and even cardiac risk. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to being re-admitted with falls and infection, with one study revealing that a fifth of hospitalised patients over 65 had an average nutrient intake of less than 50% of their daily requirements.

[…] A culture of over-investigation and over-treatment is now one of the greatest threats to western health. In the US it is estimated that a third of all healthcare activity brings no benefit to patients. Examples include excessive use of antibiotics, imaging for non-sinister headaches, use of surgery when watchful waiting is better and unwanted intensive care for patients at the end of life who would prefer hospice and home care. In the US, a fee-for-service model encourages high volume and expensive procedures. But we should be alert to similar possibilities here: the UK’s “payment by results” – which in reality is a payment-by-activity model – potentially incentivises “doing more” on the part of physicians. As a profession we have also been guilty – unwittingly or otherwise – of exaggerating the benefits of medications often perceived as magic pills by patients when their benefits are often modest at best. This also detracts from more meaningful lifestyle interventions by giving the public the illusion of protection.’

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Sick chicken: The dirty truth about food and the UK’s poultry industry

‘Two-thirds of fresh retail chicken in the UK is contaminated with campylobacter, a nasty bug that affects about 280,000 people a year.’ (The Guardian)

Russia Sues McDonald’s, Questioning Quality of the Food

The New York Times reports:

‘The McDonald’s cheeseburger will have its day in court. Russia’s consumer protection agency has filed a claim accusing the restaurant chain of violating government nutritional and safety codes in a number of its burger and ice cream products, a Moscow court announced Friday.

The suit could temporarily ban the production and sale of the chain’s ice cream, milkshakes, cheeseburgers, and Filet-o-Fish and chicken sandwiches, said Yekaterina Korotova, a spokeswoman for Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court, where the case will be heard.

“We have identified violations which put the product quality and safety of the entire McDonald’s chain in doubt,” Anna Popova, the head of Rospotrebnadzor, Russia’s consumer protection agency, said in statements reported by the Interfax news agency.’

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Pesticide linked to three generations of disease: Methoxychlor causes epigenetic changes

Science Daily reports:

Washington State University researchers say ancestral exposures to the pesticide methoxychlor may lead to adult onset kidney disease, ovarian disease and obesity in future generations. “What your great-grandmother was exposed to during pregnancy, like the pesticide methoxychlor, may promote a dramatic increase in your susceptibility to develop disease, and you will pass this on to your grandchildren in the absence of any continued exposures,” says Michael Skinner, WSU professor and founder of its Center for Reproductive Biology. He and his colleagues document their findings in a paper published online in PLOS ONE.

Methoxychlor — also known as Chemform, Methoxo, Metox or Moxie — was introduced in 1948 and widely used during the 1970s as a safer replacement for DDT. It was used on crops, ornamental plants, livestock and pets. It is still used in many countries around the world. It was banned in the U.S. in 2003 due to its toxicity and ability to disrupt endocrine systems. Methoxychlor can behave like the hormone estrogen and profoundly affects the reproductive system.’

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The Tree of Forty Fruits

The Corporate Takeover of ‘All Natural’ Food

Clarissa A. León writes for Alternet:

‘Walk through your local grocery store these days and you’ll see the words “all natural” emblazoned on a variety of food packages.  The label is lucrative, for sure, but in discussing the natural label few have remarked on what’s really at stake — the natural ingredients and the companies themselves.

If you take a look at some of the favorite organic and natural food brands, you’ll see they’re owned by some of the largest conventional companies in the world. Coca-Cola owns Odwalla and Honest Tea. PepsiCo. owns Naked Juice. General Mills owns Lara Bar. Natural and organic food acquisitions aside, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and General Mills all opposed California’s GMO Proposition 37 that would require GMO food labeling. Today, some of those companies touting an all-natural list of grains and sugars can be seen changing the ingredients in their natural food products as the natural foods’ distribution channels are pushed to larger and larger markets.’

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