Friday, July 24, 2015

Science versus Nature, The Dawning of a new era in food science, NATURE

It's been a long time coming, and the road to get where we are has been hard fought; but we aren't there yet. There, is the place where all processed foods are made with healthy natural ingredients. There, is an ideal, a concept, a wish, a dream. But, every week it seems that more and more big food companies bow to the pressure that consumers exert with their spending dollars and conform to that ideal of cleaner safer foods. For the last five years the largest growth in the food industry has been in organic foods. Double digit growth. In a few instances, triple digit. Sales amongst the traditional food processors has been stagnant, or in so many cases, declining. Big business can't survive when small industries show the giants that they can make big money by making clean products designed to encourage the growing mass of consumers that desire better foods for themselves and their families.

Last week, Campbell's Soups announced that they will stop adding MSG and artificial colors to their soups.
Earlier this year there have been a number of announcements to break the traditions of money over health.
Chipotle Restaurants announced they will not use any products that contain GMO ingredients
Kraft foods acquiesced to consumer pressure and announced the removal of all coal tar dies from Mac and Cheese products
Subway Restaurants announced they would remove Azodicarbonamide from all their breads
White Wave and Horizon Dairies agreed to remove carragenan from all their products
Panera Restaurants announced they will remove all artificial ingredients from their products
Papa John's and Taco Bell both announced the removal of all artificial ingredients including corn syrup
Chik-Fil-A will remove High Fructose Corn Syrup from the buns used for sandwiches.
And yes, even McDonald's has pledged to REDUCE the amount of antibiotics used in production of chickens, nothing else, but hey, it's a start
And finally, Nestle Corporation. Nestle is the largest food manufacturer in the world. They recently announced that they would remove the artificial colors in about 250 of their candies. Three years ago they stunned a very very very small part of the world with the announcement that was not carried by any major or minor media outlet, that they would no longer, er, well, encourage, the use of child slavery in the production of cacao in the country of Ivory Coast. Now again, Cote de Ivory only produces twenty percent of the chocolate for Nestle and so far they have not announced any plans to enforce the ban on child slavery anywhere else, but hey, it's a start.

All of these things have come about because of consumer demand. Some from actual petition drives with hundreds of thousands of people signing petitions to show these giant companies that a few cents difference in price to make a healthier product is where they will spend their food dollars. The rest are just big companies realizing that it's the right thing to do. And then there's Papa John, jumping on the bandwagon because his chain is in last place and maybe it will help. But for whatever reason, it's a start. 

Oh, and one of the biggest news items ever, the FDA has officially removed partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats, from the GRAS list and all food manufacturers have until 2018 to remove them from all processed foods. Now that's something to celebrate. It took fifty years for the FDA to react, but it shows the food industry that some things do indeed, get done.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

MONEY! There's a sucker born every minute

Everyone wants money. It's the basis of life in the worldwide society. Everyone needs money to exist. And they need ever more and larger amounts of money to live better lifestyles. Working hard for your money is one way to get ahead, but there are ways to get more money and to let others do the hard work for you and you can reap the rewards of their labors. Professions like politicians, bankers, insurance sales, lawyers all make money off the work of others. Well, bankers also make mistakes then take money offered to them from the government for doing their jobs poorly. But that's all another story. What we want to look at are those that want money, and don't believe that the laws or plain civility apply to themselves. Those are the thieves in the world. And the con men. The Bernie Madoff complex. People that devise ever more complex ways in which they can make suckers believe that if they give them money, they will be repaid with huge dividends. There have been quite a few of these people like the guy whose name has been used as the defining nomenclature for the process, Charles Ponzi.

I have a friend back in Austin. She has been a great fan of these get rich quick schemes for some time now. Years. Every year, often with more frequency, she has a new scheme and attempts to get me to invest. No matter how much I try to explain how the pyramid works, she disputes me and tells me that there are other people  out there that have reaped riches beyond their wildest dreams. Well, yeah, there are a lot of people hired to do such things and even if not hired to say that, the whole pyramid only works if those at the top recruit people below them. They won't recruit unless they can see money coming out of the scheme to pay them for their investment. No payouts, why recruit, no recruits, the whole thing fails and the ring leader is stuck with only the money they bilked out of the very few first time investors.

Here's the problem though, there are a whole lot of people out there that understand how that works. And they are constantly on the prowl for new and ever more exotic and complex Ponzi pyramid schemes. If you get in first, if you're a fast talker and can sell, then you will reap the rewards that are promised. Here's how these schemes work.unilevel-commission-structure

If you start at the top at the beginning of a scheme, then you are in prime real estate. If you put in your 3k bucks and find three people that also invest 3k and each of them finds three, well you can see how the pyramid works. And if all you do is promise a 20% return, then that leaves a whole lot of money for the Bernie Manof wannabee running the scheme with a ton of money.unilevel-commission-structure

My friends newest scheme, Options Rider. This guy claims he has secret software that allows him to purchase options on monetary tradings in international money exchanges. These trades net him 88% return DAILY!!!!!!!!!!  Click here to go see the stuff (OPTIONS)  Honestly, these guys actually find people that give them money. Let me repeat that, they GIVE the creators of these schemes their own MONEY. GIVE!! If you are at the top, you might, again, might get some of it back. The rules for getting your money out of this scheme, and really most schemes, are incredibly unrealistic. Loss of up to 20% of earnings for withdrawal of not just what is claimed you earned on your investment, but also on your original investment as well. And the big one, none is guaranteed. The big disclaimer is that past performance is not an indication of what your investment will earn. So, you give them 3k, they invest 5% daily, and hope that you earn. If you do, and your money grows, you can't remove it unless you want to pay them a hefty chunk of change. And although the man claims to have been in business doing this for 5 years, the website is only a few months old. And the address of the company is non-existent.
People want money to work for them and earn them more than they can earn by working hard. That's why these schemes are so common and attract so many people. But think about it. If this guy in this scheme or most of the schemes out there, had a way to make that much money, why do they need your money to invest for you? They need you to recruit. If you do a great job for them, they reward you. If you don't, you get squat. My friend, she has gotten squat. But she is ever hopeful that the next one will be the real deal and make her a billionaire.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Here we go, what do food MANUFACTURERS look for in new food like products

So we all know that taste is the biggest component of research for nearly all of the food manufacturers. And we know all about the cheats that are used, things like adding sugar, salt, fats and MSG and all its related products under differing names. They cheat us into thinking that processed foods have more and greater flavors than they actually have. And realistically, most of the crap would be inedible without the cheats. But there is a new trend in food manufacturing today and that is all about texture. Manufacturers want to entice consumers into buying new products not only because of the perceived flavor enhancements, but because they have done the research and discovered that texture is another of the reasons we will buy, or not, any particular food. Yeah, it's true, and a lot of money goes into this research. One of the companies on the forefront of texture research is The Understanding and Insight Group. (U&I) Yeah, big corporate food manufacturers not only have mechanical tongues that are able to physically discern varying flavor components using real live human cells in a Star Wars like matrix of living tissue and machine, but now they are working to perfect the art of processed food products by learning what it is that people want to feel when their foods are in consumer's mouths.

So far they have categorized people into four categories based on their preferences, Chewers, Crunchers, Smooshers, and Suckers. This research took nearly fourteen years to come to these conclusions and it is being put into practical application world wide. Last year in 2014 there were 20,790 new packages for products world wide that specifically had on the label the inherent mouth feel of the product. Most notable, Frito-Lays new line of Doritos called Jacked. Thicker and with more crunch than regular Doritos. Is it a bad thing? No, not really. It's just one more expression of the measures that large food manufacturers will do to garner market share and to ultimately get consumers addicted to their products. 

Wouldn't it be nice if they would all put that much effort and research into making food products healthy and not have toxic chemical additives and flavor enhancers. If you think about it, how much money went into paying these people at this company for fourteen years to come up with this crap.


Monday, June 15, 2015

What's in your food Part 6. Ranch Dressing

Did you know there really is a Hidden Valley? Well it's true, Steve and Gayle Henson opened a dude ranch up by Santa Barbara CA back in the early fifties. And they named it Hidden Valley Ranch. They served their own concoction of buttermilk and herbs to guests and a dynasty was born. In 72 they sold the company to Clorox for 8 million. And the stuff has not been the same ever since. Big companies want big profits for their outlay of cash and so like so many big companies, the old concept of the cheat is used. Cheaper ingredients and crap to make consumers think they are getting something good. First ingredient on the list is a choice, the company uses whatever is cheapest and so they don't actually know which one is in the bottle. Soy or canola. Both are very bad for you, high in Omega 6 low in Omega 3 and both long chain fatty acids. And as we all know, in this instance longer is not better. Plus the big one, they are pretty much all GMO and although we have no real idea if GMOs are in fact bad for us, what we do know is that they are drenched with glyphosate weed killer. And the residues are much higher than what some studies show to be harmful. Yeah, that old thing again, the Feds raised the limits of residues at the behest of the agrochemical industry  because weeds are becoming resistant to the effects and so they spray more and more of the stuff on the crops. Good news for the industry selling the stuff,but not so good for humans that have to eat the residues in products that are made from GMO crops. Let's not forget that the WHO just two months ago decreed that glyphosate weedkiller is indeed a probable carcinogen and are requesting more study. Well, long term studies take time and cost money and since it is the WHO I'm pretty sure it will be done, but we won't know for a while. But they both are cheap. So it's a personal choice to eat slow chronic cumulative toxins, or not. I don't. 

Next we see that this dressing that once was a buttermilk based dressing now contains more sugar than buttermilk. And not only that, two tablespoons of the stuff has over 11% of your daily sodium needs. And of course there is MSG, good old MonoSodium Glutamate. That along with the Disodium twins, Inosinate and guanylate; the three improve the flavor characteristics of the stuff and give consumers the false sense of good taste where none actually exists. We call that a cheat. The three ingredients that cause flavor addiction are used throughout the manufacturing of processed foods everywhere. Salt, sugar and MSG. And along with the Disodium twins, Inosinate and guanylate; they increase mouthfeel and increase flavor desirability at very very low cost.

So what we have so far is some nasty oil, lots of salt and sugar, some spices and buttermilk, and of course MSG and related cheats to make it taste better. And then, well actually the EDTA as a preservative is not the worst choice, it's relatively harmless. Well, relatively. The one concern though is the Disodium Phosphate. You would think this is a pretty simple compound and pretty innocuous. The thing is though that it isn't. In itself, it isn't toxic but if someone with heart conditions, high blood pressure or on certain medications, this compound breaks down into free phosphorous pretty readily. And too much phosphorous is a very bad thing for certain people. I don't understand the reasoning behind the use of this chemical. Well, other than it is a whole lot cheaper than other less dangerous ones. Lecithin pretty much does the same job, but at a far higher cost. Would you die from eating a couple tablespoons of the stuff if you had heart trouble? Well, actually you very well could. The reason is that there is another source of free phosphorous there. Plain old (and very cheap) phosphoric acid. This is used to lower the pH of the product to help retard bacterial growth. Again, much cheaper than even white vinegar which does an adequate job. But at higher costs. Both have free phosphorous and I don't know the exact amount, they aren't required to list it. Has any one ever died from eating the stuff? I don't think the families nor any medical examiners would equate high phosphorous levels taken at autopsy after a meal where the deceased ate a crap load of healthy vegetables all dipped in ranch dressing. I mean really, the dead guy ate healthy stuff. Well, except the ranch. If you have ever watched TV cop shows at some time ALL of them tell you about the perfect murder, high doses, either oral or injected, of either one or both potassium or phosphates. Both can stop a heart and are especially deadly to those with heart problems. Except a "high dose" is about a 100 milligrams. For a healthy adult. How much is in 2 tablespoons of Ranch? Well, hard to say. And how often do you only eat 2 tablespoons.

These are some of the things that the food industry does to cheat us. They are cheats. Addictive responses come from the high salt, sugar and MSG. And cheaper ingredients are used as well, as manufacturing cheats. And all with no thought or concern as to what the stuff might do to certain people in the pool of consumers that are targeted as viable marks for the slick advertising. Wouldn't it be nice if the food manufacturers had to add an announcer to all their food ads that would tell you all the possible side effects and how if you had heart problems eating the stuff could result in death. The reality though is that Americans would see the happy people eating the tasty ranch dressing on healthy food and not even hear the lists of side effects. Does anyone think that the announcers listing all the horrific side effects of advertised drugs ever really deters anyone from taking the stuff if a doctor tells them it might help. But it would be a triumph for those of us that care. Yeah, though for now we just have to suffer through the realities of corporate controlled food production that pretty much funds all of the elections and thus we have our true masters having free reign to do as they please as they instruct the governing agencies to do what they require. Animal Farm is a reality.

Well I received an email from someone that didn't quite understand the Animal Farm reference. So for those that did not have an English or Literature class in school that required you to read George Orwell's masterpiece of parody and satire, Animal Farm, the reference is to that particular book.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What's in your food part 5 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Reese's, wow. Harry Burnett Reese left his job at Hershey chocolate and started the Reese Candy company in the basement of his home back in 1928. He used Hershey chocolate in all his creations and eventually discontinued all but the peanut butter cups. He passed in 56 and his six sons merged with Hershey in a really really cool tax free stock exchange and today the six of them own stock worth over a billion. Hershey has kept the Reese's as a separate company though, because it's non-union whereas the rest of Hershey is union. Well, that sort of shocked me, but, the business world is full of stuff like that. Anyway, the actual peanut
butter cup itself is made using pretty much that same ingredients as they used in the early days. Well, except for the addition of some rather nasty additives, TBHQ being the worst. Tertiary Butylhydroquinone, TBHQ is by law limited to no more than 0.02% of the fat content of the product. This chemical is a derivative of butane and is added to stabilize fats and keep them from degrading and turning rancid. And it works too, products like Reese's have shelf lives of several years instead of only one, all because of the addition of this chemical. One of the things that I notice during my research for this blog is the all too apparent range of LD50 for many of the chemicals used in modern food manufacturing. Some are relatively innocuous, with very high LD50 values. Some have very low LD50 values with experimental dosage rates being in just a few mg per Kilo of body weight for various mammals (now that is kind of a weird job for lab technicians now isn't it, killing animals for science) But when the LD50 for TBHQ turned out to be only 700mg/Kg I was shocked. For any food additive, that is very very low. (MSDS for TBHQ see Section 11)  The thing to look at here though is the lack of long term data on the MSDS. For that we have to go to the Fed's own ToxNet (Toxnet for TBHQ) and here we see the results of long term feeding studies on rats that show neurological and digestive system damages. The good news though is that it is classified by IARC as a Class 3 carcinogen, meaning that at this time and with data from feeding studies there is no classifiable carcinogenicity. But there is that neurological damage thing. What was I talking about, oh yeah, I ate a lot of these as a youth. My memory isn't what it once was. And just a side note here, if you go to the ToxNet, you will see long term feeding studies done on a vastly huge number of chemical additives. What you won't find though are any on GMO crops nor for Glyphosate. Next we have PGPR which is an emulsifier. In the industry it's known as a cheat. The reality is that it has very low toxicity and low long term side effects. What it does though is it makes chocolate creamier, smoother, have better mouth feel and all the while the manufacturer can use less cocoa butter to achieve similar taste sensations as chocolates with what are considered normal or regular amounts of cocoa. That's probably why when most people taste high quality hand made artisinal chocolates they exclaim how great those are. It isn't anything different, it's just that they use the whole cacao bean and the big guys remove the cocoa butter and use emulsifiers in attempts to trick consumers. It works, the chocolate industry sells billions.  But then we get to the ultimate expression of cheating, and that's making chocolate candies without any chocolate in them at all. Reese's Pieces. They contain absolutely no chocolate at all. They do contain a whole host of chemicals though, and four, count'em, FOUR different coal tar dyes. Remember from previous episodes, coal tar dyes are illegal in most of the rest of the industrialized world, because they are known carcinogens. There are three different sugars, regular beet sugar, corn syrup, and dextrose. There are hydrogenated oils (aren't those bad for us?) And there is reduced mineral whey. Not sure why they remove the minerals, the stuff has little nutritive value to begin with so they make the candy even less likely to be healthy. It has Carnuba Wax and Resinous Glaze. Those are part of the candy coating. I don't need to define Carnuba Wax, most of us use it on our cars, but the Resinous Glaze is made from the excrement of the Tachardia Lacca beetles. The beetles live in India and it is a big industry there to harvest the excrement and process it into food additives and lacquer for the furniture industry. And finally, artificial flavor. That's where the chocolaty taste comes from. Now these are pictures of the labels from the products, the company doesn't put the ingredients on their website. It's kind of scary when the manufacturer won't put the ingredients on their website. It's right there on the package, but they won't tell you online. (Check out their site)

Would I eat these creations of big agribusiness? No. I have friends at the farmers markets that hand make chocolates right directly from imported cacao beans. Real stuff. Yeah, it's more expensive. But then I read those ingredients again and perhaps in the long run, maybe all that crap that I ate in my younger days are contributing to all the problems I have with my health today.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What's in your food part 4. Pretzels

I'm sure that the few that read my blog are just scratching their heads and telling themselves that I am just completely over the top now and the whacko part of my brain has taken over completely. Pretzels.

Whaaaat, come on now, pretzels are perfectly fine, there is nothing wrong with pretzels. Right?

Well, I don't know. I know I don't eat them, never have really. They just are so salty, and the taste for me is not anything pleasant, so, for me, no. But let's look at what goes into pretzels and see. There are a couple major manufacturers, Snyders of Hanover and Frito Lay with their Rold Gold brand. Both have plain basic pretzels in a variety of shapes and sizes. Both have flavored ones as well. Pretzels are salty, from what info I can get, an ounce will give you over 20% of your daily recommended allowance for salt. Probably why I don't like them, I don't eat salty things. You would think that making the pretzels would be pretty simple, with just a few basic ingredients, flour, white flour of course, yeast, salt, and a base solution such as ammonium carbonate or sodium hydroxide. The base is what gives pretzels, and yes even bagels, that characteristic flavor. However, most pretzels seem to have a lot more going on than just the basics, everything from corn syrup, malt, brown rice syrup and honey. Hmmmmm, it seems as though the stuff I talk about here on my blog might be true afterall. That food processors add sugar and salt to their products in a race to make them addictive. Pretzels, most of the PLAIN ones have sugar added to them. And a few have canola oil. Or corn oil. Which if you are interested in a healthy lifestyle you know that both have residues of glyphosate on them from the overuse of the herbicide on virtually all of those crops. But then there are some other things in the lists of ingredients that are somewhat surprising, things like bamboo fiber. That's an odd thing to add to pretzels don't you think? Turns out though, it isn't. There are a number of fibers on the market for food processors that are designed for nothing more than to add structure to baked goods. Okay, I guess, but a pretzel? Anyway, if we go to the Code of Federal Regulations, the CFR, section 21 deals with food additives. Section 101 specifically 101.54 deals with fiber additives. There is no listing for Bamboo fiber. If you search the FDA website, there is no specific reference to Bamboo fiber. Yikes, that means it is an uncontrolled substance with no research, no applications to the FDA by the processor to be allowed to be used as an additive for the production of food here in the US. Yikes, I guess that here I must remind everyone how the food system works here in America. If someone wants to take some chemical, or in this case, a processed fiber, and add it to their manufactured foods, there is no requirement by the government of the US, meaning the ruling and determining body, the FDA, for them to even petition the FDA for allowances. They can add anything to food products they want. If they want it to be generally accepted in the industry, most do in fact apply for regulatory approval and that's done to increase sales to other manufacturers that might need a little proof. Probably for liability issues. Is it harmful, probably not, but so many people out there have no idea how the system works and this was I thought, the perfect example of how to illustrate how money works.

So there are lots and lots of flavored pretzels out there on
the market as well, and some are pretty plain, and others not so much. This one is Rold Gold 3 Cheese and the ingredients show four different sugars, and two types of MSG.  Along with the added salt these are guaranteed to make a human addicted to them and of course, the end result, more sales. But then that's what it's all about. Money.

I don't have any recipes for making pretzels for today's blog, I don't eat them. I would recommend that if you do, go for the plain ones and if you absolutely NEED flavors added, add your own. Toss with milted butter and a mix of your favorite spices and then bake for a bit. Yeah, sort of like Chex Mix. But then I did something the other day I have never done before, I made kale chips. Pretty tasty.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What's in your food Part 3, Kraft Mac and Cheese

Kraft is pretty proud of their star processed food, the blue box Mac and Cheese. They should be, they sell over 500 million dollars worth of the stuff worldwide. The weird thing is that here in the U.S.A. the ingredients are different, cheaper. Elsewhere the stuff is lacking in artificial coal tar dies Yellow 5 & 6. The reason is simple, the US is the only country that allows their use in human foods. Is there a reason for these additives to be included into the product, I mean, other than to make the stuff brighter, more intensely yellow? I can't think of any reason to have them included. And it's true, Kraft has promised to change the ingredients to go without the two sometime in the next year or so; but if you eat the stuff now, it's right there. So why are they bad? Well, from what researchers using randomized double-blind placebo controlled studies have found is that artificial coal tar dies exacerbate things in children such as ADD, ADHD and hyperactivity. Yikes! Is that something you would want to feed your children when you know that there are healthier alternatives.  Again I have to bow to someone that has his own TV show and gets a lot of publicity, both good and bad, about his being vocal on food and health, Dr. Oz. Here is his article about artificial dies (Dr OZ) Next is the big one, Sodium TriPolyPhosphate. Or known as STPP for short. This is one that there isn't a lot of information about yet, it was approved and given GRAS status by the FDA. Now it has come under some scrutiny as a the main use of this chemical additive is for making old fish appear, that's right, appear, to be fresher. The stuff makes the flesh of fish and other seafood stiffer, shinier and more like fresh caught. Even if the stuff is going bad. Why it's in Mac and Cheese is a mystery, but the stuff was created to look more appetizing than it actually is. STPP has been shown to be a neurotoxin, destroying nerve and brain cells in vitro. As usual, more testing needs to be done, it's just that testing any food additive is expensive. And of course, who would pay for it. Certainly not the seafood industry, they make money using it all the time. But, like so many of the things done by the FDA, this was approved so corporations could make money by reducing costs. The FDA caters to corporate needs, not the safety of the citizens. LD50 for the stuff is high, nearly 380 mg per kilo, which is not high enough to kill someone by eating a lot of foul seafood. Or Mac and Cheese. So the assumption that it is safe is made for profit reasons as doing actual testing for long term or neurotoxicity would have been prohibitively expensive when the cost to benefit formula is used to determine value against health. 

I make mac and cheese a lot. My son loves it, I love it, let's face it, the stuff is fantastic. Mine doesn't come out of a box though. It's pretty easy to make, cook whole wheat penne or other pasta and put in a baking dish, toss with grated cheese, add some milk, cover with bread crumbs and bake until bubbly. I like to add green chilies, jalapenos, smoked salmon, broccoli or really whatever I want. Quick, easy, no dies, no fish freshener, just plain good stuff.