Friday, 25 February 2011

Americans Continue Obesity Trend

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 (the Guidelines) were released on 31 January 2011. The claim is that the Guidelines are based on the most recent scientific evidence and the report is geared for Americans aged 2 and over. I refute the evidence and why this age is the starting point is unknown except perhaps statically foetuses and infants are not usually obese, even though the foundation of poor health starts before birth. In addition, besides the specific issues I raise in this article, generally the focus of the Guidelines is on calories, which is mostly irrelevant when it comes to nutrition for health and well-being.

The Guidelines maintain the commonly known statistics that one third of Americans are obese of the two-thirds that are overweight. They also tell us that 15 percent of American households do not have adequate food resources. This leaves about a quarter of Americans who qualify for good health on the basis of weight and access to adequate food. But other ailments primarily caused by poor nutrition may affect even them.

The Guidelines set out statistics for the prevalence of major diseases in the United States. 81.1 million Americans have cardiovascular disease! This is 37 per cent of the population. 74.5 million Americans have hypertension! 24 million have diabetes! Nearly half the population is expected to have cancer during their lifetime and many older people are expected to have osteoporosis. The people who suffer from depression and other such mental illness are not mentioned, but statistics show this is also highly prevalent. There are many antidepressant medications used in the US and without going off on a tangent, I would simply like to mention that one in four Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year.

All in all, there are a lot of ill people in the US and the Guidelines are tackling very serious problems, but unfortunately, there’s nothing new and they won’t help. And this is in the country that boasts being the wealthiest in the world. The reason the Guidelines are so poor is too deep a discussion for this article. I will only briefly mention some of the inadequacies.

The Guidelines basically cover the following:

Vegetables and fruit intake is encouraged. For starters, this may even be poor advice. According to Dr Cass Ingram (see below), depending on your metabolic type, some people do not tolerate high levels of vegetable intakes and others should avoid certain fruits.

At least 50% of grains should be whole. However, there is no comment about cutting down on the portion of grains in the daily diet, only on refined grains, and admirably, added sugars. This is important because many obese people are addicted to carbohydrates and gluten, whether refined or not. Reduction of added sugars is the best recommendation in the Guidelines, but lumping sugars together with solid fats is confusing.

Fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products including yogurt and cheese should be increased. Fortified soy beverages are also recommended in this category. This is my main complaint about these guidelines, which I will discuss below.

Protein foods are recommended with an emphasis on low fat, including seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds. I would take issue with the low fat and unsalted choices here.

Further, emphasis is placed on eating seafood. With recent developments in America, GM salmon is probably the top choice. Since most wild fish are fast becoming extinct, this will encourage fish farming and farming of other aquatic foods which I do not support. I briefly discussed this in my article called Wild or Farmed Fish for the Future.

Emphasis is placed again on choosing protein foods that are lower in solid fats and that are a source of oils. This is another way of saying, eat more fish again!

Americans are to use more oils instead of solid fats. This is clearly denigrating butter which many argue is good for health because the body needs cholesterol as explained below.

Finally, the above recommendations are endorsed because of isolated nutrients that are deemed to be of heightened concern in American diets. Potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D are claimed to be deficiency candidates which are cited as being found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk and milk products.

I grew up in the United States and can tell you from first-hand experience that the Guidelines are nothing new. Rigorous scientific studies and evidence are claimed to support these findings, but if after many decades this advice is not working, I would have thought that something new might be in line. I would like to briefly discuss the dairy issue in particular. From since I can remember, Americans have been told that low-fat milk is better than whole milk for health. My mother used to contest this. She was from the generation before the scientific findings backed this claim and she clung onto the old ways. But I chose to follow the official advice and bought semi-skimmed milk for many years. I neither think it was a wise choice nor that it did my health any good.

My dairy dream is for the myths surrounding milk and milk products to be busted. The biggest one I think is that whole milk and full-fat milk products contribute to weight gain. The Weston A. Price Foundation has a short article about this myth called Obesity and Weight Loss. I recently attended a meeting where doctor and author Natasha Campbell-McBride spoke and she is also a director of the Weston A. Price Foundation. I summarised her presentation in an article called Real Farming – The Nation’s Primary Health Service Meeting. Please see my article for details, but in summary, what she said was that the body needs cholesterol to function properly and low levels cause disease. Dr Cass Ingram also discusses this in his book Eat Right 4 Your Metabolic Type which I noticed has a ridiculous price of £140.95 on Amazon today (25/2/2011)!  I wonder if the price is high because it is a well-sought after book or if it is to discourage sales.

Soy is predominantly genetically modified in the US. I believe this in itself is a problem. But the claim that soy milk is a good substitute for cow’s milk, even with fortifications, is another myth. The Weston A. Price Foundation summarises the many dangers of soy well.

So that’s it in a nutshell. Authority is not always right and the American nutrition myths live on, showing that we should choose our bedtime stories wisely or end up having a nightmare, possibly even a lifelong one.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Morrisons Recalls Freefrom Jaffa Cake Slices

I received an email notice today (23 February 2011) from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that Morrisons has recalled all packs of its Freefrom Jaffa Cake Slices, 5 pack because the product contains milk, which is not an intended ingredient. Whoops, I wonder how that got in? Did someone slip the wrong recipe to the baker?  Another email from the FSA informs that this may be due to possible cross contamination, but I'm not so sure about that.

This not only makes the product a possible health risk for anyone who is allergic to or intolerant of milk or milk constituents, it makes it a total sham if milk wasn't on the label.  If it was on the label, it goes to show how important it is to read everything on labels.

The FSA has issued an Allergy Alert.  Morrisons has contacted the relevant allergy support organisations, which will tell their members about the withdrawal. If you have such an allergy, you can sign up with the FSA for free email alerts.  The FSA also advises that "Morrisons has removed all affected stock from sale. Customer notices will be displayed in stores, explaining to customers why the product has been recalled. If you have bought the affected product you can return it for a full refund."

Here's an enlightening statement off the Internet from someone without a milk allergy, but possibly a weight problem:

"36 Jaffa Cakes that taste as good as the originals for under 30p a 12 pack

I tried these out of curiosity, as Morrisons was sold out of their McVitties Jaffa Cake offer. The Morrison's ones were really good and I demolished the entire 36."

It may very well be the case that someone with a milk allergy has already done this with the recalled stock.

And here's part of another interesting post about 'Free From' Jaffa Cake Bars dated July 27, 2009:

"... Scanning the ingredients they seemed vegan. Nothing wrong that I can tell. But the allergy advice says "contains milk". Not "may contain traces of milk", but definitely "contains milk"..."

Could it be that milk has been in these products for nearly two years or more and the FSA  has only clamped down on Morrisons about it now?

In my opinion, this is just another reason not to shop in a supermarket or buy cheap, mass produced, processed foods.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Zero Tolerance or Zero Protection?

This is an update on the proposed change to the current zero tolerance of unauthorised genetically modified organisms (gmos) in imported animal feed to Europe. I believe that this change would lead us down the path to virtually zero protection of human health and well-being for EU citizens because of an apparent trend of harmonizing laws between nations in the world towards an American model which has no such protection, which I explain below.

The issue at hand is whether the European Union (EU) should allow animal feed to be imported which has evidence of contamination of gmos that have not been approved in the EU. I wrote an article last month called Zeroing in on the Import of GMOs which sets out some of my concerns.

The vote on this issue in January was postponed. GM Freeze advises that Italy, Denmark, the UK and Ireland now support the measures. I find this hard to believe since Italy and Ireland have strong interests in the organic market and hope that they have reconsidered. GM Freeze also advises that the next earliest vote will be 22nd February.

Recently, the notion of harmonising laws between nations came to my attention. Specifically, I had never heard of the harmonization of laws, per se, between the US and Europe before a contact of mine in the US referred to it as if it was a common concept. I grew up in the US and studied law and political history in several colleges there, but it wasn’t until I studied law in the UK that I learned about harmonization of laws and that was in respect to the European Community Directives and Regulations and the EU Court of Justice rulings changing, testing and shaping the laws of and between Member State countries in order to facilitate a free and open market in Europe.

As described in the book EU Policy, the European Union has an institutional framework. Many claim this framework is undemocratic, but at least we can write to our MEPs who then have some input to decisions made at this level. We can also bring a case to the European Court of Human Rights. But on a global scale, there is no such framework. For example, the World Trade Organisation is closed and secret. Who do we complain to on this level? Who is representing our interests with harmonization of laws on a global scale?

It is a bit of a side-track, but please bear with me as I raise the next question. Where is the protection of the human right to “a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food...” as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25 (December 10, 1948)? Even as it stands, where would we bring a complaint based on a breach of this basic human right? There’s no protection for our health and well-being in the European Convention on Human Rights, and this is even more obvious in the US Constitution and amendments. By harmonizing the laws of these two nations, this lack of fundamental human protection will only be reinforced. This is because, as can be seen in the EU, harmonization operates on the level of the lowest common denominator. In the case of gmos in animal feed, the US is at the bottom of the heap. The protection of our food is of vital importance, yet our law does not reflect this.

The dictionary meaning of food is rather basic: a source of material that provides living things with the nutrients they need for energy and growth. However, the legal definition of food in Europe doesn’t even cover that much. Food and foodstuffs in Article 2 Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 are defined as “any substance or product, whether processed, partially processed or unprocessed, intended to be, or reasonably expected to be ingested by humans” with a list of excluded items which includes medicinal products. What is reasonably expected to be ingested by humans is a very grey area nowadays and much so-called food and foodstuffs do not provide the nutrients needed for energy and growth, never mind promoting health and well-being.  Although animal feed is also excluded from the legal definition of food, when it contains gmos, it is a potential contaminate of our food which scientific evidence has shown could affect our health and well-being negatively.

The US, for one, is pushing to have gmos that are approved in the US accepted in the EU and this, in a sense, is in the pursuit of harmonizing the laws of these two nations. This issue is bigger than just zero tolerance of unauthorized gmos in animal feed. It’s about the rule of law, food sovereignty, democracy and protection of what ought to be an ingrained basic human right, i.e., the right to food for health and well-being.

Harmonization of laws is bad enough in Europe without extending it to a global level. According to Caomhín Macmaoláin in EU Food Law, “Articles 28 to 30 EC and the related case law make it almost impossible for Member States to introduce measures designed to protect human health unless the foodstuff in question poses a precipitate danger to health, as opposed to merely eroding it in the longer term” (p 15). By harmonizing laws with the US with its ‘substantially equivalent’ policy for gmos, this standard will be lowered even further, eventually eroding any protection of long-term health and one’s ability to maintain well-being to zero.

As a by the way, medicinal products and procedures are not a solution either, only a second-best option to a healthy, wholesome diet. Just the same as with disease and poor health, drugs either distract our consciousness or diminish it and our quality of life.  Consciousness or awareness is the ultimate goal of health and well-being for a fulfilled happy life.  And finally, drugs and a lack of health and well-being make a natural, dignified, and meaningful death difficult.

I hope that my MEPs take the dangers of the apparent attempt to harmonize laws with the US and other nations into consideration for this issue, but also generally, especially when dealing with any food and agricultural matters. And I hope that our politicians are not obliged to act in favour of the market unless and until there are adequate laws protecting us that require them to act otherwise.

As ever, I urge you to write to your MEPs, and if needed, please refer to the GM Freeze website for assistance.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Supermarkets are taking over the planet

Book Review: Shopped, The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets (2004) by Joanna Blythman, London: Harper Perennial, 382 pages including Index.

Supermarkets are taking over the planet, so says Joanna Blythman in Shopped (p 240). After reading this book, I came to realise that supermarkets are the key link in the B’org Food Chain. After all, they are called supermarket chains. Get rid of them and the B’org Food Chain will be broken. Keep supporting them and the world’s food supply will only get worse with tales of iniquities unending. Genetically modified/nano foods, cloned animals and industrial farming in general don’t fit in small local shops any more than wholesome locally produced foods thrive in supermarkets. Joanna Blythman explains it superbly.

Blythman’s analysis is full of wit and interesting facts, and enjoyable to read, but her book will leave you feeling like a co-conspirator in a robbery every time you engage with a supermarket. She aptly describes everything to do with supermarkets from the mind numbing experience of shopping and working there to the trials and tribulations of being a supplier or buyer.

There are details in the book about supermarkets liking bright red meat that comes in standard sizes and encouraging short cuts in meat production to lower costs. Indeed, everything needs to be picture perfect and conform to standard sizes. Fruit and vegetables need to be reformulated to fit supermarket criteria. Nutrition and taste do not count, but price does. “The chain takes the product with the cheapest price ... possibly even below the cost of production” p 238).

We have all witnessed the closure of local bakeries, butchers and other such shops, even before the recession. MP John Hayes is quoted as saying that supermarkets have “done more than any other agency to damage the business of local supply...” (p 208).

I would go so far as to say that this should be required reading for anyone who gives a hoot about life. Without supermarkets, many problems would vanish overnight. As I mentioned in my article about food sovereignty, taking responsibility for our food supply means avoiding supermarkets, and if you are having trouble breaking this bad habit, Blythman’s book should do the trick. It did it for me.

P.S.  More wit on supermarket issues surfaced in the House of Lords on Monday, 7 February 2011 in the Agriculture: Dairy Industry debate. When asked about subsidies to dairy farmers, Lord Henley said that he was sure the monies were going to the farmers because he imagined that the cows do not have bank accounts.  (ha ha) He informed the Lords present that a groceries code adjudicator is to be appointed to deal with supermarket price under-cutting but he is unsure of where this person will be sitting. However, as is easily seen from this debate, the government is fully in favour of supermarkets taking over from small shopkeepers and small farmers and a government official to oversee the matter is unlikely to set things right wherever he or she sits (or stands). This is why everyone’s efforts are so important to address this undemocratic situation and imbalance of power.

Letter to Prince Charles about the Bees and TNCs

8 February 2011

The Prince of Wales
Clarence House

Dear Prince Charles

I am writing to you about your Start campaign and the global bee emergency, and because of the serious nature of my concerns, I hope you don't mind my being candid. The specific issue I wish to raise is that, as you point out on page 188 of your new book, Harmony, insecticides are likely to be a contributing factor to the decline of bees, yet two of the main sponsors of the Start campaign, B&Q and Asda (Walmart), sell Provado, Ultimate Bug Killer and other noxious products.  In addition, you have appointed a marketing executive, Jo Kenrick, with recent B&Q and Asda (Walmart) background to manage your campaign.  I would have thought that her experience of working for one transnational corporation (TNC) after another would indicate a conflict of interest which will undermine her efforts. But at any rate, your Start campaign is in collaboration with TNCs which to me is the same as teaming up with the perpetrators and I wonder what positive message or result could possibly come from it.

I enjoyed your references to spirituality and philosophy in Harmony.  I agree that we need to develop this side of our humanity.  However, TNCs are legal persons that can only operate in a mechanistic fashion using a linear form of logic with the primary goal of increasing profit. Yet, they have unbridled power and enormous wealth. As positive as the idea is, your Start campaign is reinforcing this rather than seeking to break the chain. For an example of harmony in action, I would humbly recommend The One Straw Revolution (link is to my book review on the Eco Walk the Talk website).

B&Q has put nearly all the local hardware stores out of business, operates in monstrous, ugly, orange and metal buildings that we are expected to drive to, and sells mountains and lakes of toxic products such as Provado.  Asda is an even bigger monster.  BT and EDF lord over us for vital services.  According to the Guardian, these are your top Start campaign associates and they aren't even geared up to helping bees, the mainstay of much of our food, which is in dire straits as it is.

As is well known and discussed in Who Runs Britain by Robert Peston and even on a few recent BBC documentaries, the gap between rich and poor is becoming greater. However, what many people do not seem to realise is that the gap between good food and bad food is becoming smaller. Our global dilemma with respect to our food supply affects everyone and soon no amount of money will be able to secure a wild fish; uncontaminated natural drinking water; fruit, vegetables and grains without chemicals, pharmaceuticals or genetic/nano manipulation; or meat and milk products from animals that are not clones or related to one. This may seem farfetched to some, but one only has to look at the fact that the highly toxic chemical dioxin can be found in living organisms in the remotest parts of the world to realise how interconnected everything is.  TNCs are the driving force behind the contamination and destruction of our food.

In keeping with a positive approach, you said at the launch of the Start campaign that you aren’t going to tell everyone to stop doing things. But what are you telling them by joining forces with TNCs that are unsustainable?  The message to me is that money is what really matters, which is not a new one.

My vision of harmony, which is shared by many, includes TNCs being broken up into smaller companies which would then be encouraged to develop innovative ideas on how to provide sustainable, affordable products and services to local communities. With TNCs on the scene, individuals and small companies are severely disadvantaged in business and healthy innovative ideas are unlikely to surface or make much of a ripple. Without TNCs, a wave of people creating and buying alternatives would roll in. This is not hard to imagine, but it is unlikely that a highly paid person with close ties to TNCs will volunteer or act on such an idea.  In my view, campaigning against TNCs not with them against everyone else would be a better start, for one, to help the bees.

Thank you for considering my thoughts on these issues. I would very much welcome a reply with an explanation that I could also post on my blog.  Thank you again.

Yours sincerely

J Wilson

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Bee Updated- Act Now!

I received an email today (2/2/11) from Her Majesty's Government that the petition I signed last year to ask the Prime Minister to ban the use of Neonicotinoid insecticides in crops grown within the United Kingdom was unsuccessful. The petition was signed by 1,051 people and stated that:

a plethora of recent studies from Italy, Germany, America etc. are implicating Neonicotinoid insecticides (an insect nerve poison) in causing sub-lethal and lethal affects to honeybee's exposed to plants grown from seeds coated in Neonicotinoid insecticide or treated with Neonicotinoid insecticide - typically maize, sunflower and rapeseed - these sublethal effects, affect the bee's ability to orient itself and return to the colony; additionally it is likely the detrimental effects are compounded synergistically as the bee is weakened and becomes more susceptible to natural disease, parasitic fungi and parasites such as varroa destructor - implicated in the world wide colony collapse disorder we are currently experiencing. Neonicitinoid insecticides have recently been banned in other European countries and are being reviewed in the US - home of the corporations pushing these systemic insecticides.

What’s the harm?

Neonicotinoids are synthetic chemicals which act on a specific neural pathway of the central nervous system. The effects are more prevalent in insects, but the chemical is non-discriminating. It is not just something that is added to a few industrially grown crops, but commonly used by gardeners, and even for house plants!

Available neonicotinoid insecticides include:

Acetamiprid: intended to control sucking insects on crops such as leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, pome fruits, grapes, cotton, cole crops, and ornamental plants.

Clothianidin: is absorbed by plants and then released in pollen and nectar to kill pests.

Dinotefuran: for control of insect pests such as aphids, whiteflies, thrips, leafhoppers, leafminers, sawflies, mole cricket, white grubs, lacebugs, billbugs, beetles, mealybugs, and cockroaches on leafy vegetables, in residential and commercial buildings, and for professional turf management.

Imidacloprid: sold in UK as Provado, Ultimate Bug Killer.

Nitenpyram: an insecticide used in agriculture and veterinary medicine to kill insect external parasites of livestock and pets.

Thiacloprid: developed by Bayer CropScience for use on agricultural crops to control a variety of sucking and chewing insects, primarily aphids and whiteflies.  In Provado, Ultimate Bug Killer in B&Q.

Thiamethoxam: developed by Syngenta but a patent dispute arose with Bayer. They were fighting over who will be responsible for the death of life on earth!

Bayer is the primary manufacturer. (Is this the sort of company you are happy to trust your precious health to?) Neonicitinoids are also made by Aventis CropSciences, Takeda Chemical Industries and Mitsui Chemicals.

Garden centres, farm suppliers, online outlets and DIY stores sell these products which ANYBODY can buy.

I rang my local garden centre this afternoon and was kindly informed that there is no indication on the Provado insecticides label of the active ingredient. However, there is a warning that it should not be sprayed when the flowers are in bloom because it is harmful to bees! The label on the product that is made for indoor and outdoor use also advises that the spray may be harmful to fish, pets and children.

My common sense tells me that an insecticide is bound to have negative effects on insects. Since bees are an insect, it seems logical to me that Neonicitinoid must be having some sort of negative effect on bees that are exposed it. Prince Charles put it matter of factly in his book Harmony when he said “[g]iven that bees, like nearly every other bug, are insects, I would have thought it was rather obvious, yet we carry on with this narrow-minded, mechanistic approach to industiralized farming with our focus only on high yields at whatever price, lacing the fields with pesticides that kill insects while being told that they do not affect bees.” And adding insult to injury, many people use insecticides in their gardens and homes.

Obviously, the UK Government needs a little more persuading to protect us from this poison and Avaaz is providing another opportunity. They have a petition which over one million people have already signed. Please act now and add your signature too:

Either that or get your feather dusters out and be ready for a little hand pollination duty (like they already do in China).