Progress on Our Behalf

Sweeping changes are occurring in the food industry, perhaps escaping your notice. It’s encouraging to see changes. As we gain momentum gravitating toward healthier choices, the industry responds. They study our patterns and give us what we want, or rather, “need”. Decisions are made based on our feedback in the way of purchases, phone calls, written comments, and petitions. Maybe they see our nation’s health has declined or perhaps they are responding to our feedback and purchasing patterns and realize it makes good business sense.

WebMD highly recommends avoiding the following seven food additives – food colorings, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium benzoate and trans-fats. Recent food industry shifts are focusing on these particular additives. While the level of commitment varies greatly and it’s still not apparent whether all the ambitious time-lines for 2015 have been met, here is progress in the works –

The Aldi Supermarket chain (about 1,400 stores in the US) recently announced by the end of 2015 all their branded products, will be free of synthetic colors, partially hydrogenated oils and MSG.

Taco Bell states by the beginning of 2016, they will remove artificial flavors and colors, added trans fat, high fructose corn syrup, and unsustainable palm oil from its core menu items, introduce aspartame-free diet Pepsi and convert to 100% cage free eggs by the end of 2016. Pizza Hut plans to remove artificial colors and flavors from most of their menu items in 2015. Burger King is committed to converting to cage-free eggs by 2017; whereas, McDonalds and Denny’s plan to convert within a ten year period. Noodle and Company is committed to removing artificial colors, flavors and preservatives from their soups, sauces and dressings by the end of 2015. Panera plans to ditch 150 artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors and preservatives from its menus by the end of 2016. Papa Johns will eliminate all synthetic ingredients from its recipes by the end of 2016, removing corn syrup and preservatives. Subway also plans to make changes over the next 18 months removing artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives from their menu.

Chipotle serves GMO-free tortillas and soybean oil. Kroger, Safeway, Aldi, Cosco, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and Red Lobster have all stated their commitment to not stock recently Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved GMO salmon. Sadly against over-whelming public outcry, the FDA approved what many now call “frankenfish”.

Chipotle, Panera and Chick-fil-A all now serve meat raised without antibiotics and McDonalds plans to switch to hormone-free chicken by spring 2016. Milk products are more frequently boasting “hormone free”. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has repeatedly warned about the public health threat of antibiotic resistance due to the overuse of antibiotics in the meat industry.
More good news next week.

Campbell’s announced it will disclose GMO ingredients across their entire product line and are calling for a national, mandatory GMO labeling regimen. Contrary to the chemical’s primary justification against such labeling, they said GMO labeling will not cause food prices to go up. Campbells Soup plans to remove artificial and unhealthy ingredients in all products by mid-2018. Given the Senate recent defeat of the bill dubbed as Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, General Mills has stated it’s intention to start labeling GMO products nationwide in preparation for Vermont’s GMO labeling mandate that goes into effect July 1st.

Nestles says it will remove artificial flavoring and colors, including Red 40 and Yellow 5, from all of its chocolate products by the end of 2015 and reduce the sodium content of their frozen pizza and snack products by ten percent. Krafts iconic neon orange macaroni and cheese will take on a new hue with plans to remove Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 by 2016. General Mills is working on removing their artificial color and flavors by 2017. Trix eaters will lose their blue and green crispies! Kelloggs plans to remove artificial colors and flavors from their cereals by 2018.
Schwann Foods plans to remove artificial and unhealthy ingredients from their offerings as well as high-fructose corn syrup by 2017.

Lowes and Home Depot have pledged to phase out neonicotinoid pesticide tainted garden plants, the chemical associated with the decline of bees and other pollinators. Home Depot reports it has removed neonicotinoid pesticides from 80% of their flowering plants, committed to a complete phase-out by 2018, Lowes being 2019. Pop Weaver and Pop Secret are phasing out neonicotinoid seed coatings. As a side note, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced their plans to ban neonicotinoid insecticide use in all wildlife refuges nationwide by January 2016 and the European Union already has a moratorium on all uses.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports 61 percent of the food Americans buy is highly processed. Removing some of the harmful chemicals is a step in the right direction, but fact remains a diet based on junk food, fast foods and processed food will always be lacking. Basic combinations of saturated fat, calories, sugar with minimal fiber is never healthy. Studies have shown 80% of the contents in processed foods come from just four ingredients – corn, wheat, soy, and meat. Industry is happy to fill our shelves with those ingredients as farm subsidies have made them inexpensive to produce. While removing harmful chemicals is certainly progress, eating whole foods and unprocessed foods will always remain the healthier option.

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National Parks Anniversary

I’m a big fan of March 1, 1872; that was the day the US Congress and President Ulysses S. Grant designated Yellowstone as our first National Park. This land was set aside “as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people” and placed under control by the Secretary of the Interior.  This one action led to a new world-wide trend, now more than 100 countries have set aside some 1200 national parks or preserves.  In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson created the National Park Service to protect 35 national parks and monuments.  In 1933 the National Park Service also assumed stewardship of 56 national monuments and military sites.  Now more than 84 million acres are protected, so much to enjoy!

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Precious Water

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http://www.islamforchristians.com/world-water-day-islamic-perspective/

If you live in the US, remember the wide-spread unrelenting drought of Summer 2012?  That summer, I recall one day they predicted a 90% chance of rain, and it still didn’t rain!  It’s a bit unsettling – 95% of the Scientists have confirmed we are experiencing Climate Change, so extreme weather patterns and droughts will likely become more common.  According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, year 2013 ended with 31% of the contiguous US experiencing moderate to extreme drought.  As droughts become more common, it’ll become more difficult to replenish our current water supplies and our soils become dryer.

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By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans, study says

The Washington Post –  January 20, 2016

There is a lot of plastic in the world’s oceans.

It coagulates into great floating “garbage patches” that cover large swaths of the Pacific. It washes up on urban beaches and remote islands, tossed about in the waves and transported across incredible distances before arriving, unwanted, back on land. It has wound up in the stomachs of more than half the world’s sea turtles and nearly all of its marine birds, studies say. And if it was bagged up and arranged across all of the world’s shorelines, we could build a veritable plastic barricade between ourselves and the sea.

But that quantity pales in comparison with the amount that the World Economic Forum expects will be floating into the oceans by the middle of the century.

If we keep producing (and failing to properly dispose of) plastics at predicted rates, plastics in the ocean will outweigh fish pound for pound in 2050, the nonprofit foundation said in a report Tuesday.

According to the report, worldwide use of plastic has increased 20-fold in the past 50 years, and it is expected to double again in the next 20 years. By 2050, we’ll be making more than three times as much plastic stuff as we did in 2014.

[Nearly all of the world’s seabirds have eaten plastic, study estimates]

Meanwhile, humans do a terrible job of making sure those products are reused or otherwise disposed of: About a third of all plastics produced escape collection systems, only to wind up floating in the sea or the stomach of some unsuspecting bird. That amounts to about 8 million metric tons a year — or, as Jenna Jambeck of the University of Georgia put it to The Washington Post in February, “Five bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world.”

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http://americablog.com/2013/02/1200-miles-from-civilization-the-albatross-of-midway-are-dying-from-eating-manmade-plastic-video.html

The report came a day before the start of the glitzy annual meeting arranged by the World Economic Forum to discuss the global economy. This year’s meeting in Davos, Switzerland, is centered on what the WEF terms “the fourth industrial revolution” — the boom in high-tech areas like robotics and biotechnology — and its effect on the widening gulf between the wealthy and the world’s poor.

But the plastic situation — fairly low-tech and more than a century old at this point — is a reminder that we still haven’t quite gotten the better of some of the problems left over from the first few “industrial revolutions.”

[‘Microbeads’ soon will be banned from toothpaste and soaps]

According to the report, more than 70 percent of the plastic we produce is either put in a landfill or lost to the world’s waterways and other infrastructure. Plastic production accounts for 6 percent of global oil consumption (a number that will hit 20 percent in 2050) and 1 percent of the global carbon budget (the maximum amount of emissions the world can produce to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius). In 2050, the report says, we’ll be spending 15 percent of our carbon budget on soda bottles, plastic grocery bags and the like.

Once it gets washed into waterways, the damage caused by plastics’ presence costs about $13 billion annually in losses for the tourism, shipping and fishing industries. It disrupts marine ecosystems and threatens food security for people who depend on subsistence fishing.

Besides which, all that plastic in the water isn’t too great for the animals trying to live there.

The data in the report comes from interviews with more than 180 experts and analysis of some 200 studies on “the plastic economy.”

The report was published on the same day that a study came out in the journal Nature Communications asserting that the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization is drastically underestimating the overfishing of the oceans. The study, from researchers Daniel Pauly and Dirk Zeller of the University of British Columbia’s Sea Around Us project, found that global catches between 1950 and 2010 were probably 50 percent higher than previously thought — meaning that damage to the world’s fish stocks was also much worse.

Overall, it was not a good news day for anyone with fins.

But both reports gave some signs for optimism. Pauly and Zeller told The Washington Post that the underestimation of how much humans were fishing means the U.N. also underestimated how much fish the oceans can provide.

“If we rebuild stocks, we can rebuild to more than we thought before,” Pauly said. “Basically, the oceans are more productive than we thought before.”

And the World Economic Forum report, though not quite so sunny, suggests that there are ways to offset all this plastic we’re making and discarding. Countries can implement incentives to collect waste and recycle it, use more efficient or reusable packaging and improve infrastructure so that less trash slips through the system and into the seas.

Sarah Kaplan is a reporter for Morning Mix.""