Monday, April 29, 2013 by: PF Louis
Monday, April 29, 2013 by: PF Louis
By Heather White, Executive Director at Environmental Working Group, a national environmental health and consumer advocacy organization 64 Sun 03/31/2013
Milk is milk – but it won’t be if the conventional dairy industry gets its way.
Four years ago, the International Dairy Foods Association and National Milk Producers Federation, which lobby on behalf of the industry, petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to change the official definition – the so-called “standard of identity” – of milk. And not just milk. In all, the industry wants to change the definition of 18 dairy products, including yogurt, sour cream and half and half, to allow it to add artificial sweeteners – without including any prominent label for consumers. Read the proposed petition.
The FDA announced in February that it is seeking public comment on the proposal, and that has sparked a national uproar over what’s allowed in our food.
The industry already adds a lot of sweet stuff to its flavored milk and other products. But if they add artificial sweeteners such as aspartame to replace the added sugar, they have to add a label on the front that includes a qualifier such as “reduced calorie” or “low calorie.” They can’t call the artificially sweetened product “milk” without one.
Industry marketers don’t want to have to put the label on the front of the package that signals that the dairy product could contain these controversial sweeteners.
Their stated reasoning? To fight childhood obesity. The industry argues that if it could get the okay to add artificial sweeteners into milk without a label on the front, kids would choose more milk drinks.
The conventional dairy industry doesn’t want the “reduced calorie” label on the front of the package, arguing that it distracts parents from milk’s nutritional value and turns kids off from buying flavored milk. The industry wants to change FDA regulations so that these controversial sweeteners would be listed only on the ingredients panel on the back of the carton, with no highly visible labeling such as “low calorie” on the front.
These clear front-of-package labels are important to parents because artificial sweeteners in kids’ drinks are a hot button issue for many families. If the milk industry gets its way, it will be harder for parents to know what they are giving to their kids. It’s true that we want kids to drink less sugary drinks, but we don’t want them to have more processed, unnatural ingredients in their diets. Surely there are better ways to get young people to make healthier choices without allowing the industry to get away with this sneaky legal gimmick to change the official definition of milk.
Although aspartame has been deemed safe after an independent review by FDA, it remains controversial. Questions of cancer or neurological problems have swirled around it for decades. Some pregnant women are advised to avoid it. And since some other non-nutritive sweeteners such as sucralose actually taste sweeter than sugar, some health professionals worry that adding it to milk drinks could lead kids to have stronger cravings for sweet products.
The controversy has highlighted the larger problem that consumers are largely in the dark when it comes to additives in food. Although FDA considers most of the sweeteners that would be added to milk to be “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS, and some of these sweeteners have been independently reviewed, FDA’s overall framework for regulating the safety of food additives needs serious improvement.
The shocking truth is that the FDA has never independently reviewed the safety of the vast majority of the nearly 10,000 chemicals – both natural and synthetic – that can legally be added to food or packaging to enhance flavor and appearance, create certain food texture, or delay spoilage. About a third of the 10,000 have been reviewed by an industry-funded panel; most of the rest have been “self-affirmed” as safe by manufacturers. The reality is that most consumers are flying blind when it comes to what’s in processed foods. We need real changes to the law on how we regulate food additives, not on how we legally define milk.
No matter your position on the use of artificial sweeteners in foods and drinks marketed to children, we can all agree that consumers need more information about the food we eat, not less.
Call the FDA at (240) 402-2371 and tell it not to grant this industry request. The deadline for public comments is May 21, 2013. Make your voice heard by joining the petition to keep hidden artificial sweeteners out of dairy products.
Here are some tips for busy parents from the Environmental Working Group:
Jonny Bowden, 07.07.09
What is the best diet for human beings?
Vegetarian? Vegan? High-protein? Low-fat? Dairy-Free?
Hold on to your shopping carts: There is no perfect diet for human beings. At least not one that’s based on how much protein, fat or carbohydrates you eat.
People have lived and thrived on high-protein, high-fat diets (the Inuit of Greenland); on low-protein, high-carb diets (the indigenous peoples of southern Africa); on diets high in raw milk and cream (the people of the Loetschental Valley in Switzerland); diets high in saturated fat (the Trobriand Islanders) and even on diets in which animal blood is considered a staple (the Massai of Kenya and Tanzania). And folks have thrived on these diets without the ravages of degenerative diseases that are so epidemic in modern life–heart disease, diabetes, obesity, neurodegenerative diseases, osteoporosis and cancer.
The only thing these diets have in common is that they’re all based on whole foods with minimum processing. Nuts, berries,beans, raw milk, grass-fed meat. Whole, real, unprocessed food is almost always healthy, regardless of how many grams of carbs, protein or fat it contains.
All these healthy diets have in common the fact that they are absent foods with bar codes. They are also extremely low in sugar. In fact, the number of modern or ancient societies known for health and longevity that have consumed a diet high in sugar would be … let’s see … zero.
Truth be told, what you eat probably matters less than how much processing it’s undergone. Real food–whole food with minimal processing–contains a virtual pharmacy of nutrients, phytochemicals, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and healthful fats, and can easily keep you alive and thriving into your 10th decade.
Berries, for example, are phenomenally low in calories, high in fiber and loaded with plant compounds that improve memory and help fight cancer. Studies have consistently shown that nut-eaters have lower rates of heart disease. Beans are notorious for their high fiber content and are a part of the diet of people–from almost every corner of the globe–who live long and well.
Protein–the word comes from a Greek word meaning “of prime importance”–is a feature of every healthy diet ever studied. Meat , contrary to its terrible reputation, can be a health food if–and this is a big if–the meat comes from animals that have been raised on pasture land, have never seen the inside of a feedlot farm and have never been shot full of antibiotics and hormones.
Ditto for raw milk, generally believed to be one of the healthiest beverages on the planet by countless devotees who often go to great expense and inconvenience to obtain it from small, sustainable farms. Wild salmon, whose omega-3 content is consistently higher than its less-fortunate farm-raised brethren, gets its red color from a powerful antioxidant called astaxathin. The combination of protein, omega-3s and antioxidants makes wild salmon a contender for anyone’s list of great foods.
Another great food: eggs–one of nature’s most perfect creations, especially if you don’t throw out the all-important yolk. (Remember “whole” foods means exactly that–foods in their original form. Our robust ancestors did not eat “low-fat” caribou; we don’t need to eat “egg-white” omelets.)
There are really no “bad” vegetables, but some of them are superstars. Any vegetable from the Brassica genus–broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale–is loaded with plant chemicals called indoles, which help reduce the risk of cancer.
In the fruit kingdom, apples totally deserve their reputation as doctor-repellants: they’re loaded with fiber, minerals (like bone-building boron) and phytochemicals (like quercetin, which is known to be a powerful anti-inflammatory and to have anti-cancer properties). Some exciting new research suggests that pomegranate juice slows the progression of certain cancers. Other research shows it lowers blood pressure and may even act as a “natural Viagra.”
Tea deserves special mention on any list of the world’s healthiest foods. The second most widely consumed beverage in the world (after water), all forms of tea (black, oolong, white, green and the newer Yerba Matte) are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Some types (green tea, for example) contain plant chemicals called catechins which have decided anti-cancer activity
Finally, let’s not forget members of the Alliaceae family of plants–onions, garlic and shallots. Garlic has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal properties; hundreds of published studies support its antimicrobial effects as well as its ability to lower the risk of heart disease. A number of studies have shown an inverse relationship between onion consumption and certain types of cancer.
A healthy diet doesn’t have to contain every one of the “healthiest foods on earth,” but you can’t go wrong putting as many of the above mentioned foods in heavy rotation on your personal eating plan.
Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS, is a board-certified nutritionist and the author of seven books on health and nutrition, includingThe 150 Most Effective Ways to Boost Your Energy and The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth.
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