Friday, November 11, 2011

Processed "Natural" Foods, Truvia, and More - Notes from an Insider

As I sat down to write, I asked myself  "Blogging on food, again?  Really?"  I am not a nutritionist, a scientist, a chef or even a foodie.  I'm a yogi and I try to follow Hippocrates advice, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."  Sounds like a simple enough plan but it can be irritatingly difficult in Stuart, Florida.  Irritatingly difficult throughout the United States, in fact, unless you live near an enlightened farmer or are able to grow and prepare 100% of your own food.  Why?  Because if you purchase items in Publix, Winn-Dixie, Fresh Market, or even Whole Foods, the likelihood is high that a good portion of what you purchase is processed food.  And if you are purchasing non-organic processed food, you are not only eating a hodgepodge of chemicals with known adverse health effects, you are also eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

If you committed to a nutrient dense whole foods diet, that is, fresh picked, unprocessed fruits and vegetables, you could do all of your shopping at Farmer Johns on Appaloosa and skip the conventional supermarkets all together.  But we are all busy and there are some processed foods that make sense for some of us, such as dried pasta, bread, ketchup, cheese, cereals, etc.  (I know, I know. . . . we should probably cut that stuff out too!)   I try to buy organic but that isn't always possible; and for many people organic products are economically inaccessible.   So natural products are a good second choice, right?  Well, read the labels.

What do you find on the label of a "natural" food?  Can you understand the ingredient list?  I can't, not all the time.  I've often felt like I needed a scientist by my side in Publix to interpret the ingredients.  I don't know any scientists, so I try to research what I can before I shop.  But what about the manner of the food processing?  How was that done?  And what about GMOs?  I know I don't want to eat anything engineered by Big Farma, so how can I find out if a product contains GMOs?  So far, our government has decided corporate interests are more important than consumer health and that Big Food doesn't need to label products specifically as containing GMOS.  If you haven't looked into the dangers surrounding GMOs, a good place to start is HERE on Dr. Mercola's website.  

I am not sure why our government is in the dark on the dangers of GMOs.  European countries have been debating the safety of GMOs for at least a decade.  Recently, France and five other European Union countries (Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Greece) initiated a blanket ban on all GMOs.  That ban has been challenged under EU trade rules; in the meantime, there are only two GMO crops approved to be grown by EU farmers:  Monsanto's MON 810 corn and BASF's Amflora potato.  

The US permits a variety of GMO crops; and in fact, most corn, soybean, cotton and canola crops growing in the US  are genetically modified.  Many of these are modified so they can tolerate frequent and heavy dosing with the pesticide RoundUp. That pesticide ends up in our food, in our bodies, in our rivers and streams and in our animals and may be the cause of many adverse health events.  Some seeds are genetically modified so that a pesticide is created by the plant as it grows.   As we eat that plant, that pesticide-producing DNA gets into our bodies.  Little is known about the effects of this on the human body, especially long-term effects.   But there are a number of scientists who know about the dangers of GMOs and are urging our government to put restrictions on GMOS.  You can read about that HERE.   A professor emeritus at Purdue University, Don Huber, discovered a new virus that is linked to genetically modified (Roundup Ready) soybeans and corn.  It is causing crop failure and animal illnesses.  Mr. Huber wrote the following letter early this year to US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, to warn him about the pathogen:

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

A team of senior plant and animal scientists have recently brought to my attention the discovery of an electron microscopic pathogen that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings. Based on a review of the data, it is widespread, very serious, and is in much higher concentrations in Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans and corn-suggesting a link with the RR gene or more likely the presence of Roundup. This organism appears NEW to science!

 This is highly sensitive information that could result in a collapse of US soy and corn export markets and significant disruption of domestic food and feed supplies. On the other hand, this new organism may already be responsible for significant harm (see below). My colleagues and I are therefore moving our investigation forward with speed and discretion, and seek assistance from the USDA and other entities to identify the pathogen's source, prevalence, implications, and remedies.

We are informing the USDA of our findings at this early stage, specifically due to your pending decision regarding approval of RR alfalfa. Naturally, if either the RR gene or Roundup itself is a promoter or co-factor of this pathogen, then such approval could be a calamity. Based on the current evidence, the only reasonable action at this time would be to delay deregulation at least until sufficient data has exonerated the RR system, if it does. 

For the past 40 years, I have been a scientist in the professional and military agencies that evaluate and prepare for natural and manmade biological threats, including germ warfare and disease outbreaks. Based on this experience, I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high risk status. In layman's terms, it should be treated as an emergency.

A diverse set of researchers working on this problem have contributed various pieces of the puzzle, which together presents the following disturbing scenario:

Unique Physical Properties

This previously unknown organism is only visible under an electron microscope (36,000X), with an approximate size range equal to a medium size virus. It is able to reproduce and appears to be a micro-fungal-like organism. If so, it would be the first such micro-fungus ever identified. There is strong evidence that this infectious agent promotes diseases of both plants and mammals, which is very rare.

Pathogen Location and Concentration
It is found in high concentrations in Roundup Ready soybean meal and corn, distillers meal, fermentation feed products, pig stomach contents, and pig and cattle placentas.

Linked with Outbreaks of Plant Disease
The organism is prolific in plants infected with two pervasive diseases that are driving down yields and farmer income-sudden death syndrome (SDS) in soy, and Goss' wilt in corn. The pathogen is also found in the fungal causative agent of SDS (Fusarium solani fsp glycines).

Implicated in Animal Reproductive Failure
Laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of this organism in a wide variety of livestock that have experienced spontaneous abortions and infertility. Preliminary results from ongoing research have also been able to reproduce abortions in a clinical setting.

The pathogen may explain the escalating frequency of infertility and spontaneous abortions over the past few years in US cattle, dairy, swine, and horse operations. These include recent reports of infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20%, and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%.
 For example, 450 of 1,000 pregnant heifers fed wheatlege experienced spontaneous abortions. Over the same period, another 1,000 heifers from the same herd that were raised on hay had no abortions. High concentrations of the pathogen were confirmed on the wheatlege, which likely had been under weed management using glyphosate.

In summary, because of the high titer of this new animal pathogen in Roundup Ready crops, and its association with plant and animal diseases that are reaching epidemic proportions, we request USDA's participation in a multi-agency investigation, and an immediate moratorium on the deregulation of RR crops until the causal/predisposing relationship with glyphosate and/or RR plants can be ruled out as a threat to crop and animal production and human health.

It is urgent to examine whether the side-effects of glyphosate use may have facilitated the growth of this pathogen, or allowed it to cause greater harm to weakened plant and animal hosts. It is well-documented that glyphosate promotes soil pathogens and is already implicated with the increase of more than 40 plant diseases; it dismantles plant defenses by chelating vital nutrients; and it reduces the bioavailability of nutrients in feed, which in turn can cause animal disorders. To properly evaluate these factors, we request access to the relevant USDA data.

I have studied plant pathogens for more than 50 years. We are now seeing an unprecedented trend of increasing plant and animal diseases and disorders. This pathogen may be instrumental to understanding and solving this problem. It deserves immediate attention with significant resources to avoid a general collapse of our critical agricultural infrastructure.


COL (Ret.) Don M. Huber

Emeritus Professor, Purdue University
APS Coordinator, USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System (NPDRS)

 Think you can avoid the dangers of GMO crops by avoiding corn, soybeans and canola?  What about high-fructose corn syrup?  Read the labels on the foods in your pantry.  Unless you have a household ban on all processed foods, you will find high-fructose corn syrup in a myriad of products -- many of those products are specifically targeted to children.  High-fructose corn syrup is processed from GMO corn.  And it's in nearly everything, except organic foods.

How do we begin to negotiate the chemical jungle we find ourselves in every time we step into a Publix?   A processed food insider can be helpful.  Bruce Bradley has worked inside for Big Food, he knows all the schemes, lies and slick advertising tricks and is willing to share his wisdom with us.  Mr. Bradley holds a MBA from Duke University and spent fifteen years working for General Mills, Pillsbury, and Nabisco.  He left Big Food in 2008 and is committed to a healthier lifestyle that includes yoga and eating fresh organic fruits and vegetables grown on a local farm. 

How can Mr. Bradley help us?  He maintains a blog that you can visit by clicking HERE.  Notably, he has been blogging about the deception that is rampant in the "natural" foods industry.   Scary stuff.  Scary, because we really cannot know what we are buying when we buy foods that contain "natural flavoring" or "natural color".  Scary because if you are a vegetarian and you diligently study food labels you are likely still buying and consuming animal products.  Here are some examples quoted directly from Mr. Bradley's post on October 30, 2011:

    • Beaver Anal Glands: This bitter, very smelly, orange-brown substance is also known as castoreum. In nature it’s combined with the beaver’s urine and used to mark its territory. In the processed food world it’s commonly used in both food and beverages, typically as vanilla or raspberry flavoring. Watch out though, you won’t find it on the ingredient list since processed food manufacturers can legally call it “natural flavoring.”
    • Cow’s Stomach: Known as rennet and derived from the mucosa of veal calves’ fourth stomach, this ingredient is frequently used in the production of cheese to curdle the milk. Often listed simply as “enzymes” on an ingredient panel, it can be very hard to know exactly what you’re eating when you buy cheese.
    • Hair and / or feathers: Called L-cysteine or cystine by the processed food world, this non-essential amino acid is made from human hair or duck feathers and is used as a dough conditioner to improve the texture of breads and baked goods. Again, since cystine comes from natural sources, you can eat “natural” and still have hair in your food.
    • Beetle Juice: No, I’m not talking about the 1988 movie starring Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis. This beetle juice is used in our food and is often called shellac, resinous glaze, or confectioner’s glaze on ingredient labels. Made from the secretions of the female lac bug, this substance is scraped from trees and branches then processed to be used on some of your favorite shiny candies and sprinkles.
    • Crushed bugs: Known as Carmine, Crimson Lake, Cochineal, or Natural Red #4 on ingredient labels, this red food coloring additive is made from insects like the cochineal beetle. Frequently used in yogurts and beverages to give them a ruby-red color, a cochineal beetle can be a tough to spot on ingredient labels since it can be listed as a natural color.
To read the complete post containing this quoted passage, click HERE

If you are a vegetarian, you should be disturbed.  But what about allergies?  I know many parents who struggle daily with their children's food allergies.  How can anyone reasonably pinpoint the source of a food allergy if ingredient lists can be so easily and legally manipulated to conceal the true source of many substances?   I google "natural red #4" and I'm at Wikipedia's entry for "carmine." (Click HERE to join me).  In addition to learning that natural red # 4 is created by boiling dried insects in ammonia and then adding aluminum, stannous chloride, borax or gelatin, I learn that it has been known to cause severe allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock in some people.  Although concerns about severe allergic reactions have been brought to the attention of the FDA, it has declined to ban it citing "no significant hazard" is presented by natural red #4/carmine.  At least one public interest group has urged the FDA to mandate accurate labeling of carmine, but food industries are opposed to labeling carmine "insect based".  Somehow, all I can think of is "fraud."

Fraud brings me to another post of Mr. Bradley's.  If you have been trying to steer clear of artificial sweeteners you may have heard that stevia is a natural low-calorie sweetener.  Stevia is an herb with sweet leaves that yield an extract that is 300 times sweeter than sugar but does not affect blood glucose levels like sugar does. It has been used for over 1500 years in South American countries as a sweetener and for medicinal purposes.  (Read the Wikipedia entry on stevia HERE). 

Not surprisingly, the United States banned stevia in the early 1990s unless labeled as a dietary supplement.  Hmm, I wonder if the involvement of Monsanto, Donald Rumsfield and Alan Greenspan in the sale and purchase of aspartame and Nutra-Sweet around 1985 had anything to do with the US ban of stevia in the 1990s?  Gotta wonder. . .but back to stevia.  You can buy stevia extract, as a dietary supplement, and use it to sweeten foods.   If you hadn't heard about stevia before, you probably have now in the Big Food form of "Truvia" and its media blitz touting Truvia as "honestly sweet".   

Truvia is marketed by its developers, Cargill (with help from Coca-Cola), as a natural sweetener that comes directly from nature.  The Truvia website claims it is "[t]he first great-tasting, zero-calorie natural sweetener that's a miracle of nature, not chemistry."   The Truvia label not only claims that Truvia is natural, it claims Truvia is created from a natural process:   "Rebiana comes from the sweet leaf of the stevia plant, native to South America.  Dried leaves are steeped in water, similar to making tea.  This unlocks the best tasting part of the leaf which is then  purified to provide a calorie-free sweet taste."   Hmmm, sounds pretty natural, right? 

As Bruce Bradley explains in his post about Truvia, the substance is anything but natural and the process is not much like making tea.  He explains:

"Truvia has three ingredients:  erythritol, rebiana, and natural flavors.  Rebiana is made from the stevia leaf by soaking it in water.  Although Cargill whitewashes the process as similar to making tea, the truth is revealed in Coca-Cola’s patent where it outlines a 40+ step process that includes the use of acetone, methanol, ethanol, acetonitrile, and isopropanol. . . . Cargill manufactures Truvia’s erythritol by chemically converting genetically modified corn into a food grade starch which it ferments to create glucose and then processes further to create erythritol.. . .Cargill uses “natural flavors” to round out the taste of Truvia. The processed food industry’s dirty little secret about “natural flavors” is . . . food companies manufacture many “natural flavors” since the only legal requirement is that they are chemically equivalent to a natural flavor.  So get back out the test tubes, beakers, and distilling equipment."

I expect advertising hyperbole from companies bringing a product to market. But to claim that Truvia is "a miracle of nature, not chemistry" when Cargill knows it is using toxic chemical substances like acetone, methanol, and acetonitrile in a 40 step laboratory process sounds more like fraud to me.  To claim that Truvia is a "miracle of nature, not chemistry" when one of its three ingredients begins as genetically modified corn is mind-boggling. Genetically engineered "food" is not a miracle of nature, it is the curse of chemistry. 

Check out Bruce Bradley's blog.  He has posts discussing deception by Nature Valley here and Sun Chips here

We are collectively beginning to wake up to the dangers of our current conventional food supply and changing our food buying habits.  When organic is unavailable or unaffordable, "natural" products may seem like a good alternative.  In some cases they may be if they are produced by an ethical company.  But when Big Food gets involved -- watch out.  Truvia is just one example of an alleged "natural" product that is far removed from nature.  Don't count on the FDA to get involved.  Its regulations favor corporate interests, not consumer health.

In the end, it is up to each one of us individually to become more aware and to act in accordance with our ever-expanding consciousness.  The mantle of individual responsibility cannot be sold to another (and cannot be carried by our government) but neither can the wisdom gained be taken from us once we awaken to the truth.  The truth about processed foods, including many "natural" foods, is they are not labeled to provide accurate information to consumers; they are labeled in such a way as to promote their sale and consumption - profits over people.  Do your research.  Read Bruce Bradley's blog (click here), check Wikipedia, develop viveka, discriminative discernment, by practicing the eight limbs of yoga.  Cultivate mindful meal planning.  Recognize that we must be hunters and gatherers, even in the year 2011, hunting around town for nutrient dense whole foods and gathering only what fresh fruits and vegetables (and raw goat's milk) we can eat for 2-3 days.

And share what you find!  Share your new wisdom freely with others and share your healthy food finds!

1 comment:

  1. Yes you're right about high fructose corn syrup. That's what I think about high fructose corn syrup. It is made from corn and I think, they used GMO corns that's why it is cheaper. The only way to avoid fructose is to stop buying processed foods. Most foods, sodas and fruits juices are using it. That's why we need to avoid those products.