June 23rd, 2010 - Scott Shaffer
Summer! Time for road trips and family vacations. But if you’re anything like me, it’s the time of the year that you feel the pull of fast-food restaurants. After all, they’re cheap, convenient, and filling, right?
Wrong. You might have heard that some McDonald’s toys were contaminated with cadmium, and Subway’s recent salmonella outbreak sickened at least 97 people. To me, dealing with food poisoning doesn’t seem cheap or convenient. As for filling, take a look at the Big Mac’s nutritional information and tell me if that’s what you want filling you or your family.
But don’t despair! There’s an easy and inexpensive solution: pack your own meals. It’s better for your body, your wallet, and the planet. If you do it right, it can be tastier, too! I’ve taken the initiative to compile some of our top recipes for road-trip-ready food.
- Grass-fed beef sandwiches with caramelized onions, horseradish cream, and arugula
- Simple organic egg salad
- Florida flounder sandwich with lime and sweet onion tartar sauce
- Easy organic coleslaw with dried cranberries
- Easy lentil salad with radicchio and veggies
- Spicy mango Asian salad
Enjoy your meals and your journey, and wave good-bye to fast food!
Read More:6 Easy, Healthy Recipes to Make for the Summer Road Trip
June 4th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
McDonald’s has voluntarily recalled approximately 12 million Shrek Forever After collectible glasses (above)—sold since May 21 at the chain’s U.S. restaurants—because they contain high levels of cadmium.
The premium incentive (aka McBribery) was designed to accompany the Shrek Happy Meal promotion (right), which launched last month as a tie-in with the new Shrek 3D movie.
You can thank California Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) for bringing the issue to light. She had been informed last week by anonymous sources that high levels of cadmium had been detected in the glassware, and she alerted the chair of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The commission tested the glasses and confirmed they contained cadmium.
All four designs—Puss ’n’ Boots, Shrek, Princess Fiona and Donkey—are affected by the recall. Refunds will be available beginning Tuesday. Consumers with questions may also call McDonald’s at (800) 244-6227.
“Although McDonald’s did the right thing by recalling these products, we need stronger testing standards to ensure that all children’s products are proven safe before they hit the shelves,” Speier says. “Cadmium is a toxic substance that is extremely dangerous to the developmental health of children.”
Photos (top to bottom): Consumer Product Safety Commission, McDonald’s
Read More:How About Some Cadmium with Your Happy Meal?
June 3rd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Health and life insurance companies are supposed to be concerned about keeping people healthy and lowering healthcare costs.
Why, then, are they major investors in the fast food industry—to the tune of nearly $2 billion?
Researchers at Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School found that major U.S., Canadian and European-based insurance firms hold at least $1.88 billion of investments in fast food companies.
Prudential Financial, Northwestern Mutual, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company and ING are among the largest investors, with holdings in companies like McDonald’s, Burger King, Jack in the Box and Yum! Brands (Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell).
“Our data illustrate the extent to which the insurance industry seeks to turn a profit above all else,” says J. Wesley Boyd, MD, PhD, the study’s senior author and an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Safeguarding people’s health and well-being take a backseat to making money.
“Our research highlights the tension between profit maximization and the public good faced by countries in expanding the role of private health insurers,” Dr. Boyd adds. “If insurers are to play a greater part in the healthcare delivery system, they ought to be held to a higher standard of corporate responsibility.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Food Fight: The Inside Story of the Food Industry, America’s Obesity Crisis and What We Can Do About It
Read More:Health Insurers Invest Billions in Fast Food Companies
November 2nd, 2009 - Laura Klein
About a third of our nation’s adults are obese, which translates to escalated risks for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Many of our nation’s neighborhoods simply don’t have access to supermarkets, let alone fresh organic fruits and veggies. Chips, soda and other packaged, chemical-filled, unhealthy ‘convenience foods’ are cheap and readily available at the corner store…a far cry from the nourishment our body naturally craves, and a key contributor to the obesity epidemic.
The term for geographic food inequity is ‘food desert,’ and it’s defined as a district with little or no access to foods needed to maintain a healthy diet…but often served by plenty of fast food restaurants. It was coined by Mari Gallagher, a researcher who has delved deep into the topic and found that food deserts exist in every type of community across the U.S — urban, rural and suburban.
I was moved by a profile on Chicago-based Graffiti and Grub and its founder, La Donna Redmond, on CNN last week. Her community garden and store focuses on supplying several low-income Chicago communities with sustainable, organic and locally-grown food. This quote says it all…
“You could find drugs in my community, you could find a gun in my community, but you couldn’t find a tomato.”
One of the critical areas of good eating habits is education – ideally from an early age as so brilliantly executed in Alice Waters’ inspirational Edible Schoolyard project. In a similar vein, Graffiti and Grub is focused on ‘providing the hip hop generation with the tools needed for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.’
Kudos to those hard-working advocates committed to changing the food desert into an organic food oasis.
Are you familiar with ‘food deserts’? I’m curious to know whether there is awareness of this issue. Let me know!
Read More:Fighting the Food Desert
September 13th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
There are many reasons to avoid eating a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich.
We can start with taste.
Next comes nutrition: The fried, soggy mess has 380 calories, 45% of which come from fat. The sandwich also delivers 640 mg sodium. That’s virtually on par with a Quarter Pounder, which has 410 calories (42% from fat) and 730 mg sodium.
Now, there’s another reason to Filet-O-flee: ecosystem damage.
While McDonald’s claims to use sustainable fish, the fast-food titan is drawing fire from environmental groups.
Instead of buying the expected Pacific cod or Alaskan pollock (both eco-friendly choices), much of the chain’s fish is New Zealand hoki, whose sustainability is being questioned.
As New York Times reporter William J. Broad reveals in From Deep Pacific, Ugly and Tasty, with a Catch:
Without formally acknowledging that hoki are being overfished, New Zealand has slashed the allowable catch in steps, from about 275,000 tons in 2000 and 2001 to about 100,000 tons in 2007 and 2008—a decline of nearly two-thirds.
Peter Trott, fisheries program manager for Australia’s World Wildlife Fund, told Broad that his group has “major concerns” about hoki. Click here to read the full story.
And here’s an idea: Avoid fast-food fish by making an eco-friendly choice and grilling or baking it to perfection. We can suggest the following recipes from our organic blog:
- Fish Sticks in a Flash
- Gremolata-Crusted Fish Fillets
- Graham-Crusted Fish Fillets
- Catfish with Peanut-Coconut Crust
- Moroccan Sauce for Fish/Seafood
- Madras Curry Dip for Fish/Seafood
- Creole Mustard Dip for Fish/Seafood
- Grilled Catfish Tacos with Citrus Slaw
Read More:Hoki Pokey
June 23rd, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
In July 2006, I wrote a post called A Mountain of Meat and Cheese, which covered Burger King’s introduction of Double, Triple and Quad Stackers. That last sandwich consisted of four burgers, four pieces of cheese and eight pieces of bacon on a flaccid bun, weighing in at a hefty 1,000 calories, 68 g fat and 1,800 mg sodium.
The post garnered more controversy than I expected. Some readers thought I was a dietary stick-in-the-mud:
“Had a quad yesterday and a triple today,” noted Rick, apparently not referring to bypass surgery. “Outstanding, exactly what I like.”
“I don’t care,” wrote James. “It’s so good. Really good. I’ll eat a salad for dinner. Actually, I’ll just eat more of these.”
I’m not sure how James’s and Rick’s cholesterol levels are doing, but these readers are certainly entitled to shovel Death Wish Burgers into their mouths. (FYI, dudes: You’re reading an online magazine dedicated to organic living. How did you even find us?)
But besides voicing my horror at super-sizing an already super-sized menu, I had another point:
Of course, Burger King is enticing kids to order this “produce-free” behemoth through a series of TV ads featuring a crew of miniature construction workers that “diligently stacks meat, cheese, bacon and BK Stacker Sauce.”
If that’s not enough, “2.5″ collectible figurines of some of the most memorable characters from the BK Stackers television ads can be purchased online…Fans can purchase a set of three figurines, including Vin the Foreman, the Kid and the Cheese Welder.”
For parents who promote organic living and healthy eating, this is yet another example of how fast-food companies and advertising agencies pander to kids without any regard for their health. It’s irresponsible at a time when childhood obesity is epidemic.
Flash-forward 3 years and little has changed. McDonald’s, inventor of the Happy Meal/free toy marketing juggernaut, is currently promoting kids’ meals with plastic dinosaurs from the new Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs film.
“We’re committed to bringing the biggest and most exciting properties to life for our customers, and offering them the high-quality food they love,” says Mary Dillon, McDonald’s global chief marketing officer. “The McDonald’s Ice Age Happy Meal event will feature movie characters on a variety of Happy Meal food choices worldwide, such as Apple Dippers and low-fat white and chocolate milk jugs in the U.S., to reach kids in a fun and responsible way.”
And according to a McDonald’s press release, “Select restaurants in the U.K. will host family scavenger hunts, taking kids on an underground adventure to help the movie characters retrieve lost items, and will offer in-store giveaways such as character masks and balloons.”
I’m assuming a Quarter Pounder and fries will figure into the McFun.
Here’s the problem: Not every parent insists on Apple Dippers over French fries or low-fat milk over sugary sodas. That’s a parenting choice—and often a dismal one.
In the long run, continuing to use toys to promote Happy Meals amounts to McBribery, something Ronald McDonald shouldn’t be celebrating.
For further information, please check out these stories from our blog archives:
- Fast-Food Frenzy
- Let the Holidays Jumpstart New Meal Traditions
- Young Children’s Taste Preferences May Be Influenced by Fast-Food Branding
- Companies Pledge to Change Food Ads Targeted to Children
- Food Advertising Ban: A Good Start
- Advocacy Group Says Nickelodeon Should Ditch Junk Food Ads
- You Can Lead a Horse to Water…
- California Becomes First State to Ban Trans Fats
Photo courtesy of McDonald’s
Read More:McBribery Pisses Me Off
March 19th, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
Studies show minorities in America eat way too much junk food, resulting in higher rates of diabetes and heart disease, but yet many McDonald’s commercials seemed aimed to inner city youth.
Where’s the social responsibility? What about compassion for the consumer? Clearly profits win out.
Agribusiness is no different. The market for organic foods is growing. So big corporations like Monsanto rig the game, influencing food regulations and making it impossible for small independent farmers to operate:
And how will those who contaminate our country’s food with pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and more, do that? Why, by setting standards for “food safety” that are so grotesquely and inappropriately and even cruelly applied to a local, independent farmers and ranchers that there is no way they can manage. Imagine your being faced with a 100 page IRS form and facing a million dollar a day penalty for screwing up. That would be in the ball park of the impossible complexity mixed with threat facing our farmers. Imagine having the government and corporations deciding every single thing you can do and must do in your kitchen and backing that up with the threat of 10 years in prison for screwing up – though you have never made anyone sick, and those corporations have. Imagine being surveilled 24 hours a day by GPS tracking devices that feed into…a corporate data bank, one they have now moved out of the country so no one here can have legal access to see what is in it.
Imagine the devil himself – or a whole boardrooms of them, dressed in suits – defining the only safe and healthy food in this country as dangerous and burdening hard working farmers with more work then anyone could bear, while his own, their own, food is so dangerous at this point that in the last 10 years alone, diabetes has gone up 90%.
And how did they get this far with such a scheme to apply insane industrial standards to every farm in the country? Through fear of diseases and of outbreaks of food borne illnesses, both of which they cause themselves.
Read More:Big Agribusiness Dictating U.S. Food Safety
December 5th, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
E. coli is back in the news this week, as 22 people have become ill (two seriously) in an outbreak tied to three Taco Bell restaurants in New Jersey.
Fourteen cases in Long Island, NY, have also been reported, according to the Associated Press, and authorities are trying to determine whether the two outbreaks are related. Ten of the New York victims had eaten at the fast-food chain, AP reports.
Food safety has been on the media’s back burner since Nov. 15, when Robert E. Brackett, PhD, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, testified before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions about the recent E. coli outbreak linked to fresh spinach. While he assured senators that “ensuring the safety of the food supply continues to be a top priority for FDA and the administration,” it remains clear that the agency doesn’t have the manpower or resources to conduct adequate inspections.
“In view of this recent E. coli O157:H7 outbreak, and after discussions with industry, FDA and the State of California advised the industry to develop a plan to minimize the risk of another outbreak in all leafy greens, including lettuce,” Dr. Brackett testified. “Once we have completed our current investigation, FDA will hold a public meeting to address the larger issue of foodborne illness linked to leafy greens.
“We will also be examining whether improvements in the following four areas could help prevent or contain future outbreaks: 1) strategies to prevent contamination; 2) ways to minimize the health impact after an occurrence; 3) ways to improve communication; and 4) specific research. We also will be holding a series of meetings with industry groups to discuss ways to improve the safety of fresh produce. As part of our evaluation, we will consider whether additional guidance and/or additional regulations are necessary.”
This, unfortunately, is merely a start. Advising industry to “develop a plan to minimize the risk of another outbreak” lacks regulatory teeth. We deserve more. Consumers of organic and conventionally grown produce should press the new Congress for greater oversight of our food supply.
Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of this series.
Read More:Food Safety Update (Part 1)
November 8th, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
As reported yesterday, the New York City Board of Health is considering a citywide ban on the sale of restaurant food made with trans fats.
The proposal would bar cooks at the city’s 24,600 foodservice establishments from using ingredients that contain the artery-clogging substance, commonly listed on food labels as partially hydrogenated oil.
Needless to say, the restaurant industry isn’t pleased with the idea, contending that it would ban a legal ingredient found in millions of American kitchens. But many experts believe this is great news for those committed to organic living and eating well, not to mention the public at large.
“Trans fat is found in foods such as vegetable shortening, margarine, pie crusts and kosher baked products labeled ‘pareve.’ It is used because it imparts the flaky texture that is desirable in many baked goods and is often used for deep frying because it is shelf-stable without needing refrigeration,” explains dietitian Andrea Boyar, PhD, chair of the Department of Health Sciences at Lehman College in Bronx, NY. “But the problem with trans fat is that it raises LDL, or bad cholesterol, and lowers HDL, or good cholesterol. It is also considered to be a pro-inflammatory molecule that can raise the risk of heart disease. So, as a nutritionist, I feel this is a bold, forward-thinking prohibition that will benefit the millions of New York City restaurant patrons.”
Others, however, fear the ban could lead to worse alternatives.
“We need to educate the public about these fats and make sure that a label is placed on all foods that contain any amount of trans fats,” says Mary Ellen Renna, MD, founder and president of Next Generation Fitness. “[But] have we banned the use of tobacco? Have we stopped making soda? We are aware of the problems that come with consuming these foods or smoking. If we completely ban the use of these fats, chances are some chemically altered new product will replace it, and it will take years before we identify the harmful effect it has on humans. For now, we know the enemy, so we know how to avoid it—just make sure all products label trans fats as they would if they contained peanuts in this highly peanut-allergy world.”
Let us know what you think.
The War on Trans Fats (Part 1)
New Nutrition Labels Highlight Trans Fat
Fat Tips for Heart Health
Read More:The War on Trans Fats (Part 2)