December 15th, 2011 - Erin Shaw
The British Journal of Cancer recently published a review that links cancer rates in the UK to various lifestyle and environmental factors including diet, exposure to hormones and radiation, and tobacco and alcohol use, among others. While the reviewing doctors emphasize that lifestyle choices aren’t the only determining factor in cancer risk, it’s hard to ignore the indications of personal choice. Lead author of the review, Prof. Max Parkin, points out that cancer is not strictly in the genes, and that “over 40% of all cancers are caused by things we mostly have the power to change.”
Read More:40% of All Cancers Are Caused by Things We Have the Power to Change, New Study Finds
January 13th, 2011 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
Go to the supermarket and start pulling products off the shelves and you’ll see everything has nutrition labels, even water! And now, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says starting in 2010, nutrition labels will be mandatory on many popular cuts of meat and poultry too.
Read More:Meat & Poultry to Get Nutrition Labels by 2012
August 8th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Modesto, Calif.-based Valley Meat Co. is recalling approximately 1 million pounds of frozen ground beef patties and bulk ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli.
This is a U.S. Department of Agriculture Class 1 recall, which indicates “a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.”
Affected products are listed here. At press time, seven individuals have become ill.
As I reported in October, eating ground beef is still considered a “gamble.”
Read More:New Recall: 1 Million Pounds of Ground Beef
June 29th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a draft guidance on limiting the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals.
By definition, organic meat and poultry are free of antibiotics, pesticides and hormones.
The agency wants to ensure animals remain healthy, while decreasing human and animal resistance to these drugs—a growing public health hazard.
Not surprisingly, meat industry representatives are unhappy with the recommendation. The National Pork Producers Council argues it will be “overly burdensome,” while claiming there’s no connection between nonorganic meat consumption and antibiotic resistance. (Try again, guys…)
The FDA is inviting public comments on the draft guidance, so seize the opportunity to voice your concerns.
Photo: Scott Bauer/USDA
Read More:FDA Advises Livestock Producers to Limit Antibiotic Use
June 14th, 2010 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
It stinks to admit it, but most times organic foods are more expensive than the regular stuff; sometimes organic farmers markets are cheaper or about the same.
So how do you go organic on a budget, especially in this miserable United States economy? Easy, you kidnap a genie and make a wish!
No, it’s easier than that. RedPlum, a promotional company that helps sell various food products, from health foods to not-so health foods, has 10 tips for going organic on the cheap.
Guess what number one is? Shopping at a farmers market. Ha! See, I told you. Then again, organic or not, shopping at a farmers market is the best idea. Its less expensive and the produce is a lot fresher and higher quality.
Another tip I really liked is going vegetarian for a couple days each week. I’m a vegetarian and not only is it healthier for you, but fruits and vegetables are a lot cheaper than filet mignon and pork tenderloin.
RedPlum also suggests clipping coupons. No, coupons aren’t just for little old ladies anymore. In this tough economy, if a supermarket is willing to play let’s make a deal, go for it! Then again, I’m a hypocrite; using coupons feels weird to me.
For the complete list of organic tips, head over to RedPlum – do it, do it now!
Here’s some more posts on going organic on a budget:
Image credit: Boston.com
Read More:How to Be Organic On a Budget
May 30th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Americans consume 20 billion hot dogs each year, but most of us are poorly versed in wiener lingo.
Mainstream and organic hot dogs contain the typical meats you’d find in the butcher case: pork, beef, turkey, chicken or a combination of these proteins.
Nonorganic hot dogs made from “variety meats” may contain liver, kidneys and hearts, but they must be labeled accordingly (i.e., contains “meat byproducts”).
Mechanically Separated Meats
Avoid eating frankfurters made from mechanically separated meats (MSM)—a process that creates a batter-like substance when bones with some meat tissue are forced through a machine, which extracts the meat from the bone.
Companies have been prohibited from making beef hot dogs with MSM since 1994, as they have been linked to mad cow disease in the past.
While mechanically separated pork is permitted, it must be listed in the ingredients statement. By law, hot dogs can contain no more than 20% mechanically separated pork.
In 1995, the feds ruled that mechanically separated poultry (MSP) was safe, but hot dog labels must list “mechanically separated chicken or turkey” in the ingredients statement. Poultry hot dogs may contain any amount of mechanically separated chicken or turkey.
Preservative & Health Issues
Nonorganic hot dogs contain curing agents, chemical enhancers and preservatives like MSG and sodium nitrite (or sodium nitrate), which manufacturers use to maintain freshness, coloring and flavoring.
In numerous studies, these preservatives have been associated with a higher risk for cancer. One recent study also linked hot dogs and other processed meats to a higher incidence of heart disease and diabetes.
Franks are high in fat, so if you’re going to eat them, do so sparingly (holidays and special occasions). Be sure to go organic or vegan to reduce your exposure to chemicals and preservatives. Add your favorite organic condiments or a special topping like Whipped Black-Eyed Pea Spread, Southern Roadhouse Barbecue Topping or Cracked Pepper Topping.
Read More:What’s in That Hot Dog?
May 19th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have found that eating processed red meat—bacon, sausage or processed deli meats—was associated with a 42% higher risk of heart disease and 19% higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
The researchers did not find a higher risk of heart disease or diabetes among individuals who ate unprocessed red meat: beef, pork, or lamb.
“Although most dietary guidelines recommend reducing meat consumption, prior individual studies have shown mixed results for relationships between meat consumption and cardiovascular diseases and diabetes,” says Epidemiology Fellow Renata Micha, whose research was published Monday in the online edition of Circulation. “Most prior studies also did not separately consider the health effects of eating unprocessed red versus processed meats.”
The researchers defined unprocessed red meat as any unprocessed beef, lamb or pork; poultry was excluded. Processed meat was defined as any meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or with the addition of chemical preservatives. Examples include bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs or processed deli/luncheon meats. Vegetable or seafood protein sources were not evaluated.
The results showed that, on average, each 50-g (1.8-oz.) daily serving of processed meat (about 1–2 slices of deli meats or 1 hot dog) was associated with a 42% higher risk of developing heart disease and a 19% higher risk of developing diabetes.
“When we looked at average nutrients in unprocessed red and processed meats eaten in the United States, we found that they contained similar average amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol,” Micha says. “In contrast, processed meats contained, on average, 4 times more sodium and 50% more nitrate preservatives. This suggests that differences in salt and preservatives, rather than fats, might explain the higher risk of heart disease and diabetes seen with processed meats, but not with unprocessed red meats.”
Dietary sodium (salt) is known to increase blood pressure—a strong risk factor for heart disease. In animal experiments, nitrate preservatives can promote atherosclerosis and reduce glucose tolerance, effects that could increase heart disease and diabetes risks.
Looking Toward the Future
Given the differences in health risks seen with eating processed versus unprocessed red meats, the findings suggest these types of meats should be studied separately in future research for health effects, including cancer, the authors say. For example, higher intake of total meat and processed meat has been associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer, but unprocessed red meat has not been separately evaluated. They also say more research is needed on which factors (especially salt and other preservatives) in meats are most important for health effects.
Current efforts to update the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are often a reference for other countries around the world, make these findings particularly timely, the researchers say. They recommend that dietary and policy efforts should especially focus on reducing intake of processed meat.
“To lower risk of heart attacks and diabetes, people should consider which types of meats they are eating,” Micha says. “Processed meats such as bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs and processed deli meats may be the most important to avoid. Based on our findings, eating one serving per week or less would be associated with relatively small risk.”
Read More:Processed Meats Linked to Higher Heart Disease, Diabetes Risks
May 12th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
What do multiplatinum-selling musician Moby and Global Animal Partnership Executive Director Miyun Park have in common?
They’re coeditors of the new book Gristle: From Factory Farms to Food Safety, an info-packed guide to the consequences of factory farming.
Gristle covers “the rarely publicized ramifications of industrialized farmed animal production and meat, egg and milk consumption on the environment, human health, communities, workers, taxpayers, zoonotic diseases, global warming, global hunger and, of course, the animals themselves,” Moby writes. “There are huge and egregiously well-financed interests who want to keep the truth of animal production hidden.”
The book’s contributors include:
At 144 pages, Gristle is a fast and enlightening read. Order through Amazon, and you’ll save 25%. (Pay $10.49 instead of $13.95.)
Read More:Gristle: From Factory Farms to Food Safety
April 25th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
If you eat meat frequently—especially if it’s well done or cooked at high temperatures—you may have a higher risk of developing bladder cancer.
“It’s well known that meat cooked at high temperatures generates heterocyclic amines,” compounds that can cause cancer, says Jie Lin, PhD, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Individuals who ate the most red meat had almost a 150% higher risk of developing bladder cancer. Specifically, consumption of beef steaks, pork chops and bacon raised bladder cancer risk significantly. Even chicken and fish, when fried, significantly raised the odds of developing cancer.
Level of Doneness, Genetics
Meat’s level of doneness had a marked impact on cancer risk. Study participants whose diets included well-done meats were almost twice as likely to develop bladder cancer.
Some participants were also genetically predisposed to bladder cancer, Dr. Lin and her colleagues found.
“Cancer is caused by multiple risk factors—environmental exposure, diet and genetic background—and their interactions,” she says. “The current results highlight the importance of studying gene-diet interactions in cancer risk assessment and have valuable implications in bladder cancer prevention.”
According to the American Cancer Society, almost 71,000 new cases of bladder cancer were diagnosed in the United States last year; 14,000 Americans died of the disease. Men have a much higher risk.
“Reducing red meat consumption and/or avoiding eating meats cooked at very high temperature—like those pan-fried, grilled or barbecued—may reduce one’s risk for developing bladder cancer,” concludes Dr. Lin, who presented her study at the American Association for Cancer Research’s 2010 annual meeting.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: The Compassionate Carnivore: Or, How to Keep Animals Happy, Save Old MacDonald’s Farm, Reduce Your Hoofprint, and Still Eat Meat
Read More:Consumption of Red Meat Linked to Bladder Cancer
February 15th, 2010 - Laura Klein
In case you missed it, Katie Couric did an investigative report on the common practice amongst factory farms of feeding healthy animals antibiotics. More and more farm workers are turning up with what is now becoming a common and potentially deadly infection known as MRSA or methicillin resistant staph. This strain of staph can be tough to treat because it is resistant to some commonly used antibiotics, and is sometimes called a “super bug” 1.
The incidences of drug resistance infections have literally sky rocketed in the past twenty years. Last year alone 65,000-70,000 Americans died as a result, more than prostate and breast cancer combined. 2Many are now asking questions about the safety of Big Ag and factory farms using common antibiotics to promote animal growth and fight off infections before they occur.
According to Katie Couric’s report, there is evidence that MRSA has now been found in the nation’s meat supply. Because only a small fraction of meat has been tested, it is not clear just how widespread it may be.
More and more reports are turning up like these. Which leads us to ask the same question Couric did to Liz Wagstrom, a veterinarian for the National Pork Bord, “Some people say giving animals antibiotics to prevent illness or promote growth is like putting antibiotics in a child’s cereal,” Couric said. “You know, save them so they’ll work when they are needed.”
Wagstrom’s response, “I’d say we do strategically place them……It’s not an all day, every pig gets antibiotics every day of his life.”
“So you don’t think they’re being overused by farmers anywhere in this country,” Couric asked.
Wagstrom replied, “the vast majority of producers use them appropriately.”
Many however are questioning whether this is true. ABC News did a report In December, ’09 entitled Pressure Rises To Stop Antibiotics in Agriculture. In 2009 three government agencies in charge of protecting human health, the Center for Disease Control, Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, affirmed that drug-resistant diseases ensuing from overuse of antibiotics in animals is a “serious emerging concern.” Last summer, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, FDA deputy commissioner, told Congress that farmers need to stop feeding antibiotics to healthy farm animals.
Read More:Animal Antibiotics, Are They a Threat to Human Health?