October 21st, 2009 - Laura Klein
There are two sides to every story.
I’d like to call your attention to a hot debate sparked by my blog post Corporate-Backed and Bogus: The Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement. If you haven’t done so, read it now to check out the range of opinions and responses on this important topic.
Charlotte Vallaeys, Farm and Food Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute and her colleagues oppose The Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement as it stands.
Charlotte weighed in on comments from a supporter of The Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement and member of the Western Growers Association, an organization that, according to its website, provides ‘quality services and programs that benefit and enhance the competitiveness of its members in the Arizona and California fresh produce industry.’
Check out the debate for yourself:
Western Growers Association: No one is guaranteeing the safety of anything; however, the program aims t o develop scientifically defensible, regionally-based growing, handling and manufacturing practices – developed by a coalition of stakeholders including government entities, academics and the industry. These practices have NOT been developed. This proposal sets up the infrastructure by which a coalition of stakeholders can come to the table and develop those practices. Indeed, there is currently no way of guaranteeing that fresh leafy greens are 100% safe as scientists do not yet have a clear understanding of food borne pathogens on leafy greens.
Cornucopia: Our main concern is with the “coalition of stakeholders” that would oversee the development and implementation of the rules. Most members on the committee (19 of 23) will be handlers and growers, and 17 of those 19 will likely represent the large-scale, corporate leafy greens industry. The committee members that are not growers or handlers will include a retail industry representative, a food service industry representative, a member of the public and an importer.
There will be a separate committee that will assist the Administrative Committee in developing the rules, which will indeed be required to include academics and government entities, including a National Resource Conservation Service representative and a representative of the Environmental Protection Agency, which is very positive. But ultimately, it is the Administrative Committee that holds the power to make the rules (see section 970.49 of the proposal). Just to reiterate, this Committee will consist of industry representatives with no academics or government representatives.
Western Growers Association: The proposal, as is currently drafted would require that at least two “small” growers participate in the development of these practices.
Cornucopia: This is a token representation of “small” growers who will not have real power. A two-thirds majority will be needed on important votes, and with 23 members, the two “small” representatives will not be able to influence policy or the outcome of a vote.
Western Growers Association: The “seal” is to be used primarily on bills of lading. California and Arizona have had a similar program in place for multiple years now; has anyone seen a USDA-approved “seal” on any of the leafy greens in the market? No. The seal is used on bills of lading so retailers know that the product in question was handled and grown according to the practices outlined in those state’s agreements.
Cornucopia: There is currently nothing in the proposal that would prevent signatories from extending the use of this seal beyond bills of lading and manifests. There is no prohibition against using the seal on packaging visible to the consumer, and it will probably be only a matter of time before the seal is used as a marketing tool. It is, after all, a Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement.
Western Growers Association: Regarding transparency, there was an open comment period on the need for USDA to pursue a marketing agreement about a year ago. There has been a Web site – www.nlgma.com – on-line for about a year calling for stakeholders to provide comments on the proposal. Many of those comments and suggestions have been added to the proposed agreement. Furthermore, the proposed NLGMA has been prominently covered on the USDA AMS site. There was a Webinar where proponents explained the proposal and answered every question offered up by the more than 200 attendees, nationwide (the Webinar along with those questions and answers are available at www.nlgma.com). A large group of regional, state and national proponents have been communicating this process with their respective constituents for more than a year. The proponents called for, and USDA granted, a series of public hearings, across the nation, (which are ongoing) to discuss the merits of the proposal. I am not sure how this process could be more transparent.
Cornucopia: I don’t believe that lack of transparency is a concern listed in the blog post.
Western Growers Association: There are a handful of different “metrics” or standards out there, and many of them are very costly. The entire industry needs to work toward one set of practices, defensible by sound science, which can replace those “super metrics” being handed down by the buying community. The National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement would afford stakeholders that opportunity.
Cornucopia: The problem is that the proposed Marketing Agreement would put the power to develop the metrics in the hands of 23 people, most of whom will be representatives of large-scale handlers and growers. Food safety is a serious issue, and any government regulation for food safety should be done with the citizens’ safety in mind. Industry representatives will be serving two masters—citizens’ need for safe food, and their industry’s interests. The likelihood that the resulting standards will be self-serving to their industry, disregarding the needs of other stakeholders (such as small growers) are much higher than if government agencies, staffed by public servants, were charged with developing the rules.
Western Growers Association: Lastly, this program is voluntary. If producers do not want to participate, they do not have to.
Cornucopia: It is voluntary for handlers, but not for growers. If most handlers sign up, growers will be left to choose between following the metrics or not being able to sell their crops unless they find a handler who is not a signatory.
What do you think? Let us know and let’s keep the conversation going!
Read More:Safer Foods, Great Debates and The Battle for Pure Leafy Greens
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
September 11th, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
I buy organic whenever I can. For me it’s mostly fruits and vegetables. The only things I buy that are sold in a box are computer games. Yes, I’m a nerd.
Now, there are lots of reasons to buy organic: no pesticides, genetically-modified whatever and most likely no inhumane animal rearing and slaughtering.
Go ahead and add nutrition to the list-I’m sure many of you already did-because a new study says organic produce is healthier than conventional stuff.
Appearing in the journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development, experts claim organic plants have more “dry matter” and minerals-i.e. iron and magnesium-and more antioxidants, like phenols and salicylic acid.
But researchers suspect most people buy organic primarily for the safety issue, and they found 94 to 100% of organics do not contain and pesticide residue. Also noting organic vegetables have 50% less nitrates.
How do you make a case against organic? Its safer, tastes better, easier on the environment and more nutrition-kind of a no-brainer.
Via Food Navigator.
Image credit: srqpix
Read More:Study Claims Organic Food is Healthier
September 6th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
As noted a week ago, Americans need to close the whole-grain gap. Most of us fail to meet our daily dietary requirements.
With August vacations behind us and the school year upon us, New York City dietitian Jackie Newgent offers some great ways to turn your bland morning cereal into a breakfast superstar. Newgent is the author of Big Green Cookbook: Hundreds of Planet-Pleasing Recipes and Tips for a Luscious, Low-Carbon Lifestyle.
Dress Up Your Cereal. Don’t serve cereal with plain ol’ milk. Opt for fat-free milk and fruit or low-fat yogurt (or fat-free soy milk and fruit). Try exotic fruits that are new to you, or pick up some peak-season selections from your local farmers’ market. There are endless varieties.
Make a Cereal Sundae. Layer your favorite organic whole-grain cereal in a wine, martini or parfait glass, along with low-fat yogurt and seasonal fruit. Check out last month’s recipe for Mandarin Orange Cereal Bowl.
Mix-and-Match Cereals to Create Your Favorite Combo. You know you should choose an organic high-fiber cereal. But if its flavors fail to satisfy you, mix it with a lower-fiber cereal. (Sugary kids’ cereals don’t count!) You’ll get the best of both worlds: nutrition and taste.
Snacks and Other Meals
Bag It to Go. Toss cereal, dried fruit and nuts in travel-size containers. Try dried cranberries and almonds for a nutritious kick and super flavor.
Sprinkle It…Just a Bit. Want to add a little crunch to a salad or casserole? Top it with a crunchy, high-fiber organic cereal instead of croutons, French-fried onions or potato chips.
Read More:High-Stylin’ Cereal
June 1st, 2009 - Laura Klein
With all due respect to my fellow OrganicAuthority.com blogger, Gerry Pugliese, who recently shed doubt on whether organic foods are actually more nutritious: I strongly disagree!
It’s been proven, scientifically, that plant-based organic foods are higher in nutrients and better for our health. I am deeply passionate about this – in fact it’s one of the core reasons I launched OrganicAuthority.com several years ago!
After studying the science behind how conventional and organic foods are grown in culinary school, I had a paradigm shift. I discovered why organic foods taste better and are of superior quality: we aren’t spraying them with synthetic toxic pesticides that are designed to kill (see the EPAs definition of pesticides). And I discovered that we are poisoning the earth, humans, animals and everything in between with these same synthetic toxic pesticides (see our blog Carbofuran Gets the Axe – a single granule of the chemical can kill an adult bird).
Today, I consider organic food to be one of the most powerful forms of preventive medicine we have available to the human race; and is a key component to green and healthy living. The good news is, you can simply buy organic foods over the counter! If you think organic foods are expensive, I say try health care and prescription drugs. Now that’s expensive. There are truly miraculous stories of people healing themselves from serious disease and illness like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, MS and more, simply by switching to a pure organic whole foods diet. The added bonus, organic foods are of superior quality and flavor!
Myriad qualified experts agree that organic food is nutrient-rich and healthier than ‘conventionally’ grown foods…
Organic Produce: Nutritional Powerhouse
In a study published in March 2008 by The Organic Center,1 a host of past and present studies were analyzed.
One of them, The Worthington study, focused on fertilizers and food nutrition levels. In the study, four nutrients tested as being significantly higher than conventionally-grown food, while one “toxic” nutrient (Nitrate) was significantly lower in organic food (that’s a good thing):
- Vitamin C: +27%
- Iron: +21%
- Magnesium: +29%
- Phosphorus: +19%
- Nitrates: -15%
The same study also found higher quality protein in organic foods vs. conventional food (higher quality protein is determined by the number of amino acids that are evident).
Healthier Food, Organically Grown
In another recent study entitled “Living Soil, Food Quality, and the Future of Food,”2 the following was revealed:
- Organically grown spinach demonstrates significantly higher levels of flavonoids (an antioxidant) and vitamin C, and lower levels of nitrates.
- Organically farmed tomatoes have significantly higher levels of soluble solids and natural plant molecules called secondary plant metabolites, including flavonoids, lycopene, and Vitamin C. Most secondary plant metabolites are antioxidants, a class of plant compounds that have been linked to improved human health in populations that consume relatively high levels of fruit and vegetables.
Definition of Organic Food: Common Sense Dictates Better Health!
Organic foods are grown without the use of chemical fertilizer or pesticides and have not been processed using irradiation or added hormones.
Let me repeat:
- no fertilizers
- no pesticides
- no irradiation (the process of exposing food to radiation)
- no added hormones
I’m not a scientist, but this statement alone is quite convincing that organic foods are a healthier and more nutritionally rich option! Simply put, organically grown foods are not bombarded with synthetic, toxic chemicals that are linked to serious diseases like cancer.
As always, be an informed consumer:
- Products labeled “100 percent organic” must contain only organic ingredients with the exception of water and salt, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- Products labeled “organic” must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients.
- Products that are made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients are allowed to be labeled “made with organic ingredients.
Interested in step-by-step, personalized guidance on creating a healthy, green lifestyle? Check out my free Green Club online introduction video to find out more!
1. The Organic Center, March, 2008 Report:
2. The Organic Center, March 13, 2009 Press Release:
Read More:The Science is There, Plant-Based Organic Foods Are More Nutritious!
May 26th, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
People that buy organic will tell you, organic fruits and vegetables taste better—they’re right, they do—and clearly, these folks are willing to pay the extra cost, which can be as high as two to three times the price of conventional stuff.
But many organic foodies claim organic produce is more nutritious. On that, the jury is still out.
Some experts say there isn’t enough research to support the notion, but do acknowledge buying organic is more environmentally friendly.
Overall, the decision to go organic comes down to preference and—especially these days—budget, but an important thing to remember is not to over stress. If you can’t find organic don’t let it stop you from eating fruits and vegetables.
For reference, here’s list of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables, via the Environmental Working Group: apples, celery, cherries, imported grapes, lettuce, nectarines, peaches, pears, strawberries and sweet bell peppers.
What a bummer! I love peaches. But here’s tip. A doctor friend of mine said quickly dunking peaches in boiling water is a good way to clean them up.
Read More:Organics are Cleaner, but Better?
February 11th, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
We’ve got the banana diet, eat bananas lose weight, and the cookie diet, eat cookies lose weight, and now, the sleep diet. You guessed it! Get sleep lose weight.
Not a bad idea! Because several studies have linked America’s staggering rate of obesity to a decrease in the average number of hours people are sleeping.
So, here’s the gist of it. The Sleep Diet is not about getting more sleep. Instead, it focuses on getting the right amount of sleep. Shoot for 7 ½ hours every night.
- Part 1: Write down when you get up in the morning and count back 7 ½ hours. That’s the time you need to go to bed.
- Part 2: Start a bedtime routine. Try reading a book before you go sleep or taking a hot bath. Soon your body will start to associate certain activities with falling asleep. And be sure to turn off your cell phone, TV, computer and other gadgets.
- Part 3: Cut your alcohol and caffeine habits. Caffeine keeps you awake and leaves bloodshot and some experts say booze my knock you out at first but interferes with sleep later on.
- Part 4: Learn to roll with the punches. If you’ll miss your favorite shows, record them. Get your significant other on board too. And wean yourself off of coffee and other junk slowly.
Now, if you ask me, this is a little gimmicky and lacks some basics, like exercise and nutrition, but getting more sleep is good idea. No one likes a nation of cranky, sleep deprived people.
Via Glamour Magazine.
Read More:The Sleep Diet, Snore the Pounds Away…
August 28th, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
When shopping for organic food, keep in mind that men and women have not been created equal in the nutrition department. The distinctions are subtle, but worthy of careful consideration, reports the September issue of Harvard Men’s Health Watch.
Monounsaturated fats are healthful for both men and women, and olive oil is a good source. So are the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish.
But a vegetable-based omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), found in canola and flaxseed oils, may pose a problem for men. ALA is good for the heart, but some studies suggest it may increase the risk of prostate cancer. For men with cardiac risks, ALA may be a good choice—but men with more reason to worry about prostate cancer should get their omega-3s from fish and their vegetable fats from olive oil.
In both men and women, low alcohol intake appears to reduce the risk of heart attacks and certain strokes, while larger amounts increase the risk of many ills. But while drinking responsibly doesn’t seem to cause any health problems for average men, even low doses of alcohol may increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer.
A high-calcium diet may protect women against osteoporosis. There’s far less evidence that dietary calcium has the same benefit for men. In fact, large amounts may increase their risk of prostate cancer. The solution is moderation. The vitamin D in a daily multivitamin may also help offset the possible risks.
Men need less iron than women do and should avoid excess amounts. In the presence of an abnormal gene, excess iron can lead to harmful deposits in various organs.
Despite these points, men’s and women’s overall nutritional needs are more similar than different, Health Watch reports.
Read More:Nutrition & Gender
August 11th, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
When I voiced my concerns about the marketing campaign for Burger King’s new BK Stacker (see A Mountain of Meat and Cheese), many OrganicAuthority.com readers took me to task. Because this website is dedicated to organic food and living, it seemed a bit perplexing.
My views, however, haven’t changed. As Dr. Rallie McAllister points out in Sobering Stats on Childhood Obesity, 90% of the products food manufacturers hawk to children meet the criteria for junk food.
Jeff Novick, director of nutrition for the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa, doesn’t mince words about the BK Quad Stacker, whose commercials proudly advertise that it contains “no vegetables.” (When did this become a key selling point?)
“With four slices of cheese, four fatty patties and four slices of bacon, this burger might better be called the quadruple bypass special,” Novick says. “Maybe they call it the ‘stacker’ because it helps stack the odds against the long-term consumer collecting much from Social Security. Fast food like this is great if you’re in a hurry—to die.”
I sent Jeff some of the comments on A Mountain of Meat and Cheese and asked him how he’d respond to the folks who are proud of their fast-food habits.
“We live in a very permissible society,” he tells OrganicAuthority, “and unfortunately many of us indulge in self-destructive products and behavior. As a nutritionist, it is my job not only to give people the best education possible on how to live and eat healthfully, but to model the behavior that I teach to our clients, to my children and to anyone with whom I come into contact. But as the saying goes, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.’
“I help many, many people every day,” Jeff adds, “but there are some who need to reach rock bottom before they finally decide to make healthy changes in their life. As a society, we are faced with the same dilemma in trying to stop people from smoking. I could show smokers statistics about death rates for cancer, I can show them a lung ravaged by disease caused by smoking, and I can model a nonsmoking healthy lifestyle. But with some people, no amount of information will stop them from smoking until, unfortunately, they are finally diagnosed with cancer. For some people who eat poorly, just as those who smoke, they have to reach a point where their bad habits have impacted their lives so profoundly that they decide to make a change. Then—and only then—can I truly help this particular group.”
Read More:You Can Lead a Horse to Water…