21 Frightening Food Waste Facts

21 Frightening Food Waste Facts

We’ve written a lot about food waste recently, and the facts are staggering. Thisinfographic from A-Z Solutions lays out the frightening facts about our food waste. Shocking! I learned a few new stats, including the fact that since 1974, our per capita waste has increased by 50%. Wow. And would you have guessed that meat is the most wasted food, making up 33% of the average American’s food waste? I would’ve thought fruits and veggies or dairy products. But no — it’s meat, followed by seafood at 25%, vegetables at 20%, grains at 18%, diary products at 17%, and fruit at 15%. Very interesting indeed.

This is not the first time we’ve written about a wicked good infographic from A-Z Solutions. (They’re the folks that published the fantastic comparison of factory versus sustainable farming.) Their team helps businesses develop effective, sustainable, socially responsible logistics solutions. It promotes conscious capitalism, social responsibility, and nutritional transparency — which is described on the A-Z Solutions web site as “an approach of providing nutrition information which allows you to select from various food options to help you change the way you eat.” Since you read this blog, that’s obviously something you care about too. Thanks for joining us.

21 Shocking Facts About Food Waste

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More bad news about fructose

More bad news about fructose

FoodFacts.com knows that most in our community understand that added sugars have been playing a key role in obesity and insulin resistance. We also understand that most grasp the concept that the majority of added sugars like fructose and sucrose are not getting into our diets from our own sugar bowls. Instead, they are coming to us in the vast variety of processed foods and beverages available in our grocery stores, retail food establishments and quick serve restaurants.

Researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine have recently reported that the cause of obesity and insulin resistance may be tied to the fructose your body makes in addition to the fructose you eat. Numerous studies suggest that the risk from added sugars may be due to the fructose content.

But in the study published in the Sept. 10 edition of Nature Communications, the team led by researchers at the CU School of Medicine reports that fatty liver and insulin resistance may also result from fructose produced in the liver from non-fructose containing carbohydrates.

The study, whose first authors are Miguel Lanaspa, PhD, and Takuji Ishimoto, MD, reported that mice can convert glucose to fructose in the liver, and that this conversion was critical for driving the development of obesity and insulin resistance in mice fed glucose.

“Our data suggests that it is the fructose generated from glucose that is largely responsible for how carbohydrates cause fatty liver and insulin resistance,” said Lanaspa.
Richard Johnson, MD, professor of medicine and chief of the division of renal diseases and hypertension at the School of Medicine and senior author of the paper, said: “Our studies provide an understanding for why high glycemic foods may increase the risk for obesity and insulin resistance. While some of the weight gain is driven by the caloric content and the effects of stimulating insulin, the ability of high glycemic foods to cause insulin resistance and fatty liver is due in part to the conversion of glucose to fructose inside the body.

“Ironically, our study shows that much of the risk from ingesting high glycemic foods is actually due to the generation of fructose, which is a low glycemic sugar. These studies challenge the dogma that fructose is safe and that it is simply the high glycemic carbohydrates that need to be restricted.”

FoodFacts.com notes that we’re ingesting fructose on a fairly consistent basis due to the high levels of the sweetener in our food supply. In addition to that, our bodies are producing even more as glucose in converted to fructose. And that may very well be adding fuel to the already raging fire of the obesity epidemic.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130910142341.htm

Why honey is the only food that doesn’t go bad

Why honey is the only food that doesn’t go bad

Honey is magic. Besides its delicious taste, it’s pretty much the only food that does not spoil while in an edible state. But why, exactly, doesn’t honey go bad?

Honey has a lot of pretty incredible properties. It’s been used and investigated for medicinal properties for a long time, especially as a treatment for open wounds. Herodotus reported that the Babylonians buried their dead in honey, and Alexander the Great may have been embalmed in a coffin full of honey.

The oldest honey ever found was unearthed in Georgia, and dates back over 5,000 years. So, if you found yourself in possession of some 5,000 year-old honey, could you eat it? Well. . .

Chemical Properties of Honey

Honey is a sugar. You may have heard all sorts of things about the health benefits of substituting honey for sugar, which may or may not be true. While honey isn’t the same as regular, granulated, white sugar, it’s still a sugar. And sugars are hygroscopic – they don’t contain much water in their natural state. And very few bacteria and microorganisms can live in the resulting low-moisture environment.

Amina Harris, executive director of the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute at Univeristy of California, Davis says, “Honey in its natural form is very low moisture. Very few bacteria or microorganisms can survive in an environment like that, they just die. They’re smothered by it, essentially.” The fact that organisms can’t survive long in honey means they don’t get the chance to spoil it.

Another thing that sets honey apart from other sugars is its acidity. Honey’s pH is between 3 and 4.5 (or, more precisely, 3.26-4.48), which also kills off anything trying to make a home in honey.

And there are a few factors behind honey’s low moisture content, including:

Why honey is the only food that doesn't go bad

Bees

First, bees contribute to the low water content of honey by flapping their wings to dry out nectar. Second, the way bees get nectar into honey combs is by vomiting it there. This sounds really gross, but the chemical makeup of bees’ stomachs also contributes to honey’s long shelf-life. Bees’ stomachs have the enzyme glucose oxidase, which is added to the honey when the nectar is regurgitated. The enzyme and nectar break mix to create gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide is also a hostile force for anything trying to grow in honey. (Although, maybe not that effective in your cuts.)

Storage

This is important. The fact that honey is hydroscopic means that it has little water in its natural state but can easily suck in water if its exposed to it. If it does that, it could spoil. So the final key to honey remaining unspoiled is making sure it’s well sealed and stored in a dry place.

Why honey is the only food that doesn't go bad

Crystallization

Related to storage is the problem of crystallized honey. NOTE: Honey that’s crystallized is not necessarily spoiled. Americans apparently see crystallized honey as “wrong,” so large packers filter honey to remove any particles which may lead to crystallization. Raw honey and organic honey doesn’t go through the process, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to spoil. Also, different honey has different rates of crystallization. So it may just be that the honey you have is more prone to crystallization.

So crystallization doesn’t mean there’s anything “wrong” with your honey — but if you don’t like it, the big tip is to not put your honey in the refrigerator. Below 52 °F, crystallization slows down, so feel free to freeze your honey. And at temperatures above 77 °F, honey resists crystallization best. But honey crystallizes most quickly at temperatures of between 50 and 59 °F. So, if you want to avoid having to heat your honey to remove crystals (apparently slow, indirect heat is best for that, by the way), avoid the refrigerator.

Caveat: Infants

So, yes, honey mostly doesn’t spoil. However, honey can contain spores of Clostridium botulinum. This isn’t harmful to adults and children over one year old, whose gastrointestinal tract is developed enough to deal with the spores. But children under one are at risk for infant botulism, so honey is not for your infant.

So could you eat 5,000 year old honey? Well, if it’s spent that time sealed and stored against moisture, sure. If it’s crystallized, it’s not spoiled, just heat it up and put it in your food of choice. Unless you’re under one year old. Then you’d have to wait.

Top image: Honey Comb Structure by Gavin Mackintosh/flickr

Other images, in order: Phillie Casablanca/flickr A bee @work by Andreas/flickrHoney Trio by land_camera_land_camera/flickr;

Yet another reason children and soda don’t mix

Yet another reason children and soda don’t mix

Everyone in the FoodFacts.com community is very familiar with our view of soda. We don’t like it. There are quite a few different reasons and we can name some of them readily – high fructose corn syrup, sodium benzoate, phosphoric acid, artificial colors, artificial flavors, aspartame, acesulfame potassium and those really are just a few. Trust us, we could go on and on. Sodas offer no nutritional value and a myriad of possible problems. And today we read a new study that has just added a new possible problem to an already long list.

It appears that soda may cause young children to become aggressive and develop attention problems, according to a study published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Researchers from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, the University of Vermont and Harvard School of Public Health, studied around 3,000 children aged 5.

All children were enrolled in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study – a cohort study that follows mothers and children from 20 large cities in the US.

The researchers asked the mothers of the children to report their child’s soft drink consumption. Their child’s behavior in the 2 months prior to the study was reported through a “Child Behavior Checklist.”

Just over 40% of the children consumed a minimum of one serving of soft drinks a day, while 4% consumed four or more soft drinks a day.

The study results found that any level of soft drink consumption was linked to higher levels of aggressive behavior, as well as more attention and withdrawal problems.

Compared with children who did not consume any soft drinks, those who had four or more soft drinks a day were over twice as likely to:

• Destroy other people’s belongings
• Physically attack others, and
• Get into fights.

Dr. Shakira Suglia, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, says: “We found that the child’s aggressive behavior score increased with every increase in soft drinks servings per day.”

The study authors say there has been a lot of research on the effects of soft drinks in adults. But the relationship between soft drinks and child behavior has not been closely evaluated until now.

They note that although their study has been unable to identify exactly why soft drinks can cause these behaviors in children, they recommend that limiting or abolishing a child’s soft drink consumption could combat this issue.

FoodFacts.com looks forward to more detailed studies that focus on a possible causal relationship between children’s soda consumption and aggressive behavior. Drinking soda has been linked to diabetes and heart disease. It is considered a major contributor in the obesity crisis. And it adds nothing to our health and well-being. Those statements alone are good enough reasons to keep sodas away from our children. This study certainly points out additional problems with small children and soda consumption. Children require a healthy beginning in order to encourage healthy habits throughout their lifetime. Let’s help them get the healthy start they all deserve.

Climate change is making your apples taste different

Climate change is making your apples taste different

biting-into-fuji-apple-flickr
dmal

How do you like them apples? Because they aren’t the same apples you were eating 40 years ago (good thing too, because GROSS). A new study in waiting-room favorite Scientific Reports says climate change has made Fuji apples sweeter and softer than they used to be. So you can add “Back in my day, apples were actually crisp and tart” to your tales of walking uphill both ways barefoot in a snowstorm. WritesNature:

[Fruit-tree specialists] found that the hardness and acidity of the apples had declined [over four decades], while their sweetness had increased. The changes may not be apparent to consumers because they took place so gradually, says [Toshihiko] Sugiura. “But if you could eat an average apple harvested 30 years before and an average apple harvested recently at the same time, you would really taste the difference,” he says.

Damn my lack of a time machine. I suppose apple flavor comparison isn’t important enough for Dr. Who.

It’s not just apples, though — wine and maple syrup also rank highly among foods that’ll likely get sweeter with the warming planet. Oh, and pears:

Gregory Jones of Southern Oregon University in Ashland, who studies the effects of climate change on wine grapes, says that the results of this and other studies — including his own unpublished work on pears — are beginning to fall into a pattern: warmer temperatures coax plants into flowering earlier and yielding riper, sweeter fruit at harvest.

So if 1970 for you wasn’t a blur of psychedelics and unfortunate polyester, think back to biting into a crunchy, lip-puckering apple. It might’ve been the last one you’ll eat for a while.

FDA wants all chickens roofed and walled

FDA wants all chickens roofed and walled

Recent guidance from the FDA will place an impossible burden on farmers who raise true free-range chickens. Action Alert!

The guidance, released last month for farms that have more than 3,000 egg-laying chickens, purportedly aims to prevent salmonella and other foodborne illnesses by isolating chickens from cats, rats, flies, and wild birds—even though no evidence exists showing them to be of significant risk at spreading salmonella.

2010 article in the Atlantic Monthly stated that all but one outbreak of foodborne illness in the US since 1995 originated at industrial factory farms. [So why is the FDA targeting free range chickens? ~Ed.]

The FDA guidance suggests that farmers must cover their outdoor pastures with either roofing or netting, or use noise cannons to scare away wild birds. Perhaps it has escaped FDA that noise cannons would also scare the chickens? Or that putting a roof over a multi-acre pasture is not only cost-prohibitive, but would prevent rain and sun from reaching the living things in the pasture? FDA also advocates walls around the pasture, to prevent mice, rats, and cats from entering, and then put a roof over it. That’s right—walls and roofing. In other words, they want the chickens to be kept in a building! This completely contradicts what “free-range” is supposed to be about: they can be cage-free, but not outdoors.

The problem, of course, is that FDA is describing the commonplace practice where farmers house their birds inside, giving them access to tiny porches that only 1% to 3% of the chickens can use at a time—if there are any porches. Although eggs labeled “organic” must allow birds outdoor access, these small porches qualify as outdoor access, according to the USDA. Sadly, this is the industry standard free-range hens; the standards for “cage-free” are even less demanding.

“Free-range” in USDA-speak certainly does not mean “pastured.” There is a world of difference between an indoor hen that eats feed and never sees the sun, and an outdoor hen that finds part of its own dinner by scratching in the dirt for bugs and worms.

Pastured eggs are more nutritious. In addition, the Pew Commission has concluded that industrial-scale animal production poses “unacceptable” risks to public health and the environment, while subjecting billions of animals to “severe distress.” Their report states:

Food safety is linked to the health of the animals that produce the meat, dairy and egg products that we eat. In fact, scientists have found modern intensive confinement production systems can be stressful for food animals, and that stress can increase pathogen shedding in animals.

In addition, researchers reported that workers at Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are more likely to harbor multi-drug-resistant MRSA in their noses than workers at antibiotic-free, free-range farms.

An example of the public health risk posed by industrial scale farms is the recent outbreak of the rare foodborne illness cyclospora. Since late June, 466 people in fifteen states have taken ill. The FDA announced on August 2 that the illnesses in Iowa and Nebraska were linked to bagged salads from a Mexican subsidiary of Taylor Farms, which were sold to Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants. Many experts believe that the infections in the other thirteen states must also come from Taylor Farms, since cyclospora is rare in the US. Most of the 1,100 annual cases of cyclospora in the US afflict US residents returning from overseas.

Not only are industrial scale farms less healthy for workers, consumers, and the localenvironment, but the mass production of food that is widely distributed makes it very difficult to trace the cause of foodborne illnesses, as food may change hands many times between the farm and the dinner table. In the case of the cyclospora epidemic, investigators still don’t know the cause of the illness in thirteen states, and the investigation may “take months.”

The New Zealand dollar dropped after the world’s largest dairy exporter, New Zealand-based Fonterra, reported on August 3 that it had shipped products contaminated with botulism. The dairy products were exported to Australia, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Saudi Arabia in sport drinks and infant formula. If left untreated, 60% of botulism cases are fatal.

The organic, locally grown model that ANH-USA advocates does not pose these problems.

Despite the evidence that CAFO farms make outbreaks of foodborne illnesses inevitable, there is no move to limit or reform them. Instead, as we recently reported, the USDA is proposing an “overhaul” that would reduce the number of inspectors by 40%, process more chickens in less time, and use more and stronger chemicals to wash filthy chickens who lived in too-crowded conditions with thousands of other birds.

The USDA is now reviewing research that indicates that these new and stronger chemicals are actually masking the presence of salmonella, essentially outwitting the testing process. Although USDA records show that salmonella rates in tested chickens have dropped by half, the number of consumers sickened by salmonella has remained the same. And poultry inspectors have reported suffering from asthma, severe respiratory problems, burns, rashes, irritated eyes, and sinus problems, in reaction to the new chemicals.

The new guidance from FDA about “free-range” chickens and the new regulations proposed by the USDA, however absurd, come as no great surprise. It fits the pattern we told you about last week—that the government is waging war on small farmers, in direct violation of the intent of the Tester-Hagan amendment that Congress passed just three years ago.

Action Alert! The FDA is accepting comments on its proposed guidance on the prevention of salmonella in eggs. Write to the agency today and explain that their proposed food safety measures are making unwarranted assumptions about the way egg-producing chickens should be kept, and for organic farmers to follow these guidelines would mean reversing all the benefits their methods provide. Show them that the threat is not from small organic chicken farms, but from filthy industrial CAFOs. Please write to the FDA today!

Oceana Study: ‘Fish Fraud’ Ripping Off American Consumers

Oceana Study: ‘Fish Fraud’ Ripping Off American Consumers

In a follow-up to its February report finding one-third of the seafood tested in the United States is mislabeled according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines, an oceans-protection group says Americans are paying a high price for fish fraud. Oceana, an international group advocating for protection of the world’s oceans, says that swapped species can cost consumers twice as much when cheaper counterparts are sold as premium choices.

Just as horsemeat was sold as beef all over Europe when its price was only about one-fifth that of the more-expensive meat, the new report from Oceana says that seafood fraud is practiced on consumers when less-expensive and less-desirable species are passed off as high-quality fish.

“Swapping a lower-cost fish for a higher-value one is like ordering a filet mignon and getting a hamburger instead,” says report author Margot Stiles. “If a consumer eats mislabeled fish even just once a week, they could be losing up to hundreds of dollars each year due to seafood fraud.”

According to the Oceana study, substitution of a lower-cost species such as tilapia for more-expensive grouper could cost consumers an extra $10 for an eight-ounce filet in a restaurant, and the common substitution of Atlantic farmed salmon for wild Chinook salmon adds another $5 to a restaurant bill. Fish fraud also occurs in grocery stores when cheaper substitutes are used in place of higher-cost fish to rip off about $4 each from consumers, the study says.

Oceana turned to seafood experts and about 300 menus in 12 different cities to come up with its estimates for how much fish substitutions cost consumers.

“Consumers deserve to know their seafood is safe, legally caught, and honestly labeled, including information like where, when and how it was taken out of the ocean, “ Stiles said. “The more information that follows the fish, the harder it will be for fraudsters to rip off American consumers.”

The 23-page Oceana report on fish fraud says part of the problem is that seafood follows a complex path “from boat to plate.” Fish often cross ocean basins and multiple countries before reaching the final point of sale.

Oceana says that each stop in the supply chain is an opportunity for fraud. “Without traceability, or requiring information to follow the fish through the supply chain that is transparent and verifiable, consumers can be subject to fraud at every step the way,” the group says.

Oceana supports the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE) Act that has been pending in Congress since March. The group says it has more than 500,000 members worldwide.

The fish fraud report also notes that Americans have doubled their seafood consumption in the past 50 years and that some of today’s most popular fish were not even sold in the U.S. until recent years. Freshwater Tilapia, for example, has gone from virtually unknown to the fifth most popular U.S. seafood, mostly in the past decade.

Another indicator is the number of sushi bars in the U.S., which have grown five-fold in the past 10 years. More than 5,000 grocery stores also sell sushi today.  In total, Americans are eating about $80 billion worth of fish annually.

Oceana says 1,700 species of fish and shellfish are sold in the U.S. and that most consumers have a difficult time comparing price, quality, origin and other factors. The study found seafood labels often provided inaccurate information and that less-expensive species were often swapped for sought-after fish such as Atlantic cod, red snapper and wild salmon.

Oceana says each desired fish product has one or more less-expensive offerings which are common substitutions. Fish fraud is so common that Oceana says the practice undermines consumers who choose to eat specific fish for health, environmental or religious reasons.

Mislabeling is common, Oceana says, because of the immediate economic incentive combined with little enforcement.

© Food Safety News