Formaldehyde Detected in Supermarket Fish Imported from Asia

link Formaldehyde Detected in Supermarket Fish Imported from Asia

A large number of fish imported from China and Vietnam and sold in U.S. supermarkets contain alarming levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, according to tests performed and verified by researchers at a North Carolina chemical engineering firm and North Carolina State University.Around 25 percent of all the fish purchased from supermarkets were found to contain potentially dangerous levels of formaldehyde, a toxic chemical compound commonly used as a medical disinfectant or embalming agent. All of the fish found to contain compound were imported from Asian countries, and it was not found in fish from the U.S. or other regions.Formaldehyde is illegal in food beyond any naturally occurring trace amounts. But according to chemical engineer A. James Attar and his colleagues who conducted the tests, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not test any imported fish for formaldehyde contamination, and only 4 percent of imported fish gets tested for any contaminants at all.

“The look on my face when we found this — it was a complete shocker,” said Jason Morton, Attar’s colleague at N.C.-based Appealing Products Inc.

Attar, Morton and another colleague at Appealing Products, Matthews Schwartz, came across the alarming revelation when they set out to validate a new formaldehyde test they developed for Bangladeshi clients who needed a cheap way to detect contaminated fish.

To see how their test worked, the team purchased domestic and imported fish from supermarkets around Raleigh, N.C., with the intent of purposefully contaminating them with formaldehyde and then verifying that their tests worked.

Instead, they found that about one in four fish was already contaminated with formaldehyde. The commonality between all the contaminated fish? They were imported from Asian countries, predominantly China and Vietnam.

Not all of the Asian fish were contaminated, but many were, Attar said.

Attar and Morton stopped short of accusing Asian fish companies of intentionally adding formaldehyde to fish to prevent spoilage, though it appears to be a common problem in Bangladesh, where formaldehyde might preserve fish when refrigerators or ice aren’t available. (Think of frogs preserved for dissection in a high school science lab.)

Attar and his team first uncovered the issue in February 2013, and then spent six months routinely testing samples, finding the same results. Their results were then verified by researchers at NC State.

Attar said the sampling was restricted to purchases from Raleigh, N.C., and might not reflect fish in supermarkets nationwide.

“But, empirically, this is what we found,” he added.

Formaldehyde is present in some fish at small, naturally occurring levels. But everything observed in the Asian fish found them contaminated with far higher than normal or acceptable levels, Attar said.

The team tested whether or not levels of formaldehyde increased in cuts of fish as they aged, but the levels remained the same. They also tested the same species harvested from both Chinese and U.S. companies, finding that the Chinese-caught fish contained formaldehyde while the U.S.-caught fish of the same species did not.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the U.S. imports approximately 91 percent of its seafood. China alone accounts for approximately 89 percent of global aquaculture production.

Appealing Products’ formaldehyde test costs approximately $1 per swab, which is applied to a cut of fish and turns purple in the presence of formaldehyde. The company has shipped 100,000 tests to Bangladesh, and anticipates orders from companies in other Asian countries. More information in the tests can be found

Documented instances of intentional formaldehyde contamination of food have occurred in China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand.

Attar and Morton said that their evidence makes a strong case for improved testing on seafood imports in the U.S., especially from Asian countries.

“I cannot say that companies are adding formaldehyde to fish, but our findings are higher than what naturally occurs,” Morton said.


“Natural” on food labels? Ain’t necessarily so…

“Natural” on food labels? Ain’t necessarily so….

GMO Crops Increase Pesticide Use

GMO Crops Increase Pesticide Use

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has quietly approved the first of a new generation of genetically engineered (GE) crops resistant to more toxic herbicides. The first crop to pass the low regulatory bar was a Bayer soybean variety genetically engineered to withstand direct application of the herbicide isoxaflutole (IFT), which according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a “probable human carcinogen.”

CFS projects at least a four-fold rise in national use of this toxic herbicide thanks to these new GE soybeans, and a host of related human health and environmental harms. Additional scientific detail about this and other new GE crops can be found here.

“Bayer’s new GE soybeans represent the next wave in agricultural biotechnology—crops that dramatically increase farmers’ use of and dependence on toxic herbicides,” said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at Center for Food Safety.

Dubbed FG72, these GE soybeans were developed by Bayer CropScience, the second-largest agrichemicals firm in the world.

The EPA has designated IFT as a “probable human carcinogen” based on animal tests in which it triggered liver and thyroid tumors in rats. IFT and its major breakdown product persist in surface waters, and despite its limited use, at present is frequently detected in tests. It is also toxic to aquatic organisms, wild plants and important crops (e.g. vegetables.). IFT is so toxic that three states—WisconsinMichigan and Minnesota—rejected the Bayer-EPA label for this herbicide as insufficiently protective of human health, the environment and neighboring crops.

First generation GE crops, like Monsanto’s Roundup Ready (RR) varieties, are resistant to the herbicide glyphosate. Skyrocketing use of glyphosate with RR crops has wiped out biological diversity in our fields, for instance nearly wiping out milkweed and thereby contributing to a dramatic decline in Monarch butterfly populations. Glyphosate use has also triggered an epidemic of glyphosate-resistant weeds that now infest roughly half of farmers’ fields.

“Bayer and other biotech companies are now poised to introduce a host of ‘next-generation’ GE crops resistant to more toxic herbicides as a false ‘solution’ to massive weed resistance,” said Freese. “But their effect will be to generate still more intractable weeds resistant to multiple herbicides.”

“It’s ironic that supposedly ‘cutting-edge’ biotechnology is taking American agriculture a half-century and more backwards into a more toxic past,” continued Freese.

Junk Food May Limit Children’s Intelligence and Learning Ability

Junk Food May Limit Children’s Intelligence and Learning Ability

There is a clear impact of nutrition on the potential development of Alzheimer’s diseaseand other late-life cognitive disorders.  Green vegetables, berries, and other plant foods reduce risk, whereas animal products and processed foods increase risk.1-4  However, the damaging effects of unhealthy foods on the brain occur throughout life.  Research now suggests that the typical American childhood diet including burgers, pasta, pizza, chicken nuggets, french fries, processed sweetened cold cereals, sweets and soda negatively affects school performance and learning. Overall math performance in the U.S. lags far behind many other developed nations5, and it is likely that the nutrient-poor American diet is a significant contributing factor.

French fries. Flickr: stu_spivack

We as parents are strongly committed to supporting our children’s academic achievement. We want the best for our children, and we take an active interest in their schooling; we do everything we can to make sure that they will be well educated and able to compete as working adults in our increasingly technological world. However,how many parents think about the impact of the foods they give their children on their academic performance?

Early childhood:

Parents must give their children’s brains the right raw materials with which to learn – and start early. Breast milkprovides a DHA-rich foundation for a healthy brain, and when solid foods are added, their nutritional quality is of paramount importance for the brain’s continued development. Several studies have now found that dietary patterns in early childhood affect IQ scores years later. In one study, greater consumption of fruits and vegetables upon introducing solid foods was associated with higher IQ and better memory skills when at 4 years of age.6 Similarly in another study, children who regularly ate cookies, chocolate, other sweets, soda, and chips during the first two years of life showed decreased IQ at age 8 compared to children who did not eat these foods. Nutrition during this formative period has a meaningful long-term effect, providing building blocks to construct the growing brain.7 The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, so a healthful, antioxidant-rich diet is especially beneficial for the brain and is likely involved in this link between natural plant foods and higher IQ scores.

Teenage years:

Young children who are fed processed, nutrient-poor foods are likely to become unhealthy teenagers, and eventually unhealthy adults. Now twenty-three percent of teens in the U.S. are prediabetic or diabetic, 22% have high or borderline high LDL cholesterol levels, and 14% have hypertension or prehypertension.8

A recent study tested cognitive abilities and performed brain MRIs on teens with and without metabolic syndrome, a combination of at least three diet-related metabolic abnormalities among a list including insulin resistance, high triglycerides and hypertension. The teens with metabolic syndrome had lower spelling and math scores, lower IQs, and reduced attention span. Their brain MRIs showed a smaller hippocampus, especially in those with insulin resistance – extremely important since the hippocampus is a part of the brain involved in learning new information.9  This means that our American obesity-promoting, diabetic promoting diet actually can cause parts of the brain to shrink.  The researchers concluded that insulin resistance and other components of the metabolic syndrome, as a result of a poor diet, may impair teenagers’ academic performance, and maybe even their learning abilities throughout their lifetime.

The time to feed your children healthfully is now. A diet rich in greens, berries, other fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds is the only way to ensure that children get the array of phytochemicals, antioxidants, fatty acids and other micronutrients to adequately supply their growing and constantly learning brains.  Junk food is not for kids.

Does Soda Rot Your Brains Along With Your Teeth?

link to article and a great blog Does Soda Rot Your Brains Along With Your Teeth?

This study made big news last week, but I was in the midst of AHS13 in Atlanta, and besides the normal conference exhausting insanity, I also had either food poisoning or some sort of gastroenteritis. Only now I’m recovered enough to unbury myself (more or less) from the usual home and work chores.

U2 Some Days Are Better Than Others

I’ll do a companion post on AHS13 and my talk there in a bit, but I did want to do a quick review of the horrifying study tracking soda consumption in 5 year-olds. The study was part of a Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing cohort of about 3000 urban US children and their mothers from 20 different cities. The sample is 51% African American, 28% Hispanic, and unmarried mothers outnumber the married ones 3:1. In this cohort,  43% of the 5 year old children consumed at least one soda per day, and 8.2% drank three or more servings a day. Those who did drink 4 or more sodas daily were over twice as likely to destroy things belonging to others, get into fights, and physically attack people, and violence across the cohort linearly correlated with the amount of soda consumed. We’ve seen a similar pattern in a previous study of adolescents. No one has measured it in young children before.

Covariates included violence in the home, fruit juice and candy consumption, obesity, maternal education, and hours of TV watching, and when the statisticians took these confounders out, the correlations between violence and soda consumption still held. Perhaps the most interesting bit of the study is that fruit juice consumption was correlated with less aggression and candy with mildly increased aggression, so sugar itself is clearly not the whole story here. The authors had all sorts of guesses as to what might be going on, but with the observational nature of the study they are only hypotheses. The main theory is the magical combo of preservatives, caramel coloring, caffeine, and sugar is a quick ticket to aggression and wild swings of blood sugar (though blood sugar wasn’t measured). Since soda consumption is also correlated with depression in adults, and depression in parents is correlated to behavioral problems in offspring, high soda-drinking moms might be depressed with high soda-drinking aggressive kids.

Regardless of the whys and wherefores, one doesn’t have to go too far out on a limb to say that giving kids soda is a lousy idea, and that the sugar alone is not the problem or only a piece of it (despite my fondness for the fructose malabsorption theory).

Is the FDA Food Additives Safety System A Farce?

Is the FDA Food Additives Safety System A Farce?

Is the FDA’s food additives safety system a farce?  A new study suggests it is.

A new study from scientists at The Pew Charitable Trusts and Environmental Management Institute, asserts that the FDA’s food additives safety system “lacks the relevant information needed to estimate the amount [of additives] that consumers can safely eat.”

Are Food Additives Safe?

The study points out that more than 10,000 chemicals are allowed to be added, directly or indirectly, to human food. They are used for a many things including preserving flavor, enhancing taste or appearance, preventing spoilage, and as part of packaging. Over 90% of these food additives are allowed in human food under the categories known as “food additives” or as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) substances. GRAS substances include everything from common ingredients toGMOs. The remaining 10% are in other categories such as color additives, pesticides, or substances. The bottom line is that chemical additives cannot be used in food without the FDA or the additive manufacturer positively proving that the additive is safe and that a safe level of exposure can be estimated.

This new Pew/EMI study is significant because the researchers looked at all FDA approved chemical additives that are allowed in human food and created the first searchable list. The list of additives was then cross-referenced to supporting toxicology studies. When the researchers analyzed how many chemical additives allowed in human food actually have the necessary toxicology studies, they found some very disturbing facts:

In practice, almost 80% of chemical additives directly—intentionally—added to food lack the relevant information needed to estimate the amount that consumers can safely eat in FDA’s own database and 93% lack reproductive or developmental toxicity data, although FDA requires feeding toxicology data for these chemicals.

The study’s conclusion:

The scientific basis for determinations of safety to humans may be questioned.

No kidding!

FDA’s latest round of food safety proposals: food imports

FDA’s latest round of food safety proposals: food imports.