FDA to Study Food Coloring Additives…Finally!

Where has the FDA been?  There have been concerns over food additives, especially coloring for years.  Studies in other parts of the world and even banning of certain dyes as far back as the 1950’s (red 32, orange 2, etc).  I even wrote a blog in 2007 that cited a NY Times article and study by Britain’s Food Standard Agency, about the link of ADHD to additives.

So finally this week in response to a 2008 letter, an FDA advisory panel will decide whether available data links artificial food dyes and ADHD.  The results could lead to new warning labels on many colored foods.  The article lists Jello, sugared cereals, and macaroni and cheese (what color would fake food be without coloring? – that’s the real question).  But what about a ban?  Wouldn’t that be safer for consumers and children?  According to an npr.org article, “Food dyes are added simply for their color to make foods fun. They serve no health purpose whatsoever,” says Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  CSPI wants the FDA to ban eight artificial food dyes. Jacobson is particularly concerned with Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6, which make up 90 percent of the food dyes on the market.  Their use has gone up fivefold in the past 50 years. “That’s a good indication of how much junk food we’re consuming,” he says.

According to this week’s CBS news article, the government previously ruled that there is no proven relationship between food dyes and hyperactivity in most children. And the panel is unlikely to ban the petroleum-based dyes in question, such as Yellow 5, Red 40 and six others.  But consumer advocates and a growing body of scientists say evidence is mounting that processed foods – including those with artificial dyes – may play a role in the inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity that characterize attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

I guess we’ll just have to cross our fingers and wait and see what the panel says.  However, no matter what they decide, I’ll continue to read labels and limit additivesand colorings whenever possible…and make my own macaroni and cheese (real, please!)

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Popeye Puree (Organic Spinach For Kids Recipe)

popeye

From Lisa Barnes

Today’s children probably don’t even know Popeye, but most adults remember him fondly chugging those cans of spinach. No wonder everyone thinks spinach is wet, gray, and tasteless. Here’s the real deal—very sweet and packed with vitamins.

Makes 12 to 14 (1-ounce) servings

1 bunch organic spinach, or 1 (10-ounce) bag frozen organic spinach

Separate leaves and trim from stalks. To clean spinach of all the sand and grit, fill a sink or large basin with lukewarm water. Plunge leaves into sink and swish under water. The silt and sand will sink to the bottom, leaving you with clean leaves.

Steamer Method: Place spinach leaves in a steamer basket set in a pot filled with about 1 to 2 inches of lightly boiling water. Do not let water touch spinach. Cover tightly for best nutrient retention and steam for 2 to 3 minutes, or until spinach is wilted and bright green. Rinse spinach in cold water to stop cooking.

Puree spinach in a food processor. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of cooking liquid to make the puree smoother and adjust consistency.

Microwave Method: Place spinach in a microwave-safe dish. Add 2 tablespoons water and cover tightly, allowing a corner to vent. Microwave on high for 1 minute and stir spinach. Re-cover and cook for 1 minute, or until wilted and bright. Cool spinach and proceed with directions above.
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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons
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Getting Greener or Getting Fooled – Label Deception

From Lisa Barnes

Advertisers and marketers are having a field day with the going green trend and making millions on labels for everything from cheese puffs, to laundry soap, to toys. Everyone wants to buy “greener” products and we simply look for a quick “seal” or buzz words – but what do they mean? Is it eco-friendly, or sustainable, or recyclable, or animal-friendly, biodegradable or “other”?

I recently taught a baby food cooking class to new parents who were just starting to feed their children solids. They of course are very concerned about what goes in and around their babies – as they should be. I showed them how not only to read labels but decipher them and be careful about products marketed for babies and children. Brands our parents and grandfathers trusted aren’t necessarily helping the confusion.

We discovered baby teething biscuits with partially hydrogenated oils. Turkey labeled as “natural” (however it’s legal for “natural” turkey to have been raised on a diet that included hormones, antibiotics or genetically modified corn). Typical “junk foods” (cheese puffs, potato chips) labeled as “organic” (but still no healthier due to trans fats and additives and preservatives). And the biggest shock to the class was baby food packaged in #7 plastic (thought to leach chemicals in foods) – with microwave directions!

This past weekend was a helpful article in the San Francisco Chronicle about green products seals, and claims surrounding green products. We’re still so new at determining and establishing some product standards that some companies are just making them up themselves. Do we want to trust Johnson and Johnson’s “green” label conducted by an in-house team? We need to educate ourselves so we’re not caught up in the marketing tactics of large companies who just want to sell us products (healthy or not, truly “green” or not). Those of us trying to go “greener” need help as well as some time and patience to read between the lines. I found the article to be helpful which you can read here.

As far as food goes, it’s just one more reason to avoid reading labels and shop for whole organic foods at the Farmer’s Market. I know we can’t always go there and they don’t have everything, but it sure makes shopping, cooking and eating easier (and healthier). The good news is that there is a federal standard for “organic” food. However staying away from processed foods cuts down on much of the label deciphering, but if you must do it keep these things in mind for “organic” food claims.

Those small stickers with the numbers on the fruit mean something too. Did you know?…

*A four-digit number means it’s conventionally grown (not organic).

*A five-digit number beginning with 9 means it’s organic.

*A five-digit number beginning with 8 means it’s genetically modified (GM).

According to the Center for Food Safety, GM foods have been in stores only since the 1990s, so we don’t know the long-term health risks, and in a 1998 EPA sampling, 29% of the foods tested contained detectable pesticides.

Here’s a reminder of the organic labels on multiple ingredient foods:

Labels and definitions are as follows

“100 percent organic” All ingredients are organic.

“Organic” At least 95 percent of ingredients are organic.

“Made with organic ingredients” At least 70 percent of ingredients are organic. If less than 70% of the ingredients are organic, the word “organic” can be mentioned on the information panel, but not on the front of the package.

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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
OrganicToBe.org | OrganicToGo.com
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