Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Former Big Food Executive Switches Sides

A former Big Food Executive, Bruce Bradley, comes clean about food industry deception. Mr. Bradley spent 15 years as a food marketer at companies such as Nabisco, Pillsbury and General Mills. He has since "become more educated about the risks and environmental impact of eating processed foods," is a big CSA fan and has created a blog to share the truth.

During a recent interview with Andy Bellatti on Grist.org, Mr. Bradley shared some insight about the industry, the people behind today's processed food companies and his blog.

On your website you write that you've "seen some disturbing trends in the food industry over the past 20 years." What have you found most insidious?

The landscape has changed dramatically since I started my career at Nabisco in 1992. In response to Wall Street profit pressures and the growing power of retailers like Walmart, the food industry has undergone a tremendous wave of consolidation and cost cutting.

This has hurt our food supply in many ways. First, huge, multinational food companies now dominate the landscape. Wielding far greater lobbying power and much deeper pockets, these companies have been very successful in stagnating food regulation. Second, cost savings have been a key profit driver for the industry, but they've had a devastating impact on both food quality and food safety. Think factory farming and GMOs, just to name a couple of examples. Third, as consumers' health concerns have increased, processed food manufacturers have become even more aggressive in making dubious health claims or co-opting fad diets to market their brands and develop new products.

The net impact of this transformed landscape has been disastrous from a public health perspective -- with obesity rates skyrocketing and a never-ending flood of food recalls.

How does the food industry respond to those in the public health and nutrition arena who systematically call them out? Is there is a legitimate fear that one day "the people" will realize how unhealthy many of their products are?

The average person working at a food company doesn't view public health and nutrition "food cops" as a threat. In fact, they are embracing many of the ideas coming from these sources. For example, books like Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma were extremely popular when I was at General Mills, and I learned about CSAs from an R&D scientist working on one of my teams.

Now if you're talking about the Big Food company executives, I do think they feel threatened. However, most of these executives tend to dismiss those who "call them out" as wrong or misinformed, versus taking a serious look at changing their business model. After all, these executives and their companies have a huge interest in maintaining the status quo.

On your blog you say, "confusion is one of the tried and true tools of the processed foods industry." Can you say more about the subtle and not-so-subtle ways these companies confuse us?

I think one of the main ways the processed food industry is trying to grow and defend their business is by funding self-serving research. The goal of these studies isn't to uncover "the truth" or to improve public health. Instead, the research is carefully constructed to create sound bites and statistics to help market their products or combat potential regulation. This is one of the primary ways we end up with conflicting studies that confuse consumers on what they should eat or drink.

Is this purposeful misdirection? Intent is always tough to prove, especially if you don't have firsthand knowledge. Research tends to be the work of a select few within processed food companies, and I was never part of one of those groups. That said, if you dig into these studies and their methodology, you can usually find the telltale signs of how they have "stacked the deck" in their favor.

What are three things you think every consumer should know about Big Food?
  • Big Food is profit-driven. Don't be fooled into thinking a brand or the food company that owns it cares about you or your health.
  • Think critically. Most claims and advertising by Big Food companies are meant to manipulate you, not educate you. Read your labels and do your research.
  • There is no free lunch. Over the long-term, you always get what you pay for. Cheap food is very expensive once you add up the true costs -- like the taxes you pay to subsidize Big Food companies, health consequences like obesity or diabetes, the devastating harm to our environment, and the inhumane treatment of animals raised within the industrialized food system.
For more insider information, check out Bruce's blog. Be sure to check out his series, All Natural... Really? WARNING: This blog is not for the faint of heart and many things you learn there really will make you sick!


Monday, November 7, 2011

Susan G. Koman Response to Pinkwashing Letter and KFC Buckets

The following post is not intended to offend. I just personally believe that there is an awful lot of lying going on in America, both in the for-profit and the not-for-profit camps. I get really angry when companies con people and play on their weaknesses. And I get even angrier when I learn the money that not-for-profit companies make is not really used for the purposes in which it was intended. Especially when a company like Susan G. Komen for the Cure, that makes $400 million (2010) in earnings per year, spends a miserly 21% or $84 million on actual research. Doesn't it make you just a little bit curious as to where the other $316 million goes?

As a Real Food eater, I am very aware of what processed foods can do to our bodies and how the chemicals used to process them can actually cause us to get sick, sometimes terminally. So, when I saw that Susan G. Komen for the Cure had partnered with KFC, I was outraged. I signed my name to a letter from Breast Cancer Action that indicated my level of angst. I am writing this post so that I can not only share that letter, but the follow-up letter from "some unnamed person" at SGK and my response to that letter. If this is an area that is sensitive for you, you might want to stop reading now.

Original Letter to SGK and KFC
Dear KFC and Susan G. Komen for the Cure,
I am appalled by your “Buckets for the Cure” partnership. I share Breast Cancer Action's shock at this outrageous campaign, which uses the breast cancer epidemic to improve the American public's perception of KFC, and increase the company’s profits from the sale of pink buckets of chicken. There is no doubt in my mind that countless people affected by breast cancer find this campaign offensive and upsetting, as is evident from many blog posts and Facebook pages I have seen.

KFC (with Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s blessing) is engaged in one of the worst examples of pinkwashing. A pinkwasher is a company that purports to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink-ribboned product while at the same time manufacturing products that contribute to the disease. In this
case, KFC is encouraging people to buy pink buckets of chicken to demonstrate its alleged commitment to ending the breast cancer epidemic. However, KFC's food is unhealthy and much of it is marketed to low-income communities. KFC thus contributes to the significant problem of providing poor food choices
for low-income communities in the United States, who disproportionately suffer from poor breast cancer outcomes and other problems that may be exacerbated by an unhealthy diet.

Instead of partnering with a corporation that sells unhealthy food, I believe that Susan G. Komen for the Cure should work with companies that do not contribute to the breast cancer epidemic.

Response from SGK
Thank you for your email. The KFC partnership in 2010 helped Komen reach women in about 800 communities not currently served by a Komen Affiliate, with the pink buckets and links to a website with breast health information. It also helped us raise more than $4.2 million for cancer research and other
programs.  It has not been continued this year. I hope this is helpful to you.  Please feel free to email back if you need more information.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure

My response back to SGK
Dear Unnamed Person at Susan G. Komen for the Cure:
Thank you for your canned response. But, no, your response was NOT helpful! Encouraging people to eat disgusting fried chicken that 1) has been raised on factory farms and treated with hormones and chemicals that have been shown to contribute to breast cancer, and 2) contributes to obesity which is one of the factors which increases a persons chances of getting breast cancer - all in the name of curing Breast Cancer??? Ludicrous! Do you people even read your own website???

And let's address that $4.2 million that you so proudly admit to earning. How do you justify the fact that only 21% of those funds actually go towards research and finding a "cure"? And quite frankly, I don't think you really do want to find a cure because if you did there are any number of other ways that all those funds could be used rather than supporting Big Pharma and putting more money in their pockets with your support of chemotherapy (chemical poisoning) and radiation (burning).

An article in Oncology Today (2004) reported that the survival rate of women in the US who received chemotherapy was only 2.1%. Michael Boyer, head of Medical Oncology at the Sydney Cancer Centre, disagrees. He says that the survival rate is closer to 5%. And Guy Fague (The War on Cancer: An anatomy of failure, a blueprint for the future. Springer, 2005), concluded that chemotherapy for cancer is based on "flawed premises with an unattainable goal, cytotoxic chemotherapy in its present form will neither eradicate cancer not alleviate suffering." So, I ask, why is SGK focusing on treatment??? I truly think the pharmaceutical companies have the treatment piece covered. Why would an organization that is called, "Susan G. Komen for the Cure" not be funding and contributing 100% OF IT'S PROCEEDS to finding that cure? 

And here's another question for you, where does the other $3.3 million from selling buckets of chicken go???? Salaries, marketing, pinkwashing??? And while we are questioning where the money is spent, is it really necessary for the CEO of a non-profit organization to make $500,000+ a year? That's more than the president of the United States. Even Steve Jobs, past-CEO to one of the most profitable companies in the world, only made $1/year. Sounds like there are a few more things going on at SGK then a "cure" for breast cancer, but that's just me...     

While I am certainly glad to hear that someone at your organization has come to their senses and realized that buckets of greasy, MSG and soy oil soaked chicken is NOT the correct affiliation for breast cancer awareness and cure, I am still stunned that SGK allowed themselves to be aligned with KFC in the first place. And as long as the pinkwashing continues, I will continue working from my side to educate anyone and everyone about who and what SGK for the Cure is really all about.

Again, thank you for your time in providing a canned response. Please don't waste time responding back if you can provide nothing more than SGK rhetoric. I can read all about it on your website.

Please let me know what you think...is SGK doing what they should be in seeking a cure for breast cancer?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Susan G. Komen Deems BPA Safe

When I wrote this post, The Pink Cure Nonprofit Gone Bad, just a few days ago (about how the Susan G. Komen Organization has become a nonprofit organization that I no longer trust or care to be associated with), little did I know that there would be further fodder again so soon.

SGK Deems BPA Safe
The Susan G. Komen Foundation is denying that BPA (bisphenol A) causes cancer and that it has been linked specifically to an increase in breast cancer. Specifically, the website says: "Links between plastics and cancer are often reported by the media and in e-mail hoaxes. However, there is no scientific research to support a link between using plastic items, such as drinking water from a plastic bottle, and the risk of breast cancer. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical found in some plastic food and beverage containers. Small amounts of BPA from the containers can get into the food and beverages inside. As a result, we can be exposed to low levels of BPA. At this time, there is no evidence to suggest a link between BPA and the risk of breast cancer."

REALLY???!!! For an organization whose main focus is the prevention and treatment of breast cancer to allow such careless, blase statements on their website is truly shocking. Not only is the information misleading, it demonstrates a significant ignorance by the individual who wrote it. SGK has become a place where many go for information, for hope. And now we know that the information is at best questionable and, at worst, completely wrong. It raises the question of why? Why would SGK not at least make the statement that there have been concerns and they are doing research? Isn't that what they are supposed to be all about?

Perhaps to find the the best answer to this question, we need to follow the money trail. Many of SGK's biggest sponsors are corporations who utilize the chemical, BPA, in their products and have also downplayed the health concerns. Sponsors - Coca-Cola (the shareholders voted by a 3-to-1 margin to continue using BPA in the lining of its soft-drink cans), Geneal Mills, Georgia Pacific and 3M - just to name a few. Is it surprising that 3M, who has contributed more than $1 million to SGK since 2007, is also a member of The American Chemistry Council? The same council who has doggedly insisted that BPA is safe. The same council who has fought fiercely against fedeal and state proposals to ban the chemical.

SGK has come under heavy criticism for the statements on their website. In an interview, SGK's chief scientific adviser, Dr. Eric Winer, had this to say in response to the criticism, "If a woman is particularly worried about plastics, she can avoid plastics in her life." Throughout the interview, Winer deflected other experts' criticisms by stressing personal responsibility. "Nothing stops an individual woman from living her life a certain way. And if she chooses to do that, she can do that." Sounds like another medical "professional" riding the CYA train to hell.

More Chemicals Downplayed
Sadly, SGK's role of downplaying the link between chemicals and breast cancer isn't limited to BPA. Organochlorine pesticides (including the infamous DDT) is also listed as one of the "Factors That Do Not Increase Risk" on their website. A 2007 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives even suggested that women exposed to DDT as adolescents were five times more likely to develop breast cancer during adulthood. SGK's position on the role chemicals play in cancer perhaps reflects the debate within the public-health community over the importance of addressing the influence of environmental factors on cancer. Research has shown that only about 10 percent of breast cancer cases in the United States can be traced to hereditary factors. "We now know from just a whole lot of science that environmental variables have a strong influence on gene expression," said Dr. Ted Schettler, Science Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network.

BPA Studies
Following are statements from studies that have shown the link between BPA and breast cancer and many other health problems. Note that none of these studies were conducted by the companies actually using BPA.

"More than 130 studies have linked BPA to breast cancer, obesity, and other health problems," according to the United States' President's Cancer Panel (2010).

"A study by the California Pacific Medical Center found that BPA even made healthy breast cells behave like cancer cells and decreased the effectiveness of yet another breast cancer drug."

"According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 93% of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies. New analysis by the CDC indicates that many Americans are exposed to BPA at levels far above the safety threshold set by the EPA."

"Of the more than 100 independently funded experiments on BPA, about 90% have found evidence of adverse health effects at levels similar to human exposure. On the other hand, every single industry-funded study ever conducted -- 14 in all -- has found no such effects." - The Real Story on BPA

"Promise Me" Perfume Toxic?
And last, but certainly not least, the SGK foundation has come under further attack over their "Promise Me" perfume. A rival cancer-fighting charity claims that the perfume contains toxic chemicals that are not only not listed on the label, but linked to breast cancer. The executive director of Breast Cancer Action, Karuna Jagger, said that they had the fragrance tested after concerns that "it contains a number of chemicals of concern that are not listed on the ingredients." "I let them (SGK) know what chemicals were found and they responded in a confusing way," she told CBS San Farncisco.

SGK responded first by saying that they test all their ingredients and then stated that they were working with their manufacturer to reformulate the perfume. So which is it, is it safe because you tested it or does it need to be reformulated because it includes toxic chemicals that have been linked to breast cancer?

In a world teeming with man-made chemicals with unknown long-term effects, using ANY artificial ingredients is taking a chance with your health and the health of those around you (none of us has a say about what a stranger or friend uses on their own body and exposes us to). SGK's act of partnering with a manufacturer to "pink brand" a product that includes chemicals linked to breast cancer just proves that they are no different than any other organization (albeit they certainly have more free money to work with). They have put profit before people, health and humanity.

Linked at Real Food Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stuff We Need to Know

There is so much great information and so many relevant posts out on the web that periodically I will share some of them with you. Please let me know if you see some that I need to know about!

The High Fructose Corn Syrup Name Game

Avoiding GMOs When Eating Out

9 Ways to Fix Our Food System

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Pink Cure Nonprofit Gone Bad

I have been very aware for years that most nonprofit organizations are little more than income generating frauds that can and do make more money, with less restrictions and accountability, than those in the for-profit sector. They have marketing budgets that most for-profits would kill for; and who is their target audience - those who want to give back or help in some small way. Unfortunately, most of us do not have the time, the means or the knowledge to do the kind of work that results in the wiping out of hunger or finding the cure for cancer. So, we open our checkbooks and contribute to those organizations that convince us they are doing a good thing. It makes us feel better when we do and the US government gives us a tax break to boot!

Here's a bit of a reality check about those nonprofit organizations who ask for our money - the creators (and the friends they "hire") earn exorbitant salaries, have little to no experience working in the nonprofit arena and contribute only 20% of the monies raised to the actual cause. Yes, you read that correctly, the government states that a nonprofit need only give 20% of it's annual donations directly to the cause for which the nonprofit was created. I don't know about you, but there is something about that which just doesn't sit right with me. So, when I read the following article, I just had to share it with you. By the way, I couldn't have said it better myself. Please come back after you read it and share your thoughts.

I Will Not Be Pinkwashed: Why I Do Not Support Susan G. Komen for the Cure
October 22, 2011
[I'll admit. I'm a little nervous to put this one out there. The closest I've come to writing anything super controversial has been standing up for my beloved, saturated-fat-laden butter. And this is obviously something much more serious. But it's something I feel I absolutely have to say, and I hope you'll listen with an open mind.]

Pinkwashing America

It’s October.
And that means, it’s prime pink season. It’s national “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”
It’s that magical time of the year when shades of pale pink are plastered onto every product, every container, every conceivable gadget or gizmo that the Susan G. Komen Foundation can get their hands on.
When that iconic symbol of overlapped ribbon is supposed to adorn every man, woman, and child who ever had a mother, grandmother, sister, daughter, niece or aunt who faced the horrifying struggle of breast cancer.
But I am not buying it.

Susan G. Komen: For Cure or Con?

Susan G. Komen for the Cure is a multi-million-dollar company with assets totaling over $390 million dollars. Only 20.9% of these funds were reportedly used in the 2009-2010 fiscal year for research, “for the cure.” Where does the rest of the money go? Let’s have a look. Read the rest of the article here

Friday, October 21, 2011

Enter to Win US Wellness Meats Beef Tallow - $100 Value

If you would like to have a chance to win $100 worth of healthy beef tallow from US Wellness Meats, head over to Kelly the Kitchen Kop to enter! And if you would like to purchase some of the best grass-fed beef on the planet, head over to US Wellness Meats. You'll thank me!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lucky Charms Tops List of Healthiest Breakfast Choices

Recently, I signed my name to a petition that was sent to various cereal manufacturers. I wanted them to know that I strongly oppose them in their fight against a proposed, voluntary set of nutrition guidelines for foods that are marketed specifically to children. These guidelines contain recommended guidelines for calories, unhealthy fats and sodium for foods marketed to kids, as well as minimum thresholds to ensure that the foods provide things of value to kids' diets like fruit, vegetables or whole grains.

Remember that I said these proposed guidelines are voluntary, they can be adopted or ignored as each company sees fit. In response, the food industry has developed their own, far inferior set of nutrition standards for foods marketed to kids. The really strange thing is that even though the proposed guidelines are completely non-binding and contain no regulatory force of any kind, they are pulling out all the stops to get the government to withdraw their marketing recommendations. Following is a letter that I received from General Mills (my comments in bold).

Thank you for your email regarding the Interagency Working Group proposal.  Please allow me to respond. Your email notes that we have lobbied against the Interagency Working Group (IWG) proposal.  That is correct.  We have serious concerns about the IWG proposal. 

Our most advertised product is cereal – and we stand behind it. Cereal is one of the healthiest breakfast choices you can make
(Reese's Puffs, Cookie Crunch and Lucky Charms are at the top of my list of healthy foods).  Ready-to-eat cereal has fewer calories than almost any other common breakfast option (fewer calaries and zero nutrition). Cereal eaters consume less fat, less cholesterol and more fiber than non-cereal eaters.  If it is a General Mills cereal, it will also be a good or excellent source of whole grains (whole grains to start that have been cooked to mush, high heat dried and forced through a sieve to create fun shapes and then sprayed with vitamins and nutrients as there is nothing nutrionally left after processing).

Childhood obesity is a serious issue – and General Mills wants to be part of the solution.  But if the issue is obesity, cereal should perhaps be advertised more, not less
(yes, because more artificial, processed ingredients with sugar and trans fat is THE solution to childhood obesity).  Because frequent cereal eaters tend to have healthier body weights  – including people who choose sweetened cereals. It’s true of men. It’s true of women. It’s true of kids.

Data published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, based on the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), found that frequent cereal eaters tend to have healthier body weights overall, including kids who eat sweetened cereals.  To be precise, kids who eat four to seven servings of cereal over a 14-day period are less likely to be overweight than kids who eat fewer than four servings of cereal. Kids who eat cereal more frequently, or more than seven times in 14 days, are even less likely to be overweight than kids who eat cereal less frequently. (As compared to what....non breakfast eaters, those eating bacon and eggs, poptarts, pancakes and syrup?)

Another study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association followed 2,000 American girls over a 10-year period.  It found that girls who demonstrated a consistent cereal-eating pattern had healthier body weights and lower body mass index (BMI) than those who did not.
(Again as compared to what? You cannot make a broad sweeping statement like that without context.)

General Mills’ ready-to-eat cereals are America’s number one source of whole grain at breakfast, and fortified cereals provide more iron, folic acid, zinc, B vitamins and fiber than any other conventional breakfast choice.  Eating cereal also has the added benefit of promoting milk consumption
(milk treated with antibiotics and hormones and pasturized at such high temperatures that it has a shelf-life of forever).  Forty-one percent of the milk children consume is with cereal – and the figure is even higher for African American and Hispanic children.

Many things have been written about the proposed IWG guidelines in the media and–many misstatements have been made. You can be assured than food and beverage companies have studied every letter, comma and period in the proposal.  We know what it says, and what it does not.  For example, we know that 88 of the 100 most commonly consumed foods and beverages could not be marketed under the IWG guidelines.  The list of “banned” items under the guidelines would include essentially all cereals, salads, whole wheat bread, yogurt, canned vegetables, and a host of other items universally recognized as healthy
(Thunderous applause!!!! Maybe we will finally get real, healthy food versus the processed garbage you and other companies like you produce)

Despite the characterizations used to advance them, the IWG guidelines would not be voluntary, in our view.  The IWG guidelines are advanced by two of the agencies most responsible for regulating the food industry, as well as the agency most responsible for regulating advertising.  Ignoring their “voluntary guidance” would not be an option for most companies.   Regulation has already been threatened (even demanded) should companies choose not to comply – and litigation would inevitably follow. 
It's about time the food industry was held responsible for the lies and cover ups that have been propagated upon us for years.

The IWG guidelines also conflict with most existing government programs and definitions relative to food.  For example, many products that meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s current definition of “healthy” could not be advertised under the IWG guidelines.  Many products included in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program fail the IWG standards, as do most products encouraged and subsidized under the USDA’s Women, Infants and Children Feeding Program (WIC)
(probably because they are processed garbage to begin with).  Even low-calorie, nutrient dense foods of the type specifically encouraged by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines broadly fail to meet the unique stringency of the proposed WIG restrictions.  In fact, it is readily apparent that the new IWG guidelines have no parallel whatsoever – from a nutrition or science standpoint – with any other U.S. government food or nutrition program (again, thunderous applause!!!! It is time to move away from BigAG and the status quo).
Curiously for guidelines purportedly developed to address obesity, the IWG guidelines fail to include any reference to calories. The inexplicable omission of a measure as important as calories also works to the disadvantage of cereal products (that's what this is really about isn't it, the poor light with which cereal will truly be shown), which are inherently low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods (low calorie does not necessarily mean healthy).  Importantly, this is true of both unsweetened cereals and sweetened cereals, because both tend to have roughly equal numbers of calories per serving – most being about 120 calories per serving – whether sweetened or not.

Finally, your email suggests companies should focus on providing feedback via public comment.  We agree.  We have reviewed every detail of the IWG proposal – and we remain opposed, as our public comment explains. Thank you again for your email, and for allowing us the opportunity to respond.

Tom Forsythe
Vice President, Corporate Communications
General Mills

Here is the ingredient list for Reese's Puffs:
Corn (whole grain corn meal), sugar, Reese's creamy peanut butter (roasted peanuts, sugar, contains 2% or less of: mono- and diglycerides, peanut oil, salt, molasses and corn starch), dextrose, modified corn starch, canola and/or rice bran oil, corn syrup, salt, Hershey's cocoa, tricalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, red 40, yellows 5&6, blue 1 and other color added, trisodium phosphate, zinc and iron (mineral nutrients) vitamin C (sodium ascorbate), a B vitamin (niacinamide), artificial flavor, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B1 (thiamin mononitrate), vitamin A (palmitate), a B vitamin (folic acid), vitamin B12, vitamin D, wheat flour, vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) and TBHQ added to preserve freshness. Contains Peanuts and Wheat ingredients. Two questions - 1) If this cereal is made from "whole" grains and is so healthy, why does it need to be fortified? 2) Where is the healthy in this ingredient list?

I guess I don't need to tell you that my blood was boiling after I read his response. Please tell me what you think.

See the Preliminary Proposed Nutrition Guidelines here.

This Post was shared on Real Food Wednesday.