Three New Jersey residents are suing Nathan’s Famous, Kraft Foods/Oscar Mayer, Sara Lee, Con Agra Foods, and Marathon Enterprises for failing to warn consumers that hot dogs increase the danger of colorectal cancer. The action comes in the wake of landmark scientific studies linking hot dogs and similar meats to colon cancer.

The class-action consumer fraud lawsuit, filed July 22 in Superior Court in Essex County, seeks to compel all five companies to place cancer-risk warning labels on hot dog packages sold in New Jersey. The labels would read “Warning: Consuming hot dogs and other processed meats increases the risk of cancer.”

The nonprofit Cancer Project is filing the suit on behalf of John O’Donnell, Ruthann Hilland, and Michele DeScisciolo, who purchased hot dogs made by the companies without being made aware that processed meat products are a cause of colorectal cancer.

“Just as tobacco causes lung cancer, processed meats are linked to colon cancer,” says Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Cancer Project. “Companies that sell hot dogs are well aware of the danger, and their customers deserve the same information.”

The lawsuit is based on the findings of a landmark report from the American Institute for Cancer Research, based on 58 separate scientific studies, showing that just one 50-gram serving of processed meat (about the amount in one hot dog) consumed daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer, on average, by 21 percent. Every year, about 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer; approximately 50,000 die of it.

In March, the National Cancer Institute published a study of more than half a million people showing that red and processed meat intake is associated with a higher risk of dying from cancer and cardiovascular disease.

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A federal law that takes effect today will require supermarkets and other big food retailers to label or otherwise display the country of origin for meat, produce, and certain kinds of nuts.

Sounds great right? After all most of us do want to know where our food comes from. The new law will should help us choose food from countries we feel are safe, and avoid countries that may have less than optimal food safety standards. If only it were that simple.

For starters the labels won’t apply to meat or produce that has been cooked or processed. Plain ground beef must carry a label, but if a package contains a blend of meats from several countries, the rules don’t require the countries to be listed in order of the percentage of food they contributed. A salad package containing different kinds of leaf lettuce will have to be labeled, but a package containing different kinds of vegetables, such as peas and carrots, won’t. Fresh strawberries get a label but not chocolate-covered ones. Raw peanuts? Label. Roasted ones? No label. Those popular pre-washed salad mixes? Sometimes. Read the rest of this entry »

On August 22, 2008, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a final rule that allows the use of irradiation to fresh iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach.

It is the first time the FDA has allowed any produce to be irradiated at levels needed to protect against illness.

The announcement is a partial response to a food additive petition that was filed by the National Food Processors Association (now Grocery Manufacturers’ Association or GMA) in 2000. That petition also covered the irradiation of pre-processed meat and poultry, raw and pre-processed vegetables and fruits, and other multi-ingredient products containing cooked or uncooked meat or poultry.  In 2007, GMA asked FDA for a partial response on the question of the irradiation of fresh iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach.

Although this announcement only applies to fresh iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach, other fresh produce, such as tomatoes or peppers, are included in the Grocery Manufacturers Association petition. The FDA says it is continuing to evaluate the use of irradiation in additional foods.

In the US, the Food Additives Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) of 1958 places food irradiation under the food additive regulations.  Read the rest of this entry »

A consumer advocacy group called on the Food and Drug Administration Tuesday to ban the use of eight artificial colorings in food because the additives may cause hyperactivity and behavior problems in some children.

Controlled studies conducted over three decades have shown that children’s behavior can be worsened by some artificial dyes, says the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The colorings the center seeks to ban are: Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3, and Yellow 6. The group noted the British government is successfully pressuring food manufacturers to switch to safer colorings.

Over the years, the FDA has consistently disputed the center’s assertion. Read the rest of this entry »

Read between the lines and you’ll discover that what you’re munching on may not be the best choice.

Low fat. Reduced calories. Vitamin enriched. Walk down any aisle of your grocery store and you’ll be bombarded with foods boasting of their benefits. Okay, so wheat bread is better for you than white bread, but is that loaf you have in your hands really the best choice? Sometimes you have to step back and see what you’re buying to really know if it’s healthy.

Here’s a grocery store list of products you should be careful of:

Multigrain Cereal or Bread
You may think that anything that’s labeled seven-grain or multigrain is the best choice. Studies have shown that whole grain eaters have lower rates of heart disease and strokes. Many foods that claim to be rich in whole grains actually aren’t because the fiber and nutrients are stripped away when grains are refined into flour. Make sure you’re getting whole grain by learning the lingo of food claims. Bread that’s 100 percent whole grain contains no refined flour while cereal that’s made with whole grain may have a little or a lot. Always check the ingredients panel. Whole grains should be the first or second ingredient listed. Plus, products that have at least 16 grams of whole grains per serving are stamping their packaging with the Whole Grains Council’s logo, making it easier for you to find whole grain products! Read the rest of this entry »

From both a nutritional and environmental impact perspective, farmed fish are far inferior to their wild counterparts:

  • Despite being much fattier, farmed fish provide less usable beneficial omega 3 fats than wild fish.
  • Due to the feedlot conditions of aquafarming, farm-raised fish are doused with antibiotics and exposed to more concentrated pesticides than their wild kin. Farmed salmon, in addition, are given a salmon-colored dye in their feed, without which, their flesh would be an unappetizing grey color.
  • Aquafarming also raises a number of environmental concerns, the most important of which may be its negative impact on wild salmon. It has now been established that sea lice from farms kill up to 95% of juvenile wild salmon that migrate past them. Read the rest of this entry »

Poultry giant Tyson Foods has 10 days to dismantle a national multimillion dollar ad campaign centered on the claim that its chickens are raised without antibiotics, a federal appeals court in Richmond ruled last week.

Tyson will have to remove posters and brochures from 8,500 grocery stores nationwide.

“We’re disappointed the motion for a stay has been denied and are evaluating our legal options,” said Gary Mickelson, a spokesman for Tyson Foods. “We continue to believe we have acted responsibly in the way we have labeled and marketed our products and intend to stand our ground.”

The ruling is a setback for Tyson in its ongoing battle with two of its competitors Sanderson Farms, based in Laurel, Miss., and Perdue Farms, based in Salisbury, Md. The two companies jointly sought an injunction to stop Tyson’s ad campaign, arguing the “raised without antibiotics” claim misleads consumers by making it appear Tyson’s chicken is safer or more healthful. Read the rest of this entry »

According to Felicity Lawrence, author of the book, Not On The Label, bread making changed in the Sixties when scientists discovered how to make a loaf quickly and bulk it up with water.

“Instead of allowing two to three days fermentation they found that air and water could be incorporated into dough if it was mixed at high speeds,” she says.

“Double the quantity of yeast was needed to make it rise, chemical oxidants were essential to get the gas in and hardened fat had to be added to provide structure. The process gave a much higher yield of bread from each sack of flour because the dough absorbed so much water.” The added fat, often in the form of unhealthy hydrogenated fat, helps today’s bread look firm and spongy. It is often included as a part of the ambiguous-sounding “flour treatment agent” usually found listed in the ingredients.

  • Approximately 6.9 million Americans are allergic to seafood, and 3.3 million are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts .
  • About 3.1 million children in the U.S. have food allergies. – According to studies conducted by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), peanut allergies doubled in children between 1997 and 2002.
  • In the U.S., food is the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside the hospital setting.
  • There is presently no known cure for food allergies.
  • Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction. And allergens don’t have to be ingested to cause a reaction; skin contact or inhalation also can trigger it. According to research conducted at Mt. Sinai hospital in New York, people should wait at least four hours after consuming a food allergen before kissing someone who is allergic to that food.
  • A FAAN review of food allergy fatalities found that most of the people had never had a severe allergic reaction until the one that caused their death.
  • Scientists don’t know why allergies are increasing.

In an effort to help people avoid the health risks posed by food allergens, Congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. The law applies to all foods regulated by FDA, both domestic and imported, that were labeled on or after January 1, 2006. (FDA regulates all foods except meat, poultry, and certain egg products.)

Before this law, the labels of foods made from two or more ingredients were required to list all ingredients by their common, or usual, names. The names of some ingredients, however, do not clearly identify their source.

Now, the labels must clearly identify the source of all ingredients that are — or are derived from — the eight most common food allergens. As a result, food labels help allergic consumers to identify offending foods or ingredients so they can more easily avoid them. Read the rest of this entry »

This cantaloupe recall has me a bit unnerved. I like cantaloupe. Last Monday I was at the Farmers Market eyeing a gigantic box of them marked at under a dollar a piece. In my mind that boiled down to a healthy, budget minded, tasty, breakfast, snack, or dessert. There was an older lady next to me commenting on how nice they were, especially for the price. But I had just read something that morning about cantaloupes being recalled. I couldn’t remember the exact details but after hesitating I told her I hoped they weren’t the ones recently found to be contaminated with salmonella. She put back her coveted cantaloupe. I felt bad. What if it’s not that big a deal? What if perfectly good cantaloupes get tossed aside or thrown out unnecessarily? It’s sad we have to wonder about cantaloupes at all.

Food recalls are happening on what seems to be a much too regular basis. If memory serves me we’ve had peanut butter, spinach, beef, pet food, sprouts, milk, more beef, more sprouts, pancake mix, cantaloupe, more cantaloupe and today Milford Valley, Dutch Farms and Kirkwood frozen, prepared chicken (go to: for more details.) Those are just the recent recalls that involve food and are widespread.

It isn’t bad enough that the food gets contaminated, somehow makes it through the system, and causes sickness and in some cases, death. It’s that we have this propagandized, false sense of assurance that some big government agency is actually on top of it. THEY AREN’T! Read the rest of this entry »