Monday, December 30, 2013

Office workers in search of snacks will be counting calories along with their change under new labeling regulations for vending machines included in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law.
Requiring calorie information to be displayed on roughly 5 million vending machines nationwide will help consumers make healthier choices, says the Food and Drug Administration, which is expected to release final rules early next year. It estimates the cost to the vending machine industry at $25.8 million initially and $24 million per year after that, but says if just .02 percent of obese adults ate 100 fewer calories a week, the savings to the health care system would be at least that great.
The rules will apply to about 10,800 companies that operate 20 or more machines. Nearly three quarters of those companies have three or fewer employees, and their profit margin is extremely low, according to the National Automatic Merchandising Association. An initial investment of $2,400 plus $2,200 in annual costs is a lot of money for a small company that only clears a few thousand dollars a year, said Eric Dell, the group's vice president for government affairs.
"The money that would be spent to comply with this — there's no return on the investment," he said.
While the proposed rules would give companies a year to comply, the industry group has suggested a two-year deadline and is urging the government to allow as much flexibility as possible in implementing the rules. Some companies may use electronic displays to post calorie counts while others may opt for signs stuck to the machines.
Carol Brennan, who owns Brennan Food Vending Services in Londonderry, said she doesn't yet know how she will handle the regulations, but she doesn't like them. She has five employees servicing hundreds of machines and says she'll be forced to limit the items offered so her employees don't spend too much time updating the calorie counts.
"It is outrageous for us to have to do this on all our equipment," she said.
Brennan also doubts that consumers will benefit from the calorie information.
"How many people have not read a label on a candy bar?" she said. "If you're concerned about it, you've already read it for years."
But Kim Gould, 58, of Seattle, said he doesn't read the labels even after his choice pops out of a vending machine, so having access to that information wouldn't change what he buys.
"People have their reasons they eat well or eat poorly," Gould said.
Standing with his 12-year-old daughter near a vending machine in a medical clinic where he bought some drinks last week, he said he only makes purchases at the machines when he's hungry and has no other options.
"How do we know people who are buying candy in the vending machines aren't eating healthy 99 percent of the time?" he added.
As for the new labels, Gould said he wasn't sure what the point would be, and that they would just be "nibbling around the edges of the problem."
The FDA also is working on final rules for requiring restaurant chains with more than 20 locations to post calories information, something some cities already mandate and some large fast-food operations have begun doing voluntarily. A 2011 study in New York found that only one in six customers looked at the information, but those who did generally ordered about 100 fewer calories. A more recent study in Philadelphia found no difference in calories purchased after the city's labeling law took effect.
"There is probably a subset of people for whom this information works, who report using it to purchase fewer calories, but what we're not seeing though is a change at an overall population level in the number of calories consumed," said Brian Ebel, the study's author and an assistant professor at New York University's department of population health and medicine.
Ebel said he wouldn't be surprised if the vending machine labels end up being equally ineffective, but he said it's possible that consumers might pay more attention to them for a couple of reasons. In some locations, a vending machine might be the only food option, he said. And reading a list of calorie counts on a machine will be less overwhelming than scanning a large menu at a fast-food restaurant with other customers waiting in line behind you, he said.
"It could go either way, but I think there's at least some reason to think it could be slightly more influential in vending machines."
Even without the calorie counts, consumers already have ways to make healthier choices from vending machines. The vending machine industry group launched its "Fit Pick" system in 2005, which includes stickers placed in front of products that meet healthy guidelines for fat and sugar content. The program is used by nearly 14,000 businesses, schools and government agencies, as well as all branches of the military.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Chinese Demand Keeps Dairy Prices High In 2014

The global dairy industry can expect continued high prices in 2014 due to high Chinese demand, according to a new report from Rabobank.
According to the report, international dairy commodity prices strengthened from already high levels and are expected to remain high at least for the first half of 2014. The increase of export supply since September, as producers have responded to improved margins, has been largely soaked up by continuing vigorous buying from China.
"Global prices have remained high despite the taps being turned on in key export regions," said Rabobank analyst Tim Hunt. "China continues to buy exceptionally large volumes of product from the international market to supplement falling local milk supply and this is likely to mop up most, if not all, of the increase in exports arising from key surplus regions in Q4."
The global dairy market will enter 2014 with farmgate milk prices at record or near record highs in many export and import regions. Meanwhile the prices of commodity feeds, such as soybeans and corn, have fallen 10%-40% below prior year levels, opening up large margins for milk producers in intensive feeding regions.
Despite a small softening in prices in October and November, global prices have remained high due to an uptick in December. By mid-December, Whole Milk Powder (WMP) held above $5,000 per ton in fob Oceania trade, while prices of other key commodities rose between 3% and 5%, as Southern Hemisphere processors switched milk type towards the higher-yielding WMP.
China's buying has left the rest of the buy-side of the international market with less supply to go around, keeping the market tight. With export supply still in the early stages of recovery, prices edged up even further in Q4 to ration supply.
The report predicts a further increase in China's dairy purchases from the world market in 2014. A strong Northern Hemisphere production season, following on from an exceptional season in the Southern Hemisphere should generate more than enough exportable supply to exceed China's additional demand, the report says.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Study: Potentially Harmful Bacteria on Most Tested Chicken Breasts

About half of samples tested had at least one bacteria resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics; bacteria were more resistant to antibiotics approved for use in chicken production
YONKERS, N.Y., Dec. 19, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In its most comprehensive tests of meat and poultry to date, Consumer Reports found bacteria that could make consumers sick on nearly all of the 316 raw chicken breasts purchased at retail nationwide. The full report, "The High Cost of Cheap Chicken," is featured in the February 2014 issue of Consumer Reports and online at
While Consumer Reports has consistently been testing chicken for more than 15 years, this is the first time it has looked at the contamination rates for six different bacteria – enterococcus (79.8 percent), E.coli (65.2 percent), campylobacter (43 percent), klebsiella pneumonia (13.6 percent), salmonella (10.8 percent), and staphylococcus aureus (9.2 percent). It also evaluated every bacterium for antibiotic resistance and found that about half the chicken samples harbored at least one multidrug-resistant bacteria.
As part of this investigation, the Consumer Reports National Research Center recently conducted a nationally representative survey of 1,005 respondents about their understanding of labels and their handling and cooking habits for chicken. The survey found that more than half of respondents thought that "natural" chickens did not receive antibiotics or genetically modified feed and more than one-third thought "natural" was equal to "organic," all of which are not true.
"Our tests show consumers who buy chicken breast at their local grocery stores are very likely to get a sample that is contaminated and likely to get a bug that is multidrug resistant. When people get sick from resistant bacteria, treatment may be getting harder to find," said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, a toxicologist and Executive Director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center. "Our survey also shows that consumers are making buying decisions based on label claims that they believe are offering them additional value when that is not in fact the case. The marketplace clearly needs to change to meet consumer expectations."
Consumer Reports' study comes at a time when 48 million people are falling sick and 3,000 dying in the United States each year from eating tainted food, with more deaths being attributed to poultry than any other commodity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Other highlights from Consumer Reports' findings include:
  • The majority of samples tested positive for one of the common measures of fecal contamination – Enterococcus and E.coli. More advanced testing showed that 17.5 percent of the E.coli are the type (known as ExPEC) that have genes that make these bacteria more likely to cause urinary tract infections.
  • About half of chicken samples contained at least one bacterium resistant to three or more antibiotics, commonly referred to as multidrug-resistant bacteria or "superbug." Slightly more than 11 percent contained two or more multidrug-resistant bacteria.
  • Bacteria were more resistant to antibiotics approved for use in chicken production for growth promotion and disease prevention than those not approved for those uses.
  • One sample was a Foster Farms chicken breast from a plant associated with the recent outbreak. The sample contained a Salmonella Heidelberg that was a match to one of the outbreak strains. Consumer Reports released its results about this sample in October 2013 immediately after it was confirmed.
Since 1998, Consumer Reports' tests of chicken have shown salmonella rates have not changed much, ranging between 11 and 16 percent.
"We know especially for salmonella, other countries have reduced their rates. In fact, systemic solutions were implemented throughout the European Union. Government data show that in 2010, 22 countries met the European target for less than or equal to 1 percent contamination of two important types of salmonella in their broiler flocks. There is no reason why the United States can't do the same," concludes Rangan.
For more information on what has been done in Europe and different sustainability practices, visit
What the Government Can Do
"We are looking to the government to ensure the safety and sustainability of the entire food supply," said Rangan. "We need to attack the root causes of the problems. Without a government focus on effective solutions, meat safety will continue to be compromised."
In order to reduce rates of bacterial contamination as European counterparts have done and preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics, Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, calls on the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA), Congress, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to do the following:
  • Congress should give the USDA authority to mandate a recall of meat and poultry products, especially when product from a plant matches that of a human outbreak strain. Currently, it cannot mandate any recall.
  • The FDA should prohibit antibiotic use in food animals except for the treatment of sick ones. FDA's action last week giving voluntary guidance to drug companies to end labeling of antibiotics for growth promotion uses is an important first step, but is far from what is needed overall. An effective way to ensure that antibiotics are only used to treat sick animals is for Congress to pass the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act.
  • The USDA should classify strains of salmonella bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics and known to have caused disease as "adulterants," so that inspectors look for those strains routinely and when found, the products cannot be sold.
  • The USDA should move quickly to set strict levels for allowable salmonella and campylobacter in chicken parts. The agency expects to put that proposal out for public review and feedback this year. As part of this process, the USDA should publish a list of meat products like chicken parts for which it has no performance standards and indicate a timetable for establishing them. We say these standards can't come soon enough.
  • The USDA's proposed rule to increase maximum line speeds and reduce the number of USDA inspectors at slaughter plants should be dropped.
  • The National Organic Program should eliminate the loophole allowing antibiotics to be used in the chicken eggs up until the first day of life in organic chicken broilers.
  • USDA should ban the use of the "natural" claim, which is not a meaningful label, and require claims on meat to be certified and inspected.
What Consumers Can Do
Consumer Reports advises consumers to follow these tips to ensure proper handling and cooking of chicken:
  • Wash hands when handling any type of meat or poultry – frozen or fresh – before touching anything else and wash them for at least 20 seconds with hot soapy water – even if it means multiple washings.
  • Use a cutting board designated strictly for raw meat and poultry. When done, place it in the dishwasher directly from the counter or wash with hot soapy water.
  • Don't run chicken under the faucet before cooking.
  • When cooking, use a meat thermometer and always cook chicken to 165°F.
  • When shopping, buy meat last; keeping chicken cold delays bacteria overgrowth. Place chicken in a plastic bag to prevent other items from contamination.
  • Buy chicken raised without antibiotics to help preserve the effectiveness of these drugs; avoid meaningless labels like "natural" and "free range".

Sunday, December 15, 2013

re Specific Testing May Lessen Severity Of Fish Allergies

More specific testing to identify fish allergies in affected persons may identify allergens not common to all types of seafood, which could lessen the severity of fish allergies, according to a new study published in the Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology.
Researchers at Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), University of Leipzig and Haukeland University Hospital examined 12 patients to determine the extent of their fish allergies. One of the subjects had developed an allergy to Nile perch (Lates niloticus) after having come into contact with the raw fish following consumption of salmon (Salmo salar), called a "cross allergy." Tests indicated signs of allergies to Nile perch and salmon, but not to Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua).
The most common allergen in fish and crustaceans is parvalbumin, a calcium-binding protein. While other substances may also trigger allergies, such as certain proteins in cell metabolism called aldehyde dehydrogenases, these proteins have been overlooked due to the prevalence of the more frequent parvalbumin.
Researchers concluded the tests that are currently used are very non-specific, whereas more specific testing could identify less common allergens. The most direct way of identifying new allergens is through analyzing the serum of affected patients and the proteins of the allergy source. If certain antibodies in the patients’ serum bind to the proteins of the food, the allergy is triggered. The identified allergies can be used initially for individual diagnoses and later for epidemiological studies, to determine the relevance of individual allergies.
"For some people who suffer from fish allergies there may be hope of finding a fish that they can tolerate if we managed to make the relevant tests suitable for mass implementation and use them in allergy diagnostics," said Janina Tomm, Ph.D., from the UFZ, who specializes in research into proteins.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Study Finds Organic Milk Has More Omega 3s Than Conventional Milk

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Cows graze in a pasture at the University of New Hampshire's organic dairy farm in Lee, N.H., Sept. 27, 2006.
Cows graze in a pasture at the University of New Hampshire's organic dairy farm in Lee, N.H., Sept. 27, 2006.
Cows graze in a pasture at the University of New Hampshire's organic dairy farm in Lee, N.H., Sept. 27, 2006.
While milk consumption continues to fall in the U.S., sales of organic milk are on the rise. And now organic milk accounts for about 4 percent of total fluid milk consumption.
For years, organic producers have claimed their milk is nutritionally superior to regular milk. Specifically, they say that because their cows spend a lot more time out on pasture, munching on grasses and legumes rich in omega-3 fatty acids, the animals' milk is higher in these healthy fats, which are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
But the evidence for this has been scant, except for some small studies from Europe.
Now, a new study evaluating organic milk produced in the U.S. finds that organic milk has about 62 percent more omega-3s, compared to milk produced by cows on conventional dairy farms. Cows raised on conventional farms typically spend a lot more time in a barn or confined, and instead of grazing, they're fed a diet of animal feed that contains a lot of corn.
"We were surprised by the magnitude of the differences," lead author Charles Benbrook of Washington State University tells The Salt.
Benbrook and his colleague analyzed about 400 samples of organic and conventional milk over a period of about a year and a half. The samples were taken at processing facilities around the country.
The findings, published in the journal PLoS ONE, come at a time when we're being told to consume more omega-3 fatty acids. Most people hear this advice and think of fatty fish — which is, of course, an excellent source of the omega-3s DHA and EPA.
What's less well known is that plant-based foods, such as leafy greens and nuts, are rich in another omega-3 called ALA. Now, it's becoming clearer that organic milk is a good source of that, too.
Benbrook says that consuming ALA-rich milk is also a good way to change the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your diet. According to the National Institutes of Health, the consensus is that, for good health, we need to be eating more omega-3s and less omega-6s.
Omega-6s are found in corn and sunflower oil, and in foods fried in these oils. While some experts don't see a problem with omega-6s, many say that the typical American diet already contains too many. And averaged over 12 months, the study found, organic milk contained 25 percent less omega-6 fatty acids than conventional milk.
So, here's the rub: if you want all of the omega-3s found in organic milk, are you better off drinking whole milk rather than skim?
Yes. That's because skimming off the fat also reduces the omega-3 content. For example, if you choose 1 percent milk, it has about one-third the fat of whole milk. So you're left with a much lower level of omega-3s. Of course, you're also fewer calories, so it might be a hard choice for people who are watching their weight. If they choose whole milk, they may have to trim calories elsewhere.
And there seems to be a movement towards consuming whole milk. Sales of whole, organic milk are up 10 percent this year, making it the fastest-growing category of milk, according to a spokeswoman from Organic Valley. Skim sales, meanwhile, are down 7.0 percent, she says.
As I reported earlier this year, some studies have linked fattier milk to slimmer kids, despite the fact that pediatricians routinely recommend switching kids to low-fat dairy at the age of 2 to reduce their consumption of saturated fats. These fats, which are more abundant in whole milk than in reduced fat milk, are linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
As falling sales figures show, lots of Americans have simply taken milk out of their diets — due to lactose intolerance or other reasons. Some have replaced dairy milk with alternatives such as almond milk, which many doctors say is fine, since there are plenty of other sources of calcium.
But for people who are still milk drinkers, this study suggests that yes, there is a benefit in choosing organic in terms of boosting omega-3 intake.
One thing to note: Dairy farmers of the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools, a group which markets through the Organic Valley brand, helped fund the study. But the groups had no role in its design or analysis. The analysis was funded by the Measure to Manage program at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

8 Ounces Of Cranberry Juice Per Day Doubles Flavonoid Intake

Adding eight ounces of cranberry juice per day or one serving of dried cranberries to consumers’ diets would nearly double the U.S. population’s intake of flavonoids, according to research discussed at the American Society for Nutrition’s 2013 Advances and Controversies in Clinical Nutrition Conference in Washington, Dec. 5.
Flavonoids are a category of polyphenols found in colorful fruits and vegetables linked to improved cardiovascular and cellular health as well as reduced inflammation.
Presenter David Baer, Ph.D., USDA-Agricultural Research Service Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, said polyphenols (plant compounds found in wine, tea and many common fruits) could enhance diets and improve whole body health—a hundred grams of cranberries contains more polyphenolic antioxidants than the equivalent amount of strawberries, broccoli, white grapes, bananas or apples.
Consuming cranberries or cranberry juice can also improve urinary tract health and heart health. During a double blind placebo controlled clinical study, subjects drinking low-calorie cranberry juice cocktail had significantly lower C-reactive protein and diastolic blood pressure than subjects on a placebo beverage. Cranberries, because of their high concentrations of flavonoids, can help promote cardiometabolic markers and help maintain cardiovascular health, including lowering blood pressure.
In addition, people who consume cranberry beverages were more likely to have a lower waist circumference and be less overweight or obese, showing cranberries can be part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Organic Food Sales to Continue Growth into 2018

The increasing usage of pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) and antibiotics in the food products are raising health concerns in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013 estimates shows that about 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides active ingredients are being used annually in the country and over 20,000 pesticides products are being marketed annually, which is adversely impacting the health of the consumers, and the environment. Therefore, the Organic foods which are produced using environment and animal friendly organic farming methods are gaining awareness in the country. Organic Trade Association 2012, estimates shows that about 81% families are purchasing organic food at least some times.

According to “United States Organic Food Market Forecast & Opportunities, 2018”, it is forecasted that the organic food market in United States will grow at the CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of about 14% during 2014-18.
The organic fruits & vegetables will continue to dominate till 2018 and with the growth in organic food market revenues, the demand for organic meat, fish, poultry, etc. is also expected to gain demand in the forecasted period. The western states in United States hold the major market share in the total organic food market revenues. However, increasing per capita income coupled with the growing domestic production and commercial sector are anticipated to surge the demand of organic food in other regions of the country.


Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Low Vitamin D Levels Linked To Brain Damage

A diet low in vitamin D may cause damage to the brain, according to a new study published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine.
University of Kentucky researchers fed middle-aged rats a diet low in vitamin D for several months to study its effects on brain health.
Results showed the rats developed free radical damage to the brain, and many different brain proteins were damaged as identified by redox proteomics. These rats also showed a significant decrease in cognitive performance on tests of learning and memory.
"Given that vitamin D deficiency is especially widespread among the elderly, we investigated how during aging from middle-age to old-age how low vitamin D affected the oxidative status of the brain," said lead author Allan Butterfield. “Adequate vitamin D serum levels are necessary to prevent free radical damage in brain and subsequent deleterious consequences."
Previously, low levels of vitamin D have been associated with Alzheimer's disease and to the development of certain cancers and heart disease. Butterfield recommends eating foods rich in vitamin D, taking vitamin D supplements and/or getting at least 10-15 minutes of sun exposure each day to ensure that vitamin D levels are normalized for optimal health.