News bites, July 2012
Sound Consumer July 2012
High fructose corn syrup
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has rejected the Corn Refiners Association’s application to rename high fructose corn sugar (HFCS) on nutrition labels as “corn sugar.” FDA says it defines sugar as a solid, dry, crystallized product — not a syrup. (Associated Press)
High-fructose diet affects brain
Another study demonstrates that what we eat affects how we think. A new study from UCLA indicates a diet high in fructose alters the brain’s ability to learn and remember information. Previous research shows fructose is linked to diabetes, obesity and fatty liver disease, but this is the first study to show fructose affects the brain. (UCLA)
FDA to reconsider livestock antibiotics
A federal judge in New York has ordered FDA to reconsider its refusal to restrict antibiotic use in farm animals. The judge rejected FDA’s argument that it’s too costly or time-consuming to revoke the approval of antibiotics used on livestock. FDA had asked ranchers to limit penicillin and tetracyclines voluntarily. (The Wall Street Journal)
Coffee for longevity
The largest study ever on coffee consumption and health indicates coffee may have modest benefits. Researchers from the National Institutes for Health analyzed the dietary habits of more than 400,000 men and women older than 50. They found drinking coffee may increase heart rate and blood pressure temporarily, but coffee drinkers were about 10 percent less likely to die from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, infections, injuries and accidents — but not cancer. (New England Journal of Medicine)
Healthy foods cost less?
A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study has found most fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods cost less than foods high in fat, sugar and salt. Comparing the cost of foods by weight or portion size shows that grains, vegetables, fruit and dairy are less expensive than most meats or processed foods. The finding contradicts previous research that analyzed price per calorie and found unhealthy foods were cheaper. (Associated Press)
The U.S. Forest Service is helping to calm ranchers upset over damage caused by bison migrating out of Yellowstone National Park. The 3,600 bison get the urge to migrate come spring, crossing ranches and knocking down fences on their way to adjacent federal land. The Forest Service headed off calls for a hunt or shipping the bison to other states by installing chain-link fencing that funnels them through a federal easement on their way. (Capital Press)
Low olive oil prices
The price of olive oil from Italy, Spain and Greece has plunged to a 10-year low, adding to the economic crisis in southern Europe. Prices for extra-virgin olive oil are almost half what they were seven years ago, due to a bumper crop from Spain and demand going to cheaper alternatives. Olive oil is a vital export, providing employment in rural areas. (The Financial Times)
FDA is telling food manufacturers they can’t assume nano-sized versions of standard ingredients are safe but it won’t require labeling. FDA says ingredients manipulated through nanotechnology to extremely small particles can take on novel properties and that companies should study nanoparticles to determine if they need regulation. Processed foods and cosmetics on the market already contain nanoparticles, which some consumer watchdogs say raise health and environmental risks. (FDA)
Cesar Chavez remembered
Farm workers and admirers of Cesar Chavez celebrated the 50th anniversary of Chavez’s movement, the United Farm Workers, on the late civil rights leader’s birthday, March 31, in California. A commemorative march and dinner ended with 15 first-generation students receiving college scholarships. Chavez’s grandson, Anthony Chavez, is carrying on the legacy by speaking at schools and community events about the need to improve conditions in the fields where human hands harvest the fruits and vegetables that grace our tables. (Capital Press)
Iraq excludes U.S. wheat
Iraq’s Ministry of Trade has placed an order for 50,000 tons of wheat from all origins except the United States and Romania. No reason was given for excluding the two countries, but purchases can be political and Romania also was engaged in the war in Iraq. Before Saddam Hussein came into power, Iraq bought only from the United States, and afterwards bought only from Australia. (Trade Arabia)
Changing BSE rule?
Ranchers of the R-CALF organization say a USDA-proposed amendment will increase the risk that mad cow disease (BSE) will be introduced and spread in the United States. The USDA proposal would allow cattle to be imported from countries that have had more than 1,000 BSE cases and others that have had hundreds. Those countries are considered “controlled risks.” (R-CALF USA)
California kids eating less
High school kids in California are eating fewer calories and less fat and sugar than students in other states since nutrition standards were imposed in school cafeterias. California was the first state to ban soft drinks in schools and it also now has standards for foods from vending machines. Experts say most children could avoid significant long-term weight gain by cutting out 100-200 calories a day, equivalent to a small bag of chips. (The New York Times)
Food prices rising
American shoppers might blame grocery retailers or the cost of high gasoline for rising food prices but experts say the real culprit is growing prosperity in developing countries.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service says increased purchasing power abroad, especially in Southeast Asia, is the leading cause of rising food prices. The research service says “the global economy has expanded so we’re going to continue to see food prices rise and that’s normal.”
A weak U.S. dollar makes our exports more affordable for foreign countries. The United States also is exporting a lot of food, which shrinks domestic supply and pushes U.S. prices higher.
Historically, food prices increase 2.8 percent year over year. In 2011 prices rose 3.7 percent. They’re expected to increase 2.5 to 3.5 percent in 2012.