News bites, May 2015
This article was originally published in May 2015
PCC’s top-rated canned tuna
Greenpeace USA ranked 14 well-known canned tuna brands found in grocery stores across the United States based on how sustainable, ethical and fair their tuna products are for our oceans, and for the workers who get the products to store shelves.
The top-rated brand, Wild Planet, is sold at PCC. All Wild Planet products are pole-and-line or troll-caught — fishing methods with minimal impacts on other marine life. The company has vowed not to source tuna from the proposed ocean sanctuaries in the Western and Central Pacific.
Nutrition panel: less sugar
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which helps shape the country’s official dietary guidelines, eased some of its previous restrictions on fat and cholesterol and has recommended new limits on the amount of added sugar Americans should consume.
The panel for the first time recommended that Americans limit added sugar to no more than 10 percent of daily calories — about 12 teaspoons a day for many adults. It also dropped suggestions from previous guidelines that Americans restrict their total fat intake to 35 percent of their daily calories and that they restrict their intake of dietary cholesterol from foods such as eggs.
Cheese dust is not food
Boxed macaroni and cheese is gone from the White House diet after former chef, Sam Kass, took a stand against processed cheese powder listed as an ingredient. There’s nothing wrong with mac and cheese, Kass said, but just try to turn a block of real cheese into powder. Several years ago he challenged then 8-year-old Malia Obama to try, but after 30 minutes of trying to pulverize it, it just didn’t work, because cheese dust is not food. (Associated Press)
The herbicide glyphosate, used with genetically engineered Roundup Ready seeds, has been listed as a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the research wing of the World Health Organization. According to IARC, glyphosate has been detected in the air, in water and in food, and there’s convincing evidence it causes cancer in lab rats and mice. There’s also “limited evidence” that glyphosate can cause non-Hodgkins lymphoma. (Nature.com)
Worldwide water crisis
The world could suffer a 40 percent shortfall in water in just 15 years unless countries dramatically change their use of the resource, according to a new United Nations report. Many underground water reserves already are diminishing, while rainfall patterns are predicted to become more erratic with climate change. The report predicts as the world’s population grows to an expected 9 billion by 2050, global water demand will increase 55 percent, and if current usage trends don’t change, the world will have only 60 percent of the water it needs in 2030. (Al Jazeera America)
California’s dangerous drought
California’s reservoirs have only about a one-year supply of water remaining. Reservoirs provide only a portion of the water used in California and are designed to store only a few years’ supply. Decades worth of groundwater remain but the state’s abysmal snowpack and below-average reservoir levels could exacerbate the over-pumping of already depleted groundwater reserves. (Los Angeles Times)
Cocoa good for aging brain
Cocoa flavonols can play an important role in maintaining cognitive health in aging consumers according to a new study partly funded by the chocolate manufacturer Mars and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers gave 90 elderly people who don’t have cognitive impairment one of three cocoa drinks: high, medium or low in flavonols and found that after eight weeks, the groups that drank the medium- and high-flavonol drinks showed improved cognitive performance and improvement in some mental tasks. Blood pressure and insulin resistance also improved in the high cocoa flavonol group. (The Huffington Post)
Farm labor woes
An estimated 70 percent of hired farmworkers don’t have the proper authorization to work in the United States. The president of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives said documents presented to employers may look authentic but often aren’t. Agriculture has suffered shortages of reliable, skilled labor for several years but immigration reform is stalled in Congress. (Capital Press)
Obama combats illegal fishing
The Obama administration plans to crack down on the multibillion-dollar global black market in seafood and improve traceability. Unregulated fishing, worth up to $20 billion annually, contributes to consumer unease about food safety . The plan will create a new tracking system and stronger enforcement at ports to identify those engaged in illegal fishing and will address seafood fraud, where one species of fish is sold as another. (The New York Times)
Non-GMO popularity growing
New data again affirms Non-GMO Project Verified is the most sought-after label in the food industry, growing faster than gluten-free or organic. Brand owners report sales increases of 20 percent or more in the first year for verified products. The non-GMO market is valued at $8.5 billion with 27,215 products NGP Verified from 1,536 brands. (Non-GMO Project)
Titanium dioxide concerns
Dunkin’ Donuts is dropping titanium dioxide from its powdered sugar donuts after pressure from a public interest group, As You Sow, argued it’s not safe for human consumption. Titanium dioxide is used to make the powdered sugar appear white and also is used in sunscreen and paints. As You Sow argues that titanium dioxide produced through nanotechnology can cause DNA and chromosomal damage when consumed. (CNN)
Palm oil deforestation
Companies in Peru reportedly are planning to clear more than 23,000 hectares of primary rainforest in the northern Amazon in order to cultivate oil palm. The area under oil palm cultivation in Peru is much less than in neighboring Ecuador and Colombia, or other countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, but expansion in recent years has been dramatic. National and some regional governments have taken steps to promote and incentivize cultivation and almost 1.5 million hectares have been identified as potentially suitable, leading some to see oil palm as now one of the biggest threats to the Peruvian Amazon. (theguardian.com)