News bites, October 2016

This article was originally published in October 2016

No added sugar for children?

The American Heart Association has issued new guidelines on added sugar for children. It recommends no more than 25g or 6 teaspoons per day from age 2 to 18 — half of the Food and Drug Administration’s new advisory for no more than 50g or 12 teaspoons per day for adults. The Heart Association also advises that children under age 2 should have no added sugar in their diet because added sugars from an early age may encourage a preference for sweets.


Regulation of new GE

A network of 77 EU and U.S. consumer organizations, the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD), has published a new resolution on consumer concerns about new genetic engineering (GE) techniques. A number of new GE techniques have been developed that weren’t in use when current laws on genetic engineering were drafted. The new resolution states that risks to human health, animal welfare and the environment must be assessed before products derived from these new GE techniques are placed on the market or released into the environment, and that the products must be labelled.


More radioactive water?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quietly has proposed new “Protective Action Guides” to raise the allowable level of radioactivity in drinking water hundreds of times above current limits. Using the most current risk estimates from the National Academy of Sciences and EPA itself, radiation exposures at the proposed levels would result in cancer risks 10 to 1,000 times higher than EPA’s longstanding acceptable risk range for environmental carcinogens. Physicians for Social Responsibility is fighting the proposal. (psr.org)


KIND labels added sugar

KIND Healthy Snacks may be the first national brand to publish the added sugar content of its 60+ snacks. KIND also reduced the amount of added sugar prior to creating the new labels. The announcement comes two years in advance of the deadline set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for food companies to label added sugar content in their products. (prnewswire.com)


Puget Sound’s tiniest fish

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is undertaking the first comprehensive study of Puget Sound’s forage fish population by studying thousands of beach samples. Tiny fish, such as herring, are critical as food for larger fish and seabirds and some studies have shown steep declines around the Sound. A range of factors may be to blame, including chemical contamination, parasites, disease, lack of food and increasing shoreline development. (Kitsap Sun)


Fracking water irrigation

A TV investigation reveals the practice of using reclaimed water from fracking to irrigate California food crops has spread from one water district a year ago, to two, with a third district now into permitting. California has no regulations for using oilfield wastewater. A coalition of environmental groups, and PCC Natural Markets, are calling for a moratorium against new permits. (KPIX 5)


General Mills sued over glyphosate

Three nonprofit organizations are suing General Mills for misleading the public in labeling Nature Valley granola bars, “Made with 100% natural whole grain oats,” because glyphosate was found in the food. A survey by Consumer Reports in 2015 found 66 percent of consumers seek products with a “natural” claim, believing erroneously it means no pesticides, genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, added hormones or artificial ingredients. (beyondpesticides.org)


More glyphosate lawsuits

Evidence of harm from secret “inert” ingredients in glyphosate-based weed killers is hitting U.S. courts. Six individuals have sued Monsanto in recent months over use of glyphosate-based herbicides, marking a turning point in the battle over the most widely used agricultural chemical in history. After being regularly exposed to glyphosate (in Monsanto’s Roundup), all six plaintiffs developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a blood cancer that starts in the lymph cells. (theintercept.com/newsweek.com)


Beer transparency?

The Beer Institute announced Anheuser-Busch (Rolling Rock), MillerCoors (Coors, Molson Canadian), Heineken USA (Heineken, Amstel, Tecate, Fosters), Constellation Brands (Corona, Negro Modelo) and other beer brands have agreed to disclose nutrition facts voluntarily on their beer packaging or websites. The Brewers’ Voluntary Disclosure Initiative is a new approach for beer companies to list calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat and alcohol by volume on labels or secondary packaging, a website or through a QR code. (beerinstitute.org)


FDA bans triclosan in soap

There’s no data demonstrating that over-the-counter antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water, and some antibacterial soaps may be dangerous, according to the FDA. In September the FDA issued a rule banning the use of triclosan, triclocarban and 17 other chemicals in hand and body washes, which are marketed as being more effective than simple soap. Companies have a year to take these ingredients out of their products or remove the products from the market. (NPR)


USDA allows Non-GMO claim

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued guidance that now allows organic companies to make label claims that organic meat and poultry is from animals not raised on GE feed. Until now, USDA did not allow the term “non-GMO” on organic products without further documentation. Expanding what organic can claim reportedly is part of the deal struck by the Organic Trade Association in supporting the so-called DARK Act. (USDA/Organic Trade Association)


Too big to merge?

The Cornucopia Institute is asking the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to block the merger of French yogurt giant, Danone, and WhiteWave Foods, claiming the $12.5 million proposal would create an anti-competitive environment in the organic milk industry. Danone already owns the Activa, Oikos, Dannon and Stonyfield yogurt brands. If the merger closes, Danone also would control Horizon Organic, which controls more market share than any other U.S. organic dairy brand. (The Cornucopia Institute)


Mushroom black market

The U.S. Forest Service usually offers a special license to pick morel mushrooms for commercial use in forest fire burn zones but, this year, managers in Montana decided not to issue any commercial licenses. Mushroom pickers come from around the world to pick morels — worth millions in good years. The forest service says the problem isn’t too much picking but the mess that pickers leave in the forest. Unlicensed pickers of wild mushrooms for the black market is an ongoing problem. (NPR’s The Salt)

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