This post by Louise, first appeared on The Canadian Daily TheCanadianDaily.ca, and received over 25,000 views and over 5,000+ Facebook share, in a very short period of time. An issue of great concern to parents around the world. Thanks Louise!
– John Malloy
When buying food for your family, do you ever read ingredient labels and feel exasperated? How to pronounce some of those ingredients can be challenging, let alone trying to determine whether they are something you want to feed those precious tummies of yours. Most of us moms genuinely want to buy what is ‘best’ versus what is ‘easiest’ for our children’s meals, as long as we feel it is within our means. Yes, we all need to take an occasional short-cut here and there. But, we still just want what is best for our children.
Moms are not taught how to shop or how to make the best decisions about food. We just have to pick it up along the way. The place where we make these choices for our children only adds to the confusion. At the grocery store, colourful boxes, packets and cans literally lean into the long aisles, begging us to free them from their chemically-extended shelf-lives.
“Buy me! I may be lower in nutritional value and manufactured in a lab, but I am SO cheap and SO fun!”
“Don’t be a bore. Your kids and all their friends will love my rainbow colours that have only been linked to hyperactivity, ADHD, allergies and cancer (not definitively proven, so until then your children can eat in abundance and launch a class-action lawsuit in 20 years when it will be too late anyway).”
Kraft, Campbell’s, Heinz, General Mills, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, Nestle, No Name. They boldly assure us that their packaged foods are ‘ALL-NATURAL’, ‘NO SUGAR ADDED’, ‘NATURALLY-FLAVOURED’, ‘LOW-FAT’, ‘WHOLEGRAIN’ and ‘IMPROVED’ (what was wrong with them to begin with?).
The big food brands have been around for years and we ate them growing up. Surely they have our own offspring’s best interests at heart?
Don’t. Buy. Any. Of. It
Call me a mistrusting antagonist. Call me a conspiracy theorist. Call me a challenger of authority. Call me hippy-dippy. Call me the ‘no-fun mom’. Or call me a mom who, like other moms, simply wants the best for her children.
The truth behind the ingredients that go into most foods sold in North American supermarkets is not pretty and once you go there, you cannot ‘unlearn’ the unhealthy facts. In fact, your grocery shopping experience, like mine, will likely be forever changed.
10 Facts About Food You Need To Know Now:
1. Artificial Dyes. Artificial dyes are made from petroleum and have been linked to all kinds of behavioural disorders in children, as well as cancer. In Europe, foods containing artificial dyes, such as tartrazine (also known as Yellow #5), which has been specifically linked to hyperactivity in children, must contain a warning label that states, “May have adverse effect on activity and attention in children“. In Canada, these artificial dyes do not even have to be specifically described on the ingredient list. The ingredient list need only state “colour”. Canada lags behind other developed countries when it comes to food labelling.
2. MSG. MSG stands for monosodium glutamate. It is used as a flavour enhancer in countless processed foods. But, as it is an excitotoxin, it can cause headaches, asthma, disorientation and other side-effects. It can also cause potential damage to the brain and body. A child’s brain is four times more sensitive to damage by excitotoxins than the brain of an adult. MSG is often hidden on ingredient labels and can be disguised as other ingredients, such as hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), yeast extract, maltodextrin, malted barley, rice syrup and many more. Food labels lack transparency.
3. High Fructose Corn Syrup. High fructose corn syrup (‘HFCS’) is labelled in Canada as ‘glucose-fructose’ or ‘sugar/glucose-fructose’ which is confusing and misleading to consumers. A 2011 Ipsos Reid poll revealed that the most Canadians thought that ‘glucose-fructose’ was another name for sugar. HFCS is the main ingredient in soft drinks and is linked to diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome. Even the Canadian Sugar Institute has spoken out about the need for more accurate and informative food labelling of high fructose corn syrup. Food labels are intentionally confusing and misleading.
4. Natural Flavours. Natural flavours is a benign umbrella term that appears on many processed food labels. Food companies can use this term without conveniently divulging the actual source of the natural flavours, which could be from any plant or animal and obtained by a whole variety of processes. Some notorious sources of natural flavours have been revealed to include beaver’s anal gland secretions for vanilla flavour and beetle shell secretions for the shiny appearance on doughnut glazes. Ingredient descriptions lack transparency.
5. Carrageenan. This is a synthetic ingredient derived from seaweed that is used as a stabilizer to prevent separation in certain foods. The Cornucopia Institute reported that carrageenan, found in conventional and even organic food and drink products, such as yogurt, cream cheese, ice cream and milk products/alternatives, could be causing digestive problems, inflammation and even cancer. Dr. Joanne Tobacman, MD, physician-scientist at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, says that carrageenan so reliably causes inflammation that scientists actually use it to induce inflammation in biological experiments. As a mom, wouldn’t you just rather shake the container than have it include an ingredient that puts your children at risk? Unnecessary additives are being added to children’s foods.
6. Fruit Juice. Choosing a fruit juice can be mind-boggling. There is ‘not from concentrate’ (the supposed best kind), ‘from concentrate’, ‘juice cocktail’, ‘juice blend’, ‘sweetened’ and ‘unsweetened’. However, fruit juices have a lower nutritional value than actual fruit, are high in fructose (linked to obesity), loaded with additional sugar or artificial sweeteners (even aspartame) which can be harmful to children’s health and encourage a craving for sweetness, and worse still, may simply not be juice at all but rather artificially coloured and flavoured water. When it comes down to it, children should be eating fruit rather than drinking it. The fibre in the fruit slows down absorption of the sugar and prevents over-consumption and the antioxidants that are lost in store-bought juices, remain in the fruit. Fruit juice is over-marketed to children.
7. Hormones, Antibiotics, Pesticides & Nitrites in Meat. Growth hormones are used in raising beef cattle in Canada and antibiotics may be used to prevent or treat diseases in farmed animals. Factory farms use grain such as soy and corn meal for animal feed that are grown by intensive industrial farming operations that use large amounts of pesticides and often rely on genetically-engineered crops. Although the powers that be state that such practises pose no risk to human health, the truth is that there are indications to suggest otherwise. Hormones and pesticides are both endocrine disruptors and exposure to them has been linked to the onset of early puberty in girls, breast cancer and prostate cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research and World Cancer Research Fund reviewed thousands of studies and concluded that processed meats, including hot dogs, bacon and deli meats are linked to increased colorectal cancer. The preservatives, sodium nitrate and nitrite, added to processed meats to give them a salty flavour and pink colour, form nitrosamines, a known carcinogen, when mixed with protein, like meat, which then causes cell damage. One study in Denver by researchers Sarusua and Savitz, found that children who ate hot dogs just once a week were at a higher risk of childhood cancer. We need to know more about where the meat we buy comes from and the ingredients it contains to make informed decisions.
8. Grocery Store Wars. In 2007, most major grocery stores in the U.K. (including Asda, a Walmart subsidiary) banned not only artificial colours and flavours, but also aspartame, from their own label products. Loblaws announced last year that it would remove all artificial colours and flavours in the PC line by the end of 2013. Loblaws is the first Canadian grocer to make such an announcement and it is indeed a welcome move. Canadian grocery stores lag behind even their own affiliate stores abroad.
9. GMOs. An estimated 75-80% of processed food in Canada contains GMOs. GMOs were silently introduced into the Canadian and the U.S. food system in the mid-1990s and food manufacturers began using them in our favourite foods, including everyday foods such as cereal and bread, without telling us. Some more startling facts about GMOs:
– Unlike consumers in 50 other countries, including in Europe, China, Japan, Russia and Australia, Canadians and Americans do not have a right to know whether our food contains GMOs. They are not identified as GMOs in the ingredient list, unlike in other countries, where they must be labelled. We deserve the right to know what we are feeding our children and deserve the same level of information as moms in other developed countries.
– GMOs have not been adequately tested for safety and Canada, like the U.S., does not require independent safety assessments on GMOs. This is perpetuated by the fact that GMOs are patented and so independent testing is difficult, given the proprietary rights granted to their owners, the biotech companies. It is unethical to be putting an experimental technology into the food that we feed our children.
– GMOs are heavily regulated in many developed countries, where there are severe restrictions or bans on genetically-engineered crops, food production or sale. Cross-contamination from genetically-engineered crops is a huge concern and they have already contaminated most of the canola crops here in Canada. Our children here in Canada and the U.S. deserve the same level of protection that children receive abroad.
– The official line of biotech companies that produce and own genetically-engineered seeds is that GMOs are needed to feed the hungry world and increase yields. However, this is just not true. The aggressive measures taken by these chemical companies, including powerful lobbying, suppression of independent reports and legal action against farmers, indicates they are driven by their corporate bottom lines and are ultimately seeking control and monopoly of the world’s food supply through patenting of the transgenes in the genetically-engineered crops. Their focus is on producing cash crops for animal feed and biofuels for affluent countries rather than food for people. As we have experienced in the recent credit crunch, corporate greed is a real and pervasive force and it even shows up on our dinner plate.
– Genetically-engineered crops, such as corn, are contributing to the alarming decline in the world bee population. Contrary to the claim of biotech, genetically engineered crops require more pesticides, fungicides and herbicides (coincidentally manufactured by the same chemical companies that sell the genetically-engineered seeds). Bio-intensive integrated pest management formerly used by farmers has now been replaced with a pesticide treadmill and it is poisoning our pollinators and our soil.
– Seeds used to be owned by farmers and plant-breeders. Now, almost half of the world’s seed supply is owned by chemical giants, Monsanto (23%), DuPont (15%) and Syngenta (9%). Intellectual property laws mean that genetically-engineered seeds can be owned by the chemical companies that develop them and this maximizes their profits and eliminates farmers’ rights (who can no longer save such seeds and must pay royalties and other fees to biotech companies). This ownership of seeds by corporate giants and cross-contamination caused by genetically-engineered crops, means there is a real threat to the global seed supply and the future of our children’s food.
10. Canadian Food Companies use Safer Ingredients Abroad. Canadian and U.S. food companies use safer ingredients in the same products they sell in Europe, e.g. Nestle stopped using all artificial additives in all of its U.K. confectionary, replacing more than 80 artificial ingredients with natural alternatives and Cheerios and Kraft products in the UK contain no GMO ingredients. Food companies are exploiting North American consumers by using inferior ingredients in our food. Our children deserve the same, safer ingredients used by these food companies abroad.
These facts may seem overwhelming at first, but there is a way to take back the power.
We, as moms, can work together and learn how to use this information to our advantage. This involves rethinking our shopping routine and rediscovering ‘real’ food, as promoted by groups such as “Moms Across Canada”. I founded this group, a uniquely Canadian organization, to channel my own frustrations that I experienced as a mom trying to make the best ‘food’ decisions for my children. Our group aims to shift the balance of power from the food industry to moms by empowering moms with specific knowledge. Moms, now, more than ever before, need to be able to decipher information on food labels and know what ingredient descriptions really mean. We need tips on buying and making real and affordable food and how to fit this into our busy lives. It may seem like an inconvenience at first. But with rates of allergies and other health issues increasing in our children, and with the lack of transparency in the food industry and the real threat to a healthy, future food supply, us moms would, and can, do anything for our children.
The U.S. food industry is currently experiencing the full force of ‘mom’ power. Websites such as 100 Days of Real Food (which recently petitioned Kraft to stop using artificial dyes in its mac ‘n’ cheese), Moms Across America and inspirational mom and author, Robyn O’Brien, are all taking on the U.S. food industry by storm. If you have 20 minutes to spare, Robyn O’Brien’s TEDx talk is a must-see. Be prepared to feel both shocked, saddened and empowered at the same time by what you learn.
For the full version of this article, please see pinkpresse.com
In the words of Erin Brockovich,
“In the absence of the truth, all of us stand helpless to defend ourselves, our families and our health, which is the greatest gift we have.”
Louise F. Shillington
Founder, Moms Across Canada