Friday, August 30, 2013

Have an Eco-Friendly Labor Day Celebration

Backyard barbecuing and Labor Day go together like Fourth of July and fireworks. But neighborhood grill-outs are traditionally not the eco-friendliest of soirees. Disposable (and potentially BPA-filled) flatware, plates and napkins, hot dogs chock-full of nitrites or hamburgers filled with hormones roasting over an open chemical flame: probably not the best way to commune with Mother Nature. Try our five eco chic Labor Day barbecue ideas to reduce your carbon footprint while still hosting a killer party.

1. Grill sustainably and efficiently
: What you grill and how you grill it are both important. Vegetables have the lowest carbon footprint - especially when purchased locally, but if you're serving meat, consider chicken rather than hamburgers. Chickens take less water than cattle to raise. Especially if you use propane rather than charcoal, grill as much food at once as possible to maximize your fuel efficiency. Make a point of grilling locally raised, organic, grass-fed, hormone-free cuts of meat from reputable purveyors such as Applegate Farms, Niman Ranch, Organic Prairie, Laura's Lean Beef, etc.

If you've not yet bought a grill, select one wisely. Charcoal and wood grills release chemicals and soot particles in the air. Propane and electric grills burn cleaner and the long-term fuel price is lower. The upfront cost for electric and propane grills is higher, however.
If you already have a wood grill, use sustainably-grown hickory or mesquite wood. If your existing grill is charcoal-burning, use lump coal rather than briquettes and avoid starter fluids.

2. Use reusable dinnerware: This may seem like a no-brainer, but using reusable dinnerware and napkins is a great way to make your party more eco-friendly. Pick out some fun eco chic dinnerware at a local thrift shop to set the mood for your party. You may be able to talk your friends into a dishwashing after-party with a nice bottle of organic or biodynamic wine. And, bonus, if any of your guests break a few pieces, you don't lose any of your regular dinner sets. Use small bar towels as reusable napkins to avoid paper. If you absolutely must have disposable dinnerware, make use of biodegradable tableware products, like this set from Branch Home.

3. Evites rather than invites: If you're sending out invitations, go digital rather than sending paper invites. You'll save on paper waste, postage and time. If you need tangible invitations, consider handcrafting your invitations with recycled materials at relatively low costs. Or offset your paper usage by planting a tree in honor of your guests.

4. Natural and frugal decorations
: Decorate your party area with living plants and thrift store finds. And, beyond the decorations, remember to make recycling easy for your guests. Decorate or purchase some party-themed bins for recycling and composting. Prominently place the bins near the party so your guests know not to trash their bottles, cans and food waste.

5. Use natural bug repellents
: If you need to use bug repellent during your barbecue party, go with citronella plants, oil or candles rather than chemical sprays. For yourself, say "no" to DEET and opt for a natural mosquito repellent. You can even make up cute spray bottle party favors filled with fantastic-smelling essential oil bug repellent for your guests.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Who’s paying for GMO-labeling initiative campaigns?

Groups opposed to labeling genetically modified food outspent those in favor 5 to 1 last year when Californians voted on a labeling ballot measure. But the tables are turned in the run-up to an initiative vote in Washington state. So far, pro-labeling groups have spent more than $4 for every $1 spent by those opposed, according to an analysis by MapLight.

Contributions in support of Washington Ballot Initiative 522 (“The People’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act”) add up to nearly $4 million $3.5 million, while the opposition has raised about $950,000. The big money comes from the same interests that ponied during the California campaign, as you can see in this chart.

That chart only shows the biggest contributors. Pro-labeling contributions come from a broader base; the money supporting the initiative comes from 5,698 supporters, compared to just 12 contributors in opposition.

The relative weight of contributions, however, is likely to shift rapidly as the Washington initiative approaches its Nov. 5 moment of truth at the ballot box. Last year, the campaign against the California proposition spent $42 million in the six weeks before the vote. That proposition failed, with 6.4 million “no” votes, and 6.1 million votes in favor.

After that vote, both sides promised to fight just as vigorously in future campaigns. There are dozens of bills currently making their way through statehouses that would require the labeling of GM foods.

Editor’s Note and Correction: This story includes a chart from MapLight showing supporters of 1-522 had given $3,869,078. The correct number is $3,489,078.13, according to a MapLight correction.

MapLight has issued this update: “A previous version of MapLight’s analysis cited the total amount raised in support of I-522 as $3,869,078, including two contributions that were disclosed by the Washington Public Disclosure Commission as having been made by ‘ORGANIC CONSUMER FUND’ when in fact they were made by ‘ORGANIC CONSUMER FUND COMMITTEE TO LABEL GMOS IN WA STATE.’ As a committee that is supporting I-522, contributions from ORGANIC CONSUMER FUND COMMITTEE TO LABEL GMOS IN WA STATE to other committees supporting I-522 should be excluded from the total amount raised in support of this measure, making the correct total $3,489,078.13.”
[via grist]

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance

Its not surprising that nearly 55 types of illnesses have been connected to gluten, the proteins discovered in wheat and barley. It’s approximated that 99% of the people who have either gluten intolerance or celiac illness are never clinically diagnosed.

It is also approximated that as much as 15% of people in the US are gluten intolerant.So its very much essential that we figure out whether we could be one of them?

If you have any of the following signs or symptoms it could be a indication that you have gluten intolerance:


  • Intestinal problems such as gas, stomach ache, diarrhoea and even bowel problems. This is a problem particularly in kids after consuming gluten.
  • Keratosis Pilaris, (another way known as ‘chicken skin’ on the back of your arms). This tends to be due to a harmful effects caused by deficiency in fatty acids and lack of vitamin A which causes fat-malabsorption due to gluten present in the gut.
  • Exhaustion, cloudy brain or sensation of tiredness after consuming a food that contains gluten.
  • Analysis of an auto-immune illness such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Joint disease, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus, Skin psoriasis, Scleroderma or Multiple sclerosis.
  • Neurological signs such as faintness or sensation of losing stability.
  • Hormonal instability such as PMS, or unaccountable infertility.


  • Analysis of serious fatigue or fibromyalgia syndrome (symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbance, and joint pain) also indicate gluten intolerance. These factors simply indicate your physician cannot pin point the exact cause of your fatigue or discomfort.
  • Swelling, inflammation or discomfort in your joint parts such as fingertips, legs or waist.
  • Feelings problems such as stress, depressive disorders, moodiness and ADD.
Wheat: The UNhealthy Whole Grain – Video by Dr. William Davis, author of the NY Times Bestseller, A movie by Dr. Bill Davis, writer of the guide Wheat Belly

How to analyze for gluten intolerance?

I have discovered the single best ways to figure out if you have a problem with gluten is to do an elimination diet plan and take it out of your daily consuming plan for at least 2 to 3 weeks continuously and then go back and introduce it back in the diet. Please observe that gluten is a very large proteins and it can take several weeks and even years to dilute from your system so the longer you can remove it from your daily consuming plan before reintroducing it, the better.

The best guidance that I discuss with my sufferers is that if they feel considerably better off of gluten or experience a relapse when they go back and introduce it, then gluten is likely a problem for them. In order to get precise results from this examining method you must removal 100% of the gluten from your daily consuming plan.

How to cure gluten intolerance?

Eliminating gluten 100% from your daily consuming plan means 100%. Even trace quantities of gluten from combination drugs or medicines or supplements can be enough to cause an immune response in your body.An research study published in 2001 states that for those suffering from celiac disease when they consume gluten just once a month increased the relative risk of death by 600%.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Six Natural Remedies For Acid Reflux

Acid reflux, commonly called heartburn, is caused when digestive acids flow up from the stomach and into the esophagus. The esophagus, located in the heart region of the chest, becomes irritated with a burning sensation.

There are lesser known symptoms other than heartburn for acid reflux as well: gas, bloating, flatulence and even apparently unrelated symptoms such as chronic dry coughing, sour or bitter mouth between meals, trouble swallowing, hoarseness, and wheezing.

Acid reflux usually occurs from a failure of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to contract after swallowing food, thus allowing stomach acids to come up toward and into the esophagus.

This muscular failure to contract can be from several situations, including obesity, lying down after meals, eating just before bedtime, eating disagreeable processed fried foods, and over eating. Excess caffeine or alcohol can weaken the LES and induce occasional or reoccurring acid reflux.

Hiatel hernia, where the diaphragm muscle protrudes over the top of the stomach, is another contributing factor to acid reflux. If acid reflux occurs often on a regular basis, the condition becomes gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can develop into cancer of the esophagus if ignored.

Over the counter (OTC) or prescribed medications lead to other problems, of course. So here are a few suggestions for natural remedies.

Long term solutions from Dr. Edward Group

In addition to the usual lifestyle changes in order to lose stomach fat -- eating right, cutting back on sugar, alcohol, and caffeine, moderate exercise, and relaxation -- Dr. Group recommends increasing intake of digestive enzymes.

This can be done by juicing frequently, and by eating more organic raw foods, or supplementing. Cooking or processing food destroys enzymes, considered by many to be more vital than vitamins and minerals because it takes enzymes to metabolize them.

Increasing probiotics is always a good idea. Homemade milk or water kefirs, and foods such as miso and homemade sauerkraut are potent and economical probiotic foods. Less economical but conveniently accessible probiotic supplements are also available.

He also recommends high vitamin D intake and using real sea salt. Before undertaking drastic dietary changes, Dr. Group recommends doing colon cleansing enemas then graduating to coffee enemas for the liver. All this may seem to be too much for handling mere heartburn.

However, in addition to eliminating or avoiding acid reflux, all of these recommendations are essential for overall health.

Immunity, as well as good physiological and mental health depends more on a healthy gut than even many health professionals realize.

Suggestions for quick relief from acute heartburn

Dr. Group recommends organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar, a tablespoon in a little bit of water, to eliminate heartburn. This seems counter-intuitive in that apple cider vinegar increases stomach acid to aid digestion before meals. But there are many testimonials claiming it works.

He also likes to use baking soda (bicarbonate of soda, not baking powder), which actually shoots alkalinity way up. A tablespoon in a half cup of water can give immediate relief from heartburn. An ounce or two of unprocessed Aloe Vera juice is good for heartburn and stomach ulcers.

Dr. Andrew Weil advises using DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) in chewable tablets or powder. He recommends chewing a couple of tablets or taking a half-teaspoon of the powder in water as often as it takes to get relief. He also likes slippery elm for soothing the esophagus.

Another counter-intuitive remedy is a half or full teaspoon of 40,000 heat unit (minimum) cayenne powder in water. Many claim it works. Master Herbalist John Christopher cured his stomach ulcer this way. Cayenne is also an inexpensive heart tonic.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Saving Poppy Seeds

If you’ve ever considered saving seeds, but have been too afraid to try, start by saving ornamental poppy seeds. Why? Saving poppy seeds is practically labor-free, is incredibly easy, and can be done in about a minute.

The folks at grew a beautiful variety this year called Lauren’s Grape and taught us how to save the seeds from this gorgeous bloom!

This poppy inspires instant happiness

Now the flowers are long gone, and the dry seed pods remain, populating the garden in all their brown bulbous glory. It’s time to harvest the seeds for continued joy in years to come.

Seed pods turn brown and crisp

Harvesting seed is so easy. Just cut off the seed pods and keep them upright.

Poppy seed pods are architecturally beautiful

Note the holes at the top of the seed pod, just underneath the crown (the part that looks like a toupee). If you tip the pod over, the seeds come pouring out the holes.

Poppy seeds fall right out through the holes along the top

Poppy seeds are tiny, so be sure to collect them in a bowl. Or just sprinkle them back into the garden. The seeds require light to germinate, so you don’t even need to bury them. It’s that simple.

We stored our seeds in the original seed envelope, but separate from the original seeds (envelope in an envelope). Next year we’ll plant both to see how they differ, if at all.

Have you saved seeds lately? Share your experiences here.
[via Gardenerd]

Friday, August 23, 2013

Healthy Seasonal Alternatives to Potato Chips

A recent study linked potato chips and fries to weight gain. Three registered dietitians give us their advice on replacing that serving of spuds with healthier seasonal snacks.

It's time to portion your potatoes. Before you reach for an extra helping of fries, consider this: a recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine linked long term weight gain with potato products. Yes, our American favorites — French fries and potato chips — are the leading culprits causing those extra pounds to pile on, according to the study, which matched reported eating habits with the subjects' weight gain over four years. The study concluded that an extra daily serving of potatoes, no matter what form, causes weight gain. (Processed meats, red meat, butter and sweet desserts were also associated with weight gain.) On the other hand, additional servings of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and yogurt were among the foods that promoted weight loss.

But potatoes are vegetables, right? Most people know potatoes are high in carbs, but they also pack a lot of calories in a relatively small package. Plus, frying and processing them leaves them drenched in trans fats and salt. To avoid the excess baggage, simply replace your side or snack with fresh fruits and vegetables when they're in season. Not only will you support your local farmers, you'll cut down on your food miles, and if you're creative enough, maybe your taste buds will even discover something new!

We asked several registered dietitians — Samantha Cassetty, nutrition director of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute; Lauren Slayton, founder of Foodtrainers; and Kath Younger, author of the blog — for tips on battling the bulge and switching over to low-calorie snacks.

  • Swap potato chips with: Easter egg radishes dipped in extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of sea salt
  • Swap French fries with: Guacamole and Food Should Taste Good chips
  • Swap potato chips with: 1 small pear sliced and topped with a wedge of The Laughing Cow blue cheese 
  • Swap French fries with: 5 Medjool dates stuffed with almonds
  • Swap potato chips with: Homemade kale chips (Check out's How-to video.)
  • Swap French fries with: Fresh tangerine sections with a light drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of shredded coconut, or warm edamame with a pinch of sea salt
  • Swap potato chips with: Fresh snap peas dipped in Trader Joes's Cilantro and Chive Yogurt Dip
  • Swap French fries with: 5 flash-steamed asparagus stalks wrapped in prosciutto and drizzled with balsamic vinegar
For more healthy ideas, check out Good Housekeeping's list of 50 best low calorie snacks.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

How to Ditch Your Cravings for Sugar, Salt, and Fats

According to a recent article in the New York Times, “Food Corporations Turn to Chefs in a Quest for Healthy Flavor,” Big Food companies like PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, and even fast food giants like Taco Bell, are changing their ways in response to the increasing public demand for healthier food options. To improve their image as healthy food manufacturers, Big Food corporations have called upon top chefs to help them create healthy menu makeovers, infusing real, fresh, whole food into old recipe favorites.

Why is this happening now? Intense pressure brought on by politicians and their constituents (you and me!) has given these food manufacturers no choice but to respond to the public outcry for healthier food. It’s no longer enough for these companies to earn a profit by selling food that tastes good. People are beginning to use the power of the pocketbook to show these companies that the food they sell must also be nutritious.

That’s because people everywhere are waking up. They are beginning to see the dangers of genetically modified ingredients and all the sugar, salt, and fats hidden in our food supply. From fancy restaurants to fast food chains, chefs are catching on that people want their food to make them feel good, not just while they are eating it but hours, days, and years afterward.

Really, this news shouldn’t make the headlines. This is common sense! Paying for food that makes us sick is as crazy as shooting ourselves in the foot.

Big Food is finally getting the message and getting on board.

But remember, no processed or fast food option will ever be better than a healthy home-cooked meal. The best way to ensure you are eating the highest quality, most nutritious food possible is to prepare your own food in your own kitchen. We are all chefs. You don’t have to be trained at Le Cordon Bleu to know your way around a kitchen. You just need a little knowledge, some imagination, and a sense of adventure.

A desire for real food is a fundamental part of our basic biological blueprint. Given the chance, our taste receptors will naturally gravitate toward the inherent sweetness found in vegetables, fruits, and even nuts and seeds.

So, how do you reprogram your taste buds to ditch the cravings for sugar, salt, and fats? You can start by eating real, fresh, whole foods. Avoid fake, commercialized foods that come in convenience packages or are made in a lab.

Here are 10 more tips to get you excited about ditching the sugar, salt, and fats:
  1. Sauté or roast your veggies to bring out their natural sweetness. Properly searing your chicken or meat brings out the inherent sweetness by way of the Maillard reaction. This is a fancy name for what happens when you create that nice, brown crust on your meat.
  2. Play with herbs like cilantro, parsley, dill, basil, and oregano to add flavor and phytonutrients! Finish a meal by adding fresh herbs before plating or serving. This last-minute addition kicks the flavor up a notch!
  3. Healthy fats found in avocado, coconut, and tahini not only increase the flavor of your meal, they also add that creamy, luscious texture found in many rich foods.
  4. Try creating a savory, umami (Japanese for “delicious”) flavor. Add moderate amounts of tamari, umeboshi plum paste, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, dried mushroom, or sea vegetables to your next stew, soup, sauce, or stir-fry.
  5. Cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, clove, ginger, and even cayenne or chipotle pepper powder are all extremely flavorful additions to a meal. Spices like these excite your taste buds and grab your attention. This is helpful, because, as studies show, when we are focused on actually tasting our food rather than mindlessly gobbling it up, we actually need less food to feel satisfied.
  6. Befriend some kitchen must-haves like real vanilla extract or vanilla bean or coconut butter. Or use common, every-day foods like lemons in some creative ways. For example, use lemon zest to add real zing to any meal!
  7. For the most flavor, eat seasonally and locally. Canned or packaged foods or foods that have traveled great distances in the back of a truck just can’t compare to the succulence of a fresh piece of locally grown fruit.
  8. Check your hydration. Digestion starts in your mouth with your saliva, which helps us taste all the magnificent flavor in food. If you are dehydrated and not producing enough saliva, you won’t really be able to enjoy your food.
  9. Check your medications. Believe it or not, most medications interfere with the body’s ability to taste and smell. Some of them can even create an unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth. Wondering how you might decrease the number of pills you take? Learn more about functional medicine.
  10. Got nutrition? Nutrient deficiency is an important cause of improper taste perception. A lack of certain vitamins and minerals can markedly impair your ability to smell and taste food. Most Americans have several nutrient deficiencies, but there is one in particular that can especially keep you from enjoying your next meal: zinc. Try adding foods like oysters, pecans, sunflower seeds, and lentils to increase your daily intake of this important mineral. 

Eco-Friendly Allergy Treatments

Allergic To Pollen?  Worst Year Ever in U.S. EcoExpert has Eco-Friendly Solutions. 

It’s the “worst year ever” for allergy sufferers in the US.  Of course this is often said. Worst year or not, it can be useful to know which are the worst cities for allergy sufferers. And you need to know how to deal with allergies without using chemicals.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has ranked the worst cities for 2013.

Please note: this study was produced by the AAFA, but was sponsored by a company which makes an allergy spray, so of course they have a vested interest, but it can certainly serve as a good indicator as to the top 10 worst cities.
  1. The “honor” of the worst city in the US goes to Jackson, MS
  2. Knoxville, TN
  3. Chattanooga, TN
  4. McAllen, TX
  5. Louisville, KY
  6. Wichita, KS
  7. Dayton, OK
  8. Memphis, TN
  9. Oklahoma City, OK
  10. Baton Rouge, LA

Eco-Friendly Solutions – Top 10 Tips

If you suffer from allergies especially in spring and summer when there is a high pollen count, what can you do?  Try to avoid expensive chemicals and try these natural remedies, instead:
  1. Food or supplements containing probiotics have been shown to be effective in relieving allergy symptoms.  Yoghurt is a common source of probiotics. (Of course, yoghurt won’t help if you have a diary allergy).
  2. A vegan diet has eliminated allergies in some people.
  3. Eyebright can be an effective herb to relieve eye irritation caused by allergies.  South African studies have shown it to be remarkably effective with no serious adverse reaction.  Euphrasia rostkoviana Hayne has been used for centuries.  Today it is available in drops (Euphrasia and Oculoheel ® and also as capsules).
  4. Drink more water.  This will support the natural cleansing systems in your body.
  5. Drink green tea – two to three cups daily for best results.  Green tea contains powerful antioxidants (it’s good for you generally as well as for allergies).  If you don’t like the taste of green tea, many manufacturers add other ingredients to make it more palatable – for instance I love Twinings Green Tea with Lemon.  Green tea is also available in powered form (Matcha) which you can add to food.
  6. Apples and onions contain quercetin which is an anti-histamine phyto-nutrient.  There is also some quercetin in berries, cabbage, cauliflower, nuts and tea.
  7. Native Americans used stinging nettles to relieve allergy symptoms and they have been proven to work today.  You can buy them in dried form to make tea or in capsule form.
  8. Shower or bathe before bedtime to remove pollen from your hair and skin.
  9. Avoid carpets.  Polished floors are best.
  10. Children with pets statistically suffer fewer allergies.  So, if you have the space and the time to care for an animal, as well as the money to feed him or her, a pet could be a good investment (added bonus – pets may teach your child responsibility and compassion).
And, a bonus tip from Jem’s Natural Living, is to take 100% pure honey because it contains a small amount of plant pollen which then acts as an immune booster which can help reduce your allergy symptoms.
[via EcoExpert]

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Who wouldn't want GMO labeling in the U.S.?

One thing true about the GMO movement is that not everyone is convinced genetically modified food is dangerous or bad to eat. It's important, though, to keep the scope of the question in focus.

We are not debating whether GM food is good or bad.

What we are debating is whether American consumers have a right to know the GM status of the food they put in their bodies.

Why then, in this nation of "transparency" and "individual freedom," does there seem to be something out there that wants to keep grocery stores' doors as frosted and opaque as possible? Who wouldn't want consumers to know—that they might make their own decision?

Dave Murphy, executive director of Food Democracy Now!, a grassroots movement of more than 650,000 farmers and citizens, offers a somewhat sobering answer to that question. Upon hearing that major food producers were meeting to discuss GMO labeling at the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) in Washington in mid-July, he offered this in a press release widely circulated around Facebook:

“American consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, and it's time that Monsanto and the GMA stop hiding those facts and America’s large food manufacturers endorse the labeling of genetically engineered foods.

Polls have consistently shown that more than 90 percent of Americans support GMO labeling. It’s time for the hypocrisy on genetically engineered foods to end in the land of the free and the home of the brave and we urge the Grocery Manufacturers Association to stop opposing GMO-labeling nationwide.”

—Dave Murphy, executive director of Food Democracy Now! caught up with Murphy after the meeting and asked him what he thought the results of the conference were, and what would happen next. Here is what he said:

"The Grocery Manufacturers Association is moving forward with their efforts to kill GMO labeling in the U.S.," Murphy said. "Rather than heed the calls of millions of American consumers to offer basic transparency in the market place, the GMA is encouraging their members to spend millions of dollars to defeat a citizen-led ballot initiative in Washington state, like they did with Prop 37 in California."

Officially at least, big biotech companies like Monsanto are promising to be more transparent. As The New York Times reported on July 28, companies are pledging to create a website that will answer "virtually any question posed by consumers about genetically engineered crops."

The site,, will be run by the Council for Biotechnology Information, which includes Dow Chemical, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience and BASF.

According to the Times, most of the corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets grown in the United States contain bacterial genes that make the crops resistant to an herbicide, insects or both. The Food and Drug Administration has said that such genetic engineering does not make these foods materially different in a way that would require labeling.

To anti-GMO activists, this is not enough. In May, thousands of people in cities around the world "marched against Monsanto" and against GMO-friendly laws. Dave Murphy, the leader of Food Democracy Now! believes change will first have to come at the state level. In a quick sit-down, this is what he had to say:

newhope360: What is at risk for food manufacturing companies?

Dave Murphy: By joining with the likes of pesticide and biotech companies such as Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta, food companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft, Kellogg’s and General Mills are jeopardizing the future of their brands as millions of Americans wake up to the fact these companies have willfully spent millions of dollars to deceive them about the contents in their food and deny them their basic democratic rights.

Any food company that does not support mandatory state and federal labeling of genetically engineered foods is increasingly placing their brand at risk of public exposure. If they want to deny us our rights, we will deny them their profits.

newhope360: What comes next in this battle or debate?

DM: Right now, activists across the country are working to pass Washington state's Yes on 522 ballot initiative to label GMOs, and follow up on the successes in Connecticut and Maine with bills in more than 20 other states.

Labeling of genetically engineered food is going to happen in the U.S.; this movement is not going away until we have a strong national GMO labeling bill. Giant food companies and politicians have to ask themselves if they're willing to risk their profits, reputations and careers to protect an industry that already labels food products with every major U.S. trading partner.

It's time for America to join the rest of the civilized world and allow reasonable and common sense GMO labeling bills to become the law of the land.

Who is padding the pockets of the Grocery Manufacturers Association?

  • In 2012, Monsanto was the top contributor to the GMA’s campaign to defeat GMO labeling and Prop 37 last year, contributing over $8.1 million dollars in 2012.
  • Other top contributors include Pepsi Co. at $2.48 million dollars in 2012.
  • Kraft Foods at $2 million dollars in 2012.
  • Coca-Cola at $1.7 million dollars in 2012.
  • This year, 26 states have introduced legislation to label genetically engineered foods, with GMO labeling bills recently passing in Connecticut and Maine.
  • A GMO labeling bill also passed the Vermont House this spring and awaits passage as early as next January in the Vermont Senate.
  • Similar legislation has been introduced in Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Monsanto and the GMA have expressed fears over the passage of the upcoming ballot initiative in Washington State this fall, similar to the one in California, which places the issue of labeling genetically engineered foods before a popular statewide vote.
-- Statistics by Food Democracy Now!

The Best and Worst Foods for Digestion

Good for your gut

In theory, you should be able to digest just about any type of food you put in your mouth.

But changes in food processing and preparation (think fried) not to mention lifestyle (think sedentary) mean our stomachs don't always react well to everything we eat.

It's best to avoid some food—like fatty meats—to avoid upset tummies. But, fortunately, nature also provides foods that can ease our digestion. Here's a guide to what's good and what's bad when it comes to keeping your system running smoothly.

High-fat and fried food: Worst

Both high-fat and fried food can overwhelm the stomach, resulting in acid reflux and heartburn. "The body can only handle so much at one time," says Jessica Anderson, RD, a diabetes educator with the Texas A&M Health Science Center Coastal Bend Health Education Center, in Corpus Christi.

High-fat food also can result in pale-colored stool, a phenomenon called steatorrhea, which is essentially excess fat in the feces. A lot of people with irritable bowel syndrome need to stay away from foods high in fat, she says, including butter and cream because they can cause digestive problems.

Chili peppers: Worst

This staple of spicy cuisine can irritate the esophagus and lead to heartburn pain.

This can be a particular problem for people with irritable bowel syndrome or those who already suffer from chronic heartburn, says Tim McCashland, MD, a gastroenterologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, in Omaha.

Dairy: Worst

For the lactose intolerant, dairy products can cause diarrhea, gas, and abdominal bloating and cramps.

Lactose intolerance, a common problem, occurs when people don't make enough lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose (the sugar found in milk). Celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and chemotherapy can damage the intestines, which also can lead to lactose intolerance.

If you're lactose intolerant, staying away from dairy is probably your best bet.

Alcohol: Worst

Alcohol relaxes the body, but, unfortunately, it also relaxes the esophageal sphincter. This can lead to acid reflux or heartburn.

Drinking also can inflame the stomach lining, impairing certain enzymes and preventing nutrients from being absorbed, Anderson says. Too much alcohol can cause diarrhea and cramping, but unless you have a gastrointestinal disorder, moderate amounts of alcohol shouldn't irritate the digestive tract.

Guidelines suggest no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women.

Berries: Worst

Berries are good for your health, but ones with tiny seeds can be a problem for people who have diverticulitis, or pockets that develop in the intestine (usually the large intestine) that become inflamed or infected.

"The theory is that the seeds will obstruct the [pockets] and pose a risk of infection," Dr. McCashland says. "It's never been proven in a study but it's always been theorized." If you find that seeds, including sunflower or pumpkin seeds, irritate your intestines, stay away from them.

Chocolate: Worst

A 2005 study suggested that chocolate may be a problem in those with irritable bowel syndrome or chronic constipation.

But chocolate itself may not be the villain, Anderson says. For people with milk allergies, the real culprit could be the milk contained in many chocolate treats. And chocolate has caffeine in it, which can stimulate cramps, bloating, and diarrhea.

Coffee, tea, and soft drinks: Worst

Coffee, tea, and carbonated beverages not only over-relax the esophageal sphincter, which keeps stomach acid confined to the stomach, but they also can act as diuretics, which can lead to diarrhea and cramping, Anderson says.

Caffeinated beverages can be a particular problem, especially for people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

If you have GERD or heartburn, you should avoid mint tea; it can, however, also calm the stomach, Anderson says.

Corn: Worst

Fiber-rich corn is good for you, but it also contains cellulose, a type of fiber that humans can't break down easily because we lack a necessary enzyme.

Our evolutionary ancestors were probably able to break it down with bigger, stronger teeth, Anderson says. If you chew corn longer, you can probably digest it just fine, she says. But wolf it down and it may pass through you undigested, and cause gas and abdominal pain.

Yogurt: Best

You have trillions of bacteria in your gut that help you digest food, and yogurt contains some types of these healthy bacteria. (Although not all yogurts have them—check for "live and active cultures" on the label.)

"Yogurt has bacteria, which replenishes the normal flora within the gastrointestinal tract so it's healthy," Dr. McCashland says.

Kimchi: Best

Kimchi is a Korean favorite usually made with cabbage, radish, or onion, along with lots of spices. The main ingredient is usually cabbage, which promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon.

And cabbage is a type of fiber that's not digested, so it helps eliminate waste, keeping bowel movements regular, Anderson says. Sauerkraut is good for the same reasons.

This dish can be spicy, however, so it might not be a good option if you’ve found that spicy foods trigger digestive problems for you.

Lean meat and fish: Best

If you're going to eat meat, go for chicken, fish, and other lean meats—they'll go down a lot easier than a juicy steak.

"Red meats tend to be fattier," Anderson says. "Your body can handle lean meats and fish and chicken a whole lot better than prime rib."

And lean meats and fish have not been associated with an increased risk of colon cancer like high-fat red meats have.

Whole grains: Best

Whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, oats, and brown rice, are a good source of fiber, which helps digestion.

"If there's one thing America lacks, it's fiber," Anderson says. "We need 20 to 30 grams a day and we maybe get 12."

Fiber also can help you feel full and lower cholesterol, but it can cause bloating, gas, and other problems in people who quickly ramp up their intake—it's better to take it slow when consuming more. And wheat grains are a no-no for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

Bananas: Best

Bananas help restore normal bowel function, especially if you have diarrhea (say, from too much alcohol).

And they restore electrolytes and potassium that may be lost due to runny stool. This fruit also has lots of fiber to aid digestion. "A banana a day is what I always say," Anderson says.

Ginger: Best

This spice has been used for thousands of years as a safe way to relieve nausea, vomiting, motion sickness, morning sickness, gas, loss of appetite, and colic.

But it's best to consume it in moderation. High doses of ginger can backfire; more than 2 to 4 grams per day can cause heartburn.

How to Grow Melons

Tip 1 – Cultivation

Superb quality of melon seeds can be bought in garden stations in local merchants. Firstly they have to be sown in a little containers on the windowsill or in a greenhouse, like tomato plants. Before you grow them outside, set them in seed starter containers with potting soil and enclose them with a clear plastic cover or transparent foil.

It is very important that the containers is kept warm. New seedlings dislike getting “cold feet.” You can put the prep containers near a window with ample sun light.

Within about ten days you will be able to see that the seeds have germinated and developed into little seedlings. At this time you can get rid of the foil. From now you have to water the melon plants frequently, be mindful to water logging - this could allow mold near the sensitive roots. It is also essential to step the seedlings aside from direct sun light, unless you have a greenhouse with exclusive foil or glass that fractures the sun rays.

If the vegetation appears to develop gradually, too big or are developing too close to each other in the containers, you may wish to re-pot them to enable a proper progress and growth.

Tip 2 – Transplanting in the Garden

Right after four weeks, or when the outdoor temperature is about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the melon plants are able to be moved outside. As for the choice of place in the yard, choose a sheltered, but sunny location where your melon plants are covered from powerful winds. Provide ample space (2-3 ft) between each plant. Have effective treatment of those delicate origins when relocating the seedlings outside.

To create the new ecosystem, loosen the terrain well and include some compost to assist in the plants obtaining an excellent launch in their new position. If you utilize a compost, I encourage integrating it in the ground about two weeks prior to planting. If you anticipate certain cold nights, protect the plants with a frost defense blanket or a garden foil.

Tip 3 – Fertilizing

Use earlier well-enriched ground or manure, or you can use fertilizer simply before blooming and once the fruits are just progressing. Utilize a specialized fertilizer for fruit trees or tomato fertilizer.

Tip 4 – Melon Plant Protection

You can grow melons vertically on a trellis or allow them to branch sideways (which will need more space). If the second one is your option, you can encourage entwining by reducing the primary stem right after the sixth leaf. Ensure your melons are watered frequently, but not too much, because they just don’t tolerate regular dampness properly - remember to prevent water logging. If available, water the melon vegetation in the morning, just a little lukewarm rainwater will keep them certainly happy!

When melon fruits are recognizable, it is important to avoid the fruits from sitting on the wet ground. You can use Styrofoam sheets, place them below the melons to prevent rotting.

Tip 5 – Picking

Based on the vegetable diversity, the melon fruits ripen in various ways. Fruit ripening is identifiable by the wilting of the leaves, their scent and the sound. Tap on the fruit, if it sounds like a low dull tone, then it’s an indicator the fruit is ripe. When they are ready, use a sharp knife to cut them from the branch. To ensure the melons will last for a longer time, cut two inch of the branch to leave on the melon.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Guide to Best Organic Health Foods

Are you jaded with quick fix weight loss diets that don’t work or are you unable to eat healthy food owing to your busy work schedule? Due to our hectic life styles, we often make the mistake of compromising on our diets. This makes it increasingly difficult to shed weight or maintain good health. How often have we resorted to miracle diets and potions, albeit to no avail? Well there is no cause for concern as we are about to introduce to you a natural and effective alternative that will end all your dietary woes.

Organic health foods popularly known as ‘super foods’ are all the rage today and here’s why: grown organically, super foods are packed with all the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients that promote good health and help you stay in shape. In this article we shall discuss some of the best organic health foods that are available in the market today:


Once called “the gold of the Incas,” and known to increase the stamina of Inca warriors this grain is steadily gaining popularity as health food in the world. This is due to that fact that it is high in protein, and not only high protein, but it supplies the complete protein, which includes all nine essential amino acids. Besides this, it is a very good source of manganese also a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, and folate this grain ensures benefits for persons with diabetes, migraine headaches, and atherosclerosis.

Goji Berries

The Gojii Berry is a much-revered fruit in East Asia, due to its myriad medicinal properties. Also known as wolfberry, this natural super food is believed to bolster the immune system, improve circulation, enhance fertility and improve the eyesight. Goji berries can be eaten raw, made into wine or brewed into herbal tea.

Kiwi Fruit

Kiwi is one of the only fruits that contain Vitamin E, which nourishes the skin and prevents aging. The Kiwi fruit is packed with vitamins including vitamin A and vitamin C and is also a veritable source of antioxidants. What’s more, the Kiwi is also a delectable choice for various salads and deserts. Due to its high fiber content, the kiwi fruit can also be used as a mild laxative to promote regular bowel movement.


America’s favorite vegetable, Broccoli has become synonymous with the organic health food market. This super food is packed with a whole host of vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin C and most importantly vitamin K, which is responsible for building a strong bone structure. Due to its high fiber content, Broccoli acts as mucilage and is a definitive choice for dieters and weight watchers.


Berries are a great choice for those with a sweet tooth. Not only do they taste great, but also come packed with a variety of nutrients that are required by the body. Berries are a rich source of antioxidants and phytonutrients and can be safely eaten by weight watchers as they are very low in calories. Besides, berries have a high content of water and fiber that helps to maintain blood sugar levels in the body. Berries add a delectable flavor to a variety of dishes, salads and cereals, making them a versatile choice for dieters.


Although nuts may have a high fat content, their nutritional benefits far outweigh their high calorie count. When consumed in small portions, nuts are a very good source of protein. Including nuts into your diet would help you lower cholesterol levels and help you lose weight. Nuts also contain a high amount of fiber and antioxidants, which are so beneficial for the body. Not only do they taste great but are also quite filling, which make them a healthy portable snack for those on the move.

Low fat Yogurt

Low fat yogurt is a very healthy and nutritious alternative for people who are lactose intolerant. In  fact, this super food has higher calcium content than most dairy products and comes packed with a powerhouse of other vital nutrients. The presence of probiotics in yogurt promotes a healthy digestive system as it creates a healthy balance of bacteria in the intestine.


Natures very own gift to mankind, the Avocado is a rich source of oleic acid. This monosaturated fat present in the fruit helps to reduce cholesterol in the body. According to a recent study conducted on people with high cholesterol levels, individuals who included avocados in their diet showed a marked decrease in their cholesterol levels. This is due to the high potassium content in avocado, which helps to regulate blood pressure and prevents the onset of heart diseases. Further research has indicated that avocado contains a high concentrate of the carotenoid known as lutein. The presence of carotenoids and tocopherols (better known as vitamin E) in avocado has been found to stem the growth of prostate cancer cells. Given its enormous nutritional value, including slices of avocado in your diet would greatly help your body to absorb the carotenoids from the vegetables and fruits that you consume daily.

In this day and age of packaged foods and adulteration, organic super foods are undoubtedly the healthiest alternative. Not only do they taste great and are free of chemicals and fertilizers, organic super foods contain a gamut of vitamins, antioxidants and healthy fats. Super foods are thus a viable alternative to packaged foods that ensures that you live a healthy disease free life.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Healthy Substitutes To Make The Foods You Love Even Better

We found deliciously sneaky ways to make lighter tuna salad, a lower-calorie noodle dish and even better-for-you bacon.

Instead Of Mayonnaise, Try...

Cottage cheese. This classic diet food is a surprisingly effective binder for chicken and tuna salads -- it has that salty, tangy taste you find in mayo, but a fraction of the calories if you use a low-fat version. You can also use cottage cheese on sandwiches or burgers; just toast the bread first to make spreading easier.

Instead Of White Pasta, Try...

Shirataki noodles. This Japanese wonder is made from a plant root, and, amazingly, has no calories. New York City chef Jesse Schenker, who cooks at the restaurant Recette and recently lost 60 pounds, says he often prepares them for lunch or dinner. The noodles are packed in water, and while you can boil them just as you would regular pasta, Schenker likes to skip that step, and instead rinse and dry them, then turn them into a crispy pancake. He tops the dish -- which closely resembles the pan-fried noodle dishes you find in Szechuan restaurants -- with seared shrimp, roasted broccoli, chopped tomatoes and basil.

Instead Of Bacon, Try...

Baked ham. There's a way to get hot, crispy slices of pork without all the fat: Follow the advice of chef Jeff Mahin, chef at the pizzeria Stella Barra, which has two California outposts. He lays slices of deli ham on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet; covers them with another piece of parchment; and then presses another sheet pan on top, to keep the meat flat. Mahin bakes the ham at 275 degrees until crispy (about 25 minutes). It's perfect in an egg sandwich, crumbled on top of mac n' cheese or chopped and sprinkled over salad.

Instead Of Eggs, Try...

Pureed pumpkin. Whether you're baking sweets or making a savory dish that calls for an egg as a binding agent (such as meatballs), Celine Steen, who blogs about vegan cooking at Have Cake Will Travel, says you can use pumpkin puree instead. She knows the squash may seem out of place, but promises you can't detect the flavor -- and you'll be rewarded with moist, light baked goods -- or even meatballs (vegetarian or not). Use about a quarter-cup of puree to replace/as a substitute for each egg.

Instead Of Soy Sauce, Try...

Bragg's Liquid Aminos. This bottled ingredient sounds like something you'd find in a science lab, but chefs and home cooks swear by its ability to add a salty, savory (some call it "umami") dimension to dishes without loads of sodium (it has about 100 mg less per serving than low-sodium soy sauce). Liquid aminos are made from soybeans, and you can add a few shakes to anything from stir-fries to sauteed spinach to meatloaf. Ric Scicchitano, head chef of the Corner Bakery Cafe chain, buys it in a spray bottle and uses it on steamed rice for instant flavor.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn’t Honey

More than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t exactly what the bees produce, according to testing done exclusively for Food Safety News. The results show that the pollen frequently has been filtered out of products labeled “honey.” The removal of these microscopic particles from deep within a flower would make the nectar flunk the quality standards set by most of the world’s food safety agencies. The food safety divisions of the World Health Organization, the European Commission and dozens of others also have ruled that without pollen there is no way to determine whether the honey came from legitimate and safe sources.
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration says that any product that’s been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn’t honey. However, the FDA isn’t checking honey sold here to see if it contains pollen.

Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey – some containing illegal antibiotics – on the U.S. market for years.

Food Safety News decided to test honey sold in various outlets after its earlier investigation found U.S. groceries flooded with Indian honey banned in Europe as unsafe because of contamination with antibiotics, heavy metal and a total lack of pollen which prevented tracking its origin.

Food Safety News purchased more than 60 jars, jugs and plastic bears of honey in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

The contents were analyzed for pollen by Vaughn Bryant, a professor at Texas A&M University and one of the nation’s premier melissopalynologists, or investigators of pollen in honey.

Bryant, who is director of the Palynology Research Laboratory, found that among the containers of honey provided by Food Safety News:
  • 76 percent of samples bought at groceries had all the pollen removed, These were stores like TOP Food, Safeway, Giant Eagle, QFC, Kroger, Metro Market, Harris Teeter, A&P, Stop & Shop and King Soopers.
  • 100 percent of the honey sampled from drugstores like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy had no pollen.
  • 77 percent of the honey sampled from big box stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target and H-E-B had the pollen filtered out.
  • 100 percent of the honey packaged in the small individual service portions from Smucker, McDonald’s and KFC had the pollen removed.
  • Bryant found that every one of the samples Food Safety News bought at farmers markets, co-ops and “natural” stores like PCC and Trader Joe’s had the full, anticipated, amount of pollen.
And if you have to buy at major grocery chains, the analysis found that your odds are somewhat better of getting honey that wasn’t ultra-filtered if you buy brands labeled as organic. Out of seven samples tested, five (71 percent) were heavy with pollen. All of the organic honey was produced in Brazil, according to the labels.

The National Honey Board, a federal research and promotion organization under USDA oversight, says the bulk of foreign honey (at least 60 percent or more) is sold to the food industry for use in baked goods, beverages, sauces and processed foods.  Food Safety News did not examine these products for this story.

Some U.S. honey packers didn’t want to talk about how they process their merchandise.

One who did was Bob Olney, of Honey Tree Inc., in Michigan, who sells its Winnie the Pooh honey in Walmart stores.  Bryant’s analysis of the contents of the container made in Winnie’s image found that the pollen had been removed.

Olney says that his honey came from suppliers in Montana, North Dakota and Alberta. “It was filtered in processing because North American shoppers want their honey crystal clear,” he said.

The packers of Silverbow Honey added: “The grocery stores want processed honey as it lasts longer on the shelves.”

However, most beekeepers say traditional filtering used by most will catch bee parts, wax, debris from the hives and other visible contaminants but will leave the pollen in place.

Ernie Groeb, the president and CEO of Groeb Farms Inc., which calls itself “the world’s largest packer of honey,” says he makes no specific requirement to the pollen content of the 85 million pounds of honey his company buys.

Groeb sells retail under the Miller’s brand and says he buys 100 percent pure honey, but does not “specify nor do we require that the pollen be left in or be removed.”

He says that there are many different filtering methods used by beekeepers and honey packers.

“We buy basically what’s considered raw honey. We trust good suppliers. That’s what we rely on,” said Groeb, whose headquarters is in Onsted, Mich.

Why Remove the Pollen?

Removal of all pollen from honey “makes no sense” and is completely contrary to marketing the highest quality product possible, Mark Jensen, president of the American Honey Producers Association, told Food Safety News. I don’t know of any U.S. producer that would want to do that. Elimination of all pollen can only be achieved by ultra-filtering and this filtration process does nothing but cost money and diminish the quality of the honey,” Jensen said.

“In my judgment, it is pretty safe to assume that any ultra-filtered honey on store shelves is Chinese honey and it’s even safer to assume that it entered the country uninspected and in violation of federal law,” he added.

Richard Adee, whose 80,000 hives in multiple states produce 7 million pounds of honey each year, told Food Safety News that “honey has been valued by millions for centuries for its flavor and nutritional value and that is precisely what is completely removed by the ultra-filtration process.”

“There is only one reason to ultra-filter honey and there’s nothing good about it,” he says.

“It’s no secret to anyone in the business that the only reason all the pollen is filtered out is to hide where it initially came from and the fact is that in almost all cases, that is China,” Adee added.

The Sioux Honey Association, who says it’s America’s largest supplier, declined repeated requests for comments on ultra-filtration, what Sue Bee does with its foreign honey and whether it’s ultra-filtered when they buy it. The co-op markets retail under Sue Bee, Clover Maid, Aunt Sue, Natural Pure and many store brands.

Eric Wenger, director of quality services for Golden Heritage Foods, the nation’s third largest packer, said his company takes every precaution not to buy laundered Chinese honey.

“We are well aware of the tricks being used by some brokers to sell honey that originated in China and laundering it in a second country by filtering out the pollen and other adulterants,” said Wenger, whose firm markets 55 million pounds of honey annually under its Busy Bee brand, store brands, club stores and food service.

“The brokers know that if there’s an absence of all pollen in the raw honey we won’t buy it, we won’t touch it, because without pollen we have no way to verify its origin.”

He said his company uses “extreme care” including pollen analysis when purchasing foreign honey, especially from countries like India, Vietnam and others that have or have had “business arrangements” with Chinese honey producers.

Golden Heritage, Wenger said, then carefully removes all pollen from the raw honey when it’s processed to extend shelf life, but says, “as we see it, that is not ultra-filtration.

“There is a significant difference between filtration, which is a standard industry practice intended to create a shelf-stable honey, and ultra-filtration, which is a deceptive, illegal, unethical practice.”

Some of the foreign and state standards that are being instituted can be read to mean different things, Wenger said “but the confusion can be eliminated and we can all be held to the same appropriate standards for quality if FDA finally establishes the standards we’ve all wanted for so long.”

Groeb says he has urged FDA to take action as he also “totally supports a standard of Identity for honey. It will help everyone have common ground as to what pure honey truly is!”

What’s Wrong With Chinese Honey?

Chinese honey has long had a poor reputation in the U.S., where – in 2001 – the Federal Trade Commission imposed stiff import tariffs or taxes to stop the Chinese from flooding the marketplace with dirt-cheap, heavily subsidized honey, which was forcing American beekeepers out of business.

To avoid the dumping tariffs, the Chinese quickly began transshipping honey to several other countries, then laundering it by switching the color of the shipping drums, the documents and labels to indicate a bogus but tariff-free country of origin for the honey.

Most U.S. honey buyers knew about the Chinese actions because of the sudden availability of lower cost honey, and little was said.

The FDA — either because of lack of interest or resources — devoted little effort to inspecting imported honey. Nevertheless, the agency had occasionally either been told of, or had stumbled upon, Chinese honey contaminated with chloramphenicol and other illegal animal antibiotics which are dangerous, even fatal, to a very small percentage of the population.

Mostly, the adulteration went undetected. Sometimes FDA caught it.

In one instance 10 years ago, contaminated Chinese honey was shipped to Canada and then on to a warehouse in Houston where it was sold to jelly maker J.M. Smuckers and the national baker Sara Lee.

By the time the FDA said it realized the Chinese honey was tainted, Smuckers had sold 12,040 cases of individually packed honey to Ritz-Carlton Hotels and Sara Lee said it may have been used in a half-million loaves of bread that were on store shelves.

Eventually, some honey packers became worried about what they were pumping into the plastic bears and jars they were selling. They began using in-house or private labs to test for honey diluted with inexpensive high fructose corn syrup or 13 other illegal sweeteners or for the presence of illegal antibiotics. But even the most sophisticated of these tests would not pinpoint the geographic source of the honey.

Food scientists and honey specialists say pollen is the only foolproof fingerprint to a honey’s source.

Federal investigators working on criminal indictments and a very few conscientious packers were willing to pay stiff fees to have the pollen in their honey analyzed for country of origin. That complex, multi-step analysis is done by fewer than five commercial laboratories in the world.

But, Customs and Justice Department investigators told Food Safety News that whenever U.S. food safety or criminal experts verify a method to identify potentially illegal honey – such as analyzing the pollen – the laundering operators find a way to thwart it, such as ultra-filtration.

The U.S. imported 208 million pounds of honey over the past 18 months. Almost 60 percent came from Asian countries – traditional laundering points for Chinese honey. This included 45 million pounds from India alone.

And websites still openly offer brokers who will illegally transship honey and scores of other tariff-protected goods from China to the U.S.

FDA’s Lack of Action

The Food and Drug Administration weighed into the filtration issue years ago.

“The FDA has sent a letter to industry stating that the FDA does not consider ‘ultra-filtered’ honey to be honey,” agency press officer Tamara Ward told Food Safety News.

She went on to explain: “We have not halted any importation of honey because we have yet to detect ‘ultra-filtered’ honey. If we do detect ‘ultra-filtered’ honey we will refuse entry.”

Many in the honey industry and some in FDA’s import office say they doubt that FDA checks more than 5 percent of all foreign honey shipments.

For three months, the FDA promised Food Safety News to make its “honey expert” available to explain what that statement meant.  It never happened. Further, the federal food safety authorities refused offers to examine Bryant’s analysis and explain what it plans to do about the selling of honey it says is adulterated because of the removal of pollen, a key ingredient.

Major food safety standard-setting organizations such as the United Nations’ Codex Alimentarius, the European Union and the European Food Safety Authority say the intentional removal of pollen is dangerous because it eliminates the ability of consumers and law enforcement to determine the actual origin of the honey.

“The removal of pollen will make the determination of botanical and geographic origin of honey impossible and circumvents the ability to trace and identify the actual source of the honey,” says the European Union Directive on Honey.

The Codex commission’s Standard for Honey, which sets principles for the international trade in food, has ruled that “No pollen or constituent particular to honey may be removed except where this is unavoidable in the removal of foreign matter. . .”  It even suggested what size mesh to use (not smaller than 0.2mm or 200 micron) to filter out unwanted debris — bits of wax and wood from the frames, and parts of bees — but retain 95 percent of all the pollen.

Food Safety News asked Bryant to analyze foreign honey packaged in Italy, Hungary, Greece, Tasmania and New Zealand to try to get a feeling for whether the Codex standards for pollen were being heeded overseas. The samples from every country but Greece were loaded with various types and amounts of pollen. Honey from Greece had none.

You’ll Never Know

In many cases, consumers would have an easier time deciphering state secrets than pinning down where the honey they’re buying in groceries actually came from.

The majority of the honey that Bryant’s analysis found to have no pollen was packaged as store brands by outside companies but carried a label unique to the food chain. For example, Giant Eagle has a ValuTime label on some of its honey. In Target it’s called Market Pantry, Naturally Preferred  and others. Walmart uses Great Value and Safeway just says Safeway. Wegmans also uses its own name.

Who actually bottled these store brands is often a mystery.

A noteworthy exception is Golden Heritage of Hillsboro, Kan. The company either puts its name or decipherable initials on the back of store brands it fills.

“We’re never bashful about discussing the products we put out” said Wenger, the company’s quality director. “We want people to know who to contact if they have questions.”

The big grocery chains were no help in identifying the sources of the honey they package in their store brands.

For example, when Food Safety News was hunting the source of nine samples that came back as ultra-filtered from QFC, Fred Myer and King Sooper, the various customer service numbers all led to representatives of Kroger, which owns them all. The replies were identical: “We can’t release that information. It is proprietary.”

One of the customer service representatives said the contact address on two of the honeys being questioned was in Sioux City, Iowa, which is where Sioux Bee’s corporate office is located.

Jessica Carlson, a public relations person for Target, waved the proprietary banner and also refused to say whether it was Target management or the honey suppliers that wanted the source of the honey kept from the public.

Similar non-answers came from representatives of Safeway, Walmart and Giant Eagle.

The drugstores weren’t any more open with the sources of their house brands of honey. A Rite Aid representative said “if it’s not marked made in China, than it’s made in the United States.” She didn’t know who made it but said “I’ll ask someone.”

Rite Aid, Walgreen and CVS have yet to supply the information.

Only two smaller Pacific Northwest grocery chains – Haggen and Metropolitan Market – both selling honey without pollen, weren’t bashful about the source of their honey. Haggen said right off that its brand comes from Golden Heritage. Metropolitan Market said its honey – Western Family – is packed by Bee Maid Honey, a co-op of beekeepers from the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

Pollen? Who Cares?

Why should consumers care if their honey has had its pollen removed?

“Raw honey is thought to have many medicinal properties,” says Kathy Egan, dietitian at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.  ”Stomach ailments, anemia and allergies are just a few of the conditions that may be improved by consumption of unprocessed honey.”

But beyond pollen’s reported enzymes, antioxidants and well documented anti-allergenic benefits, a growing population of natural food advocates just don’t want their honey messed with.

There is enormous variety among honeys. They range in color from glass-clear to a dark mahogany and in consistency from watery to chunky to a crystallized solid. It’s the plants and flowers where the bees forage for nectar that will determine the significant difference in the taste, aroma and color of what the bees produce. It is the processing that controls the texture.

Food historians say that in the 1950s the typical grocery might have offered three or four different brands of honey.  Today, a fair-sized store will offer 40 to 50 different types, flavors and sources of honey out of the estimated 300 different honeys made in the U.S.. And with the attractiveness of natural food and the locavore movement, honey’s popularity is burgeoning. Unfortunately, with it comes the potential for fraud.

Concocting a sweet-tasting syrup out of cane, corn or beet sugar, rice syrup or any of more than a dozen sweetening agents is a great deal easier, quicker and far less expensive than dealing with the natural brew of bees.

However, even the most dedicated beekeeper can unknowingly put incorrect information on a honey jar’s label.

Bryant has examined nearly 2,000 samples of honey sent in by beekeepers, honey importers, and ag officials checking commercial brands off store shelves. Types include premium honey such as “buckwheat, tupelo, sage, orange blossom, and sourwood” produced in Florida, North Carolina, California, New York and Virginia and “fireweed” from Alaska.

“Almost all were incorrectly labeled based on their pollen and nectar contents,” he said.

Out of the 60 plus samples that Bryant tested for Food Safety News, the absolute most flavorful said “blackberry” on the label. When Bryant concluded his examination of the pollen in this sample he found clover and wildflowers clearly outnumbering a smattering of grains of blackberry pollen.

For the most part we are not talking about intentional fraud here. Contrary to their most fervent wishes, beekeepers can’t control where their bees actually forage any more than they can keep the tides from changing. They offer their best guess on the predominant foliage within flying distance of the hives.

“I think we need a truth in labeling law in the U.S. as they have in other countries,” Bryant added.

FDA Ignores Pleas

No one can say for sure why the FDA has ignored repeated pleas from Congress, beekeepers and the honey industry to develop a U.S. standard for identification for honey.

Nancy Gentry owns the small Cross Creek Honey Company in Interlachen, Fla., and she isn’t worried about the quality of the honey she sells.

“I harvest my own honey. We put the frames in an extractor, spin it out, strain it, and it goes into a jar. It’s honey the way bees intended,” Gentry said.

But the negative stories on the discovery of tainted and bogus honey raised her fears for the public’s perception of honey.

She spent months of studying what the rest of the world was doing to protect consumers from tainted honey and questioning beekeepers and industry on what was needed here. Gentry became the leading force in crafting language for Florida to develop the nation’s first standard for identification for honey.

In July 2009, Florida adopted the standard and placed its Division of Food Safety in the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in charge of enforcing it.  It’s since been followed by California, Wisconsin and North Carolina and is somewhere in the state legislative or regulatory maze in Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, New York, Texas, Kansas, Oregon, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia and others.

John Ambrose’s battle for a national definition goes back 36 years. He said the issue is of great importance to North Carolina because it has more beekeepers than any other state in the country.

He and others tried to convince FDA that a single national standard for honey to help prevent adulterated honey from being sold was needed. The agency promised him it would be on the books within two years.

“But that never happened,” said Ambrose, a professor and entomologist at North Carolina State University and apiculturist, or bee expert. North Carolina followed Florida’s lead and passed its own identification standards last year.

Ambrose, who was co-chair of the team that drafted the state beekeeper association’s honey standards says the language is very simple, ”Our standard says that nothing can be added or removed from the honey. So in other words, if somebody removes the pollen, or adds moisture or corn syrup or table sugar, that’s adulteration,” Ambrose told Food Safety News.

But still, he says he’s asked all the time how to ensure that you’re buying quality honey.  ”The fact is, unless you’re buying from a beekeeper, you’re at risk,” was his uncomfortably blunt reply.

Eric Silva, counsel for the American Honey Producers Association said the standard is a simple but essential tool in ensuring the quality and safety of honey consumed by millions of Americans each year.

“Without it, the FDA and their trade enforcement counterparts are severely limited in their ability to combat the flow of illicit and potentially dangerous honey into this country,” Silva told Food Safety News.

It’s not just beekeepers, consumers and the industry that FDA officials either ignore or slough off with comments that they’re too busy.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer is one of more than 20 U.S. senators and members of Congress of both parties who have asked the FDA repeatedly to create a federal “pure honey” standard, similar to what the rest of the world has established.

They get the same answer that Ambrose got in 1975:  ”Any day now.”