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  Things You Perhaps Don't Want to Know About Your Food & Beverages

New York Times | September 13, 2006
By MARIAN BURROS

Your morning Starbucks latte may never seem as sweet again.

If you thought you were being nutritionally virtuous by stopping at
Starbucks instead of McDonald's, the Center for Science in the Public
Interest says, "Wrong!"

A venti -  or 20-ounce -- Caffè Mocha with whipped cream has 490 calories, equivalent to a Quarter Pounder with cheese. And a 24-ounce Java Chip Frappuccino with whipped cream has 650 calories, not to mention almost an entire day's allowance of saturated fat.

According to the center, a nutritional advocacy group, the Frappuccino is
equivalent in calories to a McDonald's coffee plus 11 of their creamers and 29 packets of sugar.

Keeping the Mystery in Meat

There was little attention in August when a case of mad cow disease was
reported in Canada. It was the country's fifth case this year and the eighth since 2003. Most occurred in Alberta, the province from which the United States imports most of its Canadian beef and cattle.

This would have seemed an opportune moment to move ahead with Country of Origin Labeling for all meats, scheduled to take effect at the end of this month under federal law. But some of the biggest players in the meat industry formed the Meat Promotion Coalition and hired a lobbying firm to see that the regulation was delayed until 2008, even though 86 percent of the public says it wants to know where its meat comes from, according to a survey published in The Packer, the newspaper of the beef industry. Cargill, Tyson Food, the National Cattlemen¹s Association and the National Pork Producers Council are the best known members of the coalition, which says the labeling costs too much.

Et Tu, Ben and Jerry?

First Chicago banned the sale of foie gras. Then Whole Foods stopped selling live lobster. Now Ben and Jerry's has pledged not to use eggs that come from a farm that the Humane Society of the United States has accused of being cruel to its laying hens. Animal rights activists are on a roll. While they pursue high-profile cases they are also signing up farmers who, in exchange for taking a pledge to treat their animals humanely, are permitted to label their products "Certified Humane."

In its latest efforts on behalf of animals, the Humane Society has shamed
Ben and Jerry's into changing to eggs from cage-free hens by calling the
company hypocritical for criticizing "giant industrial farming operations"
on its Web site.

Meanwhile, back in Chicago, the Illinois Restaurant Association, along with other interested parties, has sued the city to halt enforcement of the foie gras ban.

And Whole Foods is reportedly building special housing to make lobsters more comfortable in its stores so its customers won't have to go elsewhere to buy them.

Ham and Virus on Rye, Please

Add a stew of bacteria-killing viruses to the already complicated safety
protocols for food produced on an industrial scale.

The Food and Drug Administration recently announced that it is safe to spray a mix of six viruses on deli meats like bologna, liverwurst and ham.

These foods are generally not cooked after they are purchased, and so they areparticularly vulnerable to listeria, bacteria that can cause  listeriosis, especially dangerous for pregnant women, fetuses and newborns.

For years the agency wanted manufacturers of such products to clean up their plants so that listeria could not survive. But it turned out to be easier to spray the mix of viruses, called bacteriophages, on the meat to kill the listeria, than to get the plants to clean up.

The agency says the virus mixture is safe. Does that mean children can eat hot dogs right out of the refrigerator?

If a bacteriophage that kills E. coli bacteria is approved, some will say it
won't be necessary to clean up the slaughterhouses.

News Flash: Soda Is Fattening

Add a report from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition to the growing
list of evidence that sugary soft drinks are adding pounds to kids. The
report, a meta-analysis of others' scientific research, says one extra can
of soda a day can translate into 15 pounds a year. The report concludes:
"Although more research is needed, sufficient evidence exists for public
health strategies to discourage consumption of sugary drinks as part of a
healthy lifestyle."

And, as certain as night follows day, the sugar industry begs to differ.
Stamps That Go With the Grain Instead of waiting three or four or more years for the creaking bureaucracy of the Department of Agriculture to come up with labeling regulations for whole grain products that contain meat, poultry or eggs, a private organization took matters into its own hands.

The Whole Grains Council, a consortium of food companies, scientists and
chefs founded by Oldways Preservation Trust, a nonprofit food research
group, introduced a brown and gold Whole Grain stamp last year that can be used on products with significant amounts of whole grain. In June, it
improved the stamp by including the exact amount of whole grains in each serving: the minimum is eight grams of whole grain, equivalent to one-half serving, according to the federal dietary guidelines.

The stamps are already found on foods regulated by the Food and Drug
Administration, products that contain no meat, poultry or eggs. Last month the Agriculture Department gave permission to use the stamps on the remaining products, which it regulates, like sausage-topped pizzas and chicken pot pies.

 

 

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