Food labels – can you trust them?

             pig treatment not on food labels        food labels cage free, free range


The following article about being able to trust food labels is reproduced in its entirety from the website Antimedia.org with its permission:

“This article (3 Disgusting Reasons Why Why You Should Never Trust Food Labels) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Claire Bernish andtheAntiMedia.org.”

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(ANTIMEDIA) United States — You cannot rely on food producers to put food labels on products in a sufficient enough manner to describe what you’re actually buying, and — in the case of meat and animal products — what you’re allowing to continue through your purchase.

1. “Progressive Farming. Family Style,” pig ‘producer,’ The Maschhoffs, slogan boasts — but if the Hormel supplier truly believes what the pigs it raises go through is family-oriented, the company could easily qualify for psychological assistance. Disturbingly, though, The Maschhoffs are far from alone.

Newly-released undercover footage from an investigation by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which asEcoWatch noted, is “the nation’s leading legal animal protection organization,” proves The Maschhoffs slogan cannot be described as anything short of grossly deceptive. EcoWatch described the footage, though the details are no less disturbing in print than on video:

“Mother pigs and piglets alike are shown suffering and dying from a wide array of gruesome ailments. Undercover investigators documented pigs suffering for days or weeks with extreme prolapsed rectums, intestinal ruptures, large open wounds and huge, bloody ruptured cysts. The investigation also revealed that the pigs are left to go long stretches of time — up to three days — without food as the result of a failure of the electronic feeding mechanism,”and though workers were aware of the malfunction, they didn’t bother feeding the pigs another way.

Footage (included below *warning: graphic) also reveals the common industry practice whereby runt and sickly piglets considered unusable as product are killed by workers smashing their heads on the ground — known by the euphemistic term, “thumping.”

While commentary about the commonality of these problems in the U.S. pig producing industry could fill vast tomes, the inability of Americans to vote with their wallets in trusting food labels constitutes the most imperative aspect of this issue. Those inured to descriptions of arrant animal abuse on factory farms aren’t likely to change their buying practices to run such operations out of business.

But everyone should be able to understand a food product’s origins, quality, and manufacturing through accurate labeling — so those who want can choose ethically raised, organic, or other specific products to suit their desires. This particularly pertains to people just beginning to change their eating habits. But if food labels deceive people, how can anyone reliably move toward healthier or more ethical choices?

2. “Free-range”-labeled chicken illustrates this point handily. For those who don’t have time to research what that description means — or those who don’t even realize they should — the label suggests chickens milling peacefully about on the open ‘range,’ free from cages or any other constraints. In actuality, free-range generally describeswarehoused chickens who, though not in horribly restrictive battery cages, nevertheless might not set foot outside — or even see daylight — for the entirety of their short lifetimes.

Technically, the birds should have access to some outdoor enclosure, however, “no information on stocking density, the frequency or duration of how much outdoor access must be provided, nor the quality of the land accessible to the animals is defined,” writes the Humane Society of the United States. And, alarmingly, “[p]ainful surgical procedures without any pain relief are permitted.”

Clearly, the vision of chickens pecking around in a sunny meadow is not what the free-range label has in mind. Nor does the popular label, “cage-free,” another poultry product industry favorite term, also inaccurately summoning to mind chickens who — if they must be considered product — at least live somewhat normal lives. Again, not so much.

3. Eggs labeled cage-free come from hens who don’t have the misfortune, as typical industry hens, of being confined with five to ten other hens in wire-mesh cages where they’re given the space equivalent to an iPad. However, they don’t fare much better — and the label cage-free should be a matter of debate.

Though cage-free hens are able to actually spread their wings, up to 100,000 of them typically inhabit a single warehouse — where ‘overcrowding’ could be a rather laughable  understatement. Sure, they might not be confined in cruel battery cages, but the sheer number of hens occupying such warehouse spaces can severely stress the birds, who frequently lash out by violently pecking at others. To reduce injury to their product, such ‘farms’ are permitted to “debeak” the birds — an incredibly painful practice where the tips of chickens’ beaks are seared off without any pain-relieving medicine.

According to Michigan State University animal scientist Janice Swanson, who led a study about egg production techniques, as recounted by Gizmodo’s iO9, “cage-free birds have more feathers and stronger bones and exhibit more natural behaviors. But crowded aviaries also come with risks: reduced air quality, and twice the likelihood of dying. Over the course of their three-year study, less than 5 percent of birds in cages died, compared with more than 11 percent of cage-free birds. One of the most common causes of death was pecking by other chickens.”

On Friday, The Maschhoffs issued a statement about the investigation into the horrific footage published by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which reaffirmed the company’s putative commitment to ensuring its pigs’ welfare. Though the company had previously said it would not allow such abuse to occur, The Maschhoffs now claim the manager in charge of the Nebraska facility in the footage has been terminated and all employees will be re-trained to uphold the rights of animals. While the undercover footage belies a different reality, The Maschhoffs President Bradley Wolter, said in a statement:

“As animal caregivers with a long-standing history of excellent animal welfare, we are appalled by the level of animal care depicted in the video at this sow farm. We are aggressively implementing improvements that will help to ensure excellent animal care every day and on every farm, and prove our ongoing commitment to the responsible and humane care of our animals.”

What’s most apparent in the vast variance of food labels now plastering our food is the inability to fully trust their accuracy in describing the processes and practices employed before the products arrive conveniently on store shelves. With descriptions like “Family Style,” “free-range,” “cage-free,” and many similar, it would seem the industry has striven to improve factory farming practices and overall food quality.

Such food labels deceptively grant consumers a guilt-free and time-saving method to buy products conscientiously — when, in actuality, the deft manipulation of language by the agribusiness industry constitutes just so much propaganda.

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As always though, do your own research and draw your won conclusions. And ever, “caveat emptor”!


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Understanding a Non-Profit Organization

So what is a non-profit organization (NPO)?

Since the membership of the Yelm Cooperative voted in Jan 2012 to reorganize our business from a Washington state non-profit corporation to a federal non-profit corporation, under the IRS Code 501(c)3, there have been many questions about what that means. To simplify the explanation, we are summarizing a white paper created by Social Venture Partners Boulder County, Boulder, CO, entitled Understanding Financial Statements.

Although this was written as a guide for Directors of a non-profit organization (NPO), it is information that all members and donors or other stakeholders should be familiar with.

These 2 parts of the post presents the differences between NPOs and for-profit organizations as presented in the SVP white paper:

Understand the differences between profit and non-profit organizations

It is important to remember that there is a fundamental difference between non-profit and for-profit organizations. A for-profit organization exists for the sole purpose of making money for its owner or shareholders. A non-profit organization exists to fulfill a societal mission, contributing to the community, and hence it is given a special exemption from paying taxes (section 501(c)3 section of the IRS Code). For this reason, non-profits can accept gifts and grants, and the companies, organizations, or individuals making these gifts can use them as tax deductions. Non-profits may also run fundraising events to collect money in a tax-free manner. Unlike for-profit organizations, no one is legally permitted to make money or profit from the success of a non-profit. A non-profit is allowed to make money on a yearly basis and save that money to enhance programs in future years, to build a nest-egg for rainy days, and to pay their employees reasonable wages that are comparable with the local marketplace. Another fact that is often confused is that non-profits pay no taxes whatsoever. This just isn’t true, it depends on the state as to whether they pay sales taxes or other fees, and any income generated by a means that is not directly related to its mission is taxable as “unrelated business income tax” (UBIT).

See non-profits as a business

Outside of some basic differences in taxation and measurements of success for non-profits, it is imperative to recognize that in most (if not all) other respects, these organizations must conduct their business in the same manner as a for-profit business. They need to be able to make payroll. They need to pay their bills in a timely manner. They need to build up a good credit history. They need to build up enough financial reserves to survive difficult economic times. They need to understand how much (if any) money they are making or losing on various programs, so they can accurately predict how much outside support they will need in order to continue operating these programs. They need to understand whether they have a reasonable administrative overhead in operating their organization. While a host of other comparable processes could be enumerated, the bottom line is that even non-profit organizations have a bottom line. This does not in any way say their goals or missions are the same; they are not! But they are businesses that face all of the usual business challenges. Non-profits have noble missions and a need for passion in serving a critical social role. However, unless solid business practices are adhered to and board members are actively reviewing and making decisions based on financial statements, the organization will likely not be around to serve those key missions. These organizations must be run in a business-like fashion; not with the goal of making a profit, but rather with the goal of meeting social, educational, religious, or other causes that are deemed beneficial to the community and to society at large.

We hope this has been helpful in clearing up some of the confusion and misunderstand that has existed since we changed the Yelm Cooperatives’ structure.




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Florence Vincent Wants You to Know What’s in Your Food

Florence Vincent Wants You to Know What’s in Your Food

florenceEvery October, Florence Vincent launches a personal campaign to label foods that contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Although the U.S. government and the state of Washington have yet to join the 64 countries around the world* that mandate labeling, including Vietnam, Jordan, Sri Lanka and most of the European Union, for one month in one small corner of Yelm you can find out exactly what’s in your food. That corner? The Yelm Food Co-op.

“I go around the store and I label everything. I look at all the packaging,” she says.  “Anything that is organic is automatically GMO-free, but with anything that doesn’t say so on the package or have a non-GMO verified label on it, I look up the company and find out what their policies are. I’ve been doing that for quite a few years.”  Fortunately, she says, “We have very, very little in the store that is not GMO-free.”

Florence’s passion for the subject arises out of her love of healthy, organic food. Back in her native England during the 1980’s, she helped a friend run the legendary Odette’s restaurant and eventually started her own – the first entirely organic establishment in the country, Elephants and Butterflies. “At the time there were vegetarian organic places, but none that also had organic meat,” she explains.  

After moving to America, she became involved with the Yelm Co-op just three months into its existence. “I just loved the concept,” she says. “I decided to volunteer to help. Because I’d had retail experience in my life, they jumped on it because nobody else had that.” Soon, she was asked to be manager and buyer, and for five years was the primary buyer for the store.

The experience taught her something about herself. “Managing was not my strength; buying was my strength,” she says. “I love buying. I have always loved looked at new things, and tasting.” These days, she and General Manager Barnaby Urich Rintz travel to trade shows to try new products and bring back the best for Co-op customers.

Throughout her years with the store, she’s noticed a common thread. “The customers make the co-op what it is. There is this core group, getting larger all the time, that will not let go of the co-op. They support it right the way through. The co-op just keeps going by the sheer will of its customers that want it to be there.”

As for the future?  “It’s been nice getting more involved with the community,” she says. “I hope that more and more people will take a look at what we’re doing and realize that eating good food is actually going to save them money in the long run.”


*To learn which countries mandate labeling GMO products, click here.


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The EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” food additives

The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. Here is their 2014 list of the worst dozen food additives found in the world’s food supply.

Be an informed shopper and look out for these. As always, do your won research and draw your own conclusions.

This article (http://www.ewg.org/research/ewg-s-dirty-dozen-guide-food-additives/food-additive-watch-list) is part of our information program at the Yelm Cooperative.

NITRITES AND NITRATES

Nitrites and nitrates are used as preservatives in cured meats such asbacon, salami, sausages and hot dogs. Nitrites, which can form from nitrates, react with naturally occurring components of protein calledamines. This reaction can form nitrosamines, which are known cancer-causing compounds. Nitrosamines can form in nitrite or nitrate-treated meat or in the digestive tract.

POTASSIUM BROMATE

Potassium bromate is used to strengthen bread and cracker dough and help it rise during baking. It is listed as a known carcinogen by the state of California, and the international cancer agency classifies it as a possible human carcinogen (IARC 1999; OEHHA 2014).

PROPYL PARABEN

Propyl paraben is used as a preservative in foods such as tortillas, muffins and food dyes. People can be exposed to it either as a direct additive or as result of contamination during food processing and packaging
Propyl paraben acts as a weak synthetic estrogen

BUTYLATED HYDROXYANISOLE (BHA)

A wide variety of foods contain BHA, including chips and preserved meats. It is also added to fats and to foods that contain fats and is allowed as a preservative in flavoring.

The National Toxicology Program classifies it as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” the international cancer agency categorizes it as a possible human carcinogen, and it’s listed as a known carcinogen under California’s Proposition 65 (NTP 2011; IARC 1986; OEHHA 2014).

BUTYLATED HYDROXYTOLUENE (BHT)

Is not a listed carcinogen, but some data have shown that it does cause cancer in animals. Rats fed BHT have developed lung and liver tumors (EFSA 2012). BHT has also been shown to cause developmental effects and thyroid changes in animals, suggesting that it may be able to disrupt endocrine signaling (EFSA 2012)

PROPYL GALLATE

Propyl gallate is used as a preservative in products that contain edible fats, such as sausage and lard. It is classified as GRAS even though a National Toxicology Program study reported an association with tumors in male rats and rare brain tumors in two female rats (NTP 1982

THEOBROMINE

An alkaloid found in chocolate that has effects similar to caffeine.  The producer’s estimated average human consumption rate was five times higher than the level the company reported as safe (NRDC FOIA 2013). But it is now listed as GRAS without the FDA’s approval.

SECRET FLAVOR INGREDIENTS

The truth is that when you see the word “flavor” on a food label, you have almost no clue what chemicals may have been added to the food under the umbrella of this vague term.
In addition to the flavor-adding chemicals themselves, flavor mixtures often contain natural or artificial emulsifiers, solvents and preservatives that are called “incidental additives,” which means the manufacturer does not have to disclose their presence on food labels.

ARTIFICIAL COLORS

Artificial colors are often used to increase the appeal of foods that have little nutritional value. Questions have been raised about the safety of one class of synthetic colors, called FD&C (Food, Drug & Cosmetics) colors, and contaminants in other artificial colorings as well.

DIACETYL

Diacetyl, used as a butter flavoring in microwave popcorn, is associated with a severe and irreversible respiratory condition called bronchiolitis obliterans, which leads to inflammation and permanent scarring of the airways

PHOSPHATE FOOD ADDITIVES

Phosphates are frequently added to unhealthy highly processed foods, including fast foods. In people with chronic kidney disease, high phosphate levels in the body are associated with heart disease and death (Ritz 2012).

ALUMINUM ADDITIVES

Additives containing aluminum, such as sodium aluminum phosphate and sodium aluminum sulfate, are used as stabilizers in many processed foods.  While significant scientific uncertainty remains around whether there may be links between aluminum-based food additives and health effects, their widespread use warrants putting them on the “watch list.”

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Teens spending more on food than clothes

teens eatingeMarketer.com just ran an article about a recent survey on teen spending that showed that they are now spending more on food than on clothing. Piper Jaffray’s “Taking Stock with Teens” survey is in it’s 27th year and this is the first time that food has taken the lead.

What’s important for us in the food awareness arena is to note that the bulk of the spending is for lower priced food since teens tend to have limited budgets. So they spend in the so-called “quick service restaurants”, QSRs. Sounds much better than “junk food restaurants, but the name doesn’t change the food.

You can read the whole article here. They don’t mention quality of food since that is not the thrust of the survey.

http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Hungry-Teens-Spend-Most-on-Food/1010783/1

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