Unhappy Californians Boot the Happy Meal

November 8, 2010 · Filed Under Alternative Energy, Food, Government, Green, Guest Posts, Health

The (in power) people of San Francisco have spoken. Out with the Happy Meal! Almost…

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that requires any restaurant that includes toys with a purchase to meet specific nutritional guidelines. This continues San Francisco’s distinct lead as the most legislatively progressive City in the United States. After banning plastic bags, requiring all government run offices utilize non-toxic cleaning products, and putting a standard into place that all new government construction must be LEED certified, the people in power in San Francisco continue their visionary practices.

Despite McDonald’s claims of persecution and targeting, the ordinance is applicable to all restaurants that include a toy with purchase that do not meet specific nutritional guidelines. The ordinance has been under consideration for awhile, and restaurant industry groups as well as individual companies like McDonalds have been fighting its passage into law.

Why an Ordinance on Meals with Toys?

Childhood Obesity

The overweight and obesity numbers in the United States are staggering. Sadly enough, 15% of the children in the US are either overweight or obese. An atrocious and unhealthy jump since the advent of fast food. With a variety of factors playing into these numbers, it is difficult to pinpoint a true culprit. Perhaps that is because this epidemic that threatens the health of tens of millions of Americans has a large span of “causes”. Cheap food (with a high true cost to our health, environment, and human rights in developing nations), chemically-simulated food experience (read Omnivore’s Dilemma to read about how through a manipulation of the senses, chemists can make any piece of food trick your senses), and American’s distinct lack of exercise relative to other developed nations. The numbers threatening the lives of children have become such a large concern that the health care industry is has significantly increased their charges, and the health and fitness industry have significantly increased their range of products and enrollments for extreme cases of weight loss.


Now, the Ordinance that was passed actually does not “ban” anyone from selling food, it requires that they meet specific nutritional guidelines in order to provide a meal with a toy. The Ordinance goes into effect December 1st, so restauranteurs have a small bit of time (and plenty of previous notice prior to the vote) to get their new toy-included meals in nutritional order.

Direct-Marketing to Children

Direct marketing to children has been banned in many locations, and there are a few legislative actions that have been put in place to reduce this type of marketing. The first major and successful attack on direct-marketing to children came from the TRUTH campaign and others targeting cigarette companies like Philip Morris with the idea that if the companies target them, the ‘children’ or young adults have the right to target the companies right back. Although meals with toys may be marketed to a younger group, less vocal and action-oriented to fight their plastic toy that comes with their meal, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors took it upon themselves to protect the children. Some individuals believe that these types of regulation also help give power back to parents and guardians as the decision-makers during a time when the market is flooded with “wants” and “new things” to tantalize even the most well-behaved child.

The Details (honestly)

As stated earlier, this was not a direct attack on McDonalds but instead on an unsustainable and unhealthy practice within ALL food establishments. By creating standards that are clear and accepted by nutritionists and doctors as acceptable for healthy meals, not just happy meals, the government has taken children’s health upon themselves.

The nutritional requiremenst are…

  • Calories: Less than 600
  • Sodium: Less than 640 milligram.
  • Fat: Less than 35 percent of calories from fat; Less than 10 percent from saturated fat (with exception for nuts, seeds, eggs or low-fat cheese).
  • Fruits & Vegetables: At least half a cup of fruit or three-quarters of a cup of vegetables

“This is a challenge to the restaurant industry to think about children’s health first and join the wide range of local restaurants that have already made this commitment,” Mar said.

And it challenge it may be for some restaurants to truly adhere to these standards.

Will My Happy Meal be Banned?

This legislation was passed within the City of San Francisco. There has been little talk about other Cities, States, or the Federal government following San Francisco’s lead. That said, if McDonalds and other food establishments with toys as part of meals want to stay in that market, they will have to adapt. If the larger companies adapt, and smaller businesses can share their lessons and transitions to healthier meals, then there is little reason not to adopt the healthier standards. If the framework and advice from similar businesses is available, why not take advantage of it?

Did they go to far?

Companies like McDonalds are claiming discrimination and that the San Francisco government has gone too far. Is the regulation of the industry fair? Well, that can be a pretty subjective discussion. What is important is that it is legal, and the intent behind the regulation was not to discriminate, but to address a growing epidemic of childhood obesity that threatens the lives of our future changemakers. In fact, the issue of childhood obesity has grown into such a health threat in the United States, that First Lady Michelle Obama, and world famous Chef Jamie Oliver are making very public efforts to bring nutrition, proportion control, and education back to food for children in the US.

What do you think? Do you think the San Francisco government went too far, or that we as a nation haven’t gone far enough to address this critical health issue?

Photo Credits:
Last Happy Meal

Epoch Times

Got Milk? Got Hormones?

October 21, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Food, Guest Posts, Health, News

Who wants the unruly hormones of a teenager? How about a big dose of them in your glass of milk? For quite a few years now rbGH, or genetically modified bovine growth hormones have been slipped in your milk without even a notice. When dairy farmers found out, they tried to label their milk as “rbGH-free”. A term that Monsanto, a genetic engineering and agriculture company, almost got banned. They tried to make it unlawful for companies to put that label on their milk. Why? Because it could cost them their bloated market share of profits from rbGH milk.

What are Bovine Growth Hormones?

When companies focus on profits, not their product, their is room for error and maltreatment of not only animals but the end product. RbGH and its genetic counterparts were created to trigger the hormones in a cow that occur after they have given birth. Why? So they produce an excessive amount of milk. Simple business economics then step in. More milk from one cow means more profits, more profits mean cheaper prices, which mean a larger market share, meaning higher profits. If only the reality of that circle was accurate.

What is the risk associated with rbGH ingestion?

While still under-researched due to great efforts by Monsanto, the risks are starting to become exposed. The highest? Cancer. If you are at risk for any sort of hereditary cancer, immediately switch to milk labeled as either ” Certified Organic” or “rbGH Free”. Associations including the American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association have publicly demoted the hormone-induced milk as a cancer risk. There are several other potential health risks associated with this milk. This is not to mention the risks of drinking milk from cows living in unhealthy conditions. Many cows who are fed hormones repeatedly are unable to stand on their own because their udders have become so swollen from the excessive milk production. Companies have designed ways to force them to stand, ways to re-strap their udders, and other less than pleasant solutions to something whose real solution is to get rid of hormones all together.

So get educated, and buy certified organic or hormone-free milk. These farmers care more for your health and the welfare of their animals than the large corporations such as Monsanto who have quantified in place of qualified their products.

Bottoms up on this wholesome treat, hormone free I hope.

Photo Credits:

Photo 1 and Photo 2

What is…Slow Food?

October 14, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Food, Health, News

We are starting a new series of “What is…” to help fill out our collective eco-friendly vocabulary. Today we are taking a look at Slow Food, the opposite or counter revolution to Fast Food.

The Slow Food movement is typically accredited to starting in Italy. Italians love their food, and when they heard McDonalds was coming to encroach on their traditions, a Slow Food revolution started in 1989. It is about embracing your food, where it comes from, and the rich culture that surrounds food.

They believe that:

Everyone has a fundamental right to the pleasure of good food and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture that make this pleasure possible.

To date the non-profit organization has over 100,000 members worldwide and growing. If you would like to learn more check out the Slow Food International’s website.

Photo Credit.

Antibiotics with your Tap Water, Madam?

September 3, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Food, Guest Posts, Health, News

In a recent study by the University of California, antibiotics given to cows were traced throughout their waste stream. Although not the first study to be done on the extensive use of antibiotics, especially on dairy cows, this study found that most antibiotics broke down before reaching ground water. This is good news for individuals who use well-water and live near dairy operations. The study did not look into the effects on surface water, marine life, or other species and areas of the environment impacted by the antibiotics.

Filtering your water and occasionally having it tested can also help keep your tap water safe and clean. The EPA recently released a study that reviewed the safety of municipal tap water. Depending on where you live, contamination risks may differ. The EPA found that water quality (for the US) was disappointingly low and came up with a list of suggestions. So it may be worthwhile to see just what lurks in your tap water!

You can read the summary of the dairy study here.

Photo Credit.

Canadian? Watch your BPA Intake

August 30, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Food, Green, Guest Posts, Health, News, Nutrition

In a recent study by Statistics Canada, 91% of all Canadians had BPA in their bodies. Now this is not a growing issue specific to Canada though, so consider your own Country’s products and your personal rate of BPA exposure and intake.

So just how bad is this and what can we do about it in our own locations across the globe? First, the study provides an important baseline for understanding BPA exposure. But is BPA really bad for you? And since it is so prevalent in consumer products, is this number of concern? Let’s take a quick look.

What and Where is BPA?
BPA, or Bisphenol A, is most commonly used in plastics and to coat things like shopping receipts and food cans. For the scientifically minded out there, it is most commonly used in polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. It is a synthetically-made chemical that does not naturally occur in nature, but due to its persistent use in consumer products, can be found in water, aquatic animals, and humans mainly. The 2002 BPA market saw 2.8 million tons produced globally, and the numbers have only increased until recently. Some of the most common products can be found in our food plastics including baby bottles.

Should I Be Concerned?
According to the American Chemistry Council and industry trade groups, No.

According to health officials worldwide including the FDA and health scientists, Yes.

Take a minute to reflect on the different sources of information.

So, Why the Controversy?
Mainly, different mindsets. The chemical industry and chemical trade groups are taking the approach that until it has not been proven to cause immediate harm to human health. Resulting with the approach that there is little need to address the situation, so business continues as usual. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) originally deemed low rates of BPA exposure as safe. The chemical industry is first to tell you that BPA is highly regulated and tested and has been studied for over 40 years.

Unfortunately, there is a growing body of evidence that is proving that BPA exposure is not safe. Its effects on the brain, diabetes, prostate gland, and in particular the reproductive system and children is of great concern. In February of this year, the FDA made a public announcement encouraging households to limit their exposure to BPA. Now the FDA has not made a formal announcement that BPA should be publicly banned, but countries like Canada have decided to review whether this should be done until we learn can be certain there is absolutely no health risk.

The real health concerns arise when BPA levels increase, and since manufacturers have no control over what their consumers eat and are exposed to in conjunction with their product, the responsibility lays with each of us to decide which approach we will take.

CBS News Video on the 2010 FDA Announcement to Limit BPA Exposure

CBS News Reviews FDA Warning on BPA

Tips for BPA-Free Living
The Mayo Clinic offers these tips for reducing your potential exposure to BPA:

  • Choose glass or BPA-free plastic baby bottles.
  • Use glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for hot foods and liquids.
  • Avoid plastic containers with the No. 7  and No. 3 recycling label — they’re made with BPA.
  • Don’t microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. Instead, use glass containers designed for microwaving.
  • Reduce your use of canned foods — many cans are lined with a BPA-containing resins

Please note that BPA is not required to be listed on food products or consumer goods, so it may be hard to find and eliminate all together. BPA can be flushed out of the body within 6 hours according to current research, so cleansing your body of BPA quickly is an option.

So it is up to you to decide which approach is best for your lifestyle. Either the wait and see method or the precautionary principle. Best of luck with your decision.

Sources include: Reuters, Chemical Market Associates, Inc (CMAI), Mayo Clinic, American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division Business Group

Dispelling the Myths About Organic Food

August 27, 2010 · Filed Under Food, Nutrition
Organic Food Myths

As we all hustle and bustle through life, we watch as the world around us slowly deteriorates. Glaciers are melting, species are struggling to survive, and people around the world cannot even afford to feed themselves or their families. Consequently, helplessly witnessing this global devastation has prompted people worldwide to join in the fight to go green. Not only can this movement save our planet, it will inevitably save ourselves. The coupled concerns for the well being of the world and the well being of our health have sparked the demand for and scrutiny over the true effectiveness of organic food. Two of the most common myths swirling around this growing food source are typically whether or not its better or more nutritional than non-organic food, and whether or not switching to wholly organic means of food production can really have an influence on the global environment.

To begin dispelling these myths, we must first delve into the most common knowledge about what organic food actually is. This type of food source is defined by its production process, in that when produced, less synthetic materials (i.e., additives or processed chemical preservatives) are used. Most know that in the growing and harvesting processes of organic produce, chemicals or pesticides are also not used.

A lot of the myths surrounding the pros and cons of organic food revolve around its actual health benefits. Initially, skeptics charged that there was little to no difference in the nutritional value between consumption of organic food and the usual, conventionally processed foods. But with the collection of additional information over the years, reports released currently indicate quite the opposite; in fact, because organic foods are produced using processes that entail the limited use of artificial and chemical components, the amount of nutrients found in organic food is proportionally higher than what is found in the nutritious components of non-organic foods.

The fertilizers used in the conventional production of non-organic produce swell the fruits and veggies with water, diluting the concentration of nutrients found in the produce. Because organic produce is not fertilized with the artificial fertilizers used in the production of non-organic foods, they are filled with a much higher proportion of nutrient value, containing higher levels of trace minerals, Vitamin C, and antioxidants.

Most people naively assume that the chemicals and pesticides used to keep non-organic foods clear of insects are harmless. However, those chemicals build up in our body eventually prove more harmless than harmful. And the chemicals take their toll on the produce as well. Because organic plants depend upon their own immune systems to protect themselves from diseases from insects, they have built up and higher levels of phytonutrients and antioxidants. Nonetheless, since non-organic produce doesn’t have that opportunity because of the heavy handed use of pesticides, their immune systems are weakened and can’t produce as much phytonutrients to protect themselves. Upon consumption, organic produce provides our bodies with more antioxidants than the non-organic produce, which then helps builds up the level of antioxidants in our bodies and helps us ward off free radicals.

Dana Livingston is a writer for a culinary school website where you can browse schools and the latest trends in the culinary arena.

Nationwide Salmonella Outbreak For Eggs

August 23, 2010 · Filed Under Food, Health, News

Major egg producer Hillandale Farms is associated with an outbreak of salmonella in millions of eggs covering 14 states.  This is the third recall that has occurred in just under two weeks and really shows the sad state of the egg industry in our country.  Almost a half billion eggs and thousands of cases of salmonella can be associated with the eggs coming from these recalls.

Farms like Hillandale follow the same practices, having way too many chickens stuff in small cages with little movement and unsanitary conditions.  Is anybody really surprise that this happened and with so many eggs?  What’s even worse is that the FDA set new rules to prevent many salmonella cases every year due to eggs.  We see how effective that particular regulation was.

What to do?

Salmonella can be prevented by making sure to fully cook your eggs.  It’s pretty simple, but the bacteria shouldn’t even be in the eggs in the first place.

An even better solution is to fight against these horrible big egg producers and start buying local and free-range. Only good eggs are going to be produced when you see the chickens running around the farm, fed and treated well.  On top of that, you will be getting eggs that taste better and are fresher than any of those sold in any traditional grocery store.   The key is if you can actually go to the farm and see the conditions, then you know how the chickens are treated.  It’s difficult to do that unless you live nearby the actual farm.

The reason I mention local is that even eggs that claim “Organic”, “Free Range” or “Cruelty Free” are still not even close.  They allow the hens to be bunched up inside with very little space.  They often can be just as inhumane.  Read this interesting article from The Vegetarian Site that goes into further detail.

Consider making a change as it could be putting our families at risk just to save a a few bucks on cheaper eggs.

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