Food industry is misleading the public about GMOs ion food

Letter to the Food Industry from a Frustrated Registered Dietitian

Using fear to sell food isn’t right and it may hurt you more than your customers in the long run

Dear food industry,

We have been working together for years – decades actually – and I have not felt the need to write to you until now. Even though our relationship hasn’t always been easy, I think we both realize we get the best results when we work together. That has generally meant I educate the public about food and nutrition for good health and you provide food choices to meet their needs. Deliberately misleading consumers was never part of the arrangement. So my question is this: Why are you using non-GMO claims as a marketing ploy?

We both know that GMO, or genetically modified organism for those who don’t, refers to crops developed through genetic engineering. Farmers think of it as another form of plant breeding, and that’s what I tell consumers it is. I also tell them it helps farmers get the best yields on the smallest amount of land using the fewest inputs (fertilizer, weed and pest control, water, etc.) so they can grow enough food to feed us all. And since we’re relying on just 2% of the entire U.S. population to grow all of our food, it makes sense to let those hard working farmers use all of the tools in their tool shed.

Farmers need to use every tool in their tool shed

Farmers have always relied on plant breeding to improve their crops

We both also know genetic engineering is a safe, thoroughly tested technology that has been used in food crops for over 20 years, but did you know it was used to make drugs before it was used for food? Genetically modified bacteria first produced insulin in 1976 and has been saving lives ever since. The first genetically modified foods didn’t come on the market in the U.S. until 1995.

What I can’t understand is why you would want to make GMOs look like something that should be avoided when you proudly sell so many other wholesome foods that are made with GMO crops?  It sends a mixed message to consumers when they see foods with GMO-free claims on their grocery store shelves right next to other foods without those claims. Even worse is when you pay to put a Non-GMO Project Verified seal on foods that couldn’t contain GMOs in the first place since they aren’t made with any of the eight GMO plants that humans eat (apples, canola, corn, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash and sugar beets). That means putting GMO-free claims on foods like canned tomatoes, wheat pasta, and olive oil is simply deceptive since all tomatoes, wheat and olive oil are GMO-free. And putting the claim on products that don’t even have genetic material, like salt and water, is absurd.

I hope you can see how this makes my job more difficult.

Fortunately, it looks like the Food and Drug Administration is going to take a closer look at the misuse of these claims. If they take action that will stop you from falsely suggesting that products with a GMO-free claim are safer, more nutritious, or are otherwise better than comparable products without the claim, and it will certainly ease my burden.  Plus it will save consumers all the money they now pay for the inflated prices you charge for these products.

There are no GMO oranges even though some brands of orange juice say they are GMO-free

Oranges are being wiped out by a bacterial disease that could be controlled by genetic engineering

There is one more reason why you may want to rethink your misuse of these claims. Food manufacturers might actually need GMO crops one day to continue making some of their bestselling brands. Isn’t it short-sighted to sabotage that possibility? I’m sure you’re familiar with the crisis Florida orange growers are facing due to a widespread bacterial disease that causes Citrus Greening. The use of biotechnology could save the orange juice industry, but that will present a problem for the companies with non-GMO claims all over their OJ (even though GMO oranges do not exist). If the only option available for them to stay in business is to use disease-resistant oranges made from genetically modified trees, they will have to drop the non-GMO claims on their juice. I can only imagine how confused their loyal customers will be when that happens.

Now that I’ve brought this issue to your attention I hope you will make amends so we can resume the cooperative working relationship we’ve had for so long. We certainly wouldn’t want to have to modify that.

 

woman weighting herself on balance beam scale

Do Low-Calorie Sweeteners like SPLENDA® Cause Weight Gain?

This post was written as a guest blog for Splenda Living. You can read the original post here.

THE POWER OF MYTHS AND OUR UNDERSTANDING OF WEIGHT CONTROL

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA®Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

At one time or another we’ve all experienced the jaw-dropping discovery that something we believed to be true, isn’t. I still can recall the unsettling moments in my childhood when I found out the truth about Santa Claus and the tooth fairy!

If you’ve had similar situations where something that you thought was a fact suddenly became fiction, then you understand the power of myths.

Myths often begin as a way to explain things we don’t understand. Based on my 30+ years as a consulting dietitian I know that over time myths can become “common knowledge” as more and more people accept and repeat them. Soon, there’s no one left to question whether that information is true or not, and the myth becomes part of our reality.

That is why it can be is so hard to accept some of the scientific reports we hear these days. When they challenge our long held beliefs, our initial reaction is to reject them, even if we have no evidence to support our version of the truth.

Too Much Myth-Information around Weight Gain

The subject of weight loss is one where myths and misinformation often collide. I like to call the result myth-information. Here are just a few examples of widely reported myths I’ve bet you’ve heard before:

  • Eating late at night makes you gain weight
  • Starchy foods increase belly fat
  • Sugar substitutes (even SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener, heaven forbid!) can cause obesity

None of those statements is true based on the best scientific evidence available, but many people still believe them. They have a hard time accepting the research that shows it is the total number of calories we consume each day that contributes to weight gain, not the time of day we eat them. Similarly, some people have doubts about the studies that demonstrate starchy foods, or foods high in carbohydrates, are no more likely to produce belly fat than any other source of calories.

Letting go of the myth about sugar substitutes and weight gain is particularly difficult for some people, despite the evidence to the contrary.

Research on the biggest users of sugar substitutes has found they are most often people who are trying to control their weight and improve the quality of their diets. In fact, a study of participants enrolled in the Weight Control Registry showed regular use of foods and beverages sweetened with low calorie sweeteners, including SPLENDA®, is a common strategy employed by those who have had long-term success maintaining a significant weight loss. (Note: SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener is a brand name for sucralose, the sweetening ingredient in all SPLENDA® Sweetener Products, and has been enjoyed by millions of consumers for over 20 years.)

Using a low cal sweetener such as SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener in place of sugar, is probably not enough to make you reach your weight loss goal, but can certainly help, and is one of many small changes you can make in your diet and physical activity to get there. Just like using smaller plates to control portion sizes and taking the stairs instead of the elevator, small changes can add up to big results when they become part of a healthy lifestyle.

If you find it hard letting go of a myth, it may help to remember that it probably began to explain something we once didn’t understand. But after we have the facts to explain it, we don’t need the myth any more.

You can look forward to more truth telling in my upcoming blogs on SPLENDA LIVING™, which I promise will be based on science and well-documented facts, not myth-information.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

For more information, please visit:

  • Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ et al. Comparison of Weight-Loss Diets with Different Compositions of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates. N Engl J Med. 2009;360(9):859-873
  • Anderson GH, Foreyt J, Sigman-Grant M, Allison DB. The Use of Low-Calorie Sweeteners by Adults: Impact on Weight Management. J Nutr. 2012;142(6):S1163-S1169
  • Sigman-Grant MJ, Hsieh G. Reported Use of Reduced-sugar Foods and Beverages Reflect High-quality Diets. J Food Sci. 2005;70(1):S42-S46
  • Phelan S, Lang W, Jordan D, Wing RR. Use of artificial sweeteners and fat-modified foods in weight loss maintainers and always-normal weight individuals. Int J Obes.2009;33(10):1183-1190
Differing research results may be due to different research methodologies

Is SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener (Sucralose) Safe? Authorities We Can Trust

This blog was written as a guest post for SPLENDA LIVING™ site. You can access the original post here.

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

One of the fascinating things about scientific research – at least to me – is that the more studies there are that attempt to answer a particular question, the more likely there will be conflicting results.

The reason for the different outcomes is that every study that sets out to answer a particular question isn’t conducted in exactly the same way. Some studies use human subjects while others use animals. Some have only a few subjects, while some have hundreds. Some research is conducted for a week or two; other research goes on for decades.

There are also different methods used to answer scientific questions. One method is to design a study to prove whether “X” causes “Y.” This type of study is regarded as the gold standard in scientific research because it leaves no room for doubt – the same results should occur every time the study is done.

Another method is to look for common traits among a group of subjects and what outcomes are associated with those traits, such as the correlation found between gardening and longevity. This type of study is useful in identifying links between certain traits and conditions, but it does not provide evidence that the traits cause the conditions. In the case of gardening and longevity, further research would be needed to prove whether the act of gardening adds years to your life or something else, such as people who keep gardens eat more vegetables.

Understanding these differences in the way research is done is the key to understanding why new studies occasionally come along that contradict the old. Unfortunately, nothing improves newspaper sales, TV ratings or website hits like a good headline, so these offbeat studies are often blown out of proportion by the media covering them.

If you’ve heard or read conflicting reports about the safety of low calorie sweeteners, such as SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener (sucralose), then you know what I’m talking about. But it’s important to keep in mind that there’s more to the story (and to the study) than you can fit in a twitter feed!

The truth is, some of the people writing the news often have not even read the study; they rely on a press release for their “scoop.” By reading the complete study it is possible to see how the research was conducted – and how it differed from other research on the topic – and what conclusions were drawn at the end. What I have learned is they often do not match the claims being made in those newsreels.

But who has the time or ability to read every new study that gets published? I know I don’t, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be in the know. My rule of thumb is to simply wait six months for the dust to settle after the release of any contradictory report. Then, after all of the experts have had a chance to critique it, I wait for their conclusions to see if the contradictory study had any merit. Most often, it didn’t, which is why I continue to enjoy SPLENDA® Sweetener Products as part of my diet.

 

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating again.

 

Follow these guidelines to enjoy grilled meats safely

Is It OK to Eat Grilled Meats?

This post was written as a guest blog for Family Goes Strong. You can read the original post here.

FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES TO ENJOY GRILLED MEATS SAFELY

Now that another barbecue season is about to begin, are you worried about the dangers of eating grilled meats? Should you panic if you mindlessly eat that severely burned hot dog the kids wouldn’t touch? Is the risk of ordering a well-done burger worse than making yours extra rare?

Like most health alerts, the issues surrounding meat cooked on the grill are a long story that has been reduced to sensationalized headlines. There is no reason to abandon this summertime ritual, but there are some things you need to know to make your cookouts healthier for everyone.

What Happens When You Grill Meat?

Protein-rich foods, like meat muscle, contain amino acids, creatine and some sugars that can react under certain conditions. Depending on the type of meat (it could be beef, pork, poultry or fish) and the cooking time (longer is more problematic), temperature (usually over 300 degrees F) and method being used (grill or stove-top frying pan), a chemical reaction can occur that causes the formation of compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs).

Other compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are found in the flames that flare up when fats and juices from meats being cooked over an open grill drip into the fire. These PAHs can adhere to the surface of the foods being cooked above the flames. They are also formed during food preparation processes, such as smoking of meats, and are found in cigarette smoke and exhaust fumes.

What Does the Research Say About Eating Grilled Meats?

Now here comes the troubling part. Research found laboratory animals exposed to large amounts of HCAs and PAHs developed cancer. In the studies rodent diets were supplemented with very high levels to HCAs and PAHs – thousands of times greater than a person would consume in a normal diet. Also worth noting is the lab animals were not actually fed grilled meats because it is too difficult to measure the exact amount of these compounds in them. The rat chow was fortified with the stuff.

No population studies – the kind that look at a group of individuals who share common traits – have established a definitive link between exposure to HCAs and PAHs from cooked meats and cancer in humans. However, epidemiological studies have found an association. These studies gather information from large groups of people who have nothing in common and look for common traits. What they found was the people who reported eating the most well-done, fried or barbecued meats had the greatest risk of colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer. That is not evidence of causation. Many other factors could have increased their risk, including environmental exposure to PAHs from air pollution.

What Are the Guidelines for Eating Grilled Meats?

The World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research issued a report in 2007 that recommended limiting the consumption of red and processed meats, including smoked meats, but made no recommendations about the HCA and PAH levels in meat. There are currently no federal guidelines on the consumption of grilled meats or HCAs and PAHs.

Advice for Grilling Meats

  • Raise the grill rack away from the heat source
  • Wait until flames die down so they won’t burn meat surfaces
  • Place aluminum foil on the grill to reduce exposure to flames
  • Cut meat into smaller pieces and skewer so it cooks faster
  • Select thinner steaks and chops that will cook faster
  • Buy leaner cuts of meat so there is less fat to cause flare ups
  • Precook meats to reduce the cooking time on the grill
  • Marinate to help lower HCA production
  • Turn meat frequently so surfaces don’t char
  • Scrape off charred areas