Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Did you hear about Pink Slime? Oh My!!

Gerald Zirnstein grinds his own hamburger these days. Why? Because this former United States Department of Agriculture scientist and, now, whistleblower, knows that 70 percent of the ground beef we buy at the supermarket contains something he calls “pink slime.”

“Pink slime” is beef trimmings. Once only used in dog food and cooking oil, the trimmings are now sprayed with ammonia so they are safe to eat and added to most ground beef as a cheaper filler.

It was Zirnstein who, in an USDA memo, first coined the term “pink slime” and is now coming forward to say he won’t buy it.

“It’s economic fraud,” he told ABC News. “It’s not fresh ground beef. … It’s a cheap substitute being added in.”

Zirnstein and his fellow USDA scientist, Carl Custer, both warned against using what the industry calls “lean finely textured beef,” widely known now as “pink slime,” but their government bosses overruled them.

If you have questions about “pink slime,” email us at ABC.WorldNews@abc.com.

According to Custer, the product is not really beef, but “a salvage product … fat that had been heated at a low temperature and the excess fat spun out.”

The “pink slime” is made by gathering waste trimmings, simmering them at low heat so the fat separates easily from the muscle, and spinning the trimmings using a centrifuge to complete the separation. Next, the mixture is sent through pipes where it is sprayed with ammonia gas to kill bacteria. The process is completed by packaging the meat into bricks. Then, it is frozen and shipped to grocery stores and meat packers, where it is added to most ground beef.

The “pink slime” does not have to appear on the label because, over objections of its own scientists, USDA officials with links to the beef industry labeled it meat.

“The under secretary said, ‘it’s pink, therefore it’s meat,’” Custer told ABC News.

ABC News has learned the woman who made the decision to OK the mix is a former undersecretary of agriculture, Joann Smith. It was a call that led to hundred of millions of dollars for Beef Products Inc., the makers of pink slime.

When Smith stepped down from the USDA in 1993, BPI’s principal major supplier appointed her to its board of directors, where she made at least $1.2 million over 17 years.

Smith did not return ABC News’ calls for comment and BPI said it had nothing to do with her appointment. The USDA said while her appointment was legal at the time, under current ethics rules Smith could not have immediately joined the board.

- Jim Avila, ABC News


Joann Smith was formerly the president of NCA (NCBA) prior to her appointment to Undersecretary of Agriculture and then on to the board of IBP (USDA Inc.). She made Eldon Roth of BPI a very rich man. Roth was a major financing source for the USPB purchase of National Beef out of the Farmland bankruptcy. The recent sale of National Beef was highly profitable for the money men – cattle producers got sold out. – MC

Need More?
Advanced Meat Recovery – What is it?

Call my office in Lombard (630) 627-3700 to set up an appointment or email me at jones.gretchen@gmail.com

In Defense of Food

In Defense of Food
An Eater's Manifesto

Food. There’s plenty of it around, and we all love to eat it. So why should anyone need to defend it?

Because most of what we’re consuming today is not food, and how we’re consuming it — in the car, in front of the TV, and increasingly alone — is not really eating. Instead of food, we’re consuming “edible foodlike substances” — no longer the products of nature but of food science. Many of them come packaged with health claims that should be our first clue they are anything but healthy. In the so-called Western diet, food has been replaced by nutrients, and common sense by confusion. The result is what Michael Pollan calls the American paradox: The more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we seem to become.

But if real food — the sort of food our great grandmothers would recognize as food — stands in need of defense, from whom does it need defending? From the food industry on one side and nutritional science on the other. Both stand to gain much from widespread confusion about what to eat, a question that for most of human history people have been able to answer without expert help. Yet the professionalization of eating has failed to make Americans healthier. Thirty years of official nutritional advice has only made us sicker and fatter while ruining countless numbers of meals.

Pollan proposes a new (and very old) answer to the question of what we should eat that comes down to seven simple but liberating words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. By urging us to once again eat food, he challenges the prevailing nutrient-by-nutrient approach — what he calls nutritionism — and proposes an alternative way of eating that is informed by the traditions and ecology of real, well-grown, unprocessed food. Our personal health, he argues, cannot be divorced from the health of the food chains of which we are part.

In Defense of Food shows us how, despite the daunting dietary landscape Americans confront in the modern supermarket, we can escape the Western diet and, by doing so, most of the chronic diseases that diet causes. We can relearn which foods are healthy, develop simple ways to moderate our appetites, and return eating to its proper context — out of the car and back to the table. Michael Pollan’s bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we can start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives, enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy, and bring pleasure back to eating.

Pollan’s last book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, launched a national conversation about the American way of eating; now In Defense of Food shows us how to change it, one meal at a time.

Call my office in Lombard (630) 627-3700 to set up an appointment or email me at jones.gretchen@gmail.com

Reading Nutritional Labels on Foods We Eat

March 28, 2012

Do nutrition labels confuse you?

 16oz Nutrition Facts - CCC
Nutritional labels have been around for well over a decade, and the familiar panel — which provides some key nutrition information, an ingredient list and nutrition declarations — enables more informed food decisions.
Do people make good use of the information? The first step is for people to bother looking at it -- and they do. Women more than men, health conscious and exercise enthusiasts more than couch potatoes, but most people report they do consult with the label, at least when they’re buying a product for the first time. A recent review of 120 studies of nutrition label usage in Public Health Nutrition finds that 75% of Americans check the label.

Eyeing the label is a good start, but do consumers get what they need from it?

A recent paper in Nutrition Reviews found that of the 60 percent of consumers who said they use the Nutrition Facts Panel, only a quarter found it easy to use. The calorie information on the Nutritional Facts Panel gets a glance from 75 percent of consumers, but most consumers cannot put the calorie count in context since they have no idea how many calories they should consume, and about half of the people overestimate their suggested daily caloric intake. The percent daily values, typically located above the actual ingredients, were either ignored or poorly understood by most surveyed.

A ‘D’ in label comprehension

A new study in the journal Appetite studied 120 young Israeli adults’ understanding of the various parts of the nutrition label. The study was performed in a travellers’ immunization clinic, so it’s by no means a representative sample of the population, but rather a group of highly schooled, mid to upper socio-economic class individuals.
People were presented with several common food products, and were asked about their attention to and understanding of the nutrition facts on the label.

Most of the people (almost 80 percent) reported that they looked at nutrition labels when selecting foods.
But when given a label comprehension evaluation, the average score was a ‘D’ – 60 percent correct answers.
The nutritional table was understood much better than the ingredient list or the nutrition declaration information.  The nutrition declaration piece, with its “without”, “contains no” and “less” assertions was least understood. When a bottle of canola oil declares it contains “no cholesterol” does it mean there’s naturally no cholesterol, or that this manufacturer kindly removed the cholesterol for added nutrition value?

Figuring out food labels

The nutritional label is an important tool for promoting healthy eating. Reading the label helps consumers decide if, and how much, of that packaged food they should eat.  Go to the site www.msgtruth.org to learn more about what the ingredients behind the labels actually means.

Some of the nutrition confusion can be solved by nutrition education – of which there currently is very little. Not all people know that ingredient lists, by law, have to list ingredients by their relative amount in the product, from high to low, so fruit as the first ingredient is very different from fruit at no. 5, and that added sugar comes has so many different names.   Recently, the Institute of Medicine advocated that the front of the package panel display only four nutrition facts: calories, saturated and trans fat, sodium and sugars. It recommends that the FDA develop a point system -- much like the energy star® program used for assessing electronics’ energy efficiency – which takes into account just saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars, since these nutrients pose the most pressing diet-related health concerns.

To increase the mix-up, manufacturers introduce some more confusion in an effort to better market their product. The declaration “no cholesterol” on a vegetable oil is redundant – no vegetable oil has any cholesterol, as cholesterol is present only in animal derived foods. Likewise, package health claims promising “immunity” “antioxidants” "heart-health" “strong bones” and “lower cholesterol” don’t mean the food is healthy.  They practically don’t mean a thing.

So how to read the label? For an FDA tutorial on how to read the Nutrition Facts label go here, and I’d love to hear your personal approach.

Call my office in Lombard (630) 627-3700 to set up an appointment or email me at jones.gretchen@gmail.com