Archive for February, 2012
Written by Robyn O’Brien
Have you ever looked into the eyes of a father who has lost his child to a food allergic reaction? Read an autopsy report? Or held the hand of a mother who lost her toddler to cancer? I hadn’t either until I began this journey six years ago.
But in the last several years, I have done these things. Too many times over. Cancer is now the leading cause of death by disease in kids under the age of fifteen, reports the Centers for Disease Control. And while the CDC doesn’t track food allergy deaths, it does track the hospitalization rates related to food allergic reactions, which have increased 265% in recent years.
So last week’s revelation of yet another food allergy death, an 8 year old in Maryland, brought so many memories flooding back, including the memory of a child whose death and story inspired courage in the early years of the work of AllergyKids.
And as I reflected on the impact that these experiences have had on families, friends and communities around the country, I also reflected on the continued impact that conditions like allergies, cancer, diabetes and obesity are having on our children (who have earned the title “Generation Rx“), our country and our economy.
And there are powerful lessons that have been learned in all of it. Here are just a few:
- Hope is the knowledge that change is possible, even when it seems hard to imagine.
- Hug your loved ones like there is no tomorrow.
- Eat like there is one.
- Asking for help is a sign of strength and will help build a stronger future.
- Listen to and then let go of criticism.
- Hold onto and nourish family and friends.
- None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something.
- Believe in your unique abilities to help create change.
- Love is a rocket fuel that can make the seemingly impossible possible.
And perhaps, the most important lesson is one that was shared by the author of Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne:
“Promise me, you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
Because together, we can restore the health of our children and loved ones for the sake of our country.
At AllergyKids, we are all about celebrating the amazing accomplishments that happen every day. Nothing is too big or too small. Some accomplishments exceed anything that anyone could have imagined, and others are every day acts of love that are taken to help protect a child with allergies, asthma, ADHD and autism.
We believe that there is a hero in everyone. And sometimes, you might need a nudge or a little bit of permission to unleash yours. Which is why we share the stories of those who inspire us. Everyday heroes and those who have gone to extraordinary lengths for the health of our families and our food supply.
On our Food Heroes page, we’ve just added a new one. You can check it out here. She is a mom who believed that a quick, easy and healthy mac and cheese should be available to moms everywhere. A bowl of noodles that isn’t loaded down with artificial colors and growth hormones. Her name is Annie. Maybe you’ve heard of her company, Annie’s Homegrown.
And maybe there is a food hero in you or a food hero story you want to share. Let us know. Share your story and the love, inspiration and special talents that inspired it Because it is together that we will create a food system that will make our country proud.
Written by Robyn O’Brien , AllergyKids Foundation
In a world in which we are constantly worried about the health of our families, the stability of our jobs, paying the mortgage, and all of life’s responsibilities, the simple act of trying to eat healthy often becomes a challenge.
Not to mention that if your family is anything like mine, then you’ve most likely got some picky eaters, limited time and a limited budget with which to pull all of this off in a world of soaring food prices.
So here are a few tips for those who want to start buying organic food but don’t want to pay the high price:
- Go Orgo-Generic: Major grocery store chains like Safeway and Kroger, and big box food retailers like Costco and even Wal-Mart, now carry their own organic foods. And all foods labeled “USDA organic” are created equal, no matter where you find them. No need to upscale your grocery store when Wal-Mart gets it done.
- Buy Frozen: Frozen foods (like strawberries and fish) are cheaper than those that are delivered fresh. So if the prices on fresh produce are eye-popping, cruise on over to the frozen food aisle for a discount.
- Eat with the Season: Retrain your taste buds to think like your grandmother did. She didn’t eat strawberries in the middle of winter. Locally grown foods are usually cheaper than those flown in from another hemisphere so if you eat with the season, you’ll be eating more affordably.
- Skip the Box, Embrace the Bulk: Food that comes in boxes costs more because of the packaging costs associated with designing those pretty pictures! When you buy in bulk, you’re not paying for all of the packaging, you’re paying for the food which is what you want anyway. So slide on over to that bulk food aisle in Safeway and look for noodles, cereals, rice and beans in your local grocery store.
- Support the US economy and Buy Local: You can save money by becoming a member of a local farm (just like you became a member at Safeway or Costco!). How do you find a local farm, you ask? Well, thankfully, the USDA now has a list of online sites to help you find the closest farm near you, so click here to log onto the USDA site.
- Comparison Shop: You wouldn’t buy a car without comparison shopping, so before you even head out the door, you can compare the prices of organic foods at different retailers from the safety of your own computer at www.eatwellguide.org
- Coupons, coupons, coupons: Organic bargains are everywhere so click on About.com’s Frugal Living page where you will find All Organic Links.
- Grow One Thing: If you’re as busy as we are, there’s not a chance in creation that you are going to be able to feed your family off of your home-grown harvest, but you will find that growing a tomato plant can be incredibly inspiring. And it’s not as intimidating as it seems. So pick one thing to grow – you can do it (we all grew lima beans in cups as kids, right?).
- Find a Friend: It is way more fun when you share this adventure with someone else, so be sure to find a friend, share this link and get back to us with your success stories (and if you have a tip that you want to add, please post it in the comment section below!).
Written by Ken Osborn, Retired Laboratory Scientist, for the AllergyKids Foundation February 12, 2012
As a chemist I sometimes get asked about “chemicals in our food” and should we be concerned. We hear about antibiotics used to control bacterial outbreaks in chickens, growth hormone used in milk production, and pesticides used for keeping produce insect free. And now there are genetically modified organisms (GMO) added to the list.
Yes, I believe that we should be concerned about chemicals in the foods we eat and that we have some level of confidence that we can safely consume them. However, as a chemist I have some difficulty with the phrase “chemical free” as in “I want to eat produce that is chemical free.” These words undermine the message. The use of the term “chemical free” makes it easy for others to discount the arguments for alternatives to achieving a healthier life by changing the food industry business model.
I base this on my understanding as a chemist, retired from the laboratory community, who knows that water is a chemical, you are made up of chemicals, and that it is impossible to make any environment, substance, or food chemical free.
All chemicals (even water) are toxic at some level; some chemicals (proteins) can be the source of allergies; some chemicals (arsenic) are very toxic at low levels and should not be consumed; and some chemicals are necessary for life but can be toxic at high doses (vitamin A).
Genetically modified food production should be regulated to an extent that it is proved safe for consumption prior to being allowed into the market place. It doesn’t matter that it is not “chemical-free”; it matters that it hasn’t been proven safe.
I do understand that when folks use the term “chemical free” they are usually referring to substances not generally found in nature and having lots of carbon bonds. Perhaps the conceptual problem originates from the ad campaigns of previous decades that gave us “chemistry for a better life.” Chemicals have always been with us and will always be with us. But we shouldn’t have to accept that a manufactured food is safe until proven dangerous: it should be considered unmarketable until it’s proven safe.
I hope this helps a little in understanding the difference between chemicals in food and safety in food production.
© Ken Osborn
Written by Bonnie Y. Modugno, MS, RD, a speaker, writer and clinician for AllergyKids
Food safety is inherently a controversial and emotionally charged topic. Genetically engineered (GE) foods garner a good amount of attention for good reason. Scientists and advocates for genetically modified organisms (GMO) and GE foods would like all of us to believe that we know enough to determine these foods are safe. We don’t.
Proponents of genetically engineered foods are quick to point to a scientific void regarding foods we generally regard as safe. Over thousands of years, cultural norms and traditions taught future generations what to eat. Not science.
Cultures include a wide variety of foods, mostly influenced by climate and geology. These conditions influenced what a people considered safe to eat. Over thousands of years, trading and migration increased the variety and range of foods for many cultures.
In the last 100 years, science has introduced ingredients and foodstuffs that are not found in nature. More conventional chemistry produced trans fat (partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). These ingredients are extremely controversial, and many question their FDA GRAS status (Generally Regarded as Safe). It is no wonder that the world looks at genetically engineered foods with a great deal of skepticism, even fear.
DETERMINING WHAT IS SAFE
In 1906 Congress passed the original Safe Food and Drug Act. In 1958, the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. These laws gave grandfather status to many foods and additives that were generally regarded as safe. The thinking among many scientists underscored the value of traditional foods.
During the past 60 years much has changed in our food supply. There are ever more sophisticated means of cross breeding and creating new cultivars with a basic premise supporting the science known as substantial equivalence. The thinking is that if the new concoction is basically the same as something we already eat, it is probably ok. Even in the wake of genetic modification, scientists rely heavily on the notion of substantial equivalence.
Substantial equivalence is a relative test of safety. Even strong proponents of genetic engineering recognize that determining substantial equivalence is a starting point—not the end point of determining what is safe to eat. How much scientific discourse regarding the safety of GMO and GE foods is limited to the issue of substantial equivalence?
WHAT ARE THEY TESTING?
The challenge in all of this is that testing food for safety is basically impossible. There has never been a way to prove a food is 100% safe. Food safety information gathered via a scientific method can only tell us when a product is not safe. Scientists and spokespersons abuse this truth so regularly, that the general public may easily presume our food supply is 100% safe.
In the arena of genetically engineered food, substantial equivalence often relies on a 90 day rodent test. There are scientists who believe the tests are adequate. Authors of a review published in 2011 vehemently disagree. I tend to agree with the later. A ninety day test is inadequate. This time table is inadequate to determine risk of chronic disease (including allergies), as well as reproductive health and the consequence for future generations.
In one report pest management scientists acknowledge that pests are becoming resistant to GE crops. Internationally farmers are using multiple times the amount of conventional pesticides on pesticide resistant crops. With no attention to bioaccumulation and total body burden, a 90 day trial looking at the impact of feeding one GE food crop in isolation is exceedingly shortsighted.
Inherent in the argument for safety is a belief that as long as the GE practices can be determined to be safe for animals and humans, there is no harm. This is reductionist thinking at its worst. A preoccupation with risk to animals and man means there is little attention to biodiversity, soil ecology and the entire ecosystem. Social and economic consequences are utterly ignored.
A CONSUMER’S RIGHT TO KNOW
I am disturbed by reports of growing pesticide resistance, farmer dependence on GMO seeds, as well as lawsuits and bankruptcies associated with use of patented seeds. The science used to support the safety of GE and GMO foods seems inadequate.
At least consumers should be able to vote with their dollars. GE and GMO foods are required to be labeled in Europe. They are not labeled in the US, although currently many states, including California are mounting efforts to demand GE and GMO foods be labeled.
Food is not inherently safe to eat. The challenge of eating safe food is left in the hands of everyone who touches it, from the farmer and rancher to every person or piece of equipment that handles food on its journey from farm to plate. For highly processed foods many people and places are involved. At my local farmer’s market I get to talk to the person growing, harvesting and selling me what I eat. The huge disparity between a local and more mechanized food system highlights an ever-widening disparity in the food supply. The presence of GE and GMO foods significantly increases the divide.
Bonnie Y. Modugno, MS, RD, is a speaker, writer and clinician. Bonnie sees private clients at her nutrition consulting practice in Santa Monica, California. As a grateful consumer and mother, she celebrates food’s rightful place.