Consumers and Wall Street got in on the food movement like never before.
Thanks to social media and online networks, eaters around the country used their voices to create change. The courage was contagious and inspired countless acts. The list below highlights just how much we can do when we leverage our collective talents.
Some of these changes happened with lightning speed, others were years in the making with many out in front, that finally came to a head in 2013.
The message is clear: The bottom line is that we impact the bottom line of companies, and companies that are moving with the consumer, bringing transparency to their products, are being rewarded in the marketplace.
As the food awakening continues, the food industry has a choice: to step forward, respond to consumer demand and be rewarded in the marketplace or to entrench, using obsolete technologies and artificial ingredients, and ignore the growing concern of Americans around the country over the health of their loved ones. There really is only one answer.
Here’s a list of just some of the incredible accomplishments of 2013 as shared across social media. It reinforces that while none of us can do everything, all of us can do something, and together, we can create incredible change.
- The Chipotle Scarecrow film getting 11.6 million views in just a few months.
- Kashi admitting GMO and producing a FB reply…then they created some Organic cereals with Non GMO verification project.
- A teen’s online petition gets Gatorade to kick a nasty additive out of their sports’ drinks.
- Whole Foods March announcement that all products in their stores that contain GMOs must be labeled by 2018 (or reformulated to not contain them).
- Kroger, which launched its Simple Truth line of organic and natural foods in August, now says it will double the brand’s lineup early next year, the Dayton Business Journal said. The original lineup included 200 foods
- Connecticut passing a GMO labeling law
- Chipotle’s commitment to going non GMO in 2014, and the market’s response sending the stock soaring
- Hawaii’s legislation, a win to get GMOs off Kauai and a win to require pesticide disclosure and buffer zones of the 4 of the 5 top biotech companies there.
- Elimination of trans fats and looming FDA deadline
- The rise in Annie’s stock & products
- Chick-fil-A changing the ingredients in their food
- Chipotle labeling its menu of GMOs
- Whole Foods no longer selling Chobani yogurt due to GMO concerns.
- Helping Houston ISD to get msg out of their food items!
- Lawsuit against “Naked” juice for being loaded with GMOs and claiming to be “natural.”
- Trader Joe’s certifies that all of the products in its stores that carry the TRADER JOE label are NON-GMO (buyer beware, though, as these products are not third party verified by the Non GMO Project.)
- Explosion in Non GMO Project verified products
- Twinkie maker hostess filed for bankruptcy then reemerged talking about a gluten free Twinkie!
- Canadian Superstore brought in an entire large isle of organic foods last month. Did our emails make a difference?
- Target is planning a new line of “natural food” products and it will be non gmo. (Walmart is also planning a line of “natural food’ PRODUCTS, but Walmart’s line will be all genetically modified ingredients.)
- Raising awareness in Washington State and beyond with I-522
- Starbucks dropping the beetles from their menu!
- Ben and Jerry’s commitment to going non-GMO by mid-’14 and already having a dozen flavors sourced and labeled non-GMO
- Kraft finally ditching artificial dyes from a handful of their mac and cheese products
- A mom starting a movement called “March Against Monsanto” that led to 2 million people in 56 countries peacefully standing up for food freedom
- A lot more brands coming out with gluten free/dairy free and non GMO products!
- UNREAL candy taking on the big guys by making America’s favorite candy without the junk
- Unilever for deciding, after supporting the No on GMO Labeling side and receiving criticism from consumers, to actively advocate for Yes on 522 in Washington State.
- Kellogg’s having to downsize because consumers quit purchasing their products. “Would prefer Kellog’s be a better business model and remove the GMO’s so that we can purchase more instead of boycott.”
- Monsanto having to run commercials lying because we are impacting their bottom line.
And while there were countless others, some were personal:
“My daughter realizing she’s been eating organic ketchup poured into a non-organic bottle…and when the charade was revealed, saying she wondered why the ketchup tasted better lately.”
“I’ve lost 42lbs…dont drink energy drinks anymore..dropped all my bad blood levels …went from 40 inch to 32 inch waist…just cutting out processed food with HFCS and GMOs.”
And from a Navy Seal: “Nothing spectacular, had heart operation, found tumors same time, got sick, went whole, got better, kicked the cancer end of tumors, and watch with shear amazement at what we had been brainwashed into eating, have gotten a few of my seal budddys now on organic diets and transformation is amazing, keep at it, you have people like me watching…”
Keep at it. 2014 is going to be a great year. Companies and investors are paying attention. The food companies that do not adapt will find their 20th century products, loaded with artificial dyes, growth hormones and GMOs soaked in pesticides, becoming an obsolete technology in the 21st century.
Keep an eye on legislation and labeling laws, as well as things like the Trans Pacific Partnership which protects patented products (like the chemical industry’s GMOs in our food), send an email to a Congressman’s office or share a YouTube video with a friend.
Hedge funds are paying attention, Wall Street is paying attention and parents are on the front lines sending messages every day, as they navigate the grocery store aisles differently.
A quick look at how UNREAL candy is revolutionizing the candy aisles in Target shows just how quickly it can be done.
Just because we have inherited a food system that no longer works for us today does not mean that we have to embrace it going forward. Together, leveraging our collective talents, we can build a smarter food system, so that clean food, free from genetically engineered ingredients regulated by the EPA as pesticides, becomes a freedom afforded all Americans.
Written by Robyn O’Brien, founder of the AllergyKids Foundation, author of The Unhealthy Truth
Today, one in eleven children struggle with asthma, and one in four are affected by allergies. The incidence of allergy has increased significantly over the past two decades, and allergy to peanuts has more than doubled from 1997 to 2002. Approximately 30 million children – more than 1/3 of our kids – are affected by one of these four new childhood epidemics. This is not something we can just accept.
The official statistic holds that allergies affect some 7 million Americans, including about 6 percent of children below the age of three. That information comes courtesy of U.S. Food and Drug Administration Deputy Commissioner Lester M. Crawford, J., D.V.M., Ph.D., speaking before the Consumer Federation of America on April 22, 2002. But that data is now almost ten years old.
Since then, the only update we’ve had is from the Centers for Disease Control and a report issued in 2008 that said that there has been a 265% increase in the rate of hospitalizations related to food allergic reactions.
This begs explanation.
An allergy is basically an overreaction by your immune system to a protein that it perceives as a threat—for example, the proteins in particular types of food, the dust mite protein, or pollen. For people without allergies, these proteins are harmless. But if you’ve got an allergy, your immune system sees these proteins as dangerous invaders.
To drive the invader out, your immune system mobilizes all its resources: mucous, to flush out the intruder; vomiting, to force it out; diarrhea, to expel it quickly. Such conditions may make you feel sick, but they’re actually evidence of your body’s attempts to get well.
A key aspect of the immune response is known as inflammation, characterized by one or more of four classic symptoms: redness, heat, swelling, and pain. Inflammation doesn’t occur only in allergic reactions; it flares up whenever your body feels threatened, in response to a bruise, cut, bacteria, or virus as well as to otherwise harmless pollen, dust, or food. Scientists now believe that much of our immune system is found in our digestive tracts, where many of these inflammatory reactions occur in the form of stomachaches, cramping, nausea, bloating, and vomiting.
Ironically, the immune system’s inflammatory reaction—meant to heal and protect the body—often causes more problems than the initial “invader” in the cases when allergic reactions become life-threatening.
Common Symptoms of Food Allergy: Immediate Reactions
* rash or hives
* stomach pain
* itchy skin
* shortness of breath
* chest pain
* swelling of the airways to the lungs
Food Allergies and Food Sensitivity: Our Immune System Overreacts Again
At first glance, the distinction between “allergies” and “sensitivity” may seem like a meaningless word game. But understanding the relationship between these two conditions is crucial to grasping the true nature of the allergy epidemic—and to seeing how even the supposedly healthy foods in our kitchens may be harmful to our health.
As we’ve seen, allergies are an overreaction of our immune system, a kind of exaggerated response to a perceived danger. When a child comes in contact with these proteins (peanut, egg, wheat, etc.) her immune system “recognizes” the protein as dangerous, just as it would have seen the danger in the bacterium that causes pneumonia or the virus that causes mumps. In response, her immune system creates special “fighter” proteins called antibodies designed to identify and neutralize the “invader.”
These fighter proteins are known as immunoglobulin E, or IgE for short. When they’re released into the bloodstream, their purpose is to “seek and destroy” the invader, which they do by creating one or more of the classic food allergy symptoms, such as the hives, or the diarrhea with which other children respond, or, in more extreme cases, the anaphylactic shock that can kill a child within minutes.
The classic IgE response occurs within minutes or even seconds, because IgE proteins are some of the most aggressive antibodies we know. That immediate IgE response is the defining characteristic of an allergic reaction.
Food sensitivities start out in a similar way. If a “sensitive” child is exposed to a protein that his system perceives as a threat, he’ll manufacture another type of fighter protein, known as Immunglobulin G, or IgG. Although IgE and IgG antibodies play similar roles, they produce somewhat different—though often overlapping—symptoms.
A crucial difference between the two, though, is their reaction time. The less aggressive IgG antibodies typically produce a delayed response that might not appear for hours or even days after the child has consumed the offending food.
So even though food sensitivities and food allergies both produce painful, inflammatory, and potentially dangerous responses, this delayed reaction time has led many doctors to give food sensitivities second-class status. Partly that’s because they don’t present an immediate and obvious threat to children’s lives: only the IgE proteins trigger anaphylactic shock, for example, and in that sense, only the IgE proteins can kill (though the IgG reaction can have serious long-term consequences). I also think that traditional doctors tend to downplay the importance of nutrition, frequently dismissing the idea that such symptoms as earache, eczema, crankiness, brain fog, and sleep problems might be related to a child’s diet.
However, an article in The Lancet, Britain’s most respected medical journal, casts another light on the subject. The article referred to doctors who use elimination diets—diets that begin with a very limited, “safe” array of food choices and then add potentially problematic foods back into the diet, one by one.
The reason to do an elimination diet is to identify which foods in your diet might be triggering symptoms like skin rashes, fatigue, or stomach ache. Often, some foods affect us without our realizing it and we live with the symptoms, taking medicine to alleviate the suffering. But if you eliminate these foods from your diet, you may find that your symptoms disappear. What becomes even more interesting is that when you reintroduce the offending food, you may suddenly suffer drastic symptoms which make it clear that the food was indeed triggering one or more problems. An elimination diet can sometimes reveal with dramatic speed that a particular food you’ve always believed was harmless is actually causing such chronic symptoms as headache, digestive problems, and even more serious complaints. Masked by your daily diet and by the slowness of the food-sensitivity reaction, the offending food does its dirty work without ever realizing that it is the culprit behind your—or your child’s—disorders.
When you take a break from eating that problem food, however, and then add it back into your diet, you see how powerful its effects are and how responsible it may be for a seemingly unrelated problem. Foods that you thought were safe for you turn out to be highly problematic, indicating the presence of a previous undiagnosed food sensitivity. As a result, the authors of the Lancet article conclude that the prevalence of food sensitivity (referred to in the article as “food intolerance”) has been seriously underestimated.
Certainly, food allergies are far more dramatic. Whenever you read about a kid who died within minutes of eating at a fast-food joint or after breathing in the peanut dust from a friend’s candy wrapper, that’s an “IgE-mediated” food allergy. They’re fast, they can be deadly, and I’m glad doctors want to give them the attention they deserve.
But I also think doctors should be looking at delayed reactions, too, the “IgG-mediated” responses to food sensitivities. And some doctors do look seriously at both. Most conventional doctors, though, tend to focus on IgE immediate reactions. I think there are lots of reasons why they should view the two types of reactions as part of a larger, single problem.
First, both reactions have the same ultimate cause: the immune system’s overreaction to apparently harmless food. According to internationally acclaimed author and physician Kenneth Bock, M.D., there’s also quite a bit of overlap between IgE and IgG symptoms. Both can contribute to inflammatory responses in multiple body systems.
True, the delayed IgG reactions are less likely to cause hives and are more likely to produce a host of apparently vague symptoms, such as headache, brain fog, sleep problems, joint pain, fatigue, and muscle aches. But both the immediate and the delayed responses are immune system problems triggered by a supposedly “harmless” food.
Conventional doctors’ tendency to separate “IgE-mediated” food allergies and “IgG-mediated” food sensitivities into two separate problems has the effect of minimizing the allergy epidemic. Remember, IgE allergies, IgG sensitivities, and asthma—three similar ways that our immune systems can overreact—are all on the rise. It makes sense to find a doctor who is willing to address all three as symptoms of a greater underlying issue.
Common Symptoms of Food Sensitivity: Delayed Reactions
* gastrointestinal problems, including bloating and gas
* itchy skin and skin rashes like eczema
* brain fog
* muscle or joint aches
* sleeplessness and sleep disorders
* chronic rhinitis (runny nose), congestion, and post-nasal drip
1. Even if your kids can’t talk, their skin speaks volumes! Did you know that the skin is a person’s largest organ? Even when your kid is too young to tell you how he feels or too used to her symptoms to identify them (when kids hurt all the time, they don’t know they hurt!), you can often read your child’s condition in his or her skin.
Does your kid have eczema? Does he get rashes around the mouth, especially after he eats a certain food or swallows a certain beverage? Rashes around the knees, elbows, or armpits? Does he have “allergic shiners”—that is, dark circles under the eyes?
These are all inflammatory reactions, signs that the body is trying to rid itself of what it perceives as “toxic invader.” In your child’s case, that “toxic invader” might be an apparently harmless food, to which your kid is either allergic or “sensitive.” Keeping that invader away from your kid may bring relief from symptoms—and it may clear up other problems, such as brain fog, crankiness, sleep problems, inattention, acne, and mood swings.
2. The toilet bowl has a lot to tell you. Your kids’ bowel movements, not to be too delicate here, also speak volumes. Runny poops are a sign that a person isn’t properly digesting his food. And indeed, as we got the allergens out of some children’s diets, poops tend to firm up.
3. Chronic ear infections are often a sign of dairy allergies. In some cases, milk may have ill effects like eczema, upset stomachs or chronic ear infections for children who are allergic or sensitive to it.
4. Find a doctor who is willing to work with you, test for both IgE and IgG allergies and sensitivities and to address the important role that elimination diets can play in managing allergic symptoms like eczema, ear infections and chronic mucous.
Disclaimer: Always discuss individual health inquiries and medical issues with a qualified personal physician and/or specialist. Robyn O’Brien/AllergyKids is not responsible for medical decisions made by any one person. The professionals who share their knowledge, discussions, minutes, handouts, agendas, and other products do not constitute medical and/or legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always discuss individual health inquiries and medical issues with a qualified personal physician and/or specialist.
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!).
Food dyes have gotten a bad rap in the United States and have been linked to health concerns as far reaching as cancer. A “Rainbow of Risks” cites one report, putting parents on alert.
But the food industry has been slow to respond. As CBS Market Watch reported, “any clampdown would be fiercely opposed by the major food manufacturers who use a boatload — 15 million pounds — of food dyes in the U.S. every year. ”
Fifteen million pounds of artificial food dyes per year.
It’s hard to hear for parents trying to feed kids on a budget, especially when you consider that our very own American companies have pulled these artificial dyes, derived from petroleum based products, from the kids’ foods that they are serving in other countries. That double standard just doesn’t sit right for most American parents, and people have been making some noise.
I am one of them. I first took on the issue back in 2008 on Good Morning America when I was writing my book. Studies linking these artificial ingredients to hyperactivity led American companies to reformulate their products in the United Kingdom. Despite this response to consumer demand and parental concern overseas, our own companies did nothing here while the FDA said that more studies are needed.
But since then, despite the fact that the FDA sat still, companies began to take notice. They are listening and responding to consumer demand, even while the FDA says nothing. In no way is this more obvious than in an email I received last week from the makers of Goldfish. I had hammered on their product in my book, The Unhealthy Truth, for being a kid-favorite and absolutely jacked up on these artificial ingredients that can send some kids sky high. As a mom of four, it had been my go-to snack for years, but upon learning that, I ditched the colors and opted for something else.
So when I emailed them, following up on some research being done on artificial colors, to ask about their recent announcement to ditch these artificial dyes, I got the following response.
Ms Robyn, we received your message and appreciate the time you took to contact Pepperidge Farm regarding the coloring used in our Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Colors.
Our Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Colors use the following natural ingredients for coloring:
- Red Beet
Huito fruit is a native Latin American exotic fruit much like Acai, Passionfruit or Guava. Its flavor is reminiscent of an apricot or raisin.
We appreciate your interest in our Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Colors. Please contact our Consumer Response Center at 1.888.737.7374 if you need further assistance.
If you don’t think these companies are listening, you have not yet tried talking to them. They are making these changes, but they need us. They need consumers to share their concerns, to write, call and email so that they can show their shareholders and show their boards of directors that this food awakening is happening.
Together, we can get this junk out of our food the way parents have overseas. We can clean up our food system and restore the health of our families.
Pepperidge Farm closed their email saying, “Thank you for visiting the Pepperidge Farm website.”
Thanks for listening, Pepperidge Farm. Next up, let’s figure out a way to help your farmers grow their corn and soy with fewer chemicals, without those genetically engineered ingredients and chemically-intensive operating system that the biotech industry says we need.
Our combined talent, intellect and creativity are so powerful. And it is our collective talents that will create the changes we want to see in the health of our food system and the health of our country.
Sometimes the first step just might be as tiny as a goldfish.
To ask Pepperidge Farm to remove the chemical industry’s genetically engineered ingredients from our children’s goldfish or to thank them for ditching the artificial dyes, please contact Consumer Response Center at 1.888.737.7374 or send them an email here: http://www.pepperidgefarm.com/ContactUs.aspx
Written by Emily Matthews
Food allergies don’t have to put a damper on a child’s enjoyment of traditional holidays. Research from science think tanks and mastersdegreesonline come to the same conclusions: with a little planning, a child with severe food allergies can have just as much fun on Halloween as any child who is not suffering from this problem. By focusing on a great costume and other aspects of the holiday that don’t affect your child’s food allergies, your child will not worry about missing out at all.
One of the best ways to celebrate Halloween when your child has food allergies is to host a party at your house and serve only treats that are safe for them to eat. You can even have trick or treating in your home by having candy that is safe for your child to eat passed out in different rooms. The children who attend as guests will very likely not even notice anything different about the treats being served. If you take the initiative to provide activities and candytreats for your child to do during Halloween that are fun and exciting, your child may even feel that they got to do something extra special during the holiday and not worry about not being able to do what any other children are doing that day.
For school parties, helping plan the party, offering to bring safe treats, and explaining to your child’s teacher can help keep your child safe from getting any candy that could trigger their allergies. Using fun games as an alternative to candy is a great option to ensure that everyone has a good time on Halloween. If you are not able to attend your child’s school Halloween party, make sure that you inform the teachers and personnel ahead of time, just in case something happens and your child accidentally ingests candy that could provoke a reaction. Teachers should be informed of any signs of a reaction and any ingredients that could trigger your child’s food allergies.
It’s an unfair reality that most of the food passed out on Halloween won’t be safe for your child to eat. However, making sure that you know whattheycaneat will make things much easier. Do your research, but know that many sugar candies are free of the top eight allergens. At the end of the night, have your kids do a swap with their friends – they get all the Nerds, Smarties, and Dots, and don’t have to deal with the M&Ms and Snickers bars.
If some of the candy may be safe to eat, you can sort through it after your child brings it home and before they are allowed to eat anything, to make sure that all of it is safe to eat. Some children’s dentists offer children money in exchange for candy to promote healthy teeth, and cashing in on this type of promotion can help your child feel better about losing part of their stash.
It may take a little bit of advance planning, but your children’s Halloween can be just as great as yours were as a kid!
Emily Matthews is currently applying to masters degree programs across the U.S., and loves to read about new research into health care, gender issues, and literature. She lives and writes in Seattle, Washington.