The Chocolate App – Eat Your Ethics

Chocolate ListSlavery free chocolate – there’s an app for that.

The Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) is a small non-profit here in the Bay Area that ascribes to the old adage – Think Globally, Act Locally. Their goal:

create a more just and sustainable world by recognizing the power of one’s food choices. We encourage choices that reflect a more compassionate society by spotlighting the abuse of animals on farms, the depletion of natural resources, unfair working conditions for produce workers, the unavailability of healthy foods in communities of color and low-income areas, and the importance of not purchasing chocolate that comes from the worst forms of child labor.

Locally they work with farm workers to improve their working and living conditions (including a yearly school supply drive for the children of these workers), and raising awareness about the food deserts in the Bay Area and working to get more fresh food into these areas.

Globally one of their primary projects is the issue of child labor and slavery in the chocolate industry.

Chocolate is a product of the cacao bean (commonly referred to as cocoa), which grows primarily in the tropical climates of Western Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Western African countries, mostly Ghana and the Ivory Coast, supply more than 70% of the world’s cocoa. The cocoa they grow and harvest is sold to a majority of chocolate companies, including the largest in the world.

In recent years, a handful of organizations and journalists have exposed the widespread use of child labor, and in some cases slavery, on cocoa farms in Western Africa. Since then, the industry has become increasingly secretive, making it difficult for reporters to not only access farms where human rights violations still occur, but to then disseminate this information to the public. … The farms of Western Africa supply cocoa to international giants such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestlé—revealing the industry’s direct connection to the worst forms of child labor, human trafficking, and slavery.

In order to help consumers buy chocolate sourced from areas free from slavery, F.E.P. created the Chocolate List and an app for iPhones and Android phones. The list looks at companies that sell vegan chocolate and is quite extensive. It is broken down into several categories – recommend, cannot recommend (and a subset of those working on the problem), and those companies that wouldn’t disclose suppliers or didn’t respond.

Please visit F.E.P.’s website, download the app and learn more about how the issues of social and economic justice are tied into the food we eat.

Advertisements

Make Your Voice Heard – Dietary Guidelines – Updated

USDA-HHS logosFollowing up on my previous post about the Dietary Guidelines, I wanted to give you more information about submitting comments.

I created this one-page sheet (Update – submission period has been extended to May 8) with information about the new Guidelines and why it is so important to submit comments.

I heard author and nutritionist Marion Nestle interviewed on KPFA (Up Front, Feb. 25) last week. She talked about how critical it is that the public weigh in on these guidelines. Ms. Nestle blogs at Food Politics, her latest post is not very reassuring:

Yesterday’s Hagstrom Report (daily ag newsletter) quotes USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s comments to the Commodity Classic on the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee:

The “folks who put those reports together … have freedom. They are like my 3-year-old granddaughter. She does not have to color inside the lines.”

His 5-year-old grandson, he said, “is learning about coloring within the lines.”

“I am going to color inside the lines,” Vilsack said.

Sounds like the USDA has no intention of doing what the DGAC recommends.

For those of you who don’t want to follow the link to find out about the Commodity Classic, I did, so you don’t have to.

Commodity Classic is where America’s farmers meet with success. Commodity Classic is open to all friends of corn, soybeans, wheat and sorghum—from growers to member associations to agribusiness to farm media.  It’s a one-of-a-kind convention and trade show—farmer-focused and farmer-led.

I also found this quote from a Republican Senator from North Dakota in an article titled What’s the beef with meat? in the Dickinson (ND) Press.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said in response to the USDA’s guidance that the committee should focus less on environmental impacts and solely on nutritional value of meals.

“The USDA should only focus on nutrition here. No extraneous factors should be taken into consideration,” Hoeven said. “We all want to have a healthy diet, especially for our children. That’s the main point. That’s what we need to be focusing on here.”

Please distribute the information about submitting comments widely. Big Ag, the ranchers and their congressional pawns are not going to give up without a fight.


I also wanted to point you to an online form created by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) related to another part of the Guidelines and recommendations about cholesterol. PCRM is headed by Dr. Neal Barnard, author of many books including Power Foods for the Brain.

The report has also reversed decades of warnings against cholesterol. Decades of science have conclusively linked dietary cholesterol to cardiovascular disease, which kills nearly 2,200 Americans daily. The Physicians Committee is urging the USDA and DHHS to exercise its authority to reiterate prior federal recommendations that Americans limit their cholesterol intake.

In a petition filed today to the USDA and DHHS, the doctors group asks that the DGAC’s findings stating that “[c]holesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption,” be disregarded because the DGAC deferred entirely to a 2013 report by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology and one meta-analysis of egg consumption. The reliance on the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology report does not comply with the spirit of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which sets standards for bias among federal advisory committees.

Please take the time to fill out their online form.

The USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Goes There – Climate Change (Updated)

capay 1

Last week the The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published the long-awaited Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

One of the items that caused the most headlines were the recommendations regarding food sustainability and taking into account the environmental impact of the food we eat.

The major findings regarding sustainable diets were that a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet. This pattern of eating can be achieved through a variety of dietary patterns, including the Healthy U.S.-style Pattern, the Healthy Mediterranean-style Pattern, and the Healthy Vegetarian Pattern. All of these dietary patterns are aligned with lower environmental impacts and provide options that can be adopted by the U.S. population. Current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and energy use, compared to the above dietary patterns. This is because the current U.S. population intake of animal-based foods is higher and plant-based foods are lower, than proposed in these three dietary patterns.

They lay out the situation we are in today.

The environmental impact of food production is considerable and if natural resources such as land, water and energy are not conserved and managed optimally, they will be strained and potentially lost. The global production of food is responsible for 80 percent of deforestation, more than 70 percent of fresh water use, and up to 30 percent of human-generated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It also is the largest cause of species biodiversity loss. The capacity to produce adequate food in the future is constrained by land use, declining soil fertility, unsustainable water use, and over-fishing of the marine environment. Climate change, shifts in population dietary patterns and demand for food products, energy costs, and population growth will continue to put additional pressures on available natural resources. Meeting current and future food needs will depend on two concurrent approaches: altering individual and population dietary choices and patterns and developing agricultural and production practices that reduce environmental impacts and conserve resources, while still meeting food and nutrition needs. In this chapter, the Committee focuses primarily on the former, examining the effect of population level dietary choices on sustainability.

I think it is great that our government agencies are following in the footsteps of many of the European Union countries in raising awareness of these issues.

Unfortunately, they don’t go all the way to endorsing a plant-based diet. After touting the healthy alternative ways of eating, they write:

Of note is that no food groups need to be eliminated completely to improve sustainability outcomes over the current status.

However, the Advisory Committee appears to understand the issues and adds these policy changes which are similar to the issues raised in the Chatham House report I wrote about before.

Sustainability considerations provide an additional rationale for following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and should be incorporated into federal and local nutrition feeding programs when possible. Using sustainability messaging in communication strategies should be encouraged. The application of environmental and sustainability factors to dietary guidelines can be accomplished because of the compatibility and degree of overlap between favorable health and environmental outcomes.

Consumer friendly information that facilitates understanding the environmental impact of different foods should be considered for inclusion in food and menu labeling initiatives.Careful consideration will need to be made to ensure that sustainable diets are affordable for the entire U.S. population.

Promoting healthy diets that also are more environmentally sustainable now will conserve resources for present and future generations, ensuring that the U.S. population has access to a diet that is healthy as well as sustainable and secure in the future.

The meat and dairy industries, obviously, don’t like these new guidelines and will do all they can to weaken them. This is where you and I come in.

The USDA and HHS are soliciting public comments on these guidelines through midnight Eastern Time on May 8 (Comments period has been extended). We all need to flood them with positive reinforcement for raising awareness about the impact of animal agriculture on the environment. Here’s where and how to do this.

Go to the Comments page, where you can either post comments or read ones that have already been submitted.

Please provide a brief (250 words or less) summary of the points or issues in the comment text box. A PDF is available for each section of the Advisory Report and provides page and line numbers that can be referenced when submitting written comments. If also providing literature or other resources, complete citations or abstracts and electronic links to full articles or reports are preferred instead of attaching these documents to the comment.

Please note that there is a 20 minute time limit to complete this form, and you cannot save and return to a partial comment later. If you anticipate needing more than 20 minutes to draft your comment, we suggest that you compose the message separately and copy and paste it into the form. You may also upload your comment as an attachment.

Update – Although the instructions ask for 250 words or less, the form will take up to 5000 characters. Much more than 250 words (unless you use a LOT of real long words).

The area on food sustainability is in Chapter 5, at the beginning of that chapter, if you want to reference it in your comments.

Please take the time to comment on these guidelines so that we can continue to raise awareness of this critical issue in order for us to have a better future for ourselves and our children.

Kaiser Embraces the Plant-Based Diet

kaiser-permanente-logoBack in September 2013, the first post on this blog was about Kaiser Permanente advising their doctors to

consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients…encouraging whole, plant-based foods and discouraging meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods.

I believe they want their patients to be healthy, but… given that they are a managed care organization, the more of their patients who eat a plant-based diet, the better their bottom line looks.

Plant-based DietAlong with the recommendation, Kaiser produced this 20-page guide with information about the “New Food Groups” their patients will be eating from, tips for getting started, and sample menus and recipes.

Reading this guide, I thought I was reading any number of books by Drs. Esselstyn, Campbell, McDougall, Barnard or Ornish.

This explanation of the benefits of a plant-based diet read like the list of benefits from Dr. Campbell’s book Whole.

  • Lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar
  • Reversal or prevention of heart disease
  • Longer life
  • Healthier weight
  • Lower risk of cancer and diabetes
  • May slow the progression of certain types of cancer
  • Improved symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Fewer medication
  • Lower food costs
  • Good for the environment

The guide recommends that patients with heart issues stay away from nuts and oils, like Dr. Esselstyn.

What a radical idea – improving health with diet, not pills.

The resources section at the end of the guide points patients to the Forks Over Knives movie and website, and the websites and books of the good doctors listed above. You can download the guide from their website.

Kaiser is my health care provider and the doctor I see there is not necessarily on board with this program. Despite my telling him that I eat a plant-based diet, he suggested I take fish oil to ensure I get enough Omega-3s. He also wanted to make sure that I was getting enough protein. I should have asked him if he ever tells his omnivore patients to eat less.

However, it is great to see the health care establishment embracing plant-based diets for their patients. Whatever the motivation, their patients win.

Action Items for a Better Planet, a Better You

Elizabeth Kucinich

I found a great article by Elizabeth Kucinich, policy director at the Center for Food Safety and wife of former congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich. They are both vegan and animal rights activists.

The article We Can Reverse Climate Change by the Way We Grow Food, has information about the research and studies showing the impacts of how we grow and process food is ruining our environment.

After laying out the research, she provides some concrete steps we can all take to improve the situation and also your health

What can you do to help mitigate climate change?

  • Grow or buy local
  • Buy organic
  • Reduce food waste — 50 percent of food produced in America is wasted
  • Eliminate industrial meat, dairy and eggs from your diet and reduce overall consumption of animal products and if choosing to eat meat, seek out 100 percent grassfed products.
  • Protect local agricultural land from land grabs and wasteful development

What will this do for you?

  • Reduce your consumption of and exposure to chemicals
  • Reduce your carbon footprint
  • Increase your health — a diet rich in plant-based foods can help reverse diseases can reduce the risk of health problems such as Type II diabetes, heart disease,and high cholesterol whereas meat and dairy can increase these risks
  • Increase your food security by supporting your regional foodshed.

Reading Elizabeth’s bio, I found out she was an Executive Producer for the documentary GMO OMG. Here’s the trailer. I can’t wait to see this.

Summer Splendor

Farm standWhat a wonderful time of year at the Farmers’ Market! I went this morning and took some pictures of the wonderful bounty to be had. I realized I didn’t get any photos of the peaches and other stone fruit, blueberries, broccoli and cauliflower. Maybe next week. Until then enjoy these views of the market.

Carrots zucchini and eggplant

Tomatoes

Berries

Sweet cornDelicious sweet corn. We look forward to it every week. Note the CA grown kiwis in the background.

squashesWe love having all of these summer squashes to choose from.

Greens and beets

More tomatoesThe variety of sizes and shapes and colors of tomatoes is incredible.

I hope you have a Farmers’ Market near you. Visit it often and enjoy the Summer Splendor.

Embracing the “V” Word

Make your own at Keep Calm-o-matic

Make your own at Keep Calm-o-matic

I started my whole food, plant-based way of eating after watching the movie Forks Over Knives and reading Dr. Esselstyn‘s book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. A few months later we went to a seminar where Dr. Esselstyn presented and he made the point – as do others like Drs John McDougall and T. Colin Campbell – that they don’t like to refer to their way of eating as vegan. They point out that there are many vegans who are not healthy because they eat too much oil, or nuts, or processed vegan foods. Also, the word vegan is too loaded, they say, and is a turn off to some people.

I went along, telling people I had adopted a whole food, plant-based diet. When pressed, I would say that it was essentially a vegan diet.

But, like Somer McCowan at Vedgedout.com, I’m ready to embrace veganism.

In her post Under the Banner of Veganism. Deprivation Diets, Eating Disorders and Orthorexia she talks about some of the issues related to veganism. She is very passionate about being vegan and makes some good points, but I don’t agree with all of it.

(BTW – for those, like me, who haven’t heard of Orthorexia nervosa, it is an “eating disorder” or “mental disorder” that some doctors and therapists define as characterized by an extreme or excessive preoccupation with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy. It is not an officially recognized eating disorder.)

Somer has a wonderful story – how changing her diet cured her Colitis and helped her lose weight and feel great again.

In my diet transition, I originally went plant-based for health reasons. It wasn’t until about 6 months into my journey that I really made the connection that the decision to stop eating animals and their secretions wasn’t only better for my health, but also that I didn’t want to eat them anymore because I love all creatures and I don’t want to contribute to their suffering when I can live a healthy and strong diet by consuming plants.

Her post is:

  • Part rant – how celebs are jumping on the vegan bandwagon, but then quickly jumping off
  • Part scold – why are we vegans dividing ourselves into all these sub-groups? Oil-free, gluten-free, raw, etc. Many times these additional restrictions cause people to give up on being vegan
  • A reminder – veganism is more than a diet, it’s a lifestyle.

Veganism isn’t just some restrictive fad diet. It’s a lifestyle and a belief system. So, if you’re a vegan, I’m asking you to evaluate that belief system and be honest with yourself about your motivations and your goals. Are you in it for the animals or are you in it because you have self-destructive tendencies? …

Being a vegan makes me feel a lot of joy! I love my diet. I eat a more varied, colorful and beautiful diet than I ever did before eschewing animal foods.

I realized that eating a vegan diet has a profound environmental impact for good. It teaches my children compassion and love. Something hopefully that they’ll carry on and teach their children.

All that being said, my vegan diet is mostly oil-, nut- and GMO-free. If that makes me someone with a “restrictive and obsessive dietary lifestyle,” I’m OK with that. I cook and eat for health and my vegan diet works for me and my family.

I don’t see being vegan as a choice between healthy eating and helping animals. I don’t see the vegans I know having self-destructive tendencies. I was bothered by her either or argument.

If you are not vegan or not eating a whole food, plant-based diet right now, maybe the time is right to make the change. If you are eating vegan, but struggling, do what you need to find the right vegan diet for you. Find a meetup or other groups that can support you, find a vegan friendly doctor, and know that you are doing the right thing for your health, the health of the animals, and the health of the planet.

Our Addiction to Meat is Hurting the Planet

Source: Washington Post Wonkblog

Source: Washington Post Wonkblog

A recently published UK study of different diets and food types found that people who eat vegan or vegetarian diets significantly reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) impact compared to people who eat the Standard American Diet (SAD). The daily carbon footprint for a person eating the average amount of meat in the US was just under 16 pounds of CO2 compared to around 8.5 pounds for vegetarians and 6.5 pounds for vegans.

The researchers rated the participants as heavy, medium or low meat-eaters. For their study, heavy meat-eaters ate 3.5 ounces of meat per day. The average American eats 4 ounces.

The researchers calculated the GHG footprint for different food types (see chart below). That quarter pound patty on your hamburger has a carbon footprint of 37.9 pounds of CO2. According to a 2008 EPA study of average auto emissions, that is equal to driving almost 50 miles. Was it really worth it? (See more about the impact of that quarter-pounder)

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog talking about the health impacts of eating a vegan or whole food, plant-based diet but the environmental impacts of our addiction to meat has to be talked about and addressed before it destroys our planet. Here is an excerpt from the new movie Cowspiracy that examines the impact of factory meat production and why environmental groups don’t talk about it.

The conclusion of the research:

Analysis of observed diets shows a positive relationship between dietary GHG emissions and the amount of animal-based products in a standard 2,000 kcal diet. This work demonstrates that reducing the intake of meat and other animal based products can make a valuable contribution to climate change mitigation. Other work has demonstrated other environmental and health benefits of a reduced meat diet. National governments that are considering an update of dietary recommendations in order to define a ‘healthy, sustainable diet’ must incorporate the recommendation to lower the consumption of animal-based products.

Wise words indeed.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions By Food Type

Mark Bittman Knows Better…

New York TimesBut doesn’t want to tell us the truth.

Mark Bittman

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Mark Bittman has a new op-ed at the New York Times today – What Causes Weight Gain.

If I ask you what constitutes “bad” eating, the kind that leads to obesity and a variety of connected diseases, you’re likely to answer, “Salt, fat and sugar.” This trilogy of evil has been drilled into us for decades, yet that’s not an adequate answer.

We don’t know everything about the dietary links to chronic disease, but the best-qualified people argue that real food is more likely to promote health and less likely to cause disease than hyperprocessed food. And we can further refine that message: Minimally processed plants should dominate our diets. (This isn’t just me saying this; the Institute of Medicine and the Department of Agriculture agree.)

And yet we’re in the middle of a public health emergency that isn’t being taken seriously enough. We should make it a national priority to create two new programs, a research program to determine precisely what causes diet-related chronic illnesses (on top of the list is “Just how bad is sugar?”), and a program that will get this single, simple message across: Eat Real Food.

Sounds great, but wait a minute, let’s look at that last paragraph again.

“A research program to determine precisely what causes diet-related chronic illnesses” – researchers like Drs. Colin Campbell, Dean Ornish and Neal Barnard have been doing this research for decades and can tell you exactly what is causing these illnesses. What we need to do is stop letting industry-financed “research” cloud the reality of what is causing our obesity/diabetes/heart disease/stroke/cancer epidemics.

Meatonomics“A program that will get this single, simple message across: Eat Real Food” – not going to happen. The government spends millions, if not billions, on marketing meat, dairy and egg products to increase consumption and far fewer dollars promoting healthy eating. The Farm Bill recently passed by Congress includes subsidies for the meat industry and favors producers of corn and soybeans, instead of healthy fruits and vegetables. Much of that corn becomes feed for cattle and other meat products or high fructose corn syrup which winds up in the “hyperprocessed” foods American’s eat. To find out more about how our tax dollars are being spent to fatten the meat, dairy and egg industry pockets, read Meatonomics by David Robinson Simon.

In the meantime, the crisis worsens – from a Reuters article: CDC report says 29 million Americans have diabetes

The number of American adults with diabetes has soared to 29 million with another 86 million at high risk of getting the chronic disease, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday.

The CDC report, based on data from 2012, illustrated a continued worrisome rise in diabetes, which can cause serious health complications including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, amputation of toes, feet or legs, and premature death.

If the current trends continue, federal health officials predicted that one in five Americans could have diabetes by 2025 – and one in three by 2050. The CDC said more than 12 percent of U.S adults had diabetes as of 2012.

These chronic diseases account for the dramatic rise in healthcare costs to treat these diseases, while we spend very little on prevention. From Bittman’s article

In the United States — the world’s most obese country — the most recent number for the annual cost of obesity is close to $200 billion. Obesity-related costs are incalculable but could easily exceed $1 trillion annually.

And from the Reuter’s article

“We simply can’t sustain this trajectory,” said Ann Albright, director of the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation.

The report said that diabetes and its related complications accounted for $245 billion in total medical costs and lost work and wages in 2012.

I don’t know about you, but these numbers are frightening. Are we happy being Number 1, when it is being the most obese country in the world?

Want to follow Mark’s advice and “Eat Real Food?” Find the websites for the researchers mentioned above in the Nutrition links section to the right and start eating a whole food, plant-based diet. Do it for your health, the health of our nation, the health of our world, but just do it.

 

How Is Your State Doing at Preventing Deaths?

Preventable DeathsEarlier this month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report Potentially Preventable Deaths from the Five Leading Causes of Death — United States, 2008–2010.

In 2010, the top five causes of death in the United States were 1) diseases of the heart, 2) cancer, 3) chronic lower respiratory diseases, 4) cerebrovascular diseases (stroke), and 5) unintentional injuries. The rates of death from each cause vary greatly across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. An understanding of state differences in death rates for the leading causes might help state health officials establish disease prevention goals, priorities, and strategies. States with lower death rates can be used as benchmarks for setting achievable goals and calculating the number of deaths that might be prevented in states with higher rates.

I took the numbers from the charts in the report to create this visualization.

The report also included this chart of potentially preventable vs observed deaths.

Preventable Deaths chartTwo things stood out:

  • The regional differences on the map
  • The low number of potentially preventable deaths vs observed in the chart above – especially for heart disease and cancer

The regional differences may have to do with diet and levels of smoking, drinking and lack of exercise. Some have made the case that many of these states with lower rates of preventing deaths in the South, like Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia, have made it difficult for low income residents to get affordable health insurance and have not expanded Medicaid (see map below). This makes it more likely that people won’t get preventive care or physicals and wind up in the emergency room with a life threatening chronic illness.

But the most frustrating aspect of all of this is that these chronic diseases – especially heart disease, stroke and cancer – could be drastically reduced by dietary changes. Many doctors – as I’ve pointed out many times – have shown that a whole food, plant-based diet will reduce the risk of these diseases and reverse them if they have already started impacting people.

Our vegan book club is currently reading Meatonomics: How the Rigged Economics of Meat and Dairy Make You Consume Too Much by David Robinson Simon. The title sums up the book, which looks at the way our government (using our tax dollars) is subsidizing and helping to promote the meat and dairy industry, while at the same time other parts of our government (but without the same amount of dollars or clout) are telling us to eat less of these foods. The result is that Americans eat more protein from meat and dairy products than anyone else in the world, and it’s literally killing us. Finally, through Medicare and Medicaid, the government is paying to treat the illnesses caused by eating too much meat and dairy.

Why do we accept the fact that each year almost 50,000 will die from stroke, 300,000 will die from heart disease, and 400,000 will die from cancer? Where is the will – political, social or otherwise – to do all we can to prevent these diseases? Can we save lives and the billions of dollars spent each year on the health and environmental impacts of this unsustainable way of living before it’s too late?


Where the States Stand

Via: The Advisory Board Company