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  • What's wrong with these rice crackers (and many other brands too)

    Look at their ingredients: White Rice, Rice Bran Oil (Contains Antioxidant (307b)), Maltodextrin, Salt, Emulsifier (322 (Soy)), Sugar, Soy Sauce Powder, Yeast Extract, Flavour Enhancer (635). These are an example of an ultra-processed food, with ingredients coming out of a laboratory. Yeast extract is a manufactured free glutamate, like MSG. The flavour enhancer 635 is added to manufactured free glutamates to enhance their effects, make them taste better than they actually are. Many may react to this flavour enhancer ('ribo rash') and to MSG, especially those who are young with an underdeveloped blood-brain barrier, and the elderly with a porous one. MSG, like aspartame, is an excitotoxin, overstimulating brain cells to death, depending on the dose. If you want rice crackers without suspect additives, look for organic rice crackers. Read more about The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about MSG. Read stories about ribo rash from the fedup website.

  • What do you know about genetic engineering?

    Is the new technique gene editing more precise and controllable than older techniques of genetic engineering (GE)? Knowing about this is especially relevant now as our present coalition government intends to relax the rules concerning genetic engineering, and specifically allow gene editing. Hasn’t GE food undergone trials for safety for it to be allowed in NZ and Australia?  What food in NZ is currently genetically modified? Does GE have any advantage for the farmer and the environment? Read more in 7 facts about genetic engineering

  • Pesticides in strawberries

    Why should you choose organic strawberries? Conventional strawberries are heavily sprayed, being in NZ's dirty dozen, food available here that is more likely to contain pesticide residues. All 20 samples last tested had pesticides, with one having 9 pesticides (that was from Australia). The total number of pesticides in all the samples was a staggering 25! The total number of pesticides in all the samples was a staggering 25! Does this matter, you may ask? Doesn’t our regulatory authority in New Zealand MPI (Ministry for Primary Industries) ensure that pesticides are at safe levels? One of the many problems with current regulations is that pesticides are tested individually, not in the cocktail we actually consume. Another problem is that it is assumed a little bit of something that could cause cancer, suppress the immune system or disrupt the hormones won’t hurt us, when there is research indicating the contrary, especially in animals. In these 20 samples of strawberries there are at least nine pesticides that are carcinogens or that could cause cancer In these 20 samples of strawberries there are at least nine pesticides that are carcinogens or that could cause cancer, and as well at least seven of them are endocrine disruptors, or substances that can have an effect on our hormones, even in minute quantities. There is some scientific data that suggests soaking conventional produce in vinegar and water (1:4) for 20 minutes will remove some pesticides, but not all, some of which go right through. Rinse in water afterwards. Peeling also removes some residues, but that’s not an option for strawberries! We don’t really know the effects of all these pesticide residues on our health, but what cannot be disputed is that the environmental effects of using pesticides are bad, including the effects on soil, water, bees and climate change. We argue that by buying organic we are supporting a system that is better not only for the environment but also for us. #strawberries #pesticidesinstrawberries Data from NZ FRSP 2017-2019 & TDS 2016, on the NZMPI website.

  • MSG and Obesity: fat rats, brains and eyeballs

    (Flavour enhancer 621) by Toni Reid A certain substance, when injected into baby mice and rats, causes them to mature into unnaturally obese adults. In animal testing, this same substance has been shown to cause brain cell destruction and retinal deterioration. In fact, this stuff is so good at killing brain cells, that's what some experimental scientists use it for! Unfortunately for us, it is also added to a wide range of foods available in our local supermarkets, and fast food outlets. It even finds its way into some medical products and is an ingredient in an agricultural spray. What is the purpose of this additive, you may want to know? Does it protect us from the horrors of food poisoning? Nope. The only reason it's there, is to make you eat more of that particular food. In that case, you say, I'll just avoid it. Well, good luck. This substance has pervaded many commonly consumed food products, including: flavoured potato chips and snack foods, savoury flavoured crackers, flavoured noodles, powdered soup, tinned soup, flavoured dried rice meals, powdered stock, powdered gravy or sauce mixes, salt replacers, soy sauce, tinned/bottled cooking sauces, salami, sausages, frankfurters, ham, bacon, vegetarian sausages/patties, powdered 'sports' shakes, weight loss shakes, and most disturbing of all, infant formula. It may also lurk in the frozen foods section, watch out for it in - burger patties, fish pieces, chicken nuggets, pizza, prepackaged meals and meat pies. In a cunning move, not all of these products list the presence of this additive plainly on their labels. The name of this substance is probably familiar to you - Monosodium glutamate, or MSG for short. MSG is the sodium salt of the amino acid glutamic acid. It is classified as a flavour enhancer, which means it does not protect the food from spoiling or have any other technical use, except to make you want more of whatever food it is in. You may be shaking your head, and saying: Hasn't this been around for yonks? If there's a problem, why haven't we heard about it before? Actually, all the information is out there, freely available - in published scientific studies, in books and on web sites. Of course, unless you know there's a problem, you wouldn't be looking for it. And mostly, stories about MSG fail to make the major papers, magazines and television. One explanation is that the companies whose products contain MSG, advertise in these various different forms of media, and could threaten to take their budgets elsewhere. Board of Directors members for television networks and printed media, may also have shares in food companies. In 1991, American show Sixty Minutes aired an item on MSG. Producer Don Hewitt said he'd never experienced such pressure by industry to 'bury' a story, and since then they haven't gone near a story on MSG. The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun have all refused to publish stories concerning MSG, most likely due to the ubiquitous presence of the Glutamate Industry. Over here you may find the odd snippet tucked away in a health magazine, but not a whisper in the mainstream. But thanks to the Internet, the information is slowly trickling down. A spot of Googling reveals that way back in1957, a study by opthamology residents Lucas and Newhouse found that a single injection of glutamic acid [MSG] caused severe retinal lesions in newborn mice. In 1968 a letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine described the symptoms of headache/migraine and extreme thirst [known as 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome'] that have come to be associated with the over consumption of MSG. Then, in 1969 a study by Dr. John Olney showed that MSG caused brain lesions and obesity. Recent work by neurosurgeon Dr. Russell Blaylock, and the publication of his book 'Excitotoxins, the Taste that Kills' explains just what it is about MSG that you may want to avoid. Now we have to get a bit technical, because it's necessary to understand why MSG is so dangerous. Glutamic acid is a natural substance which is found in food, and used in the brain as a neurotransmitter, vital to the transmission of nerve impulses essential for cognition, memory, movement and sensation. The trouble with MSG, is that it contains what is known as free glutamic acid. Normally glutamic acid is bound to protein in your food, and the body controls the amount that is converted from the protein, only releasing what is needed. Free glutamic acid is not subject to this regulatory process, and excess of it in the brain causes damage by over-exciting the neurons, culminating in their death through exhaustion. Hence the name 'excitotoxin'. Health professionals now believe that excitotoxins are implicated in the development of Parkinsons disease, Alzheimers disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis [Motor Neuron disease]. In 1998 in Bethesda, Maryland, a medical conference was held solely to discuss the role of Glutamate in many central nervous system disorders. Manufacturers of MSG generally counter this type of information highlighting the potentially harmful nature of their product, with their favourite fairy story: that MSG can't enter the brain because of the blood/brain barrier [a special capillary structure designed to exclude toxic substances from the brain.] Dr. Blaylock refutes this assumption. 'For example' he says, ' it is known that the brain, even in the adult, has several areas that normally do not have a barrier system, called the circumventricular organs.' The phrase 'terminological inexactitude' must have been created for the food industry. To keep us in the dark concerning the amount of free glutamic acid in the products we buy, the food technicians devise numerous names for it to masquerade under- 'natural flavourings', 'seasonings', 'yeast extract','autolyzed yeast', 'textured protein', 'maltodextrin', 'malt extract', 'gelatin' , 'soy protein isolate', 'whey protein', 'carrageenan', 'sodium caseinate 'and 'calcium caseinate'. Another vehicle for the delivery of free glutamic acid is 'hydrolysed vegetable protein'. This culinary delight is made by boiling vegetable scraps in a vat of sulphuric acid for several hours. The resultant powder is scraped up, and added to your food. All of these additives need not be labelled as MSG, because they haven't actually added it to the product, but instead, created free glutamic acid during processing. Though it's all the same when you eat it. Clear labelling is important if you are sensitive to MSG. Up to 25% of the population is sensitive to MSG, some may have violent reactions which can include: sudden asthma attacks, seizures, migraines, racing heart beat [tachycardia], hives, headaches and diarrhoea. A MSG sensitive Los Angeles man lunching at a local restaurant, passed out, suffered severe respiratory distress, which progressed to a full cardiac arrest, all due to his soup being made from a 'beef flavouring' base which unknowingly contained MSG. For former investment banker, Jack Samuels, eliminating free glutamic acid from his diet was a godsend. Suffering from symptoms similar to Alzheimers disease, he and his wife Adrienne managed to effect an immediate cure after excluding all forms of MSG from his food. Highly sensitive to free glutamic acid, Jack has lost consciousness on thirty occasions due to MSG. Together, Jack and Adrienne head the 'Truth in Labelling Campaign', dedicated to revealing the hidden glutamic acid in food. Yet those involved in the manufacture of MSG, still refuse to acknowledge the vital difference between free glutamic acid and glutamic acid. Their stance is: 'it occurs naturally, so therefore it is safe'. Since the active ingredient was isolated from seaweed in the early 1900's, the production of MSG has become a massive business. Now a cheaper microbial fermentation method utilizes bacteria which excrete glutamic acid into a liquid medium. Millions of tons of the stuff are used worldwide, every year. And millions of dollars of profit are at risk if this additive is proven to be hazardous. With the publication of Dr. Olney's studies in 1969, the glutamate industry was faced with an assault on the safety, and therefore the marketability of their product. The major players in the glutamate industry decided they needed to counter with some good PR. This resulted in the formation of The International Glutamate Technical Committee [IGTC], which hands out financial assistance to researchers, designs and implements research protocols and then distributes the results of these studies to promote the use and safety of MSG. The glutamate industry also have innocuous sounding nonprofit organisations to act as agents for them, such as The International Food Information Council [IFIC] and the International Life Sciences Institute [ILSI]. Their function with regard to MSG, is to deride any research or person who is critical of the safety of glutamates, and also to distribute glossy brochures encouraging the use of MSG to nutritionists, dietitians, allergists and the media. The IFIC web site contains glowing references from the FDA, the AMA et al, espousing the safety of MSG, along with indoctrination on the joys of irradiated and genetically engineered food. A visit to the web site of the ILSI confirms that Ajinomoto, a major producer of MSG, is a member and that they are “supported primarily by their industry members”. Representatives of the glutamate industry have infiltrated organisations such as the FDA Food Advisory Committee, the Medical Advisory Board of the Food Allergy Network, and advised numerous other associations, committees and councils convened to ascertain the safety of food. So it was not surprising when in1998, a citizens petition with the aim of labelling all free glutamic acid content in food was defeated in court by the FDA. The petition was backed by researchers, physicians, the Truth in Labelling Campaign and MSG sensitive consumers. According to Dr. Adrienne Samuels of the Truth in Labelling Campaign, animal studies commissioned by the glutamate industry have shown deliberate manipulation to assure the desired outcome. It's the old adage - he who pays the piper, calls the tune. Perversions of testing protocol included the elimination of subjects likely to react to MSG, to test for reactions to MSG. limit reporting time for adverse effects to two hours after ingestion. Placing aspartame, (another excitotoxin, used as an artificial sweetener, which causes similar symptoms to ingestion of MSG) in the placebo. This ensured equal reactions to both the placebo and the test substance. Knowing that brain lesions could not be identified if examination of test animals brains were done 24 hours after the insult, they routinely did not analyse them until this time had elapsed. When those scientists back in the sixties discovered that MSG causes obesity, they found it was a handy way to make rats and mice fat, so they could use them to study diabetes. Injecting the pups under the skin with MSG, led to them becoming overweight adults. In the newborn, monosodium glutamate destroys the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus, which effects the regions in the brain responsible for regulating food intake. Thousands of these creatures are created every year, to test possible cures and medications for diabetes. The pertinent question is, can MSG effect humans in the same way as rats? After all, we use rats to assess safety of medicines and toxic substances, so could there be a connection between the epidemic of obesity, and our exposure to MSG? The 2002 MOH Children's Nutrition Survey found that one third of New Zealand children between 5-14 years were overweight. Is obesity only caused by genetics, a poor diet and /or lack of physical activity? Perhaps there is some other factor here, that hasn't been taken into account? In mid 2005, M. Hermanussen and JAF Tresguerres published a study titled 'Obesity, Voracity, and Short Stature: the Impact of Glutamate on the regulation of Appetite'. This presented experimental support for a hypothesis regarding the use of elevated amounts of glutamate in the diet. They found morbid obesity is associated with short stature, which in turn is associated with low levels of growth hormone. Growth hormone levels are lowered in newborn rats when injected with MSG, and in rats whose mothers received MSG whilst pregnant. They also observed rats kept on a high MSG diet demonstrated marked voracity. In conclusion, they felt there were good reasons to avoid MSG, at least until more studies could be carried out. Additionally, Hermanussen and Tresguerres have presented clinical evidence that the use of anti-glutamate drug Memantine, normalises binge eating disorders within hours by blocking the action of glutamate. From the moment they are conceived, our kids are exposed to free glutamic acid, as it has no trouble crossing the placenta. After a child is born, it may be fed with a formula milk containing free glutamic acid in the form of hydrolysed protein or soy isolates. Next stop for exposure is immunisation. Both the Chicken Pox and MMR vaccines have monosodium glutamate listed as ingredients. A little later when the child moves onto solid foods, savoury snack foods may become a regular part of the diet. These are almost certain to contain MSG. As the child grows they will continue to be exposed to MSG if they eat meals made from tinned, packeted or frozen ingredients, or dine out at restaurants. To exclude it totally from their diet would require extreme vigilance. Maybe it's a coincidence that the recent passing of the 'Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption' Act in America, protects food companies from litigation? This legislation protects the seller of food from civil liability, where it may be claimed that an individual's weight gain resulted from the long-term consumption of a certain food. Previously, I thought that people who sued fast food companies for making them fat were out of line. After reading about MSG treated mice, I'm not so sure. The disadvantages of MSG in your diet extend further than damage to your mental faculties and obesity. A recent study at the Hirosaki University School of Medicine in Japan, investigated the effect of a diet high in glutamate on the eyes, again using rats to evaluate the damage. The results were startling. After six months on the diet, the retinal layers were noticeably thinner, up to 75% in some cases. The lead researcher Hiroshi Ohguro, speculates that this may have something to do with the high rate of normal tension glaucoma in eastern Asia. Joseph Sowka, an Associate Professor at the College of Optometry, Nova Southeastern University also believes excitotoxins are a factor in the development of glaucoma, as he has observed a two fold increase in glutamate in the eyes of people suffering from the disease. Findings presented at the Bethesda Glutamate Conference linked elevated retinal glutamate in diabetics to damaged neurons, eventually leading to loss of vision. A study in 1996 by J C Blanks et al, found that sufferers of Alzheimer's disease have widespread destruction of their retinal ganglion cells. This is the same area mentioned by Lucas and Newhouse in their initial discovery of the excitoxic behaviour of MSG. When we notice symptoms of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, 80 to 90 percent of the neurons involved will already have died. This is because they don't die all at once, but deteriorate gradually over the years, with diagnosis only possible when the damage becomes apparent. Because of this, curing these diseases is presently not feasible, so most medications aim to slow the progression of the symptoms. At the moment there are 18 million people in the world living with Alzheimers. In the USA alone, 4.5million, have the condition, with a projected 13.2 million by 2050! In New Zealand we have about 21,000. Apart from the heartbreak Alzheimers inflicts on those closest to the sufferers, imagine the economic burden of keeping all those people in full time care for many years. Alzheimers may rob you of your memories and ability to look after yourself, but you can live for up to twenty years after being diagnosed. In years gone by, it was only the elderly who were thought to be at risk of contracting these types of diseases. The discovery of early onset Alzheimers and Parkinsons, means you could come face to face with these disorders in middle age, or even younger. The pattern is the same for ALS, with the juvenile onset form having one known sufferer who is 25. Apparently unaware of the possible link between neurodegenerative disorders and MSG, the American Dietetic Association recommends the addition of it to meals prepared for senior citizens to stimulate appetite. The recommendation appears in a fact sheet, supported by a grant from Ajinomoto. Anti-glutamate drugs are currently the most promising avenue in the treatment of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, glaucoma and ALS. Memantine, a glutamate receptor blocker for use by Alzheimer's patients, protects neurons from glutamate toxicity. A pilot study indicates that some complications of Parkinson's may be relieved by Talampanel, a compound that blocks the actions of glutamate. Riluzole, a treatment for ALS involves anti-glutamate drugs and Copaxone, a possible treatment for glaucoma, protects the optic nerve from the toxic effects of glutamates. While scientists work feverishly to concoct these drugs, ironically, at the same time the food industry is increasing the amount of glutamate in our food supply. Its hard to follow the logic, isn't it? You would think that fresh fruit and veges would be a safe bet when it comes to avoiding MSG. But that may change with the debut of AuxiGro, a fungicide and growth enhancer, approved in America for use on various crops. AuxiGro contains almost 30% free glutamic acid, and may be used on most fruit, vegetables, nuts and berries and is also popular with growers of wine, table and raisin grapes as it boosts the sugar content. AuxiGro is touted as natural and non toxic by its manufacturer, and the EPA agrees, awarding it a exemption from tolerance on agricultural commodities. What is not yet known is whether Auxigro would contaminate ground water and soil, and how eating and cooking produce treated with Auxigro is likely to affect you. People with a sensitivity to free glutamic acid are understandably concerned about the consequence of inhaling spray drift. The Truth in Labelling Campaign has received reports of MSG- type reactions following ingestion of head lettuce, russet potatoes, broccoli, and strawberries since the use of AuxiGro began. Produce sprayed with AuxiGro has probably been imported for sale here, and it's only a matter of time before the spray itself is available in New Zealand. It seems absurd that our MoH is giving serious consideration to subjecting herbs, vitamins and minerals to testing and licensing comparable with medicines, when these substances have good track records for safety. Allergens like bee products, peanuts, soya etc must have warnings included on labels, but for some reason free glutamic acid manages to sidestep all of these measures. Still, the MoH are the folks that place outdated mercury-laden amalgam fillings in your children's teeth as part of their free dental care programme. Oblivious to restrictions on the use of mercury based fillings in European countries, and a proposal to ban their use in California, our health boffins ignore research demonstrating links to disease and birth defects. No doubt their reaction to the dangers of MSG will be the predictable platitude- 'our experts haven't found any dangers.' As if we are a different species, and the results of overseas studies don't apply to us! We delegate responsibility for food safety to various authorities, in the belief that they are acting in our best interests. Food Standards Australia New Zealand [FSANZ] have a tendency to forget their primary objectives, which are: provision of adequate information relating to food to enable consumers to make informed choices, protection of public health and safety prevention of misleading or deceptive conduct. This is evidenced by an application made to the FSANZ which would have notified customers if MSG was added to food consumed at restaurants and fast food outlets. The proposal was inundated with glutamate industry angst. Public concerns were overwhelmed by numerous submissions from glutamate manufacturers trotting out tired old industry generated data purporting to prove the safety of MSG. One wonders why companies from South East Asia, United States, Europe, South Africa, Japan and the UK and of course the ILSI and IGTC, are involved in deciding our food safety legislation? Why does an obscure little application in Australia and NZ attract so much interest from these overseas companies? Warning the public that MSG has a few nasty side effects, may set a dangerous precedent that could spread to other countries. The decision to reject the application left the NZ and Australian public unprotected, and uninformed, as the primary objectives of FSANZ are overridden in the face of industry pressure. As I mentioned earlier on, MSG can be used as an ablative tool by experimental scientists. Initially, pharmaceutical grade L-Glutamic acid was used to selectively kill brain cells in test animals, until it was discovered that an inexpensive food additive did the job just as well. It seems there are not many scientists who are willing to openly question the wisdom of dishing up this same substance as part of the family dinner. Even if they won't convict MSG, reasonable doubt has been established, circumstantial evidence has been provided. The verdict is up to you, the consumer. Will you feed it to your family? First published in Uncensored Magazine, July Sept 2006

  • The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about MSG

    What is MSG? Why does the manufactured free glutamate cause problems? Are you MSG sensitive? What are other names for free glutamate that you might find on the labels of processed products? Dedicated to people with problems that once defied medical diagnosis - people who discovered that elimination of MSG from their diets let them be well. From Truth in Labeling. What is MSG? MSG (621 monosodium glutamate) contains manufactured free glutamate, as do other flavour enhancers 620-625. These flavour enhancers include any glutamic acid that is produced by bacterial fermentation or freed from protein through manufacture or fermentation (now genetically modified). They contain unwanted by-products (contaminants), and may be used with other flavour enhancers such as 627, 631, 635 to enhance the free glutamate. Manufactured free glutamate may be found in processed food, medicine, pet food, protein drinks and dietary supplements. Glutamic acid found in unadulterated, unprocessed, and unfermented plant and animal protein has no contaminants, and is bound in a balanced form with other protein components. In humans, glutamic acid is a non- essential amino acid: i.e., the body is capable of producing it on its own. The manufacture of monosodium glutamate began in about 1910. The first published reports of adverse reactions appeared in 1968, and the first published report of brain damage following ingestion of MSG followed shortly thereafter. Research has demonstrated that free glutamic acid can be neurotoxic, causing neuron degeneration and cell death as well as adverse reactions. The glutamate industry denies the existence of contaminants in MSG, and denies that exposure to MSG can cause brain damage in humans and serious adverse reactions. Manufactured free glutamate is an excitotoxic – brain damaging – amino acid, no matter how it is produced, or what it is said to be used for. Are you MSG sensitive? MSG-sensitive people report reactions ranging from simple skin rash to severe depression and life-threatening physical conditions. Diagnosis of MSG sensitivity is extremely difficult, especially because MSG ingredients are often not disclosed on food labels. Migraines are the most often reported reaction to MSG, but reactions can include asthma, heart irregularities, panic attacks, drastic mood swings, seizures, and more. For a full list of symptoms that might indicate MSG sensitivity, and suggestions to help you decide if you are sensitive to MSG, visit the website Dealing with MSG sensitivity With ever-increasing use of MSG, with FDA, USDA, and EPA cooperation, it becomes increasingly difficult for the individual with little tolerance for MSG to avoid having MSG-induced adverse reactions. How do people determine if they are MSG-sensitive? There are no traditional diagnostic procedures for sensitivity to MSG. The MSG reaction is due to sensitivity to a toxic substance, and antibodies are not involved. Allergy tests, used to diagnose conditions that create antibodies in the body, are not appropriate. An individual typically has the same reaction or reactions each time he exceeds his tolerance for MSG. Ingestion of alcohol or extreme exercise just before or just after ingesting MSG may increase the severity of the reactions; and some women are more sensitive at a certain point in their menstrual cycles. Tolerance for MSG varies. A reaction can occur immediately following ingesting MSG or up to 48 hours later; but for any one person, that interval is generally the same every time. Knowing that, one can look back to determine what food or drink caused the MSG reaction. A food diary may help with diagnosis. About the Truth in Labeling Campaign The Truth in Labeling Campaign (TLC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to securing full and clear labeling of all processed food. We are an all-volunteer organization funded entirely through contributions. Our first project has been to secure identification of MSG whenever and wherever it occurs in processed food. We helped file a Citizen Petition with the FDA asking them to require labeling of all MSG found in processed foods. The publicity generated by the petition and a subsequent lawsuit generated help from hundreds of volunteers who help inform others of the toxic effects of MSG. Unfortunately the FDA succeeded in getting the lawsuit set aside. We invite you to work with us in our continued efforts to secure full disclosure of all MSG on the labels of all processed food. Downloaded 2016 and edited from Truth in Labeling Campaign

  • Aspartame not so sweet

    Did you know that two international bodies have cautioned against aspartame this year (2023), the artificial sweetener? Nevertheless another international body, with ties to industry, continues to endorse its use, and so does NZ. We wrote a letter to the NZ Listener, but it was not published. Jane Clifton (12 August 2023) makes the point that the harm from the controversial artificial sweetener aspartame has been judged very differently by two expert bodies. It largely comes down to money, an issue she raises later in her column. IARC classified aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” The respected International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” in July. Earlier in May, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised people not to consume non-sugar sweeteners for weight loss, including aspartame. Their recommendation is based on a systematic review of the most current scientific evidence, which suggests that consumption of non-sugar sweeteners is associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and all-cause mortality, as well as increased body weight. Nevertheless, the international Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has reaffirmed the enormous acceptable daily intake of aspartame at 40 mg per kg of body weight, and NZ continues to follow this lead. Research by the U.S. Right to Know group found at least six of 13 JECFA panel members have ties to ILSI, a long-time Coca-Cola front group, and that included both the chair and vice chair of the JECFA panel. Like many controversial issues, the consumer has to not only navigate the flow of money and power, but also to understand who might lose face. Who stands to lose if aspartame is limited or banned? Who stands to lose public trust if a policy is reversed? The consumer has to be aware that this addictive sweetener, found in over 6000 foods and medicines, was initially approved in the USA for political and financial reasons, in spite of suspect data being used. It continues to be approved regardless of all the independent scientific and anecdotal data against it.

  • NZ's Dirty Dozen Presentation - Organic Week

    Listen to Alison talk about which food in NZ is more likely to contain pesticide residues and why pesticides in food matter. Alison White is Co-convenor of the Safe Food Campaign. She has a Master in Public Health specialising in pesticides and is a Life Member of the Soil & Health Association.

  • Chlorpyrifos Petition Summary

    The government needs to urgently reassess and ban the brain-damaging insecticide chlorpyrifos. NZ children are exposed to high levels of it compared to other countries. Our petition asked for the urgent reassessment and ban of the insecticide chlorpyrifos. Petition reason: NZ children have higher levels of chlorpyrifos in their urine than US and other countries. Low level exposure to chlorpyrifos damages children’s brains and neurodevelopment. Chlorpyrifos has been found to meet threshold criteria for a Persistent Organic Pollutant under the Stockholm Convention. Chlorpyrifos has been found in NZ food, waterways and alpine air, and in Antarctica. Chlorpyrifos is banned in at least 39 countries, including EU, UK, Canada. There are safer alternatives. Our submission describes how chlorpyrifos has many persistent adverse effects on people's health, especially children. A 2022 study shows that New Zealand children are exposed to alarmingly high levels of chlorpyrifos compared to other countries. Very low levels, such as are found in food, can irreversibly harm the pre- and postnatal brain and pubertal development. A number of recent NZ government surveys have found this insecticide in a wide range of food, including raisins, peanut butter, anything containing wheat, frozen mixed berries, grapes, tomatoes, avocados, pears, mandarins, a range of summer fruit, broccoli, various green vegetables and baby food. Dietary intake represents the major source of pesticide exposure for infants and children, concludes the authoritative National Research Council report Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children in 1993. This is backed up by a number of intervention studies around the world that have measured children’s urine, usually for organophosphate metabolites or breakdown products, before and after eating organic food over a period of time, and usually the results have been dramatic and immediate. A useful example of this is a very short video about a Swedish family on YouTube: “The Effect of Organic Food”. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded in 2016 that chlorpyrifos in food is unsafe for ALL POPULATIONS. They calculated the highest risk is for children aged 1–2 years old, with exposure levels 14,000% above the safety threshold for food. At least 39 other countries have banned this pesticide, including the UK, Canada and the 27 countries in the European Union. The UK made it illegal to use chlorpyrifos on any crop in 2016. The US eventually banned its use on food crops in 2021. The United Nations international review committee classified it as a Persistent Organic Pollutant in 2022 because of its persistence, bioaccumulation, potential for long-range environmental transport and adverse effects, particularly on young children at low levels. It is a signal to all countries to no longer use this pesticide. We also outline how our EPA has not prioritised the reassessment of chlorpyrifos, in spite of well documented evidence of its neurotoxic properties showing persistence and harm, not only in children’s bodies, but also in the NZ environment. Adverse effects have been found in NZ bees, for example. It has also been found in NZ water, soil, sediment, crops, air, and also in the Southern Alps, Antarctica and Arctic. What can we do? The obvious choice is to buy organic food, and even better, grow your own food. In this way we will expose ourselves and our families less to the inevitable cocktail of chemicals that are present in ‘conventional’ food grown in a system of industrial agriculture. This inevitable cocktail of chemicals may include substances that cause cancer and endocrine disruption, or having an effect on the hormones in the body. No safe level for these effects have ever been scientifically established. By choosing organic food you are also supporting a system that does not pollute the environment. It is well established that organic agriculture helps to mitigate climate change, and is more resilient at times of stress, such as in droughts and floods. If you want more detail, including references, read the pdf of our full submission.

  • Children at risk from toxic pesticide: chlorpyrifos

    Media Release 9 February 2023 Children are at risk from a toxic pesticide – New Zealand should urgently reassess chlorpyrifos. We urgently need to get this toxic pesticide out of our children’s food. It’s been found in many foods, including raisins, peanut butter, tomatoes, a range of summer fruit and green vegetables. Children in New Zealand are being exposed to potentially dangerous levels of a toxic insecticide known to harm their brains, and more than in other countries. At 11.30am Thursday 9 February, the Safe Food Campaign is presenting a petition to Grant Robertson, calling for an urgent reassessment and ban of the insecticide chlorpyrifos. It is found in many foods and the environment in New Zealand, but already banned in 39 countries. [i] The petition is supported by an alliance of civil society organisations in Aotearoa New Zealand. "Children are particularly at risk from exposure to even minute amounts of chlorpyrifos, such as residues in food" “Children are particularly at risk from exposure to even minute amounts of chlorpyrifos, such as residues in food,” said Alison White of the Safe Food Campaign. “Alarmingly, a recent study found NZ school-age children had levels of chlorpyrifos metabolites between two and seven times higher than their peers in the USA, Canada, Spain or Thailand.” [ii] "It’s been found in many foods, including raisins, peanut butter, tomatoes, a range of summer fruit and green vegetables" “We urgently need to get this toxic pesticide out of our children’s food. It’s been found in many foods, including raisins, peanut butter, tomatoes, a range of summer fruit and green vegetables. [iii], [iv]” “The unborn infant is even more vulnerable: exposure to even very low levels at the foetal stage can result in structural changes in the developing brain and losses in cognitive function, particularly IQ and working memory,” said Claire Bleakley, of Pesticide Action Network. Chlorpyrifos has been determined to meet the initial UN process for a global ban because of its environmental and human health impacts. The POPs Review Committee, the technical committee of the Stockholm Convention, has found that chlorpyrifos is persistent in the environment, bioaccumulates in the food chain, undergoes long range environmental transport and is highly toxic to people and both aquatic and terrestrial organisms. [v] Asha Andersen of Flora and Fauna Aotearoa and Hana Blackmore of Weed Management Advisory support the petition and emphasise that New Zealand also has a duty and commitment to the environment. “We know that chlorpyrifos has been found not only in our rivers and streams but in the air over the Southern Alps from the Canterbury Plains,” said Asha Andersen. [vi] “The spray drift of this extremely persistent pesticide is carried through the air to faraway places, and it has even been found in Antarctica,” said Hana Blackmore. [vii] The NZ EPA were concerned enough to put chlorpyrifos on its reassessment list after significant new information relating to harmful effects. [viii] “The reassessment has been delayed, but in view of the recent NZ children study, we cannot wait for this process to slowly work its way through," said Alison White. “It’s time for Aotearoa New Zealand to step up to its commitments to its environment, and to keeping children safe. We need urgent action now.” Joint Media Release from the Safe Food Campaign, Flora & Fauna Aotearoa, Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa New Zealand (PANANZ) and the Weed Management Advisory (WMA). References: Petition presentation 11.30am Thursday 9 February parliament steps to Grant Robertson [i] Chlorpyrifos is banned in at least 39 countries: this Pesticide Action Network International consolidated list of banned pesticides was correct in May 2022. [ii] Yan Li et al. 2022. Study on Pesticide exposure in NZ school-aged children: Urinary concentrations of biomarkers and assessment of determinants. Environ. Int. 163:107206. [iii] Total Diet Study 2016 [iv] Food Residues Survey Programmes 2015-2021 [v]The insecticide chlorpyrifos has been found to meet the threshold criteria for a Persistent Organic Pollutant under the Stockholm Convention [vi) Lavan et al. 2012. Using Trace Elements in Particulate Matter to Identify the Sources of Semi volatile Organic Contaminants in Air at an Alpine Site. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2012, 46, 268–276. [vii] Hermanson, M. H., Isaksson, E., Hann, R., Ruggirello, R. M.,Teixeira, C., Muir, D. C. (2021). Historic Atmospheric Organochlorine Pesticide and Halogenated Industrial Compound Inputs to Glacier Ice Cores in Antarctica and the Arctic. /ACS Earth and Space Chemistry/, 5(9), 2534-2543. [viii] NZ EPA reassessment grounds (2020)

  • Pesticides in tomatoes

    Why should you choose organic tomatoes? Conventional tomatoes are likely to be heavily sprayed, and from research done so far, they will certainly feature in the next New Zealand dirty dozen, food available here that is more likely to contain pesticide residues. More than two thirds of samples tested had pesticides, including sauce and juice. The total number of pesticides in all the samples was a staggering 36! The total number of pesticides in all the samples was a staggering 36! Does this matter, you may ask? Doesn’t our regulatory authority MPI (Ministry for Primary Industries) ensure that pesticides are at safe levels? One of the many problems with current regulations is that pesticides are tested individually, not in the cocktail we actually consume. Another problem is that it is assumed a little bit of something that could cause cancer or disrupt the hormones won’t hurt us, when plenty of research indicates the contrary. In the 111 samples of tomatoes or tomato products tested, there were at least 19 pesticides that are carcinogens or that could cause cancer In the 111 samples of tomatoes or tomato products tested, there were at least 19 pesticides that are carcinogens or that could cause cancer, and as well 17 of them are endocrine disruptors, or substances that can have an effect on our hormones, even in minute quantities. Ten of the pesticides found are known to be toxic to bees – that’s not counting the pesticides that haven’t been sufficiently studied! There is some scientific data that suggests soaking conventional produce in vinegar and water (1:4) for 20 minutes will remove some pesticides, but not all, some of which go right through. Rinse in water afterwards. Peeling also removes some residues, but that’s not an easy option for tomatoes! We don’t really know the effects of all these pesticide residues on our health, but what we do know is that the environmental effects of using pesticides are bad, including the effects on soil, water, bees and climate change. We also know that by buying organic we are supporting a system that better supports us and the planet. Analysis by Alison White January 2023 Data from NZ FRSP 2013-2016 & TDS 2016.

  • What’s wrong with aspartame?

    What's wrong with aspartame, the artificial sweetener 951, found in thousands of products? Apart from MSG, it is the most complained about additive, with a very controversial and chequered history. Aspartame is linked in research to weight gain, increased appetite and diabetes. Decades of science point to serious health risks, with links to cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, seizures, shortened pregnancies and headaches. Like MSG it is addictive. Read more about its history, research and industry-funded studies that show no harm - Aspartame: Decades of science point to serious health risks

  • 7 Facts about Genetically Engineered Food

    Fact No. 1: Genetic engineering (GE) is a laboratory technique. Genetic engineering is a laboratory created seed technology that was commercialised for farming in 1995. It is an artificial process that cannot occur naturally. To date, no crop plant has been engineered for higher yield. Transgenics: where a cell has been altered by the random insertion of DNA from another species through laboratory engineering. Gene Editing: (CRISPR, TALENS, ZFN) an RNA enzyme cuts the chromosome and either deletes a gene/s or inserts an artificial gene. Gene drives force harmful genes through the whole population of a species posing major risks to ecosystems as they can't be recalled. These may easily spread to related native species and have potential to cause extinction of keystone species. GE usually employs bacterial and viral vectors to transport the foreign DNA/RNA into cells. These altered genes end up in every cell of the plant. Fact No. 2: Genetic engineering is imprecise and uncontrollable Gene editing tools like CRISPR can create unintended alterations (off target effects). The random insertion of foreign gene or genes may cause unexpected changes in the function. Existing molecules may be manufactured in incorrect quantities, at the wrong times, or new molecules may be produced. GE foods and food products may therefore contain unexpected toxins or allergens that could harm our health. Nature has developed processes that ensure genes in seeds are passed onto the next generation. Genes do no operate in isolation, but interact in complex ways that are not yet fully understood. Their expression can change in response to internal influences and to environmental triggers. eg day-length or temperature. Although a gene can be cut out from the DNA of an organism, its insertion into the DNA of another organism is entirely random. This results in the disruption of the chromosome’s DNA, which can lead to unexpected changes in the functioning of the cells, whole plants or animals. Imported GE food that is processed or prepared on site (eg. supermarket bread, restaurant foods), containing less than 1% GE ingredients, is exempt from being labelled as GE. Fact No.3: GE food has not undergone trials for safety We rely on the assessments carried out by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), usually based only on data supplied by the biotechnology companies. These companies normally own the patents for the GE organisms, thereby standing to benefit financially from the use of GE food. Gene editing can force genetic changes by overriding cellular repair systems that protect vital areas of DNA from random mutations. Food from gene-edited crops could not have occurred in nature, so these plants have no history of safe use as food. Independent long-term testing of each new gene-edited crop is required before we can be sure that GE food is safe to eat. New Zealand currently requires this stringency and this regulating should continue. Fact No.4: Produce grown in New Zealand and all certified organic food is currently non-GE GE products may be found in foods containing the following imported ingredients: Soya flour (often in breads, sausages, etc.) Soya flour (often in breads, sausages, etc.) Lecithin (in chocolate, ice cream etc.) Vegetable Oils (canola, soy, cotton seed, corn, rice oil) Corn (maize) Potato flour Wheat flour Yellow Rice Fact No.5: GE crops have substantially increased herbicide and pesticide use Crops engineered to be resistant to specific herbicides often have multiple genes (stacked genes), allowing the crop to be sprayed with up to 6 toxic herbicides, often several times per growing season. Since 1998, pesticide use in crops have increased by approximately 200 times. Weeds resistant to herbicides (“super weeds”) and insects resistant to pesticides are now plaguing farmers in the US & South America. This has lead to the increased use of even more toxic herbicides and pesticides. Cross-pollination occurs between GE crops and non-GE crops and their wild relatives. This can occur via insects, birds and the wind carrying GE pollen and seed into fields, often far away from the source. There is also evidence that GE crops, engineered to produce their own insecticide can kill beneficial insects (eg. bees) and soil organisms (eg earthworms and soil microbes). These insect-resistant GE plants exude toxins that poison the soil and have caused a devastating decline in pollinator species (bees and butterflies) and birds. Fact No. 6: GE crops do not benefit farmers or the environment Seeds of GE crops are patented and thus more expensive than those of conventional crops. Farmers have reported that yields on average are no higher and have not improved profitability. Insurance companies in the USA and UK do not insure farmers for losses from growing GE crops. Farmers growing GE crops have to sign binding contracts with the biotechnology companies. This means they can only use herbicides produced by the biotechnology companies. They must buy more expensive GE seeds each growing season. Fact No. 7: Organics is climate action A 30-year study carried out by the Rodale Institute, USA, found that GE crops have no overall improvement in yield compared to the same non-GE crops. The study showed that crops, performance, cost and yield from organic growing outperformed conventional growing methods, especially in climate-disturbed (eg floods, droughts) years. The breeding of improved, often heritage, seed varieties is now faster than GE, because of non-GE lab techniques. Heritage varieties of crop plants are often well adapted to a range of climatic and soil conditions. Notes: Edited by: Claire Bleakley & Elvira Dommisse, PhD Biotechnology Sept 2023 Please find supporting documentation on the GE Free website Download the PDF here

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