Friday, February 25, 2011

An interesting article on the what we're not being told in regards to food labelling and genetically modified foods.

Published in the SMH on Saturday 26/02/2011

The ingredients that dare not speak their name

February 26, 2011
Chef Jared Ingersoll explores some unmodified ingredients with students from Darlington Primary School.
Chef Jared Ingersoll explores some unmodified ingredients with students from Darlington Primary School. Photo: Quentin Jones

Food authorities are keeping a few secrets, writes Carli Ratcliff.

UNLIKE most households, Vegemite toast is no longer a staple at chef Jared Ingersoll's place. The jar has gone to the back of the cupboard. Owned by the US company Kraft, the nation's favourite spread may contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients. Likewise, Australia's favourite chocolate treat, the Caramello Koala.

Both have been given a ''red light'' by the Truefood Guide, an annual consumer guide by Greenpeace to be published on Tuesday. The Guide earmarks commonplace foods that either contain GM ingredients or whose manufacturers refuse to provide transparent information regarding the origin of ingredients. Other ''red lights'' include Smith's Crisps, Kellogg's K-Time Twists, Baker's Delight breads, Naytura cereals, Birds Eye fish fingers and Ingham's chicken nuggets.

''Green lights'' have been awarded to companies including Sanitarium, the makers of Weet-Bix, Schweppes Cottee's Cordial, Heinz baby food, and Goodman Fielder, the bakers of Wonder White and Mighty Soft breads.


Ian Greenshields, director of corporate affairs at Goodman Fielder, says the company implemented a non-GM policy in reaction to consumer concern. "Across all of our brands we've found that consumers are mistrustful of GM ingredients in their food," he says.

Consumer interest was also the impetus for the Truefood Guide's focus on foods marketed at children, after they were inundated with enquiries from concerned parents following Truefood Australia's detection of GM ingredients in S-26 soy infant formula last September.

Laura Kelly, the genetic engineering team leader at Truefood Australia, says theGuide gives parents information that labels don't. "In the absence of mandatory labelling, theGuide helps parents make informed choices."

Ingersoll will launch the guide with fellow chef Peter Gilmore of Quay and the Wiggles' Murray Field. All are concerned about the lack of transparency in food labelling, opinions they made known to the recent Independent Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy. "The refusal to label all foods that contain GM ingredients means our options are removed," Ingersoll says. "We need to have the opportunity to make informed choices for our kids."

His concerns have fallen on deaf ears. The review received 6486 submissions from consumers. Chaired by the former health minister Neal Blewett, it did not recommend mandatory labelling of foods that contain GM ingredients, a requirement already mandatory in Britain, France and Germany.

The approval and labelling requirements of foods containing GM ingredients is the responsibility of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). In November last year Senator Nick Xenophon and the Greens senator Rachel Siewert introduced a bill to Parliament that would require FSANZ to implement mandatory labelling of food containing GM material.

"This is an area where consumers are being deliberately left in the dark," Mr Xenophon says. "The labelling requirements for GM need to be completely overhauled and tough new standards need to be enforced."

FSANZ relies on information provided by the applicant to assess the safety of a food product. It says that manufacturer self-regulation of this nature is in line with international standards, namely the principles of the United Nations' food regulatory arm, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (the Codex), of which Australia is a member.

However, like the US government's food regulatory authorities, FSANZ seemingly overlooks the Codex's standards for labelling prepackaged foods, which clearly state that labelling should include "any special requirements to ensure that the consumer is not deceived or misled about the nature of the food".

A recent Auditor-General's report found FSANZ's analysis of data supplied by manufacturing companies lacking. The FSANZ chief scientist, Dr Paul Brent, when asked if FSANZ undertakes scientific testing of products, replied: "No, in order to get an approval the applicant supplies us with information from which we make an assessment."

Ms Kelly at Truefood Australia says the system is not good enough. "Relying on data supplied by the manufacturer is hardly robust regulation."

On Thursday Forbes writer Glenn Lammi called individuals concerned about GM ingredients "foodie elite" and "Luddite activists".

Mr Xenophon disagrees. "This is an issue that transcends ideological fault lines. Many consumers would prefer not to eat GM products, but right now they don't have a choice."

Ms Kelly agrees. "All we ask is to prove that it is safe, and label it," she said.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Do you use a microwave oven?
Have a read of this article, it's long, but well worth the read. It might just get you rethinking your microwave oven use.
Also if you have a spare 7 minutes, have a look at the YouTube video it introduces us to the prospect of Type 3 Diabetes - environmental diabetes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


FARMERS MARKETS, gotta love them! How could you possibly go wrong and who wouldn't consider buying your produce at a farmers markets when you consider the advantages. Cheap, fresh, direct from the farmer produce, and it's not just that. I think I started going to a farmers market in Sydney about 10 or so years ago, the one at Orange Grove just up the road from Balmain.

I remember wandering through the stalls for the first time and feeling like I had been transported back in time or to another country wandering between the stalls looking for the best produce available, talking to the farmer just felt so right and so old fashioned. And I have never looked back. I love being able to ask the farmer when something was picked or when these eggs were laid. Have you ever had a truly fresh egg? It's a different experience. The egg white has two parts rather than just the one runny one we are all so used to. And they taste so good.

I also love supporting the farmer, not only is the product cheaper and fresher because it's been driven straight from the farm by the farmer, but you cut out the "middle man" (generally some HUGE corporate company that makes a bucket load and pays the farmer a pittance) and the farmer puts the money straight into his pocket.

We have some great farmers markets up here in the Byron Shire, but now we have an even better one, one right in Mullumbimby that started just last Friday. My husband asked me the morning of the first market when I was excitedly getting ready, "So what would make it a good market for you"? And I replied, "If the butcher is there". My friends would understand this is a strange thing for me to say being a vegetarian for over 21 years, but my husband and son eat meat and if they are going to eat meat I want to know they are getting the best meat! My boys are pretty simple when it comes to meat, if I give them a snag every few days they're happy (and I don't have to do anything with them other than throw them on the barbie). The gourmet sausages that I buy for them from the market are chemical, hormone, antibiotic and gluten free. The cows are pasture fed and slaughtered a day or two before I buy the sausages.

Being a vegetarian and thinking of animals being slaughtered in less than appealing. But this is not mass production of meat, this is a local farmer supplying to his local consumers. He looks after his animals organically and supplies a healthy option for meat eaters. This is what eating looked like before big companies stepped in and took over and started producing food on a huge scale and altering it to produce more faster.

Another advantage of buying your produce at a farmers market is that you can buy organic food at a reasonable price. If you have always wanted to buy organic food but thought it was too expensive, try buying it at your local farmers market. You'll never go back....

But have said that, I also find I spend less at the markets (even buying organic) because you don't have all those extra aisle to look at and you don't buy things you never actually realised you needed before seeing it in a grocery store. And the atmosphere at a farmers market is always so alive and buzzing, it's like those that go there are excited about food again, excited about the quality of food they are buying and it's a social thing too, often you run into people you know.

I'm sure I could write a bunch more, but I hope I've written enough to inspire you to go and try a farmers market close to you. I've added a link to a list of some of the markets around Australia, so have a look and have a go. I'm off to my local in the morning.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Additives to avoid.

Ok, so I have been very busy, sorry I haven't had a chance to share anything with you of late, my son started school this year, woohoo, such a big adjustment in a little boy's life and it has to be said, his parents lives too. But being busy hasn't meant I haven't been on the look out for things to share with you and I've been writing about plastics again, this time an article for a small health magazine and it has to be said my ideas on what was a "safer" choice in plastic may be changing the more I read. I'll share my article with you soon.

But for now, a little advice on additives. If you are really keen to have a greater understanding on the effects of additives there's a book I would recommend called "Additive Alert" by Julie Eady, there is also a website, (see link - ). But to get you started, this is a list that is a recommended "NO GO" zone for additives. For various reasons the following additives are considered the worst - suspected carcinogens, banned in other Countries or have been linked to serious health complications - See list -
102, 104, 110, 122, 123, 124, 127, 129, 131, 132, 133, 151, 153, 155, 160b, 173, 174, 175, 211, 249, 250, 251, 252, 280, 281, 282, 283, 310, 311, 312, 319, 320, 321, 385, 407, 407a, 431, 433, 435, 436, 466, 530, 553, 621, 627, 631, 635, 900, 914, 943a, 950, 951, 952, 954, 1201, 1520, 1521.

This is the list I would recommend you write out for yourself and take with you in your purse/wallet every time you go to a grocery store. These are the additives you should definitely avoid, especially when buying for children. If you suffer from Asthma, the list may be more extensive as asthma sufferers tend to be more sensitive to the effects of additives.

I also recommend, as a way to avoid additives as much as possible, eat fresh, real organic food and make your own treats. My son doesn't go without treats, but most of them are home-made. I make gluten free banana bread, pikelets, brownies and muffins for him and freeze them so I always have them on hand for him when he wants a treat and they're great to add as a snack to school lunches. I spend way more time in my kitchen than I ever did but I love doing it, I love making good, wholesome, sugar free, additive free treats that taste delicious. Cooking for your family should be a joy and the long term benefits far outweigh the ease of buying something pre-packaged and processed.

By the way, if you ever want any recipes, I am very happy to share, please just ask.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate & Sodium Laureth Sulphate

I know I've already written about labels and the importance of reading them, but that was food labels. Now I want to ask you to read your cosmetic, toothpaste, dishwashing liquid, body wash, shaving foam, facial cleansers and finally shampoo labels, to name a few. Basically anything that you use that foams and bubbles. Why? To see how many of your products contain either sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulphate, also known as Sodium lauryl ether sulphate (SLES).

SLS and SLES are chemical surfactants that are very effective foaming agents. They also have a degenerative effect on the cell membrane during absorption, metabolism and excretion, studies have shown, according to the American College of Toxicology. In lab tests on rabbits, a 10% SLS solution caused corneal damage to rabbits’ eyes if not irrigated or if irrigation was delayed. The use of SLS and SLES in children's products is particularly worrying, as application, even via the skin leads to measured concentrations within the eyes of children. The American college of Toxicology has also stated that "Tests show permanent eye damage in young animals from skin contact in non-eye areas".

In other words, SLS is absorbed through the skin, it does not need to come into direct contact with the eyes for it to cause potentially permanent eye damage. And just like bisphenol a (BPA) both SLS and SLES are endocrine disruptors, which mimic the hormone oestrogen. The potential health implications of this could lead to a variety of issues from PMS to increased risk of cancer in women to reduced fertility rates in men, which are already on the decline due to the chemical phthalate being used in so many commercial products already. (See The disappearing Male link).

So why is it being used in so many commercially, readily and widely available products? Simply answered, it's cheap! And just because a product may have "Natural" in it's name or on the label somewhere doesn't mean it is natural. It may still contain SLS or SLES or a multitude of other chemicals or additives. The important thing to do is to read your labels and do your homework, research the products you are already using and see what they contain.

Changing all your products from unnatural to natural and chemical free is a big and potentially expensive process, so what do I recommend? Baby steps, change one item a week, start with your toothpaste. especially your children's. Children's toothpaste is full of a myriad of chemicals, it may be lower in sugar but it's not lower in chemicals! Look for products that are sulphate free, ask questions at your local health food store and look online.

Friday, January 22, 2010


I'm a strong advocate of stainless steel and glass food storage containers over plastic, but, I also realise that eliminating plastic from your life can be a difficult process. It's so readily available and it's cheap. Cheap wins out a lot of the time and fair enough. So what can you do to ensure you are using a "better" form of plastic when storing your food?

As a general rule, plastic containers will have a recycling number stamped on their bottom, this is also the way to identify the type of plastic.

The following plastics are consider the safer alternatives to stainless steel and glass containers;
  • #1 Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) containers are recyclable and generally considered the safest single-use plastic-bottle choice. But they are best not reused because studies indicate that after repeated use, porous PET containers may start to absorb bacteria and flavors or leach the heavy metal antimony (an eye, skin and lung irritant at high doses).
  • #2 High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is both durable and accepted by most curbside recycling programs. .
  • #4 Low-density polyethylene (LDPE), like its cousin HDPE, is a food-safe plastic, mostly used to make food wraps and plastic bags.
  • #5 Polypropylene (PP), though less recyclable, has not been shown to leach any carcinogens or endocrine disruptors. Readily available in reusable containers.
The following Plastics are best avoided altogether;
  • #3 Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) releases carcinogenic dioxins into the environment when manufactured or incinerated and can leach phthalates.
  • #6 Polystyrene (PS) can leach styrene, a possible human carcinogen.
  • #7 Polycarbonate plastics, used in clear, rigid sports bottles and some baby bottles, contain bisphenol A, a known hormone disruptor that has recently been linked to a wide variety of health disorders, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, some types of cancer and childhood hyperactivity disorders.
I think one of the most important considerations a parent needs to take into account is the food container used for their child's school lunch container. There are so many bright, colourful plastic containers (with favourite action hero, princess etc. on it) that attract kids that it's hard to avoid the pressure from the kids not buy them.

My son has a stainless steel 3 tiered tiffin tin for his lunch box, not very exciting I know, and he also had issue with it when I packed his lunch in it, why can't I have a spiderman one he asked? I explained to him that this was a safer healthier lunch container and if he liked we could decorate it with stickers. This is what we did, he picked out his favourite superhero stickers and we decorated it.

A few tips to help reduce your plastic in your day to day and a few general plastic tips -

  • Store all left over food in containers if possible, otherwise opt for aluminium foil to store food in
  • When buying food from the supermarkets look for products that come in a glass jar, less chance of plastic leaching in to your food then
  • Buy in bulk! Take your own containers to a store that sells food in bulk, some health food stores do this, this is something you may need to research. I take a lot of my glass containers up to my local store and refill with the products I need including nuts, chai tea, seaweed, rice, honey, dishwashing liquid, peanut butter, tahini etc.
  • When I do buy products in plastic (the brown rice flour I buy only comes in plastic) I take it out of the plastic and put it in a glass jar when I get home, reducing the longer term chances of leaching. I cut the label of the product I'm putting in the jar and sticky tape it to the front.
  • My cupboard is filled with re-used glass jars, they are great for putting food in for storage
  • If you are using plastic to store your food in, make sure you use only the ones above considered the safer options and try and put food in to the plastic once it reaches room temperature. Keep it in the pot or pan until it cools down and then transfer.
  • And remember, the golden rule, if you use a microwave, never heat food in plastic in it.
I hope this has helped clarify the better forms of plastic to use, if you need to use plastic at all.

Information on the classifications of plastics (above) came from the following site - which is a great site to check out.

Thanks Rachael

Wednesday, January 13, 2010