Lead found in kids juice and packaged fruit

The Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) recently tested a variety of kids’ juices and packages fruits. They found more than 85% exceeded California’s Proposition 65 right to know law for lead levels, meaning the lead levels in these products are high enough to warrant a warning label to consumers.

What’s disheartening is that lead was found in conventional and organic selections tested, and no one brand seemed to be safer across the board. For the products below the Prop 65 max level, it would be interesting to know where the manufacturers source their produce from for these products.

Lead is naturally occurring in soil and is possibly the reason why lead is being found in juice. However, more research is needed to determine if these are coming from isolated orchards or if this is some by product of the manufacturing process.

It’s important to note that there are NO SAFE amounts of lead. Lead is known to cause irreversible brain damage.

ELF has contacted the manufactures and they all have been warned to come into compliance within 60 days or a suit will be filed.

What can you do?
Juice is not needed in your child’s diet. It’s best if they get their nutrition from fresh fruits and vegetables. Offer plenty of water. I totally understand that sometimes you just want a little flavor, so squeeze your own juice, or choose a product that did not exceed the exceed Prop 65’s levels and be sure to dilute it with water.

We only have juice in our house as a special treat, and then the kids get it watered down. Juice is very sugary, yes natural sugar in the 100% juices, but still very sugary. And sugar leads to cavities which is the main reason we avoid juice, not to mention it’s expensive and offers little nutritional value. Your kids will live without a daily jolt of juice. My kids typically prefer ice water over even sweet tea, they also get milk.

See who made the cut and who didn’t 

Press release

Stonyfield Farm recalls plain fat free yogurt

stonyfield_yog_plain1Stonyfield Farm is voluntarilly recalling some of its 32 oz Plain Fat Free Yogurt. After receiving reports of a “funny taste” they determined that the food grade sanitizer used to clean the equipment was not properly rinsed away. No illnesses have been reported, however, Stonyfield decided to take immediate action.

Look at the time stamp on your Stonyfield 32 oz Plain Fat Free yogurt container and take it back to the store for a full refund if your yogurt has:
May 06 09 22 timestamp 22:17 through 23:59
May 07 09 all time stamps

Visit their website for more information. The recall info is on the homepage.

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Kashi products added to peanut butter recall

Kashi has added some products to the peanut butter recall. They have set up a website dedicated to this. Click here.

The products affected by the recall are:

  • Kashi™ TLC™ Chewy Granola Bars in Trail Mix and Honey Almond Flax varieties, 7.4 ounce box with a “Best If Used Before” date prior to September 19, 2009 and followed by the letters CD (SEP 19 2009 CD)

    Kashi™ TLC™ Chewy Granola Bars Peanut Peanut Butter, 7.4 ounce box with a “Best If Used Before” date prior to August 8, 2009 and followed by the letters CD (AUG 08 2009 CD)

    Kashi ™ TLC™ Chewy Cookies in Oatmeal Dark Chocolate, Happy Trail Mix and Oatmeal Raisin Flax varieties, 8.5 ounce box with a “Best If Used Before” date prior to July 30, 2009.

    These products were also included in some Club assortment and variety packs of Kashi™ TLC™ products.

  • Does organic milk come from grass fed cows?

    Not now, but it very soon could be a requirement. The USDA is considering requiring that all dairy cows used in producing organic milk be grass-fed during grazing season.

    I think this is a great step. Currently, these cows are fed grain that is not treated with pesticides. Grass is what cows naturally eat and what their bodies know how to process. Grain is not as easily digested and because of this, cows fed grain often have stomach ulcers, indigestion and other issues. Because of this unnatural diet, grain fed cattle are often treated with antibiotics to help prevent diseases common among grain fed cattle.

    Certainly would be a great step for all — healthier for the cows and for our consumption. Read the entire article here.

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    Is Horizon Milk really organic?

    No. Apparently it is not. Which explains why it’s so cheap and why Wal-Mart sells it. I had a friend tell me about this who read it somewhere, so one to never just take anyone’s word for it, I did a little research and found that Horizon is NOT organic, just as my friend had said. No Horizon products for this house.

    horizon1It’s really a shame as the Horizon brand is the number 1 selling organic brand of milk. Dean Foods bought Horizon, as well as Silk brand soy milk. Aurora Organic milk has also been pointed out as labeling themselves organic when they are really not.

    How do they get away with this? For one, they are lobbying to reduce the standards set forth for organic products to lower them to a more conventional standard. Uh, then what’s the point of “organic?” Until then, they are claiming that their animals have access to open pasture and to them, that’s good enough to call themselves organic. The truth is, their farms do not allow enough pasture for the number of cows they have. When reporters or other important folks visit one of their operations, some cows do see the pasture.

    Just proves that if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. Horizon is by far much cheaper than any other organic brand of milk I have come across. I had wondered how they were able to do this and now I know why. If you really want organic milk, DO NOT buy Horizon! If their sales weaken, they will realize consumers will not stand for just an organic label — we want a real organic product!

    Click here to read the full story.

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    Whole Foods recalls beef after customers get sick

    Whole Foods recalled all fresh ground beef sold between June 2 and Aug. 6 at its stores in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, the District of Columbia, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.

    Whole Foods realizes there was a system breakdown and it taking means to ensure this will not happen again. Read the NY Times article.

    This is troubling. I expect more out of Whole Foods. Their private label 365 brand canned food is lined with BPA, their 365 brand body care line contains dioxanes (a carcinogen) and they do not mention this on their packaging and have no plans to make a change. On the latter, they are involved in a law suit in California, where its required to have proper package labeling for products containing dioxanes.    

    So disappointing, Whole Foods. I am seriously rethinking my loyalty now. I want to be able to go to a store where I do not have to worry about pesticides, dioxanes, e-coli, etc. Even now, I still need to research and read product labels before picking anything up off the shelves no matter where I shop. I did feel safer with WF’s produce and meat, but that system has an obvious breakdown. Sure no one is perfect, but WF has certainly had it’s fair share of negatives in the very recent past. I hope they clean up their act and live up to consumer expectations.

    Is your organic food really organic?

    “When you buy food with a “USDA organic” label, do you know what you’re getting? Now is a good time to ask such a question, as the USDA just announced Monday it was putting 15 out of 30 federally accredited organic certifiers they audited on probation, allowing them 12 months to make corrections or lose their accreditation. At the heart of the audit for several certifiers were imported foods and ingredients from other countries, including China.” Read the entire article here.

    Well, that comes as no surprise – Chinese imports are not up to standards. The main problem here is China does not allow foreign inspectors, and since they have already proven they cannot be trusted to made toys without lead, why in the world would we trust them to meet, or preferably exceed, USDA standards for organic food.

    The article states the best way to get truly organic food is from a local farmer where you can visit the farm yourself. Either way, purchasing from the local farmers market is a good thing. You support local agriculture and reduce the amount of pollution that goes into the air when this produce needs to be transported across the country. Many local farmers also go beyond produce and offer a variety of meats, milk and eggs.

    While I shop at Whole Foods each week, I am definitely going to start being more serious about going to the local farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. Plus, the ones in my city go beyond produce stands and have entertainment, stands with other homemade goods and more. So I am certain my 2 year old will also have fun and something we will be able to enjoy as a family.

    I am also going to sign us up (well hope to) for the farm co-op. I have been wanting to do this for some time, but was concerned if we would be able to eat everything before it went bad. And with the rising cost of food, now would be a good time to sign on up.

    We have also planted a small garden, so I KNOW that will be organic, but I can’t grow everything!

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    Eating healthy with the rising cost of groceries

    I thought this was a good article on ways to still eat healthy with the rising cost of groceries. I put my own comments at the end of each tip in brackets, plus some additional ones at the end. Please feel free to post your own tips in the comments section.

    With Grocery costs On the Rise, Can You Afford To Eat Healthy?
    by Mary Pickett, M.D., Harvard Medical School
    May 27, 2008

    Swallow hard—your grocery bill is getting more expensive.

    According to a U.S. Government report, this April’s food prices were 14% higher for bread, 13.5% higher for milk, and 5% higher for food overall compared with last year’s prices.  Last month’s food cost increase was the largest in the past 18 years.

    I am motivated, as I am sure you are, to find ways to keep my grocery bill in check. At the same time, I want to make sure I am eating healthy. But healthy foods can be expensive!  Is it possible for us to “tighten our belts” in both cost and calories at the same time, and still enjoy eating?

    Here are some ways to keep healthy foods in your pantry, and more money in your wallet:

    1.      Buy no sodas

    Sweetened drinks have a major impact on weight and diabetes. Your body can absorb sweeteners easily, with little digestion. This results in a large spike of insulin in your bloodstream. Experts think that when dramatic insulin spikes occur over and over, this can lead to diabetes.

    The Nurses’ Health Study interviewed and examined 50,000 American women in an eight-year period. Women who drank one or more sodas or sweetened drinks daily were almost twice as likely to develop diabetes compared with women who seldom drank soda. The women who drank sodas regularly also were about 10 pounds heavier on average, but the trend towards diabetes did not appear to be explained by weight gain alone. Drinking water (either straight from the tap or filtered at home) is much cheaper than buying soda.

     [I totally agree with Mary here, but I would add all junk food to this category: chips, cookies, snack crackers, etc. These have high calories and fat; and very little nutritional value. Snack on fruits, veggies, yogurt or hummus instead. These are healthy, low-fat, low-calorie options.]

    2.      Put a limit on juices

    Juices are more natural than sodas, but they pack a lot of sugar and they carry little fiber. They give you calories but they don’t fill you up. Juices should be limited, even for kids.

    [I agree, plus too much juice is shown to lead to cavities in children, which adds an expense of another kind.]

    3.      Always buy dairy

    Milk products are loaded with calcium and are supplemented with vitamin D, both of which are important for bone health. Calcium may also be important for weight loss, although this is an area that needs more study. Keep low-fat or non-fat dairy options on hand all the time. Having basic dairy ingredients and eggs in your refrigerator at all times may enable you to pull together a fairly health and low-cost meal at home instead of eating out.

    [Again I agree here, we never run out of yogurt, cheese or milk! Another tip, try plain fat-free yogurt instead of sour cream, it’s a little cheaper, much less fat and I personally prefer the flavor over sour cream. Boiled eggs are fast and easy for breakfast and nothing wrong with having breakfast for dinner!]

    4.      Save on meats

    I love meat, but you don’t need much of it for a meal. Groceries package meats in large portions, but packaging doesn’t have to determine your serving size. For example, I slice pork-chops into half-thickness slices, because they cook more easily and stretch farther.  Sometimes I will serve ravioli in broth, instead of serving meat on the side—the carnivore in me is satisfied, even though I haven’t eaten a whole serving of meat.

    Remember canned fish and clams, which can be lower cost seafood items. Canned tuna is made from “throw-away” tuna fish that are too small to be cut into steaks. Since canned tuna is from younger fish, it has less mercury contamination per serving than you can find in a tuna steak.

    [I agree again, though this is a hard one for our carnivore-ic society, including my family. I shop at Whole Foods for meat, so I can get the exact amount I want, rather then having to find a pre-packaged one with the amount I want (never happens). This allows me to control what I make, so it helps control costs. I do only feed my family organic meat. I truly believe there is a benefit to not eating all those hormones and extra pesticides.]

    5.      Introducing legumes!

    If you don’t regularly cook with beans, lentils, garbanzos, hummus, dal or other legume foods, find a recipe or two that you want to try and bring them into your household. These are a great source of protein and nutrition, and they are cheap.

    [Give your toddler some pita and hummus as a snack – we never run out because my 2-year-old eats it daily. It’s her favorite! We love it as well – it’s loaded with protein, its low fat and it’s just all round healthy!]

    6.      Is it important to buy organic?

    Buying “organic” can steeply increase the price you pay for fruits, vegetables, milk and grains. For many people, this is simply not an option. If you can afford organic foods, are they worth their extra cost? It is hard to say for sure.

    The most important difference between organic and non-organic foods is the presence of pesticides. Large exposures to pesticides are known to be dangerous, since pesticides can be toxic to nerves.  But small exposures (like the small exposure you can get from non-organic foods) don’t cause obvious harms.

    One study of pre-school children showed that kids who eat an organic foods diet have less organophosphate pesticide measured in their urine, compared with other children. There is no good study that can prove—one way or the other—whether lifelong trace exposure to pesticides can cause human harm. The risk of pesticide exposure might or might not be worth your worry. It is probably not important enough to warrant the extra cost, although it is hard to be sure.

    Don’t buy organic foods if you need to cut down on the quantity of fruits and vegetables that you buy in order to afford them. Washing, peeling, freezing and cooking fruits and vegetables eliminate a portion of the pesticides that contaminate them, so these are additional good strategies. Animals that are raised for meat have higher pesticide residue in fat, so removing fat and skin from meat also reduces your pesticide exposure.

    If you choose to spend extra on organic foods, buy the organic versions of the fruits and vegetables in the “dirty dozen”—these are the foods that have the most pesticide residue: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes (imported), spinach, lettuce and potatoes. Experts from the Environmental Working Group say at least half of our pesticide exposure from food comes from these items.

    [I don’t agree with everything here. I personally believe there is a lot of benefit to eating organics and limiting exposure to pesticides, especially in young children. While we are not 100% organic, I always buy the organic versions of the dirty dozen, meats and milk. To be perfectly honest, sometimes organics are cheaper than the conventional version (this is rare but have seen it with items such as kiwi). It will also be interesting to see how prices will compare to locally grown items – they don’t have to travel far, one of the main reasons for the drastic increases in food – higher gas prices means it costs more to transport food. Try local farmer’s markets, a farm co-op or the locally grown section at your grocery store. Locally grown does not mean it’s organic, but typically has less pesticides since they do not have to travel far and are usually eaten more quickly.]

    7.      Is it important to buy the more expensive hormone-free (r-BGH and r-BST free) milk?

    Probably not. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has gone to great lengths to reassure the public that hormones used to boost milk production in cows don’t present a danger. The FDA is probably correct in taking this stand. These hormones, and the hormone that is associated with them in cows (insulin-like growth factor-1, or IGF-1) would create concern if they were digested in a way that they could enter the human bloodstream in significant levels. However, like other complicated proteins, these hormones deteriorate in our digestive tracts when they are exposed to stomach acid and digestive enzymes. Some studies dispute that the hormones are even present in cows’ milk in the first place, after they are injected into the cow. All milk on the grocery shelf—as long as it is pasteurized—is probably safe to buy.

    [I do not agree with this either. I do not see how the presence of hormones and pesticides in milk can be beneficial. Also, organic milk tastes so much better to my family, so I am likely to drink more and waste less. The FDA is wrong a lot, so you can’t go just based on that. And they best they can say is conventional milk is “probably” safe, and that’s just not good enough when it comes to the health of my family.]

    Whatever you do to reduce your grocery bill, don’t sacrifice fruits and vegetables. They can be expensive, but cutting down on garden foods in is not a good idea. These foods are just so good for you, that this is not the place to save on your grocery bill. Fresh produce is best, but canned or frozen fruits or vegetables have almost equal nutritional value to fresh foods, and they may be less expensive during certain times of the year. Remember that you can freeze vegetables if you don’t eat them right away.

    [Agree here again – don’t skimp on fruits and veggies. Eat seasonal fruits and veggies – they are much cheaper in season. You can buy in bulk and share the food and cost with neighbors/family; or you can freeze and eat it during the “off season.” Pick a few items you may regularly eat and start your own garden (i.e. maybe tomatoes, onions, carrots).]

    What are your priorities when you shop for groceries, with both health and cost in mind? What tricks do you have to save on healthy foods? What do you leave out of your grocery bag?

    Mary Pickett, M.D., is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University where she is a primary care doctor for adults. Her field is Internal Medicine. She is also a Lecturer for Harvard Medical School and a Senior Medical Editor for Harvard Health Publications.

    Other tips:
    1. Make simple, healthy, low cost meals that will generate leftovers (i.e. spaghetti, shepherds pie).
    2. As Dave Ramsey says “rice and beans, beans and rice.” This is good ole meal with or without meat.
    3. Buy store brands: I can be brand loyal, but some items you really can’t tell the difference. I get Whole Foods brand milk, store brand butter, sometimes rice, some canned goods (though it’s very rare I buy canned foods since the lining contains BPA).
    4. Clip coupons.
    5. Watch your grocery’s weekly circular. Plan your meals based on what’s on sale that week.
    6. Make a shopping list and stick to it! Do not stray or make impulse buys. I make one exception, if I see an item on sale, or a buy one get one free deal for something I use regularly, I will get the item because I will save in the long run. Pasta sauce for example – we eat spaghetti a lot! Or if ground beef is on sale, I will get a couple extra pounds to store in the freezer.
    Got a tip to save on groceries? Please share by posting a comment!