Congress announces that frozen pizza is a vegetable….?!

Seward Co-op Organic Frozen Pizza

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In a bizarre move, Congress announced last Tuesday that frozen pizza was a vegetable, rebuking new USDA guidelines for school lunches that would have led to an increase in fresh fruit and vegetables in school cafeterias.

Bowing to large food companies, and ignoring science (and simple logic), US Congress announced that the tomato paste on frozen pizza qualified it as a vegetable. American politicians seemed to either miss or disregard the fact that tomatoes are actually a fruit and not a vegetable, not to mention the fact that the tomato paste on frozen pizza is full of sugar, chemicals and other NON-VEGETABLE, UNHEALTHY ingredients.

Still, it’s hard to act surprised at this move. After all, big  food companies have spent $5.6 million lobbying against new rules. How much pocket-money have kids spent on lobbying? Exactly.

Many conservative US politicians also believe that the government shouldn’t tell people what to eat, even in school cafeterias. But these same conservatives don’t seem to mind big food companies telling people what to eat…

As the Huffington Post reports:

“Herein lies the brilliance of the food industry — not only has it created a myriad of products but it also created the idea that children want industrial food products above all else. While most Americans have bought into this notion, it’s simply not true. Children 100 years ago couldn’t have possibly eaten the industrial foods they are eating today…

…The food industry literally shapes and changes the palates of our children. Constantly eating sugary, salty and fatty food products adjusts taste preference to the point that simple, real foods taste bland and unappealing. While the food industry insists that it only advertises to children “to influence brand preference,” a study published in the journal Appetite found that the food industry works to, “fundamentally change children’s taste palates to increase their liking of highly processed and less nutritious foods.”

But while Congress is happy to cater for the food corporations, the rising obesity problem in the US is getting worse. Big companies are making big money from people’s ill health, from children’s poor diets, while Congress blocks new guidelines that could actually help improve kids’ diets.

CNN reported that nearly 1 in 5 four-year-olds are obese in America, and the problem is getting so bad that even military figures are starting to worry; the Associated Press reports that: “a group of retired generals advocating for healthier school lunches also criticized the spending bill.”

The group has stated that poor nutrition in schools is a ‘national security issue’ because obesity is a leading medical disqualifier for military service.

Amy Dawson Taggart, the director of the group, said in a letter to members of Congress: “We are outraged that Congress is seriously considering language that would effectively categorize pizza as a vegetable in the school lunch program. It doesn’t take an advanced degree in nutrition to call this a national disgrace.”

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Head of tobacco company states that tobacco “is not that hard to quit”

Marlboro

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The CEO of international tobacco company Philip Morris International Inc. told a cancer nurse that cigarettes are not that hard to quit, the Associated Press reports.

CEO Louis C. Camilleri‘s statements were made at an annual shareholder meeting in New York, where executives from tobacco corporations such as Marlboro and other brands clashed with anti-tobbaco groups and other ‘corporate accountability groups’. A nurse identified as Elisabeth Gundersen cited statistics regarding tobbaco use, such as the fact that tobacco kills over 400,000 Americans and more than 5 million people worldwide each year. She also said that a patient remarked that out of all the addictions he’d beaten, including crack, cocaine and meth, cigarettes had been the most difficult. Gundersen is a member of the Nightingales Nurses, an anti-tobacco activist group that focuses on raises public attention on the tobacco industry.

Camilleri, described by Associated Press as “often-unapologetic”, replied to the nurse’s statements by belittling tobacco’s addiction. He stated: “We take our responsibility very seriously, and I don’t think we get enough recognition for the efforts we make to ensure that there is effective worldwide regulation of a product that is harmful and that is addictive. Nevertheless, whilst it is addictive, it is not that hard to quit… There are more previous smokers in America today than current smokers.”

Philip Gorham, Morninstar analysist, said it is the addictiveness that makes the tobacco industry such a profitable business, saying: “It’s in the interest of executives to give the impression that they don’t want new smokers to take up smoking, that they believe that people who do, can quit, but the statistics tell another story.”

Following Camilleri’s statement, Philip Morris International came back with its disclaimer that “tobacco products are addictive and harmful.”

The U.S. Public Health Service says around 45% of U.S. smokers try to quit each year, yet only  4 to 7%  of them are successful.

Camilleri also talked about the challenges that the tobacco industry is facing during the shareholder meeting, describing how tax hikes, increased regulation, bans on product displays and ingredients and further restrictions could impede competition and add costs for retailers. Last year, Philip Morris International’s profits rose by 14.5%. The company has raised prices and focused on emerging markets for growth as cigarette demand falls, the Associated Press writes. Philip Morris International is the world’s largest non-governmental cigarette seller, selling such big brands as Marlboro and L&M.

Herbal remedies = Bad, GM crops = Good

Chinese herbal store reposted with lomo effect...

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In a controversial move that will primarily benefit US exporters, genetically modified (GM) crops will be allowed to enter the UK without the need for regulatory clearance for the first time under plans expected to be approved this week.

Currently, imported animal feed containing GM feed has to be authorised by European regulators, but the UK is set to back EU plans to permit the importing of feed containing traces of unauthorised GM crops.

According to The Observer, “a vote on Tuesday in favour of the scheme put forward by the EU’s standing committee on the food chain and animal health would overturn the EU’s “zero tolerance” policy towards the import of unauthorised GM crops.”

This move would be a victory for the pro-GM lobby and would greatly benefit US exporters, however environmental groups are likely to be alarmed at these proposals.

“The GM industry is pushing this proposal so it can wedge its foot firmly in the door and open up the British and European markets to food no one wants to eat,” said Helen Wallace, director of GeneWatch UK, a campaigner against GM food. “Its long-term aim is to contaminate the food chain to such an extent that GM-free food will disappear.”

Eve Mitchell, food policy advisor at Food and Water Europe (a campaign group), says: “This is a solution without a problem, and the price could be very high indeed when unknown genetically modified organisms are let loose in the food chain.

“Rather than ignoring EU food safety laws to help the US soy industry cut costs, we should simply buy the stuff from countries that segregate their GM properly. If it hasn’t been tested, why eat it?”

Meanwhile in an unrelated yet similarly alarming move, hundreds of herbal products will be banned in Britain from 1 May in accordance with an EU-wide ban on herbal medicinal products.

From 1 May 2011, traditional herbal medicinal products must be licensed or prescribed by a registered herbal practitioner. However, the move has caused some criticism as herbal practitioners say it is difficult for most herbal medicines to meet the licensing requirements, due to the large costs of testing. The Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) estimates the cost of obtaining a licence at between £80,000 and £120,000 per herb. They say this will be affordable for single herbal products with big markets but will drive small producers of medicines containing multiple herbs out of business.

Thousands of patients who use herbal treatments may lose access to the herbal medicinal products, and medical organisations including the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have warned that these measures may drive patients to obtain the medicines over the internet at a much greater risk.

Michael McIntyre, the chairman of the European Herbal and Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association, said: “The problem is you can’t get a licence for many herbal medicines because they are grown in people’s back gardens and you can’t patent them. The implications are very serious. Patients want to receive treatment from trained and qualified practitioners but unless we have regulation they can’t have confidence in who is treating them. The worst outcome is that patients will end up going to the internet for their herbal medicines where there are no controls.”

The EU law has been implemented due to rising concerns over safety and of the adverse effects caused by some herbal medicines. However, there have been criticisms that the ban will have negative effects for huge numbers of people across Europe. Dr Rob Verkerk, of the ANH, said: “Thousands of people across Europe rely on herbal medicines to improve their quality of life. They don’t take them because they are sick – they take them to keep healthy. If these medicines are taken off the market, people will try and find them elsewhere, such as from the internet, where there is a genuine risk they will get low quality products, that either don’t work or are adulterated.”

Although the GM crops and herbal remedies proposals are unrelated, it does seem as if the general consensus in the EU at the moment is that GM crops are harmless, whilst herbal medicinal remedies are a safety concern. Or am I being too cynical?

Europe: GM crops 1, Herbal remedies 0

Coalition strips cancer victim of state support

Derek Carpenter, 63, has advanced prostate cancer. He lives in constant pain and walking proves difficult, an activity which leaves him “feeling like the bones are sticking out from the bottom of his feet”. He cannot leave his home without a wheelchair. Despite this the government, famous for its zealous use of the word “fairness” when describing its “progressive” policies, has decided that Derek is no longer entitled to state support.

Following a “Work Capability Assessment”, the 63-year old cancer victim was told he was not eligible for Employment and Support Allowance, which replaces Incapacity Benefit. Derek says he is “a worker not a shirker, and I have been all my life”, yet the jobs he could do are non-existant, given his health and lack of mobility. Derek’s situation is not unique – unfortunately we will be hearing more cases like his over the course of this government.

The Citizens Advice Bureau is currently dealing with numerous cases like Derek, instances where people who truly require state support to get by have been stripped of benefits by a coalition government which cares more about allowing the banking sector to continue to hand out extortionate bonueses than being concerned with the more vulnerable members of society. Chris Darlington from Haverhill CAB says: “I am in the process at the moment of between 30 and 35 cases at the moment… the regulations are being too stringent”

Perhaps the name change is somewhat telling. The formerly entitled “Incapacity Benefit” has been replaced by “Employment and Support Allowance”, though clearly people like Derek Carpenter do not require support in the coalition’s eyes.

The Department for Work and Pensions says “The Work Capability Assessment is designed to assess whether someone is fit for work rather than writing people off on a lifetime of benefits” and that “changes will be made to iron out any problems”. Well unfortunately for some people, like Derek, they do require a “lifetime of benefits” simply to get by day to day. I highly doubt many would consider themselves “written off” merely because they need state support to get by. Some might say it is actually an insult to descibe them in that way.

Until the time when “changes” are “ironed out”, people like Derek will have to suffer, with little option but to appeal.

 

 

Oh, and check out this lovely article by the Daily Mail below. It details the “shocking” number of people on “sick benefits”. Yes, there are those that will “play the system” out of idleness or laziness, but there are thousands of people just like Derek Carpenter who need state support to continue living. It is propaganda like this that has contributed to this government’s “tough stance” on people claiming benefits.

Beauty sleep is not a myth

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Ground-breaking new research has shown that people deprived of sleep for long periods of time appear less attractive and more unhealthy, a study has concluded. Unbelievable.

A Swedish study has shown that the concept of “beauty sleep” is not a myth – although being a “well known” concept it has lacked scientific support.

Volunteers in the study were photographed after eight hours sleep and again after being kept awake for 31 hours. Remarkably, observers rated the sleep deprived volunteers as being less attractive and less healthy than their well-rested selves – truly some revolutionary findings. Who would have known, unless this study was conducted?

The untrained observers were asked to “rate” the faces of 23 young men and women after a normal night’s sleep and then after a night of sleep-deprivation. The authors concluded in the British Medical Journal:

“Sleep deprived people are perceived as less attractive, less healthy and more tired compared with when they are well rested”

I’m sorry but, excuse me? Sleep deprived people are perceived of as being more tired in comparison to when they are well-rested?

Who is funding research like this? Apologies for the sarcastic tone of this post, but seriously, I am just amazed that this was actually researched. It is concluding that people that have been awake for going on for 31 hours are going to be perceived as being less attractive, less healthy, and more tired? Does science ever apply common sense, or does it have to test everything before it accepts it as “fact”?

I just get irritated at research like this, the fact that time and money goes into researching these sort of “hypotheses”, despite the fact that a seven-year old could probably tell you the answer for free. So what have we learnt from this? Sleeping less makes you look as if you have slept less. If you stay awake for 31 hours, people will think you are ill. And you probably are ill – stop drinking Irn Bru and get some rest, yeah?