Monthly Archives: March 2010

RIP Middle Class

Many of you who read this blog know that I am a crusader for health, not only physical but fiscal as well.   And so, this week I am in mourning but also angry.  My nimble-saving, middle class existence and that of my progeny has been leveraged with so much debt as to render us extinct, pictured next to dinosaurs in future Biology textbooks.   Who will protect the wallets of our unborn Americans not yet stitched by the yet-to-be born Malaysian, Taiwanese, Philippine, etc., workers NAFTA has wrought?   And instead of trying to create jobs, this legislation has undermined this country’s largest source of job creation, small businesses.

Small businesses have been de-incentivized to grow and employ people on this soil when instead they can funnel jobs off shore and avoid the crushing cost, or fines, of health care.  Further, by requiring parents to insure their offspring until 26, our current Administration has created a new cottage industry of young adult workers, also de-incentivized to grow and become contributing members of the workforce, when they can work off the books, decreasing the shrinking tax rolls even further.  The most lucrative job for a college grad will be a bartender.  And you were hoping your 4 year $175,000 investment, that left you saddled with a second mortgage, would yield something more than cocktail mastery?  Many of us will be spared this dilemma since, after health care costs/taxes, and the obligation to cover the union employees, we won’t even be able to afford college for our children.  The union employees however, will, as we are not only obligated to cover their  health costs, but we are also bound under their union’s collective bargaining agreements with our states, to cover their annual six figure pension benefits.   To all you attorneys out there: Why aren’t you lining up to file a class action Civil Rights suit for the non-union employees/employers just reduced to second class citizens?

How decreased competition contaminates the food supply

If you weren’t aware, in the past few weeks, major and minor food retailers and distributors across the country  have been recalling unprecedented number of products due to possible salmonella contamination.   At first I was surprised by the alarming number of seemingly unrelated products and goods manufacturers, until I realized they all used the same ingredient source.   This is frightening in the sheer number of products being supplied by the same well, so to speak.  So while generic brands and private labels  are experiencing unprecedented growth, their source of ingredients/raw materials has shrunk.  This lack of competition leaves few alternative suppliers, and worse, results in contamination more widespread and pervasive than ever.
The CDC received some press last week for contacting retailers for loyalty card information so they could contact customers that purchased products affected by this recall.  This was seen as an innovative use of technology, but lets examine  the record.  In the 30 plus years since the 7 Tylenol deaths, our [taxpayer supported] health agencies, have  moved at a snail’s pace, certainly not quickly enough to limit the 9 deaths from Salmonella tainted peanut butter last year, 19 deaths, and hundreds of illnesses from contaminated Heparin and other imports to name a few.

ScanAvert has continually prodded these agencies, to no avail, to serve as repository for our data for the purpose of studying the effectiveness of ingredients or minerals on prescribed drugs, illnesses and disease, and to create an audit trail for release to hospital/health care facilities so that similarities in symptoms and products purchased  [scanned] could be more quickly detected before an increase in victims.   For the present, ScanAvert is the only method that reaches consumer directly to warn that a product they purchased [scanned]  is possibly harmful.

The next bailout: bees

Recently ISAAA, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, estimated that collectively, an area the size of Peru is globally farming GM, genetically modified, crops for a variety of benefits such as higher yields, hardier plants, which lead to a longer growing season, which leads back to higher yields, more efficient soil turnover, improved irrigation and improved pestilence resistant treatments and varieties.   But what are the negative affects of such practices? From a financial perspective, Europe is less charmed, fearing erosion of the livelihood of small farmers who can’t compete in this new costly, large scale, farming order. Biologically, the effects of genetic splicing and dicing have yet to be dissected, or studied at length, but one thing is clear,  a rose, by any other name, may not necessarily smell as sweet as a rose, more like a rose hybrid, something Shakespeare never considered. Those who suffer from food allergies now have a whole host of other concerns, what is the ‘safe’ ingredient now laced with? Is the field that produced one crop, after that harvest, then used to harvest another, for example peanuts, and what trace amounts of allergen are found in the soil that can lead to reaction? or when planted in proximity to other crops for ‘agricultural biodiversity’?  All unpopular questions given that Monsanto, The Gates Foundation, and other agricultural organizations see GM as a panacea to world hunger and poverty, using the bounty reaped to feed populations and prosperity via exports.   However, to ignore such issues and the impact of these advancements on crops is to operate in a vacuum.

Many of our subscribers are allergic to yeast. Rising gluten intolerance, the veritable ‘kitchen sink’ of grain based crops, and a staple of most baked and prepared goods, has led manufacturers to respond with gluten-free product lines.

The catastrophic phenomenon of the collapse of bee colonies, is a curious development.  Has our toying with crops resulted in confusion, disorientation, rejection and illness for bees?   This correlation and consequence seems plausible, as the experts have studied many other theories and are still at loss. Decreased pollination is already wreaking havoc with harvest yields and prices, and it is estimated to continue exponentially until a cause, and cure, are determined. I am not a botanist, but here’s my two cents until evidence suggests otherwise: you can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool Mother Nature.

NY widens its tax base to include children!

Commercials invading the NY airwaves this week claim to seek support for taxing sugary sodas as a means to make a dent in obesity and weight based illnesses; a sound approach until you look more closely at the vagueness of the proposal.     While soda products do not possess any nutritional value,  healthy juice products can  also have high carbohydrate and sugar content.  Further, the  alternative diet products contain skyrocketing sodium content,  can lead to high blood pressure and circulatory diseases, so where will legislature draw the line? PKU sufferers cannot ingest aspartame, and will likely have to apply for exemption under this proposal to escape such tax.  And will that tax extend to school cafeterias and vending machines? Small businesses, like restaurants and mom & pop owned convenience stores, will particularly feel this pinch.

For all the revenue estimated with proposals like this, comes the waste on payroll for staff  ‘required’ to monitor it, and grant exceptions.   Instead, I propose a modern era Prohibition on purchasing soda with food stamps, heck, let’s not stop there, how about prohibiting the purchase of all crap with food stamps?  NY State has over 10% of its population eligible/receiving food stamps.   According to several studies by the US Dept of Agriculture, Ohio State University, food stamp recipients, particularly women, were heavier, with higher BMI and increased risk of obesity than their non-eligible counterparts.    Interestingly, the overweight female food stamp recipients did not see themselves as having  a weight problem, which compounded their poor health, as they were unlikely to  discontinue poor dietary choices.   To drive the point home, the Bronx leads the nation with 29% of its population receiving food stamps; no surprise it weighs in with the highest rates of  Obesity and Diabetes.   Prohibition will also save in the long term by decreasing the added expense of caring for these individuals in their later diabetic, diseased-plagued years.   And here’s the rub, since this is all state taxpayer supported, even if the non-eligible make responsible consumption choices, taxpayers will still get stuck paying the tax tab for the food stamp recipients, since they aren’t paying their grocery bill to begin with!
The well-meaning soda health-tax is really a way to take more money from food stamp ineligible residents [read: middle class pockets].  Interestingly, there is no initiative to increase the taxes on alcohol.  Perhaps that is because, while alcohol certainly takes its toll, that limits the revenue pool to only those over 21.   Since even a 3 year old can order a soda, millions of children will no longer be excluded from officially joining the ranks of taxpayers.

Lard is trustworthy

Yesterday, while in my local supermarket, I passed the bricks of Armour Lard relegated to the marked-down mini fridge where just last weekend sat the Christmas cookie dough.   Studying the label, I came to learn that true lard is only from pigs; all my efforts to store meat drippings, because I know of no environmentally harmless means of disposal,  has been wasted on …….pseudo-lard?  That prompted some research and I found that lard is undergoing something of a renaissance; famous restaurants and cooks favor it for flaky crusts and sauteing, forgoing oils that once replaced it, that are reportedly not so healthy after all.  And yet, while fat is gruesome, it is self defining, and dare I say, genuine; unlike so many other substances in our foods I don’t need a PhD to decipher the chemical compounds and additives.   Liquid or solid form,  it looks pretty much how it would look attached to our hips.  But what does transfatty acid look like?  Like most consumers I’ve never seen it in its natural/unnatural form.    The FDA tells us it’s bad for us.   A couple decades ago, we were told that sugar was bad too, and artificial sweeteners and corn sweeteners proliferated the marketplace and wound up in manufactured products.    No surprise that many of our subscribers are allergic to corn and corn derivative products when 20 years ago such reaction and intolerance were rare.

Consider this:  Outside the executive suite, today’s most highly paid  positions among food manufacturers are chemists/chemical engineers.   Aunt Jemima may have worn an apron in her kitchen but today’s staff is more likely to be donning a white coat in a laboratory.       A little Splenda in my coffee may be harmless, however, the prospect of baking with cups of it and serving it to my children bears more scrutiny.   According to pharmainfo.net, the average drug product undergoes an average of  6 years of consumer safety testing before its release to the public, yet no similar scrutiny is required for artificial food substances which could affect a much larger percentage of the population.  Why is that, when both are created in a lab?   The few articles available on the web are dedicated to how the heating process can render artificial sweeteners, un-sweet, requiring even larger amounts than what the package states is equivalent.  While I’m aware of the tests performed on the packet quantities, including great grand daddy of them all, sweet n low, I have not been able to find any studies on recent brands used in mass quantities, since artificial sweeteners for baking purposes is relatively new.   I am always seeking ways to improve my diet and that of my family,  but I’ll wait this one out until I see some studies  several years from now that measure incidence of cancer, hypoglycemia, or other ailments from well-meaning substitutes.  It seems I’m in good company; manufacturers, most recently Pepsi,  are touting their products with “100 % natural sugar”.   Everything old really IS new again!