Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kellogg's and Kashi

If you're kept up to date by the Organic Consumer's Association, then this is old news; however, with an image like this, I find it very fitting to write this post here at Halloween.

Recently the OCA asked that consumers join them in boycotting Kellogg's based on their use of genetically engineered ingredients.  The catalyst for the boycott was a response received by a Kellogg's Consumer Specialist excusing the use of these ingredients by stating that because organic ingredients are subject to cross-pollination with other genetically modified (GM) ingredients than there's no need to bother eliminating the GM ingredients...or something to that effect.  I've copied the response from the OCA Take Action Alert:

Thank you for your comments regarding the use of biotechnology ingredients. Like you, we want only the best ingredients to go into our products.

Biotech ingredients are safe and have become common in the open market. Sixty to seventy percent of packaged foods in the U.S. include biotechnology crops. Even organic ingredients can contain biotech ingredients due to cross-pollination.

We use biotech ingredients based on the backing of groups including the World Health Organization, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the American Medical Association that confirm there are no safety concerns.

Given that I was already unofficially boycotting Kellogg's, having already removed their products from our grocery cart due to their use of GM ingredients, this was no big sacrifice.  That is until I realized that Kellogg's owned Kashi.  Now it's an entirely different story.

I like the Kashi products and have highlighted them in past posts.  A big reason for that is I feel that the company is very responsible in their food allergen labeling, that their product is a healthy alternative to the main stream brands and that the company has a great focus on the environment and sustainability.  In a company profile, I learned that Kashi itself isn't a big company (if you take Kellogg's out of the equation) consisting of just 70 employees.  I had my suspicions about their use of GM products so I limited our purchases to their breakfast cereals.  My kids like the cereals and don't complain when they're served it for breakfast instead of something with an animal mascot on the front of the box.  Frankly, it's quite hard to find cereal that meets my high standards and is also safe for Abigail.  Most "organic" cereals are processed in a plant with other peanut products.

I recently contacted Kashi about their use of GM ingredients, and got the following response:

Thank you for contacting us about our products and the use of genetically modified organisms. At Kashi Company we believe in providing pure, delicious, minimally processed foods for our consumers.

The basis for our product line is our proprietary blend of Seven Whole Grains & Sesame. The whole grains include oats, long grain brown rice, hard red winter wheat, rye, buckwheat, barley, and triticale. None of these grains are commonly harvested using genetically modified organisms.

We do not voluntarily source ingredients that are genetically modified. Due to cross-pollination at the level of the farm and manufacturer it has created an environment in North America where GM is not sufficiently controlled therefore we cannot guarantee that the ingredients we source are GMO free.

Certified organic products are grown using non-GM seeds, but even organic products face significant challenges when it comes to controlling for contamination. Kashi does offer an organic line of cereals called Organic Promise™. 

I can see the Kellogg's influence in their statement concerning the cross-pollination of non-GM plants.  In addition to my reply, here's a link to a message board discussing Kashi's ingredient sources for some of their other product lines.

Here's what I decided.  My favorite cereal is the Organic Promise Cinnamon Harvest cereal and my kids go through a box of Oat Flakes & Blueberry Clusters every couple of days.  My cereal is organic, and the kid's cereal is made using their blend of whole grains none of which are high on the GMO list.  I've found a couple of other safe cereals at Trader Joe's that I now purchase in large quantities to add some variety.  As for the rest of the Kashi products, I don't purchase those anymore.

It makes me both sad and mad at the same time that this much thought, effort and research has to go into the food we purchase.  I'm also disappointed to find an otherwise healthy line of food made toxic by the use of genetically modified ingredients.  Kashi, take note....there are other really good food manufacturers doing what it takes to ensure that they use quality, organic ingredients.  And, as soon as Abigail finishes this clinical trial, and can eat foods processed in a plant that uses peanuts, we're switching!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Another trip to Duke by way of the beach!

It's been over 3 months since we've last been to the Duke Clinical Research Unit for the peanut SLIT trial.  In fact, our last visit was the food challenge when Abigail consumed up to 8 to 10 peanuts.  Since then it's been status quo.  She continues to consume nothing with peanuts, nothing made using the same equipment or nothing even manufactured in the same facility with other peanut products.  She still takes 8 drops once a day under her tongue, holds them there for 2 minutes and eats nothing before or after for the specified time period.

This visit was short and served only as a "check in" to answer questions and get more drops.  Our next visit, 3 months from now, will be a little more involved.  There will be another blood draw, skin prick test and saliva collection.  This routine will continue until May of 2012.  Every 6 months, testing, 3 months in between, a "check in", maybe even by phone to save us a 2 1/2 hour drive.

I did hear a few updates at this visit.  Our doctor and staff have written a paper with the findings to date.  It's in edit now and should be published by the end of the year.  It's pretty exciting that we've been in the study for long enough that initial results are ready to be made public.  Also, that we are part of those results.

There is also not going to be a food challenge at the 2 year mark as originally planned.  The protocol indicated that a challenge to up to 15 peanuts would be given.  I think they've determined that the food challenge process does not warrant knowing if a child can consume 5 to 7 more peanuts.  If some of the participants in the study can eat 8 to 10 peanuts then they've proven that you can be "desensitized".  Staying on the drops for 3 years is a means to become "tolerant".  Abigail will be food challenged again at that 3 year mark.

I've mentioned in a prior post that the immune system is slow to change, and in the case of food allergies, can take 3 years or more of daily dosing to build up tolerance.  The peanut flour trial has been going strong for over 3 years.  Participants are now eating peanuts on a daily basis, but what happens when they stop eating peanuts.  Will their body remain tolerant?  That question is still unanswered.  Some of those participants stopped for as long as 3 months and were able to then pass the food challenge again.  But Duke has not had them remove peanuts from their diet for any longer than that?  I definitely didn't sign us up for that study!

We incorporated a long weekend at the beach in with this visit.  It was much needed and well deserved.  We finally got our house officially on the market, but it's been an exhausting process.  A trip to the beach was just what we needed.  The weather was fabulous, and we did nothing but play and rest.  There were tidal pools out in front of the house every day that the kids loved swimming in (yes, swimming in October).  Abigail was a real pro at building sand castles as seen in the picture.  So, another trip to Duke, but only after a great weekend at the beach!