Tuesday, November 22, 2011

GMO Food Labeling...Why Isn't It?

There is a ballot initiative in California to require labeling of genetically engineered (GE or GMO) foods. While there are lots of supporters, there is a consensus that there is not much hope that this initiative will get passed.  There just doesn't seem to be enough consumer awareness of the risks of GMO food or how wide spread GE ingredients are used in the food we all consume.  Why is that?  My husband forwarded me this great article on why GMO foods may not be in the media as much as some of us would like. The author, JD Rucker, did his research and came up with 4 big reasons why it isn't.

The first reason is that there is simply too much information, i.e., information overload.  There are too many other worrisome topics being covered in the news, the loss of jobs, healthcare, the withdrawal of troops and upcoming elections to name but a few.  If GMO food was such a big deal, how come someone isn't screaming about the risks from the roof tops.

Which brings me to his second reason, and to paraphrase the author, if GMO foods are so dangerous, how come people aren't falling over on their soy lattes?  The dangers aren't immediate, but there are many, cancer, fertility issues and food allergies immediately come to mind.  Rucker is right though.  If people were killing over on a regular basis, that would be news. Giving people statistics on research studies and declining health trends does not make an interesting story.

The third reason is that neither the mass media or the US government want to get on the bad side of Monsanto (which is why few are screaming about the risks from the roof tops).  While organizations like Organic Consumers Association are out there battling the giant, with campaigns like "Millions Against Monsanto", there is very little press from the big networks and media outlets.  Rucker found this video that he thinks explains it loud and clear.  It's worth watching.

The final reason why GMO food risks are being ignored is the impact to the cost of our food.  If consumers knew the risks and were no longer willing to purchase 80% of the food in our grocery stores which were now labeled for GMO ingredients, what would happen to the food supply? Governmental officials would have to commit to stronger protection measures with new regulations, farmers would have to go back to traditional growing methods and food prices would soar.

I loved finding this link to an infographic outlining the threats to our food. Click here to see it full size. It takes a fairly complicated subject and makes it easy to understand.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bird Seed

I love watching birds at my backyard feeders. Our new house is further out and has a great mix of trees and open space, perfect for birds.  My feeders attract a wide variety of birds, and I have to fill them often.  Unfortunately, while Abigail can help me identify the birds from our kitchen window, she can't help me fill the feeders.  Bird seed either contains or is manufactured in a plant with peanuts and tree nuts.

Labeling guidelines do not apply to feed for animals.  Manufacturers of bird seed and pet food are not required to label for allergens, although lately, I have seen quite a few bird seed bags printed with an allergen statement.  To date, I've not seen or heard of a bird seed supplier that is peanut/tree nut free.  If you know of one, please leave a comment.

It's also that time of year when schools, preschools especially, make bird feeders using pine cones or bagels.  A lot of schools have stopped using peanut butter as the base for obvious reasons, but many teachers and care-givers forget about the risk of the bird seed.

I did some research, and if you do want to have your peanut/tree nut allergic child have some hands on experience feeding your backyard birds there are other options.  Here's a whole list of kitchen scraps like leftover rice, cooked pasta, over-ripe fruits, stale bread, dried cheese, etc., that can be fed to the birds.  Another neat idea is to use leftover bacon or other animal fat grease, strain it, mix it with the kitchen scraps to make suet.  I particularly like this idea.  Abigail can get involved, and I can save some money on bird seed.  The downside of having so many birds....they eat a lot of seed.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rejected Treats

I signed up to take a sweet treat to my son's preschool Halloween party. I originally planned on making mini candy apples using a recipe I found in Family Fun (obviously ignoring the suggestion to use peanut butter chips and chopped nuts). I soon found that caramel doesn't stick easily to cut apples, and I couldn't find a peanut safe caramel dip (a little boy in his class has a peanut allergy). Butterscotch chips were recommended in the recipe, but I couldn't stomach the ingredients in the butterscotch chips. At the last minute, I was scrambling to find something to make that was fun, healthy and safe.

I modified a recipe and made popcorn balls. I mixed popcorn (popped safely in a brown paper bag), organic raisins and the peanut safe candy corn that I found at Dollar Tree, and topped it with melted butter and mini marshmallows. I formed them into sticky, sweet popcorn balls. They were yummy!

We're at the party, and each child is served a Cherrybrook Kitchen cupcake (my first time sampling...they were quite good), my popcorn ball and some pretzels. My son ate it all, but he was one of the few. I heard one child tell his mom "yuck" and to take his popcorn ball off his plate. I saw the majority of them end up in the trash can. In other words, they were totally rejected!

I tried.  It was all the right ingredients that preschoolers love.  I guess it was combining them that was the problem. I packed up all that was left, and my family has been enjoying them.