Bees and colony collapse disorder

Elina L. Niño – Deciphering the mysterious decline of honey bees:

Scientists now agree that CCD was likely caused by a combination of environmental and biological factors, but nothing specific has been confirmed or proven. CCD is no longer causing large-scale colony death in North America, but beekeepers all over the United States are still reporting troubling colony losses – as high as 45 percent annually.
I repeat, nothing specific has been confirmed or proven.

Many people who are not beekeepers or growers want to know how they can help. One easy step is to grow forage plants, especially varieties that bloom at different times during the year. For suggestions, see our Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven Plant List.

Second, reduce your pesticide use for gardening and landscaping, and follow guidelines to reduce bee exposure. Finally, you can support local by buying their honey.

Ultimately, however, making our society more pollinator-friendly will likely require some drastic and long-term changes in our environmental and agricultural practices.

Good points. We definitely need to plant more forage plants in our yard.

Gluten free diets aren’t quite what most people think they are

Norelle R. Reilly recently published an article in the Journal of Pediatrics – The Gluten-Free Diet: Recognizing Fact, Fiction and Fad:

Gluten-free packaged foods frequently contain a greater density of fat and sugar than their gluten-containing counterparts. Increased fat and calorie intake have been identified in individuals after a GFD. Obesity, overweight, and new-onset insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome have been identified after initiation of a GFD. A GFD also may lead to deficiencies in B vitamins, folate, and iron, given a lack of nutrient fortification of many gluten-free products.

Uh-oh. Not good for those people who are gluten-free for non-celiac reasons.

There is emerging evidence that those consuming gluten-free products without sufficient diversity may be at greater risk of exposure to certain toxins than those on an unrestricted diet. Arsenic is frequently present in inorganic form in rice, a concern for those on a GFD given that rice is a common ingredient in gluten-free processed foods.

A constant worry for us, since much of our diet is rice-based. Maybe 80% or so.

There also are noteworthy non-nutritional implications of a GFD. Worldwide, those purchasing gluten-free products will encounter far greater food costs than gluten containing competitors. Social isolation and inconvenience have been reported by children with CD requiring a GFD, and some with CD report a deterioration in their quality of life while on a GFD, linked in many cases to the diet itself.

We are lucky to be able to afford the time and expense of making much of our food from scratch in order to keep it as safe as we can from allergens. But it’s another worry for us in the future as our son grows up.

Consumers don’t really know food issues.

McFadden and Lusk, in their recent paper in FASEB Journal, What consumers don’t know about genetically modified food and how that affects beliefs:

New data collected from a nationwide U.S. survey reveal low levels of knowledge and numerous misperceptions about GM food. Nearly equal numbers of consumers prefer mandatory labeling of foods containing DNA as do those preferring mandatory labeling of GM foods.

Perhaps the survey captured an inordinate number of Food Babe acolytes.

Kitchen incubators

I actually hadn’t heard of the term Kitchen Incubator until I came across a postcard from the Ottawa Kitchen*. The membership and kitchen rates seem quite reasonable. This breaks down the barriers to my own yen towards perhaps running a food-based business someday…

*Then I do a search, and I find an NPR article from 2002. So I’m 14 years behind at this point.


Added sugar labelling!

That exclamation point is not an accident. I’m looking forward to this. From the FDA:

Today, the FDA has finalized the new Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods with changes that will make it easier for consumers to make informed choices about what they’re eating.

Some groups aren’t too happy with the change:

The Sugar Association is disappointed by the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ruling to require an “added sugars” declaration and daily reference value (DRV) on the Nutrition Facts Label (NFL). The extraordinary contradictions and irregularities, as well as the lack of scientific justification in this rulemaking process are unprecedented for the FDA.

But the FDA says:

And you can have confidence in the science on which it is based, including evidence used to support the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, nutrition intake recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, and nutrition intake information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Whose interpretation of science is correct? Well, the Sugar Association is likely a little biased.

Brownies recipe*

1 cup + 4 Tbsp rice flour blend**
3/4 cup white sugar
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup hot water or brewed coffee
2 cups chocolate chips (optional)***

Makes about 3 dozen mini cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F
  2. Combine and whisk together all dry ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Combine the oil, applesauce and vanilla extract in a large bowl.
  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, until combined in a paste. Add in the hot water or brewed coffee and mix until it is all combined. It will be a loose batter consistency.
  5. Put mini cupcake cups into the mini cupcake tray, and fill with about 1 Tbsp of the batter, or until the cup is about 3/4 full.
  6. Bake for 12-15 min, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.

*Adapted from Babycakes NYC vegan brownies recipe. I use a rice flour blend, plus reduce the amount of oil and sugar.
** The rice flour blend I’ve been using is as follows: 2 cups brown rice flour, 2 cups white rice flour, 2 cups glutinous rice flour, 1 2/3 cups tapioca flour or potato starch.
*** Adding 2 cups of chocolate chips will obviously increase the amount of mix. Plan on cooking another dozen or two mini cupcakes if you add in the chips.

Vegetarian, vegan and omnivores

Andrew Smith at The Conversation – Why it’s impossible to actually be a vegetarian:

For the record, I’ve been a “vegetarian” for about 20 years and nearly “vegan” for six. I’m not opposed to these eating practices. That isn’t my point. But I do think that many “vegetarians” and “vegans” could stand to pay closer attention to the experiences of the beings who we make our food.

I think we all need to pay more attention to our food and think about what it is that we are actually eating, all the way down the food chain and up. And think about whether that fits with our ethics and morals. If not, change it!

What Chipotle doesn’t want you to know

Dan Flynn at Food Safety Network – Letter From The Editor: Exchange with CDC shows Chipotle still in denial:

Through their attorney, you will see how Chipotle accuses CDC, through the media, of misinforming the public about the illnesses in one of its six outbreaks. While I always like to pick on attorneys, the fact the their letter to CDC was dated last December at about the same time its CMG executives were blaming media for their meltdown suggests that the letter to CDC was a corporate strategy, not a legal one.

Scary, when you consider contamination not only causing food poisoning but our additional concerns of allergens in our food. Chipotle is trying to minimize or reduce the information being out out by the CDC even further.