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Food additives may cause hyperactivity
Certain artificial food colorings and other additives can worsen hyperactive behaviors in children aged three to nine, British researchers reported in early September.

Tests on more than 300 children showed significant differences in their behavior when they drank fruit drinks spiked with a mixture of food colorings and preservatives, Jim Stevenson and colleagues at the University of Southampton said. “These findings show that adverse effects are not just seen in children with extreme hyperactivity (such as ADHD) but can also be seen in the general population and across the range of severities of hyperactivity,” the researchers wrote in their study, published in the Lancet medical journal.

Stevenson’s team, which has been studying the effects of food additives in children for years, made up two mixtures to test in one group of three-year-olds and a second group of children aged eight and nine.

They included sunset yellow coloring, also known as E110; carmoisine, or E122; tartrazine, or E102; ponceau 4R, or E124; the preservative sodium benzoate, or E211; and other colors.
One of the two mixtures contained ingredients commonly drunk by young British children in popular drinks, they said. They did not specify what foods might include the additives.

Both mixtures significantly affected the older children. The three-year-olds were most affected by the mixture that closely resembled the average intake for children that age, Stevenson’s team reported. “The implications of these results for the regulation of food additive use could be substantial,” the researchers concluded.

The issue of whether food additives can affect children’s behavior has been controversial for decades.

Benjamin Feingold, an allergist, has written books arguing that not only did artificial colors, flavors and preservatives affect children, but so did natural salicylate compounds found in some fruits and vegetables.

Several studies have contradicted this notion.

Stevenson’s team made up several batches of fruit drinks and carefully watched the children after they drank them. Some did not contain the additives.

The children varied in their responses but in general reacted poorly to the cocktails, Stevenson’s team reported.

“We have found an adverse effect of food additives on the hyperactive behavior of three-year-old and eight and nine-year-old children,” they wrote.

Dr. Sue Baic, a registered dietitian at the University of Bristol, said in a statement: “This is a well designed and potentially very important study.”

“It supports what dietitians have known for a long time, that feeding children on diets largely consisting of heavily processed foods which may also be high in fat, salt or sugar is not optimal for health.” -Common Dreams.org, Reuters

Enforcement hammer falls on nation’s largest organic factory dairy
The USDA issued an urgent news release in late August announcing enforcement actions taken against the Aurora Organic Dairy, based in Boulder, CO, the nation’s largest organic factory-farm operation. USDA’s enforcement requirements for Aurora include “removing certain animals from the organic herd and ceasing to apply the organic label to certain milk.”
The action is the result of an investigation triggered by formal legal complaints filed in 2005 and 2006 with the USDA by The Cornucopia Institute charging multiple violations of federal organic regulations. Cornucopia, a Wisconsin-based farm policy group, made on-site visits to the dairy giant’s factory-farm operations in Colorado and Texas, gathering evidence supporting its complaints.

“While we are pleased that widespread changes to Aurora’s factory-farms have been ordered, we don’t think the USDA went far enough,” said Mark Kastel, Cornucopia’s senior farm analyst. “We think Aurora should have been slapped with a significant fine for deliberately abusing organic integrity and consumer trust and for flooding the market with bogus organic milk.”

This year the growth in the organic milk supply, due in great degree to “factory-farms” bringing on production, is pushing down farm prices paid to ethical organic family farmers. “These were not accidental violations at Aurora—they were described by the USDA as ‘willful’. They were premeditated violations of the law by a multimillion dollar business enterprise, the largest organic dairy producer in the United States,” said Kastel. “Aurora has competitively injured the nation’s family-scale farmers”

Federal organic regulations state that “any operation that knowingly sells or labels a product as organic, except in accordance with the Act, shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $10,000 per violation.”

Aurora has been operating five factory farms, housing thousands of animals each in confinement conditions in Colorado and Texas. They package private-label milk for store brands sold at several national chains, including Wal-Mart, Costco, Target, Trader Joe’s, and Safeway. They also market dairy products under their own label, High Meadows.

Under the terms of USDA’s consent agreement reached with Aurora, the federal agency is allowing the company to continue to operate as a certified organic dairy operation. But they have warned Aurora that they will be under increased scrutiny and may have their organic certification pulled for their dairy processing plant if they fail to follow through on the requirements contained in the agreement.

Cornucopia’s investigation of Aurora revealed, and the USDA confirmed, that:

  • Aurora was confining thousands of animals in feedlots, rather than pasturing their animals as required by federal regulations.
  • Aurora was bringing in conventional replacement animals to its organic dairy herd—animals not qualified to produce organic milk and some from a heifer ranch that lacked organic certification.
  • Aurora purchased organic feed for their Texas operation from a friend of the dairy manager who had sprayed his land with herbicides.
  • Aurora was converting animals to its organic operation in violation of allowed conversion practices (under the federal 80/20 conversion rule).
  • And the most serious violation, selling, labeling and representing milk as organically produced when it did not legally qualify—in “willful” violation of the law.

Cornucopia’s sources at the USDA indicate that the enforcement action had been in the works for as long as 18 months and was the subject of political maneuverings as Aurora sought to downplay and lessen the extent of its sanctions.

Officials at Aurora have indicated that the USDA-mandated changes would cost the company $3.3 million. The company has said they will downsize their herd at the Platteville facility to 1250 milking cows (the herd numbered 4000-5000 cows when Cornucopia visited the site in 2005) and raze three-quarters of the buildings and feedlots on the site so as to add more of the required pasture for the milking herd. -Cornucopia Institute

Genetically engineered sugar to hit stores in 2008
American Crystal, a large Wyoming-based sugar company, who ironically have launched an “organic” line of their sugar, and several other leading U.S. sugar providers, have announced they will be sourcing their sugar from genetically engineered (GE) sugar beets beginning this year and arriving in stores in 2008. Like GE corn and GE soy, products containing GE sugar will not be labeled as such.

Since half of the granulated sugar in the U.S. comes from sugar beets, a move towards biotech beets marks a dramatic alteration of the U.S. food supply. These sugars, along with GE corn and soy, are found in many conventional food products, so consumers will be exposed to genetically engineered ingredients in just about every non-organic multiple-ingredient product they purchase.

The GE sugar beet is designed to withstand strong doses of Monsanto’s controversial broad spectrum Roundup herbicide. Studies indicate farmers planting “Roundup Ready” corn and soy spray large amounts of the herbicide, contaminating both soil and water. Farmers planting GE sugar beets are told they may be able to apply the herbicide up to five times per year. Sugar beets are grown on 1.4 million acres by 12,000 farmers in the U.S. from Oregon to Minnesota.
Meanwhile candy companies like Hershey’s are urging farmers not to plant GE sugar beets, noting that consumer surveys suggest resistance to the product. In addition the European Union has not approved GE sugar beets for human consumption. -Organic Consumers Association

Government plan may lead to cancer in both food animals and pets
A reporter for the Associated Press (http://www.dailycomet.com/article/20070908/APN/709080609) recently revealed a series of studies that show that implanted microchips, also known as Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFIDs), may cause cancer in animals. The studies indicate that RFIDs may have caused malignant, fast-growing, and lethal cancers in up to 10 percent of the study animals.
The studies had not previously received public notice, even when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved implanting RFIDs in humans as identification tags and to contain medical records. Seconding FDA’s lack of concern, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved RFID devices for implanting in, or attaching to, millions of animals, as part of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

The USDA plan for the National Animal Identification System calls for RFIDs to be implanted in horses, llamas, and alpacas, and for every cow to have an RFID tag attached to its ear. The laundry list of 29 species included in NAIS also includes chickens, pigs, sheep, and goats. Each animal’s tag will contain its assigned 15-digit number that will identify it from all other livestock in the world. The plan does not distinguish between animals kept for human consumption, for recreation, or as pets. While the agency claims that the program is “technology neutral,” all of the documents and implementation have focused on the use of RFIDs as the default form of identification. The potentially carcinogenic chip has been designated as the only approved device for cattle and horses.

Neither the FDA nor the USDA has publicly released a study showing the health benefits of NAIS. Opponents of NAIS have long maintained that NAIS will do little for disease control, while expanding government intrusion in the lives of animal owners and enriching the manufacturers of the RFID devices and computer and data systems necessary to implement the system. Many opponents of NAIS are concerned that both government agencies and the hi-tech industries may be ignoring evidence of adverse health effects, ultimately endangering humans, our livestock industry, and millions of pets across America.

Karin Bergener, an attorney with the Liberty Ark Coalition, says: “The NAIS is purported to be a system to aid officials in tracing back animal diseases to their source. But the government has produced no scientific evidence that it will aid in disease control. And now we have scientific evidence that it could actually cause disease in our animals, through the use of RFIDs!”

According to the AP report, cancer researchers contacted about the studies indicated that it is easier to inflict cancer on mice than it is in humans, but none of the researchers contacted thought that RFID should be implanted in humans until much further study determines that implanting the chips is safe. Meritt Lamb, also with the Liberty Ark Coalition and himself an animal owner, says: “We’ve been saying all along that the NAIS plan is ill-conceived and harmful.

“With these studies showing that RFIDs may cause cancer in our animals, we call on the USDA to immediately withdraw all approvals for implanting the chips in animals and stop funding the NAIS, as much of it is based on the use of these chips. It is inexcusable that USDA has spent over $100 million to implement this program, without having done a cost-benefit analysis that includes the health effects of the technology.”

Liberty Ark Coalition has 100 organizations and over 1600 individual supporters, spanning the full political and geographic spectrum, that oppose NAIS. To learn more about NAIS, and what it means for farmers and consumers, visit www.libertyark.net. -Liberty Ark Coalition