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Articles from 2013 In March


Celiac diagnoses climbed in 2000s

The number of Americans diagnosed with celiac disease rose like a gluten-packed loaf of bread in the first part of the last decade, then leveled off in 2004, according to a new study.

In research published online in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, scientists analyzed data on a small but statistically potent sample of people living in the Olmsted County, Minnesota. That county is home to a highly-studied population who live in the neighborhood of the Mayo Clinic and two affiliated hospitals.

Researchers found that between the years 2000 and 2010, the number of new cases of celiac disease increased from about 11 people per 100,000 to about 17 people per 100,000. Over the entire decade starting in 2000, some 249 people were diagnosed with celiac disease in the county. People as young as one year old and as old as 85 received a diagnosis, and about 63 percent of the new cases were women.

"We're finding a lot more celiac disease," Joseph Murray, MD, the study's senior author from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told Reuters.com.

"Some of that is probably that we're better at detecting it, but the fact that we're finding it all the time shows that there are a number of new cases," he added. About one percent of Americans have the disease. “This study shows not only did it go up, but it kind of plateaued in 2004 and it remained stable at that elevated level," Murray said.

He wrote in his American Journal of Gastroenterology story that the increased incidence of celiac disease may be partly due to doctors knowing about the signs and symptoms of celiac disease and screening people at risk, but not entirely. "Something has changed in our environment that's driving an increased incidence of celiac disease," he said. Fortunately for those that suffer with the condition, something else has changed in the last decade: There are far more tasty gluten-free options today than there were ten years ago.

Slow Money

Slow Money's Entrepreneur Showcase boosts forward-thinking brands

Slow Moneys Entrepreneur Showcase boosts forwardthinking brands

Just a few days after making her first sales presentation, Janie Hoffman hopped on a plane to attend Slow Money's National Gathering in Vermont. Her meeting with the Southern Pacific Region Whole Foods Market buyer had gone well—really well, in fact. The natural-grocery chain was interested in placing her Mamma Chia beverage in 38 stores. At the time, Hoffman hadn't done a production run and her product wasn't available in any retail outlets. To fulfill any orders she would need immediate funding.   

At the Slow Money National Gathering, Hoffman presented Mamma Chia during the event's Entrepreneur Showcase, which connects forward-thinking companies with financiers invested in supporting local food systems. She highlighted Whole Foods' interest in her first-of-its kind chia drink and her goal to build an organic beverage brand that pushed corporate philanthropy toward local producers. It took only a few months to bring Mamma Chia to market after partnering with angel investors she met during the two-day conference. The Mamma Chia brand is now recognized nationally.   

"I was never interested in traditional channels like venture capitalist money," Hoffman said.  "We really wanted to build a community of investors that were part of the Mamma Chia family and shared our vision and mission. By having the support of the Slow Money community, we were able to deliver."

Growth for small business at National Gathering 

More than 24 conscious entrepreneurs are hoping for a similar success story when they participate in this year's Entrepreneur Showcase taking place in Boulder, Colo. April 29–30. Chances are good that many will receive what they're looking for. Though the event is only in its fourth year, nearly $6 million has been invested in 34 of the 70 companies that have been invited to participate.

In addition to facilitating funding, the showcase connects thought leaders, fosters innovation and supports taking risks to grow local food enterprises. Presenters often speak to a packed house—this year an estimated 900 people are anticipated to attend—including many investors, philanthropists and investor organizations. Brands presenting are just as diverse as their audience and will include companies at all stages, serving markets large and small, offering diverse value propositions and spanning the food system spectrum. Take a look at past presenters.   

Slow Food founder Woody Tasch developed the concept for the showcase while working with Michael Bartner, now Slow Foods' vice president, at the Investors' Circle, an early-stage investors' network that pairs fledgling companies with angel investors, venture capitalists, foundations and family offices. 

"We realized that not a lot of local food enterprises were getting funded because they were on different trajectories than larger companies," Bartner says. "They didn't really have the capacity to grow their businesses as fast as most venture capital type of investors were looking for."

After being vetted by their local Slow Food Chapter, invited companies have 5 minutes to "sell" their business concepts. From there, interested investors follow up. Some companies walk away with funding, others may connect with investors at a later date. But even for brands that aren't offered a deal, just attending can be invaluable for business growth.

More than funding

In addition to potentially obtaining funding to realize their dreams, brands participate in the showcase to brush shoulders with forward thinkers within the Slow Money movement and align their companies with the organization's principles.

"Presenting at the Showcase is a way for us to continue to spread our message among many of the folks involved in the local foods movement," said Aaron Perry, a presenter at this year's event and CEO of Source Local Foods a local food distributor that is also developing technology to help build local food systems in markets around the country. "To be able reach the philanthropic and finance community that is gathering to support the development of local food systems is a great opportunity to showcase for them some of the work that we're doing on behalf of the hundreds of farmers in this market."  

Echos Hoffman: "When you have an opportunity to build relationships with folks who support your vision, you do it," she says. "To have that opportunity to be with so many likeminded folks, it's an honor and a privilege. The bottom line is building true relationships to help support this whole movement."

To that end, a Mamma Chia Entrepreneur of the Year award will be presented for the first time at the Boulder event. Hoffman donated $25,000, which was matched by The Slow Money Soil Trust. The $50,000 award will be selected through a combination of popular vote and jury selection.

Join the movement at Slow Money's National Gathering 

The 4th Slow Money National Gathering will take place in Boulder, Colo. April 29–30. Thought leaders, including Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini, sustainable activist Winona LaDuke and Mary Berry, executive director of the Berry Center, will celebrate and learn how Slow Money can transform our fractured food system. Learn more here.

FDAImports.com adds senior regulatory advisor

FDAImports.com adds senior regulatory advisor

Maryland-based FDA consulting firm FDAImports.com continues to grow, and has recently added a new member to its team of professionals with regulatory, legal, and governmental experience: William Nychis, senior regulatory advisor

Mr. Nychis has nearly 40 years of experience at FDA serving in a wide range of capacities, with special emphasis on compliance issues related to the drug, cosmetic and dietary supplement industries. His background includes compliance and enforcement work in imports, exports and combination products. He has wide experience reviewing and overseeing FDA regulatory matters relating to human drugs, veterinary medicines, foods and dietary supplements. Mr. Nychis’ experiences allow him to provide unique insight into FDA’s position in many areas. Additionally, his experience handling dozens of civil cases for the FDA give him an advantage in understanding how FDA thinks and the proper way to approach violations.

 

Can fiber fend off first-time stroke?

People who eat a high fiber diet experience a lower risk of first-time stroke, according to new research from the University of Leeds.

Dietary fiber is the part of the plant that the body is unable to completely digest. Fiber rich foods include whole grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and seeds. Previous research has shown that dietary fiber may help reduce risk factors for stroke, including obesity, high blood pressure and high blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol.

While it is recommended that adults eat between 18 and 25 grams of fiber each day, the average intake amongst British adults is only 14 grams. This new study shows that a 7 gram increase in dietary fiber per day was associated with a 7 percent decrease in first-time stroke risk. This is the equivalent of one serving of whole-wheat pasta and two servings of fruits or vegetables.

“Increasing your fiber intake doesn’t necessarily mean wholesale change to your diet. It might just mean switching from white bread to wholemeal, or from corn flakes to bran flakes. It’s a simple measure with a lot of benefits,” said Dr. Victoria Burley, the project lead from the School of Food Science and Nutrition.

The researchers analyzed, and combined the results of, eight studies published between 1990 and 2012. The studies reported on all types of stroke with four also examining the particular risk of ischemic stroke, which occurs when a clot blocks a blood vessel to the brain, and three also assessing the particular risk of hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel bleeds into the brain or on its surface.

“Any long-term increase in intake of fiber-rich foods such as whole-grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts will see the risk of stroke reduce. This could be particularly important for people with stroke risk factors like being overweight, smoking and having high blood pressure,” said Diane Threapleton, the lead author of the study who conducted the research as part of her PhD.

In the United Kingdom, around 150,000 people have a stroke each year and it is the third most common cause of death. Among survivors, the disease is a leading cause of disability.

The research was funded by the Department of Health for England with sponsorship of Diane Threapleton’s doctoral studies by Kellogg Marketing and Sales Company (UK) Ltd. It was published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke on March 28, 2013.

 

New Hope 360 Blog

"God Made a Farmer" commercial strikes a chord

Farmer in black and white image

It’s March, and farmers are still talking about the Super Bowl.

Not about how the San Francisco 49ers nearly staged a wild come-from-behind upset or about the 40-minute blackout. No, the talk in coffee shops and online message boards is still about the masterful Ram truck ad combining a montage of rural images with a scratchy recording of Paul Harvey's “God Made a Farmer” speech to the FFA (Future Farmers of America) in 1978.

The ad struck a chord among farmers of all stripes (although minority farmers were seriously under-represented in the photos).When I last checked, the YouTube version of the ad had more than 14 million views. It didn’t take long, though, for someone to come up with a parody of the commercial. Soon, “God Made a Factory Farmer” began circulating on the web, with sharp digs on how Monsanto and other agribusiness interests have wrapped themselves in the mantle of the family farmer. When “God Made a Factory Farmer” first hit my email in-basket, I forwarded it to a couple of organic farmer friends.

From one came a terse reply: “Yes I saw this. I didn't take it too well… it groups us all together, in my humble opinion.” I talked to some other organic farmers and got the same basic reaction.

So, why would independent farmers who spend their days (and nights) trying to gain a toehold in a food system dominated by the conventional commodity producers and biotech companies object to a parody that exposes the likes of Monsanto?

In short, the Super Bowl ad touched a deep chord in these small producers. They recognize that the two-minute-long ad was designed to sell more trucks. But they also connected with Harvey’s core message that their role in the food system involves more than just manufacturing crops and livestock.

No doubt, the organic food system has grown because an enforceable set of federal regulations provides growers, manufacturers and retailers with a clear set of rules as to what could and couldn’t qualify for the USDA Organic seal. Much of the controversy swirling around today focuses on whether companies are meeting the minimal compliance standards.

For many farmers, though, their commitment to organic farming is not about minimal compliance. It’s about something much deeper.

Yeah, it was just a Super Bowl commercial, but it scored in a big way.

(Full disclosure: I love my 7-year-old, beat-up Dodge Truck).

Watch the commercial here:

Can fiber fend off first-time stroke?

People who eat a high fiber diet experience a lower risk of first-time stroke, according to new research from the University of Leeds.

Dietary fiber is the part of the plant that the body is unable to completely digest. Fiber rich foods include whole grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and seeds. Previous research has shown that dietary fiber may help reduce risk factors for stroke, including obesity, high blood pressure and high blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol.

While it is recommended that adults eat between 18 and 25 grams of fiber each day, the average intake amongst British adults is only 14 grams. This new study shows that a 7 gram increase in dietary fiber per day was associated with a 7 percent decrease in first-time stroke risk. This is the equivalent of one serving of whole-wheat pasta and two servings of fruits or vegetables.

“Increasing your fiber intake doesn’t necessarily mean wholesale change to your diet. It might just mean switching from white bread to wholemeal, or from corn flakes to bran flakes. It’s a simple measure with a lot of benefits,” said Dr. Victoria Burley, the project lead from the School of Food Science and Nutrition.

The researchers analyzed, and combined the results of, eight studies published between 1990 and 2012. The studies reported on all types of stroke with four also examining the particular risk of ischemic stroke, which occurs when a clot blocks a blood vessel to the brain, and three also assessing the particular risk of hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel bleeds into the brain or on its surface.

“Any long-term increase in intake of fiber-rich foods such as whole-grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts will see the risk of stroke reduce. This could be particularly important for people with stroke risk factors like being overweight, smoking and having high blood pressure,” said Diane Threapleton, the lead author of the study who conducted the research as part of her PhD.

In the United Kingdom, around 150,000 people have a stroke each year and it is the third most common cause of death. Among survivors, the disease is a leading cause of disability.

The research was funded by the Department of Health for England with sponsorship of Diane Threapleton’s doctoral studies by Kellogg Marketing and Sales Company (UK) Ltd. It was published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke on March 28, 2013.

 

How will Whole Foods Market's GMO labeling impact industry?

How will Whole Foods Markets GMO labeling impact industry

By now, most enterprises involved in the natural products industry are well aware of Whole Foods Market's recent announcement to label GMO-containing products. “We are committed to full GMO transparency within five years,” said Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, shortly after his announcement at Natural Products Expo West. “Working together with our suppliers, which we are going to need to do, every product that does contain GMOs or may contain GMOs will be labeled as such. It’s a big step up for the customer’s right to know.”

Most organic companies and institutions support the initiative. Shortly after the announcement, the Independent Natural Food Retailers Association (INFRA) applauded Whole Foods. “For a number of years, many INFRA members have taken the lead on the GMO issue,” said Jimbo Someck, owner of Jimbos…Naturally!, a California-based retailer, in a statement. “Whole Foods’ announcement is tremendously exciting as their visibility and overall purchasing power will hopefully be what the industry needs to reach the critical mass necessary to have products that contain GMOs labeled as such! This is exactly what we need to move the labeling of GMOs initiative forward.”

Likewise, the Just Label It campaign—an organization spearheading support for federally mandated GE labeling—praised Whole Foods for its plan. “Whole Foods is doing the right thing for consumers by giving them more information about what is in their food,” said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Stonyfield Farm and board chair of Organic Voices (a sister organization).

Obviously the labeling news is very new, so the intricacies of how Whole Foods will label GMO-containing products aren’t fully materialized. But natural companies being sold in Whole Foods may have one of three options: transition into USDA Organic, obtain the Non-GMO Project Verified label or get slapped with a GMO warning.

Non-GMO Project support

Some certified organic companies opt for the Non-GMO Project verification, too. “Companies are realizing that consumers are growing more GMO-conscious,” says Courtney Pineau, assistant director of the Non-GMO Project. “Plus, dedicated organic companies are committed to protecting the integrity of organic.” More than 50 verified companies are also USDA Organic.

While the USDA Organic definition excludes GMO ingredients, the certification is based on a process-by-process model. If farmers take the required steps to prevent GMO contamination—such as implementing “buffer zones” next to GMO fields, delayed or early planting to obtain different flowering times for organic and GMO crops, and using properly cleaned farm equipment—theoretically, testing is not needed. But complex supply chains and the ubiquity of GMO farming increases the possibility of contamination, hence the value of the Non-GMO Project’s Verification.

Some manufacturers whose products don’t contain high-risk GMO ingredients—corn, canola, soy, sugarbeets, alfalfa or cotton—are opting for the Non-GMO Project Verification. “Even products that seemingly have low risk ingredients often have ingredients that have risk,” explains Pineau. “It’s surprising where GMOs can pop up, and it’s changing all the time.”

For example, substances like natural or artificial flavors, asorbic acid, xanthan gum, sugars from beets and corn, or maltodextrin can be derived from GMO ingredients.

It’s unclear whether Whole Foods will run all of the products it sells through GMO testing. Indeed, for a retailer dedicated to selling locally produced items, doing so seems like a monumental task. But what types of reverberations from Whole Foods' announcement can we expect?

The Non-GMO Project anticipates more companies will seek verification. “We’ve been growing steadily over the past couple years. And we’ve seen significant increase in the amount of inquiries since the end of 2012,” says Pineau. “A lot of this interest has to do with the impacts of the Right to Know movement, efforts from the Just Label It campaign, state initiatives and increased outreach and education from Non-GMO Project Verified companies.” From these non-GMO organizations and education efforts, consumer awareness skyrocketed.

No longer fringe

A January 2013 survey conducted for the Organic Trade Association revealed that families, particularly Millennial parents aged 18 through 24, were notably more aware of GMOs. In fact, 22 percent of parents claim that their primary reason for buying organic foods is to avoid GMOs—up from 17 percent in 2011. Plus, 32 percent of parents who learned about GMOs in the news were significantly more likely to increase their organic purchases. These percentages are sure to spike, given that GMOs have been in the news more than ever.

Most recently, activists are up in arms over a section in a bill called HR 933, a short-term resolution to avoid a government shutdown, signed by President Obama (It will be valid for six months). Specifically, section 735 of the bill “would limit judges to stop Monsanto or the farmers it sells genetically modified seeds from growing or harvesting those crops even if courts find evidence of potential health risks,” according to an article by the New York Daily News.

Dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act”, advocates are most upset over the blatant collaboration with biotech industry on the bill.  

“Why is this such a big deal? The court system is often our last hope, with Congress, the White House and regulatory agencies deep inside industry’s pocket. Several legal challenges have resulted in court decisions overturning USDA’s approval of new GMO crops, for example, sugar beets,” wrote public health lawyer Michele Simon on her blog, Appetite for Profit.

It's clear that GMOs, which were once a fringe and esoteric topic, are starting to have concrete connection with consumers, even those outside of the natural channel. Whole Foods' plan to label GMOs by 2018, while an odd product-selling method—where else can you find a retailer that voluntarily warns the products it sells could be harmful?—will ultimately bolster shopper transparency.

"We're here to be a resource. A resource for consumers who want to better understand GMOs and certainly a resource for manufacturers. We will consistently work with retailers. Our relationship with Whole Foods is reflective of that," adds Pineau.

In what ways do you think Whole Foods will transform the way manufacturers certify their products? Share in the comments below!

GMO Guard: the latest non-GMO cert

In response to the natural food industry's—and consumers’—growing concern with regard to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) "cropping" up in the public food supply, Natural Food Certifiers (NFC) has added a new component to its growing roster of product supervision and certification programs: the NFC “GMO Guard” Verification Program.

"We are very proud to introduce and offer the GMO Guard Program," said NFC Director Rabbi Reuven Flamer. "It's a logical extension of the programs that NFC already offers, and one that is so timely and sought-after in the natural and organic food market today."

The GMO Guard verification program joins the impressive array of NFC's Food Certification programs, which include USDA Organic certification, Kosher Certification (under the “Apple K” label), Vegan Certification, and Gluten Guard, a gluten-free assurance program. By offering a portfolio of certification programs valued by natural and organic products consumers, NFC offers cost-effective, simultaneous, turnkey solutions for food manufacturers seeking to assure their customers of certified organic, non-GMO, kosher, vegan and/or gluten-free products.

"GMOs are the number one growing concern among health-conscious consumers and for businesses in the natural and organic food markets, as well as in the conventional food industry," explained Rabbi Flamer. "Recent studies show that GMOs may cause various kinds of health problems from digestive disturbances to food allergies, and that GMOs require more herbicides, which is really the opposite reason why GMOs were touted to be so environmentally helpful in the first place," he added. "For all of the many reasons that GMOs raise a red flag, physical and environmental, consumers simply don't want them in their foods, and our clients want to accommodate their customers."

In order to assess a new product for GMO Guard verification, NFC performs an intake—commitment and cost free—to analyze the product and will then advise clients of the next steps and costs to obtaining a seal. The process may include, but is not limited to, a request and review of the ingredient deck including country of origin and certificate of analysis, as well as inspection of manufacturing facilities.

Leading natural and organic products retailers such as Whole Foods Market are seeing growing demand for products that don’t use genetically engineered ingredients. Products that have a non-GMO assurance seal are seeing sales increases of 15 percent to 30 percent, according to Whole Foods Market President A.C. Gallo.

 

Fight tumors with tofu?

A dose of soy no bigger than a burger has been linked to higher cancer survival rates in women. A new study from China reports that women who consumed more soy before being diagnosed with lung cancer lived longer compared with those who consumed less soy. The study is published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“This study provides some early evidence that consuming large amounts of soy food may help women, particularly never smokers, live longer if they should develop lung cancer,” said Jyoti Patel, MD, American Society of Clinical Oncology Cancer Communications Committee member in a release.

The study analyzed the impact of soy intake on lung cancer survival among participants of the Shanghai Women’s Health Study, which tracked cancer incidence in 74,941 Shanghai women. Subjects were divided into three groups according to their soy consumption before their cancer diagnosis. The highest and lowest intake levels were equivalent to approximately four ounces or more and two ounces or less tofu per day, respectively. Patients with the highest soy food intake had markedly better overall survival compared with those with the lowest intake. Sixty percent of patients in the highest intake group and 50 percent in the lowest intake group were alive a year after diagnosis.

Check out a nifty infographic about the study below and here.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to suggest an association between high soy consumption before a lung cancer diagnosis and better overall survival,” said lead study author Gong Yang, MD, a research associate professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the release. “Although the findings are very promising, it’s too early to give any dietary recommendations for the general public on the basis of this single study.”

The U.S. National Cancer Institute funded the research, which was conducted by investigators at Vanderbilt University in collaboration with researchers from the Shanghai Cancer Institute and NCI. A recent study by the same research team showed that high intake of soy food was associated with a 40 percent decrease in lung cancer risk. The team plans to research if soy consumption after cancer diagnosis affects survival, most notably among people with early-stage cancer who may benefit most from nutritional intervention. 

American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)

Source: American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)