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Articles from 2015 In August

Natural brands unite in search of compostable packaging

Natural brands unite in search of compostable packaging

For all of the changes that natural brands have brought to the food industry in terms of ingredient sourcing, sustainable agriculture and the health of eating habits overall, they have had an Achilles heel: packaging.

So two years ago, some industry leaders came together to form a coalition aimed at filling in this significant gap. "The purpose of the coalition is essentially to provide access and a roadmap to food companies for sustainable packaging," said co-founder Lara Jackle Dickinson. "Current packaging is not acceptable from a sustainability perspective, but there isn't an alternative right now."

The Compostable Packaging Coalition, now 16 members strong, meets ten times a year to forge ahead with its agenda. In late 2014, the members tested 12 brands against several compostable pouch structures. We checked in with Dickinson for an update on how things are going; here are some highlights from that conversation.

On the results of the 2014 testing

Lara Jackle Dickinson: We had success with certain ingredients, but a lot of lessons on how to optimize the structure. We also realized we needed to vary the structures more by product/ingredient nature. Each ingredient interacts differently with the package. We are developing a knowledge database of how all these ingredients interact with the different structures.

On the challenges facing the coalition

LJD: There are many physical obstacles. Bonding the materials together the right way at the right temperature and speed is very challenging. The precision required to get the bag right is much higher than petroleum-based bags, which have a certain forgiveness which compostable materials do not in converting machines. There are several layers of materials and a number of variables within each material we have to get right for each ingredient.

The bag gusset styles are also key to the success of the bag. Compostable bags still need to hold up well in distribution and on the retail shelf, and the gusset style is key to ensuring the proper overall strength of the bag.

On next steps

LJD: We will do our next phase of testing of ingredients in packaging among our member companies late this fall. We will have shelf life testing completed early next year.  

Alter Eco is re-launching its quinoa line into 100 percent compostable laminated stand-up pouches this year to reach shelves in the new year. Our goal is to continue to encourage other brands to step forward, using Alter Eco's test-and-learn strategy. We hope to have several industry leading brands launch their products or ingredients in the next two years.

At the same time, we are working on rollstock/overwrap products. We have had tremendous lessons via our pouch work that has informed a better approach for rollstock. This would have implications for tea bags, bars, and other single-serve items.

We are also working on certifications roadmaps, lifecycle analysis, and consumer and industry communication strategies for compostable packaging. 


Editor's note: This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.

Thousands plan to boycott Calif. produce irrigated with fracking wastewater

oil field near Taft California

More than 35,600 members of the California-based Courage Campaign have pledged to stop buying produce from popular California produce companies that might be using oil-industry wastewater to irrigate their crops.

A Mother Jones article published in July revealed the companies behind Sunview grapes and raisins, Halos mandarins, Sutter Homes wines and Bee Sweet citrus — a total of 90 Southern California landowners — might be growing their fruit with the wastewater that is laced with toxic compounds.  The same water can be used to irrigate organic crops, as well, the magazine reported in August.

A recent Water Defense study showed that treated oil wastewater being sold to California farmers contained acetone and methylene chloride — a known carcinogen — as well as oil, which should be removed during the recycling process.

Eddie Kurtz, executive director of the California-based Courage Campaign, said, “How in the world do these corporations think this is OK? This is scary. Hundreds of thousands of Americans put Halos mandarins into their kids’ lunch boxes every day and by all appearances, Halos and other major California growers — some even considered 'organic' — are irrigating their crops with oil wastewater, laced with carcinogens.

“These brands have no plans to stop. … Consumers and parents all over the country need to take action immediately, educate each other and stop buying food from these misguided, short-sighted companies.”

Med diet may halve heart disease risk

Paleo may make more headlines lately, but new research continues to tout the health-promoting powers of the Mediterranean diet. The diet cut the risk of heart disease in half for a group of adults followed over 10 years, compared to a similar group of people who did not follow the diet, according to a new study that was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 64th Annual Scientific Session in San Diego, Calif. The research was noted on

Appropriately, a group of Greek scientists conducted the study, using a representative sample of more than 2,500 Greek adults, ages 18 to 89, who provided them with their health info every year from 2001 to 2012. They also completed in-depth surveys about the medical records, lifestyles and dietary habits at the beginning of the study, five years into the study and after 10 years, according to a release about the research from the American College of Cardiology. Nearly 20 percent of the men and 12 percent of the women studied developed or died from heart disease. Greeks and Americans have similar rates of heart disease and risk factors, according to the ACC.

Researchers found that subjects who closely followed the Mediterranean diet were 47 percent less likely to develop heart disease over a 10-year period compared to similar adults who did not closely follow the diet. For the study subjects, sticking to the Mediterranean diet was even more protective for their hearts than physical activity. The study was the first to track 10-year heart disease risk in the general population. Most previous studies focused on middle-aged people.

“Our study shows that the Mediterranean diet is a beneficial intervention for all types of people--in both genders, in all age groups, and in both healthy people and those with health conditions," said Ekavi Georgousopoulou, a Ph.D. candidate at Harokopio University in Athens, Greece, who conducted the study, in the release. "It also reveals that the Mediterranean diet has direct benefits for heart health, in addition to its indirect benefits in managing diabetes, hypertension and inflammation."

So take that, paleo. There’s a reason the cavemen are no longer around.

Perhaps they’d be here to push their own energy bars if they’d been able to drink wine, like the Med dieters.

5@5: Michigan Whole Foods protestors berry upset | Tech too fast for food?

5@5: Michigan Whole Foods protestors berry upset | Tech too fast for food?

Consumer groups urge Costco to publicly reject GMO salmon

Friends of the Earth said more than 18,000 letters will be delivered to Costco Wholesale Corp. stores this week, about two months after a coalition of groups including the Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch, and Food Democracy Now, collected more than 300,000 signatures on petition urging Costco to refrain from selling the salmon, which they dubbed “Frankenfish.” Read more at The Hill...


Local protesters call for berries to be pulled from shelves at Whole Foods

Protesters want all of Driscoll’s products to be dropped from stores because of the company’s repression of union organizing. Read more at CBS Detroit...

Are food tech companies promising too much too fast?

That attitude might makes sense for, say, testing a new video platform, but the stakes are higher for today’s “food tech” companies, where breaking things doesn’t involve code, but the health of their customers. In the food world, moving fast and scaling quickly are often antithetical to building a strong, lasting system. Read more at Yahoo Food...


Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op offering shares to finance store construction

As a groundbreaking looms for the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op’s new midtown store, the organization is turning to Wall Street-style financing to help pay for construction. Read more at The Sacramento Bee...


More Kroger outlets installing in-store beer taps

Kroger is tapping in-store beer stations and tastings in the supermarket chain’s latest push to drive customer traffic. Read more at USA Today...

Target is getting in on the beer game, too, according to Supermarket News. And Whole Foods Market already appears all in as it tapped its own craft beers earlier this month.

Omega-3s and cognition: Dosage matters!

Once again the role of omega-3s in health is being called into question, this time in relation to cognitive decline…and once again I feel compelled to try to remind people that we need to look at the overall body of science before drawing conclusions based on a single study. As many scientists have noted, no single study is perfect…so no definitive conclusions can be drawn from a single study. Yet, this is exactly what is happening in the consumer media in response to a new paper from Chew et al on the role of omega-3s and other nutrients in cognitive decline. The results of the study led the authors to conclude, "Contrary to popular belief, we didn't see any benefit of omega-3 supplements for stopping cognitive decline." Newsweek went so far as to translate this into the declaration, “Omega-3 Supplements Are a Waste of Money.” Really, Newsweek? A single study, on a single area of health, means better nutrition is a waste of money? Would they at least change their view if the totality of evidence for that health condition told a different story?

The paper by Chew et al focused on cognitive function though, so let’s look specifically at this area of research. EPA and DHA are both long-chain omega-3s, but they are actually each thought to play different roles in the body, but especially in the neurological system. DHA is the most prominent fatty acid found in the neurological system and is actually part of the structure of your brain and eyes. One hypothesis is that DHA is really required in sufficient amounts to see effects in cognitive function studies. In fact, one paper has shown that DHA consumption leads to greater blood flow and activity in the prefrontal cortex during cognitive tests than EPA, which indicates that DHA is the key player. Another paper, a recent meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials by Yurko-Mauro et al, showed that greater than 1g of DHA per day was required to improve some aspects of cognitive function in older adults.

This is important because the media reporting on the paper by Chew et al is that “high dose” omega-3s did not slow the rate of cognitive decline in this population, but the supplement that was given to this group only contained 350mg of DHA. One could argue that this is hardly a high dose of DHA since it is less than you would get from a single serving of salmon, but the real question is whether the dose is sufficient for detecting a benefit.

Please click here for Adam Ismail's continued analysis of shortcomings of this study methodology GOED Omega-3 Blog.

Speak and Speak Smooth customers to receive refunds

Engredea News  Analysis

Customers who bought Speak and Speak Smooth, dietary supplements that claimed to treat speech disorders, should watch their mail for refund checks from the Federal Trade Commission.

As part of a settlement with NourishLife LLC, the FTC is sending checks for $25.18 to 6,936 eligible customers. The checks, which began being mailed today, must be cashed by Oct. 23. The refunds total $175,000.

NourishLife has agreed to stop claiming that its products help children — even those who suffer autism-associated disorders — develop and maintain normal speech and language capabilities.

The Illinois-based company and its owner, Mark Nottoli, sold Speak softgels and capsules and Speak Smooth liquid supplements online and through a distribution network since at least 2008, the FTC reported. The supplements contained omega 3s, omega 6s, vitamin E and vitamin K. The company also owned and operated a website touting the supplements' benefits while purporting that the website was an independent operation.

The company reached the settlement with the FTC in January.

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Nearly half of energy drink ads aimed at teens

Times were so much simpler when all parents had to worry about was their kids having a Coke and a smile. Today teenagers chug drinks with far more caffeine and sugar. A new study looked at how much energy drink companies target teens with TV advertising. Researchers found that nearly half of all energy drinks TV commercials are aimed at teens.

Back in 2013, when the American Medical Association and the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee announced their support of banning the marketing of energy drinks to adolescents because of potential health effects from high caffeine consumption, little quantitative research existed about the practice of advertising the drinks on TV, according to a story about the new research on So, Dartmouth University designed and launched a study.

The researchers examined a database of television ads broadcast between March 2012 and February 2013 on 139 network and cable channels. They found they aired more than 608 hours of advertisements for energy drinks. Nearly half those commercials, 46.5 percent of them, appeared on networks with content themes aimed at adolescents.

“Although our results do not support the idea that manufacturers intentionally target adolescents with their advertising, ads for energy drink were primarily aired on channels with themes likely to appeal to adolescents, and adolescents are likely exposed to energy drink advertising via television,” lead research Jennifer A. Emond, PhD, Department of Community and Family Medicine, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth told

Of course, the teens may not remember all those energy drink commercials if they regularly chug the stuff. New research suggests that daily consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks may impact memory and learning in adolescents.


Lawsuit: Chipotle's non-GMO marketing claims are false


Chipotle Mexican Grill is falsely claiming its menu does not contain genetically modified organisms, a New York law firm claims in a federal class-action lawsuit against the popular fast-casual restaurant.

The lawsuit alleges that Chipotle's marketing represents that the company uses only "non-GMO ingredients," but that its meat, sour cream and cheese come from animals that eat genetically modified feed, including soy and corn. In addition, Chipotle serves soft drinks made with corn syrup, another GMO.

"Consumers today are very concerned about what they eat, and restaurants know that consumers place a premium on food that is considered to be healthy or natural,"  attorney Laurence D. King said in a released statement.  "As a result, Chipotle's advertising in its stores should have accurately informed customers about the source and quality of its ingredients and should not mislead consumers that they are serving food without GMOs when in fact they are."

The case, Gallagher v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.,  was filed on behalf of California customers who bought food from Chipotle since April 27, when the company's non-GMO marketing campaign began. The lawsuit accuses Chipotle of violating California's false-advertising and unfair competition laws, as well as the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act.

20 brand new products you'll find at Expo East 2015

Here's a first look at some of the new items you'll see on the 2015 Natural Products Expo East show floor. From natural foods to supplements, our editors selected the products you need to see in Baltimore.