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Articles from 2016 In August

Low prenatal D, higher risk of MS?

Low prenatal D, higher risk of MS?

Children of mothers who are vitamin D deficient while pregnant may be much more likely to develop multiple sclerosis as adults, according to new research.

Offspring of D-deficient mothers were 90 percent more likely to develop MS later in life in the Harvard School of Public Health study, which was published in JAMA Neurology.

Vitamin D’s role in MS has been debated. It’s been associated with a decreased risk of multiple sclerosis in adulthood, and it's been found to slow the progression of the disease in some studies. Other previous studies have suggested that in-utero vitamin D exposure may be a risk factor for MS later in life, according to a JAMA release. The authors of the new study point out that two previous studies had not found a link between early vitamin D levels and later MS.

One expert said that the findings need to be interpreted with caution. "We cannot say from this study that low vitamin D levels cause MS in women's offspring," Daniel Skupski, MD, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at New York-Presbyterian/Queens hospital in New York City told U.S. News & World Report. All the study points to is an association between the two."

What the research does do, Skupski said, is "set the stage" for further research to see if getting more vitamin D in pregnancy might lower people's lifetime risk for multiple sclerosis.

[email protected]: International tactics for fighting food waste | Seaweed—a superstar ingredient


How cities are tackling their enormous food waste problem

Apps. Food-sharing networks. Stores that only stock rejected produce. Companies that turn would-be waste into new products. These are all ways that different areas of the world are fighting food waste. What can we learn from them? Read more at FastCo...


Seaweed helps bring food security to Latin America

It's a trendy ingredient in the U.S., but throughout Latin America, where an average of 47 percent of the population lives in poverty, seaweed is become a sustainable source of food—and providing a livelihood for those who cultivate it. Read more at The Christian Science Monitor... 


Want to donate junk food? The region's largest food bank will reject it.

There are some new standards at Capital Area Food Bank, which has locations in Washington DC and Virginia. It will no longer accept donations of holiday candy or sugary soft drinks and bakery items. Low-income populations already have higher incidences of obesity and diabetes, the food bank's chief executive says, and it's time to encourage healthier eating. Read more at The Washington Post...


Consortium created to develop next generation natural sweetening solutions

Dolce is a new strategic partnership between biotech company Brain AG, drug discovery company AnalytiCon Discovery GmbH and ingredient supplier Roquette to develop sweeteners and natural sweet taste enhancers, to cut down on added sugar and calories. Read more at Quality Assurance & Food Safety...


Is there a seasonal and geographic link to celiac disease?

People born in warmer seasons or regions of the world may have a higher risk of developing celiac disease, according to recent research that examined data on nearly 2 million Swedish children. Read more at The Washington Post...

NDIs: 8 provisions that could bankrupt the supplements industry

Capitol Hill

The United Natural Products Alliance has detailed eight provisions in the FDA’s new draft guidance on New Dietary Ingredients that, if unchallenged, the trade group says could cost the industry anywhere from $2 billion to $6 billion.

Every supplement company would feel the regulatory burden of conducting new toxicity studies—in most cases, on ingredients and products that have already been safely on the market for years—and hiring experts and others to develop NDI notifications.

“These are really, really large numbers,” said Loren Israelsen, president of UNPA, which is holding a day-long conference on the subject in Salt Lake City on Sept. 8. “If this is the way NDIs will proceed, a lot of companies will say we will not do it, this will bankrupt us.”

The NDI notification proviso was part of the seminal 1994 legislation that liberated the supplements industry, the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act. It charged the FDA to write a document around the issue of new dietary ingredients that might come onto the market after the passage of DSHEA.

It took the FDA 17 years to come up with its first draft document. That was so disliked by the industry that it took intervention by the two authors of DSHEA, Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), to point the FDA back to the drawing board. Sen. Harkin has since retired from the Senate.

It’s now five years later that the new draft guidance document has been re-released, and this one in some key ways is even more onerous, according to UNPA’s interpretation of the 102-page document.

While the economic cost is by far the biggest issue, the FDA has seven other issues for the industry to digest, any one of which will trigger a new NDI filing.

“It appears any changes, not just significant changes, could trigger an NDI status,” said Israelsen. “That’s why we’re so concerned. It’s almost anything you would do routinely in the course of research and development, upgraded manufacturing and extraction procedures, filtration, fermentation, the use of improved solvents. These are all triggers to new NDI status, this encompasses almost anything today with ingredients and dietary supplements.”

Here is the list of seven additional new requirements that the FDA would like to put upon the ingredients and supplements industries.

  • Any manufacturing change to an ingredient or product. Examples include changing the physic-chemical structure of an ingredient, any impurities, methods to increase bioavailability of an ingredient, toxicity studies, and any post-DSHEA solvent used—anything other than water or ethanol, such as supercritical CO2, hexane, methanol and others.
  • Any chemical alteration. Notably, this would compel companies that have previously gone through a GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) notification to go through an NDI notification process as well. “It would be our view to look at significant manufacturing changes and have some definitions around that,” said Israelsen. “We cannot be held to a standard where any manufacturing change triggers an NDI status.” And any nanotech ingredient would be subject to an NDI as well.
  • Master Files. This is the one aspect that UNPA says it supports. A master file holder, for instance an ingredient supplier, can give its ingredient information to a third-party customer, say a contract manufacturer, so the co-packer can use it to advance its own NDI. This was proposed by the FDA to eliminate with the problem of “piggybacking”—of companies borrowing the NDI status of a competitor’s ingredient.
  • GRAS status: While supplements companies, as well as many small food companies, get a self-affirmed GRAS status, the FDA is saying everyone has to behave like the large food companies, which routinely go through the GRAS affirmation process through the FDA when bringing new products to market.
  • Combination policy. If a supplement maker sources an NDI ingredient from a supplier, and then uses another NDI ingredient, the supplement maker would then have to get another NDI for the combination of the two ingredients. “If this is so,” said Israelsen, “we will have an exponential number of new NDIs.”
  • Pre-DSHEA list. Since 1994, the industry has produced four lists of what it considered ingredients that were on the market before the passage of the legislation. The lists were since combined to one master list. And the FDA, in its wisdom, said that it does not consider that list valid. UNPA does not disagree with the agency that the ODI lists in existence are weak, said Israelsen. Compounding the problem is that, in the intervening 22 years, record-keeping went digital—so any company’s paper records of an ingredient or product, including marketing materials, price lists and manufacturing records, is bordering on the impossible. “The FDA,” said Israelsen, “is looking to have a universe of NDIs with a small pocked of ODIs, with a constantly regenerating list of changes.”
  • Synthetic botanicals. Examples include resveratrol, vinpocetine, L-theanine, and the biggest of all, synthetic caffeine. “The FDA’s view is these are not dietary ingredients, full stop,” said Israelsen. Notably, some of these ingredients were previously submitted as NDIs and the FDA did not object to them.

Israelsen said his view is to avoid a legislative fight to re-litigate the statutory intent of Congress, though a number of issues as presented need either clarification if not outright dismantling, or at least a sizing down to match the public health and safety mandate. At the end of the day, everyone wants products that are safe for consumers. But if the cost of satisfying the FDA’s new requirements are so burdensome that companies go out of business—and during a time frame of more than two decades when most products have demonstrated consumer safety—then something is truly amiss in this new guidance.

Natural product movers & shakers - August 2016

News and Coffee

Derek Sarno, Chad Sarno and Errol Schweizer have joined BeyondBrands’ conscious products collective to co-chair the company’s food, beverage and conscious cannabis verticals. All three industry superstars come to BeyondBrands with decades of senior-level experience from Whole Foods Market, the longtime leader in natural foods retailing and disruptive product development.

Gaia Herbs appointed Angela McElwee as president. McElwee joined Gaia in 2008 as vice president of sales, and was subsequently promoted to vice president, sales operations and elected to the board of directors in 2013.

Tea brand Bhakti has hired Sarah Bird as its new CEO. Prior to joining Bhakti, Sarah was on the executive team at Annie’s Homegrown for 15 years and has extensive experience at large-scale brands like PowerBar, Nestle Beverage Company and Frito Lay. Brook Eddy, Bhakti’s founder, will remain involved in the business and serve as chairwoman of the board of directors.

AAK, a leading manufacturer of value-adding specialty vegetable fats and oils, announced four new hires: Anker Fog as business development and marketing analyst, Jesse Alexander as account manager and Jennifer Alli as senior account manager.

GNC honored Dr. Anil Shrikhande, former president of Polyphenolics, with its Career Award for Excellence in Innovation, based upon his work to develop a premium grape seed extract product, MegaNatural-BP.

New to Hampton Creek's executive team is a chief of design, Sean Wolcott. With more than 20 years of experience shaping brands like Microsoft and Amazon, Wolcott will be focused on leading and elevating all creative efforts.

B&D Nutritional Ingredients announced Chelsea Drinco as its new Southern California regional sales manager. Before joining B&D, Chelsea worked as an account manager at Ingredient Identity
and as a business development assistant at Fresh Healthy Vending.

Northwest-based organic produce distributor Organically Grown Company has recently welcomed Elizabeth (Darrow) Nardi as Chief Executive Officer. She is currently the director of operations for New Seasons Market, where she has held that position for the last 6 years.

Q&A: Why the 'humane economy' is the new norm

Humane EW Promo

Treatment of animals has markedly improved over the last century. Myriad groups across the country are focused on finding “forever homes” for stray cats and dogs (and horses and parrots and lizards). Per Bob Barker’s persistence, animals are routinely spayed and neutered. And importantly, every single state has laws that criminalize mistreatment of animals—often resulting in a felony.

But responsible strides still lag for animals being raised for food. Millions of hens are confined to battery cages—enclosures that allow for only 67 square inches of space, too small for hens to even stretch their wings. Sows are restrained in 2-foot-wide cages throughout their pregnancies, also called gestation crates.

All this is horrifying for obvious reasons. But in his new book The Humane Economy: How Innovators and Enlightened Consumers are Transforming the Lives of Animals (William Morrow, 2016), Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of The United States, says that meaningful improvements in animal welfare are not just good for animals and our moral compass. Humane business practices are now essential for modern capitalism to flourish—increasingly mindful consumers won’t stand for it otherwise.

Here, Pacelle discusses how the new economy—the humane economy—is good for you, good for animals and vital for the bottom line.

What’s the elevator pitch for the “Humane Economy”?

Wayne Pacelle: It’s about marrying our values with our commerce and business practices—separating them not only produces bad outcomes for society, it also undermines the success of business and government. Any business or government that has animal cruelty baked into its operations is facing unprecedented risks in society and in industry.

For example, SeaWorld recently ended the breeding of orcas because children in classrooms were boycotting them, and customers were complaining. SeaWorld saw their stock declining, and they realized that in order to succeed in business, they had to move into animal protection.

How has the Humane Society shifted into the food industry—how did that transition occur from an activist standpoint and what’s the vision going forward?

WP: The largest number of at-risk animals are caught up in the food production system: 77 billion animals worldwide, and that number excludes fish. One of the biggest concerns we’ve had is the intent of confinement on factory farms, so we’ve been focused on laying hens, veal cows and sow pigs. We have pressured trade associations and food retailers to change the way they do business and to end this era of confining laying hens in small battery cages where the animals are immobilized.

In my book, I recount how we are changing the most basic operations in the veal, pork and egg industry. In the last year we’ve gotten 200 major food retailers, including Kroger, Safeway and Wal-Mart, to phase out their purchases that confine animals in cages.

I think it’s easy for lots of folks to get on board with the “humane economy.” Consumers understand it. It feels good. But how exactly does the Humane Society convince big brands that rely on animals for profit to make this shift?

WP: Executives at these big brands want to do the right thing. When we make the scientifically sound case and say [animal cruelty] is awful, it softens them up because they are people too. Plus, this is where the mass of customers are moving. It’s disqualifying for companies. When animals are mistreated, you often see other bad outcomes in society, too. [Overcrowded factory farms] produce so much waste in the environment, and overuse of antibiotics might eventually render them useless for humans. I think the convergence of so many social concerns is driving these changes in the food industry.

But it’s truly a major revolution. We’ve had this intensive confinement of animals during my whole lifetime—we’re now unwinding this.

WP: Some of these companies are phasing in cage-free eggs immediately. The year 2025 doesn’t mean when they start… it’s when they finish. Essentially what we have now is 300 million laying hens in the United States. A year ago, 270 million of 300 million hens are in confinement. Over the next twenty years, we’ll see 10 to 20 million hens per year getting out of these cages. No new traditional cages for hens are being built.

Is cage-free good enough? Should these commitments placate us?

WP: What we have is a minimum standard when we have cage-free. At the very least, animals with legs and wings should move. And it’s up to consumers to lift the standards higher. Some people are going to demand that these animals live their whole lives in a way that reflects conscious concern for their well-being. There’s going to be a lot of variety in the marketplace. But now, cage-free is the new normal. Conscious consumers are going to reach for higher standards. Some people won’t eat eggs or meat at all.

In your book you mention the growth of companies that offer animal product-free alternatives, including Hampton Creek, which makes vegan mayo. Should humane consumers be totally vegan?

WP: I think it’s an outstanding option for people who want to steer clear of animal exploitation. What we have is a host of entrepreneurs who are giving us options we never had. If you can mimic the taste and texture of meat, eggs or milk, and get all the protein but none of the fat and cholesterol and none of the animal cruelty, what’s the problem with that? People will have the same sort of palate experience without any of these social costs.

Moral intention combined with human ingenuity is going to give us a pathway to a more humane society. We’ve already won the moral argument—there are very few people who say that animals don’t matter. Still, when we are so physically removed from these problems, [animal welfare] doesn’t seem urgent. Animals aren’t slaughtered in front of us; the hen is out of the picture.

When you educate people, and give them a product that competes on price, taste and health but is so superior on the moral dimensions, it liberates us. It gives us new options.

Do you follow a specific diet?

WP: I’ve been a vegan for a long time. I became vegan when I was a college student at Yale—I saw images of factory farming and it turned me off. I just decided I was going to get out of the entire enterprise. But at the Humane Society, our metric is progress not perfection. We want people taking steps to make a difference, and celebrating these steps.

Like Meatless Monday?

WP: Yes! I was recently on Oprah’s show, SuperSoul Sunday, and she asked me what people can do to help stem animal cruelty. I said Meatless Mondays are a great way to start, and she later urged her Twitter followers to do the same.

Do you have any pets?

WP: I do. I have a dog named Lily, and she’s a rescue. She was about to be euthanized when we adopted her and she’s the love of my life. Her sister is Zoe the cat. I saw this beautiful stray kitty one day when I was walking Lily, and I scooped her up.

How can we move the dial on animal cruelty specifically as it relates to raising animals for food in other countries, too?

WP: We need a global movement for animal protection. [The Humane Society] has an international arm and we’re active in 50 countries now, just as we’re doing so in the United States. We have to confront these challenges all over the world.

Functional Ingredients

Green tea may prevent deadly heart condition

The good stuff in green tea may prevent a deadly condition in the body’s main artery, according to new research from Japan.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm occurs when the main artery becomes overstretched and bloated. Without treatment, they eventually rupture, and are deadly half the time. The aneurysms often go unnoticed because there are no symptoms until they burst. If doctors happen to identify the condition early, they can treat it surgically, but there are currently no pharmacological treatments.
"The type of polyphenol found in green tea has recently been shown to regenerate elastin, an essential protein that gives the artery its stretchy, yet sturdy, texture," lead author Shuji Setozaki, told "Considering that abdominal arterial aneurysms are caused by inflammation and the degradation of elastin components in the arterial wall, we thought drinking green tea may show promise for treatment."
It did. Rats given a daily dose of green tea polyphenol, a major component of green tea, developed aneurysms less frequently than those that didn’t receive the polyphenol. The research was published in the Journal of Vascular Surgery.
"We believe daily intake of green tea should be considered as a new preventative strategy for abdominal aortic aneurysm; the focus of future studies will be to investigate optimal doses," the study’s co-author Hidetoshi Masumoto told
The research is in line with another new study presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association, that found that people who a cup of tea each day were 35 percent less likely to have a heart attack or other major cardiovascular event. In that study, it didn’t matter if the tea was black or green.

Breathe better with omegas

Omega-3s may be a lung’s best defense against infection, according to new research. Compounds derived from the fatty acids cleared a nasty type of bacteria in a study conducted at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Nontypeable Haemophilus influenza (NTHi), is a bacteria that often plagues people with inflammatory diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. Doctors usually treat patients with anti-inflammatory drugs, but those suppress the immune system. This puts patients at risk for secondary infections, most commonly NTHi bacterial infections.

A team led by Richard Phipps PhD, professor of environmental medicine and director of the URSMD Lung Biology and Disease Program, tested whether an inhalable version of omega-3 derivatives could fight NTHi lung infections in mice. Results, published in The Journal of Immunology, suggest that they can.

"We never really knew why diets high in omega fatty acids seemed good, but now we know it's because they provide the precursors for molecules that help shut down excessive inflammation," Phipps said in a university release.

The puffs of omega-3 reduced inflammation in the lungs of mice without suppressing their immune systems. If it works in people, it may have the potential to not only improve the lives of the millions who suffer from COPD, it may also be used to treat ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia, which are also caused by NTHi.

Other recent research about omega-3s and lung function found that the fatty acids may reduce the risk of asthma in young adults.

Direct Eats acquires online food purveyor Wholeshare

Direct Eats acquisition

Direct Eats announced today that it has acquired the business and brands of Wholeshare, a competitor in the online direct-to-consumer marketplace for the natural and organic grocery space. This further advances Direct Eats' position as the standout leader, engine and hub in the e-commerce arena for organic, natural and specialty food products. In addition, this will fold in a wide audience of actively engaged natural and organic food buyers to Direct Eats.

"Our customers are passionate about feeding their families with the best natural and organic products available. We've always worked to provide those products at a price they could afford," says Wholeshare's Co-Founder Peter Woo. "Direct Eats' values of making healthy products widely accessible are similar to ours, which is why we decided to become a part of the Direct Eats brand."

This is the second major acquisition for Direct Eats this year, having acquired another competitor, Abe's Market, in May. It's a sure sign of upward movement; Direct Eats is gaining momentum and increasing its sphere of influence in the e-commerce space. As of Aug. 29, the Wholeshare website will be redirected to

"We're excited to welcome Wholeshare's customers to the Direct Eats' community and feel it will be a seamless transition, since we offer much of the same product selection at significantly lower prices," says Direct Eats CEO and Founder David Hack. "In addition, the Wholeshare customer will now get the added benefits of free shipping direct to their house as well as being able to shop from our local, small-batch food purveyors from across the U.S., in our continued dedication to making local, national."

Direct Eats' business model is intended to help consumers get access healthy, non-perishable products at wholesale prices, a value that will only be enriched by this deal. The site will continue to provide free shipping on every order, with no membership fees and the added convenience of being able to stock your pantry without having to leave your house. This is a big win for both Wholeshare and Direct Eats but more importantly for consumers as Direct Eats continues to scale this segment of the marketplace.

Since launched to the public in 2015, the site's success has been evidenced by an increase in the average order by more than 50 percent. Consumer interest, as measured in site visitation, has seen an increase of nearly 138 percent. The addition of the business and brands of Wholeshare is expected to contribute a significant amount of fiscal growth to Direct Eats.

Source: Direct Eats press release

Natural Products Expo

This company wants to transform the way kids eat—starting with school lunch

Kirsten Toby Expo East

Revolution Foods has been making waves in the natural foods industry with both its packaged foods innovations and its school food service operations around the country. Here, cofounder Kirsten Tobey talks about Revolution Foods’ retail and school-food strategies, and what we can expect from her upcoming keynote at Natural Products Business School at Expo East next month.

Can you give us a taste of what your Expo East Business School keynote will cover? 

Kirsten Tobey: Building a values-based business starts with defining your core values as a leader and instilling those values into every aspect of your business.

You've received some attention for innovating in the packaged foods category. What do you think makes Revolution Foods stand out in this area? 

KT: Revolution Foods is disrupting tired grocery categories by creating convenient, delicious, healthy offerings for families. As busy working moms ourselves, we are always looking for ways to help other busy working parents provide great snack and meal options that are chef-crafted, kid-tested and mom-approved. We use high-quality ingredients, including meats raised with no antibiotics, and no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners, while still delivering the convenience that today’s families seek. And like our school meals, we are conscious that cost is a factor for most families, so our entire offering is affordable and designed to provide more families with access to healthy food.

What new product launches or developments can we expect to see in the near future? 

KT: We created our retail product line in response to feedback from parents and teachers about the need for healthy, convenient meals and snacks that could keep students and families nourished throughout the day, and you'll continue to see innovative healthy meal solutions. We'll be launching two new products that meet the needs of busy families for different meal times early this fall.

Tell us about your work in schools. It seems unusual for a consumer-facing company to also be serving school meals—can you explain how that happened, and how many schools you're in now?

KT: Kristin [Richmond, cofounder] and I developed the idea for Revolution Foods in business school—we started out in 2006 to transform the way America eats starting with kids in schools. We began serving freshly prepared, healthy meals to students in schools in the Bay Area, and we now serve over 1.5 million school meals every week in 15 states.

You say your meals exceed the USDA’s nutrition standards. How so?

KT: Every Revolution Foods school lunch is accompanied by a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables. We go above and beyond what USDA requires in school meals by ensuring all our meals are free from artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners, ensuring that our food is delivered fresh to schools each day, and ensuring that the quality of the ingredients in everything we offer is of a high quality that we would (and do) serve to our own children.

How are the meals received by children? Is there an "adjustment period" for them—and do you track what children actually eat versus what they take and perhaps throw away?

KT: We engage kids in the entire process, so we design a menu that they are going to eat. We earn their trust with a classic menu—including kid favorites like hot dogs and cheeseburgers on whole wheat buns and whole grain-breaded chicken bites—but we only use high-quality ingredients without artificial flavors or sweeteners. We introduce meals that are culturally relevant, like jambalaya in Louisiana, and extend those to other markets. Based on feedback from kids, we introduce meals that may be outside what they normally eat but help to expand their palate and get them to try new ingredients. Our firecracker chicken—chili sesame noodles tossed with green onions, topped with diced grilled chicken breast and a sweet Thai chili sauce—is a good example and has been very popular.

Do you have any messages to share with the natural foods industry regarding children and healthy eating? 

KT: We have always worked to ensure that our meals in both grocery stores and schools are affordable to all American families. We also focus on building healthy eating habits by addressing multiple meal occasions across multiple categories.

Catch Kirsten Toby at Natural Products Expo East.
Natural Products Business School keynote
When: 9-9:30 a.m., Wednesday, Sept.  21, 2016
Where: Hilton Holiday Ballroom 6
Learn more here.

[email protected]: USDA releases guidelines for labeling meat as non-GMO | Following up with a legacy vegan company

Shopper ground beef meat

USDA loosens rules on labeling meat, poultry as non-GMO

The GMO labeling bill signed into law this summer excludes meat, poultry and egg products from mandatory disclosure of genetically modified ingredients, but new guidelines from the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Services explain how companies can make claims that such products are made from animals not raised on GM feed (if they are certified by a third party). Read more at Bloomberg...

Follow Your Heart has been quietly selling vegan food for more than 40 years. Now VCs are backing fast-growing competitors

Life has changed for this plant-based food company, which put out an eggless mayo in the 1970s. Today, it's fighting for market share with trendy, young, VC-backed companies. “I think it’s a mistake to react to that and much more important to make the best products we can," says cofounder Bob Goldberg, who has turned down proposals from would-be investors. Read more at Forbes...

Americans love genetically modified mosquitos much more than other GMOs

More than half of Florida residents support releasing male mosquitos engineered to produce non-viable offspring in the Florida Keys to mate with Zika-carrying females, according to a new poll. Read more at Grist...

Urban farming is revolutionizing our cities

With urban populations growing and a widespread renewed interest in local food, it's no wonder urban agriculture has taken off. A Johns Hopkins study found potential climate benefits from urban farms, as well as some limitations. Read more at EcoWatch...

Organic entrepreneur grows business, fresh food in Ripon

Ernessi Organics, a hydroponic farm in Wisconsin, supplies 16 grocery stores with fresh greens and is about to expand to double its production. Read more at Star Tribune...