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Health & Wellness Insight Alert Archive

Have a look at some of our recent alerts. These give broad coverage of the industry - if you want something more specific create your own here.

<<12345678910>> Total issues:151

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March 01, 2016, to April 01, 2016

FDA Urges Food Industry To Help Reduce Possibility Of Acrylamide Exposure

The FDA’s new non-binding guidelines covering acrylamide – a suspected carcinogen produced during high-temperature cooking of some foods – urge companies to take a close look at their products and try to figure out how to reduce the amount of the chemical. The guidelines are directed at growers, manufacturers, and food service operators, offering steps to reduce acrylamide. The guidance covers raw materials, processing practices, and ingredients pertaining to potato-based foods such as French fries and potato chips; cookies, crackers, breakfast cereals, toasted bread and other cereals-based foods; and coffee. All are sources of acrylamide exposure.

Non-GMO Trend Continues, Though Scientists Aren’t Sure GMO Foods Are A Threat

Claiming to be non-GMO – as some restaurants, grocery chains and food companies have at least partially done – is not only problematic, it’s increasingly difficult to defend from a scientific standpoint without proof that GMO foods present a threat to humanity. It’s problematic because GMO crops and animal feed are inescapable. Staunchly anti-GMO Chipotle had to finally admit its meat and cheeses come from GMO-fed cows. Whole Foods acknowledged “GMOs are ‘pervasive’ and can be found in 70 percent of packaged foods.” Meanwhile, the scientific community seems less hostile to the food industry’s growing application of GMO technology as it waits for some reliable evidence that GMO foods are safe – or unsafe.

Grain Combos Improve Nutritional Profile, Texture Of Baked Goods

USDA food scientists who experimented with the ancient grain amaranth, blending it with oats, whole wheat and chia seeds, say they’ve come up with more healthful, yet still tasty, sugar cookies. Both amaranth and chia contain the essential amino acid lysine. Blending amaranth with beta-glucan-rich oats results in a cookie that could help lower blood cholesterol. Blending an oat bran concentrate and whole wheat flour with finely ground chia may prove even more beneficial. Because chai seeds are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, baked goods made with the chia-oats-wheat mixture not only have improved texture, they could help lower blood cholesterol and prevent coronary heart disease.

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February 01, 2016, to March 01, 2016

New USDA Funding Supports Food Safety Research

A USDA food safety program has awarded 21 grants totaling $15.1 million to fund food safety research in U.S. colleges and universities. The goal of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s and its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) is to protect consumers from microbial and chemical contaminants occurring in the food chain. The grants, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, are clustered around four sub-programs: enhancing food safety through improved processing technologies; effective mitigation strategies for antimicrobial resistance ($3.4 million); improving food safety; and improving food quality.  Five schools received grants of about $1 million each.

Non-GMO Foods Are Selling Well, Though They Are Not Necessarily Organic

American and international food authorities continue to reassure consumers that GMO foods are safe, but the message may not be sinking in, a market researcher says. Retail sales of non-GMO foods and beverages were about $200 billion in 2014, and will rise 65 percent to $330 billion by 2019. This contrasts with an expected 13 percent growth rate for all foods and beverages. However, there is some confusion in the market. Consumers often assume that non-GMO foods are organic. But, though all organic foods are non-GMO, not all non-GMO foods are organic. Non-GMO foods are certified after testing by private organizations like the Non-GMO Project. Organic certification is overseen by the federal government, which makes sure synthetic fertilizers and pesticides – and GMO ingredients – are not used in production. Bottom line: retail sales of less heavily regulated non-GMO products are outpacing sales of foods labeled organic.

“Healthy” Foods In The U.K. No Longer Means “Diet”

Britons are cutting way back on their sugar intake, and are paying closer attention to other ingredients as well, researcher Kantar Worldpanel says. As part of a trend in the U.K. toward healthy food selections, a full 93 percent say cutting back on sugar consumption is a priority. But perceptions of what constitutes “healthy” foods is changing. In fact, sales of healthy private label foods are down 3.3 percent, as consumers shift away from “diet” foods to fresh, “free-from,” less processed  more natural, or functional foods. Kantar advises retailers to “revisit and relaunch and reposition their healthy ranges.”

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January 15, 2016, to February 01, 2016

Birds’ Nests Aren’t Just For Eggs

A cosmetics drink launched in the Asian market reduces wrinkles and slows the aging process of the skin, according to its maker, beauty brand Qiaohou. A primary ingredient of Qiaohou Miracle Essence is edible birds’ nests. The global market for “Beauty from Within” products is $4 billion, with the bulk of sales in the Asia-Pacific region. Anti-aging and natural ingredients are high-growth drivers for the beauty industry. The company says “early trials” of the birds’ nest drinks show that "consistent use helps reduce wrinkles and reverse the effects of aging on the skin.”

Nestle To Help Bring Microbiome Therapeutic Products To Market

Nestlé announced it would participate in commercialization efforts for the Ecobiotics line of microbiome drugs being tested in clinical trials by Seres Therapeutics. Nestlé Health Science has purchased an equity stake in Seres (Cambridge, Mass.), which is developing the microbiome products for the treatment of Clostridium difficile bacterial infections of the digestive system, and for inflammatory bowel disease. The various products, based on microbial organisms, target the 100 trillion microorganisms that live within the human body. They are in different phases of human testing. C. diff infections are most common in people 65 years and older, and in immune-compromised patients treated with antibiotics for underlying infections.

America’s Love Affair With Diet Products Is Mostly Over

The shift in American consumers’ attitudes toward health and dieting is giving diet product marketers a sour stomach, according to Mintel. A Mintel analyst says “the diet industry faces downward pressure” because Americans are skeptical of diet product ingredients and their effectiveness in weight loss. In short, they believe “a magic weight loss pill likely doesn’t exist." The researcher found that 91 percent of U.S. consumers now believe a well-rounded diet is more important than using weight loss products. This shift is reflected in the fact that sales of weight-control tablets continue to decline steeply: nearly 20 percent for the 52-weeks ending July 2015. U.S. consumers agree diet products are not as healthy as they claim to be, and 61 percent believe most diets are not healthy at all.

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January 01, 2016, to January 15, 2016

“Healthy” Foods Can’t Be Making People Fat, Can They? They Sure Can!

Three experiments conducted among groups of American college students have found that junk food isn’t the only culprit in the obesity epidemic. So-called “healthy” foods – as depicted on packaging and labels – can also make people fat because people generally perceive them to be less filling, and end up overeating them. When packages portray a food as healthy, consumer judgment and behavior are affected: it’s healthy, so it’s less filling. They feel less hungry after eating foods depicted as healthy because they tend to order larger portions and end up eating more. The tendency to overeat can be reversed by portraying a food as “nourishing” instead of healthy, the researchers said.

Harmful Bacteria Can Survive A Long Time In Packaged Cracker Sandwiches

Recent outbreaks of foodborne diseases in packaged dry foods like cookies and crackers prompted a U.S. study that shed some light on the activities of pathogens like salmonella. The researchers put salmonella bacteria into four types of fillings – cheese and peanut butter, or chocolate and vanilla – found in dry cookies or crackers sold in vending machines and stores, then placed them into storage. Salmonella didn't survive as well in the cracker sandwiches as in the cookie sandwiches, the researchers found, but in some cases was able to survive for an unexpected six months. The next step is to identify the specific filling ingredients that are harboring the pathogens.

Bad Diet Habits Contribute To Excessive, Prolonged Pain After Surgery, Injury

Poor diet worsens and lengthens chronic pain after surgery or injury, according to new U.S. research. In fact, the study in mice shows a direct link between poor diet quality, obesity and increased and prolonged pain. The mice were fed a version of the so-called “Total Western Diet (TWD):” high in calories from carbohydrates and saturated and monounsaturated fats, and low in calories from protein. After 13 weeks, the TWD mice were fatter and had higher levels of inflammatory compounds. Obese people have the same metabolic profile. In addition, hypersensitivity to heat and touch was greater and lasted longer. The findings indicate that patients with chronic pain who eat poorly are likely to experience “exaggerated pain responses and recovery from injury or surgery.”

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December 15, 2015, to January 01, 2016

E. Coli Outbreak May Sabotage Chipotle’s “Buy Local” Tradition

Thanks to a severe E. coli outbreak, Chipotle Mexican Grill is making some major changes in its supply chain practices that could adversely affect its seven-year-old “buy local” commitment. The outbreak, whose cause has not been pinpointed, sickened 43 people and led to the temporary closing of restaurants in six states for deep cleaning. The health scare has hurt the company’s stock price, which dropped 11 percent in October and 9.5 percent in November, and slowed sales. In response, Chipotle has tightened safety standards, especially ingredients testing, for produce suppliers. Smaller local suppliers may not be able to meet the elevated standards, the company acknowledged, putting a crimp in its promise of using food grown locally.

Weight Watchers Hopes New Strategy Will Help It Gain Members And Revenue

The 52-year-old Weight Watchers diet company, which has experienced a steady slide in members, sales, and stock price, has figured out that though middle-aged women want to lose weight, they want to do it by lifestyle change, rather than deprivation. So, with Oprah Winfrey’s money and advice, that is what the company is now providing. Instead of a diet plan, Weight Watchers has launched “Beyond the Scale,” a program offering revamped food guidelines, a focus on fitness, and motivational tools to “find and fuel inner strength.” The new program has worked so far for Oprah, who has lost 20 pounds since her $43 million investment. The company hopes it works for itself, too, but in reverse. It needs to gain back the 1.4 million members – and several billion dollars in revenue – lost since 2013.

New Roasting Technology Boosts Health Benefits Of Green Coffee Beans

A Brandeis University biophysicist has developed a way to roast green coffee beans – already used as a nutritional supplement and food ingredient – that boosts their health benefits. Parbaking roasts the beans at a lower temperature and in less time, preserving the healthful coffee antioxidant chlorogenic acid (CGA), normally reduced from 50 to 100 percent during roasting. Some scientists believe CGA controls sugar metabolism and blood pressure and possibly treats heart disease and cancer. Inventor Dan Perlman says the parbaked beans are milled in an ultra-cold liquid nitrogen environment to yield a wheat-colored flour that tastes nutty, pleasant, and mild, and can be blended with regular flours for baking, or used in breakfast cereals, snack bars, soups, juices and nutritional drinks.

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December 01, 2015, to December 15, 2015

E. Coli Illnesses Traced To Recalled Packages Of Vegetable Mix

A packaged mixture of diced celery and onion has been recalled because an outbreak of E. coli-caused illness has been traced to it. Taylor Farms Pacific recalled the mix “out of an abundance of caution,” the FDA said in a statement. The mixture was used to make chicken salad, Thai-style salads, packaged dinners and wraps, and other foods sold by Costco, Target, Starbucks and other stores and restaurants. The illnesses of 19 people in seven states nationwide were traced to the vegetable mix. Costco posted signs in its stores and provided detailed purchase logs to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help it track buyers and ingredient sources.

Unilever Uses Company’s Crowdsourcing Engine To Power Sustainability Foundry

Crowdsourcing software vendor Spigit says it is working with Unilever Foundry to help the company attract and connect innovators in sustainability. California-based Spigit is the Software-as-a-Solution (SaaS) platform that provides a single entry-point and connection mechanism for individuals, start-up companies and corporations who want to partner with Unilever Foundry and tackle its “challenges.” Applicants submit ideas to: improve global nutrition, imagine the “shower of the future,” boost access to toilet and sanitation solutions, and reinvent the laundry process to use less water. Since its founding in June 2015, Unilever Foundry IDEAS has received 300 proposals from entrepreneurs around the world.

New Vitamin K Supplements Are Highly Stable

An Australian vitamin supplement company has launched a line of products that contain vitamin K2 for bone and heart health. The products, developed with K2Vital producer Kappa Bioscience, were launched by Swisse Wellness Pty Ltd. in the U.K. in October and will be introduced in Europe with the help of venture partner PGT Consumer Healthcare. K2MK-7 is highly stable and pure. Vitamin K2 is found naturally in foods containing animal fats, such as cheeses, eggs and butter. Multivitamin formulations containing fat-soluble compounds usually contain minerals, which cause stability problems. The Swisse Wellness version, however, is double-coated and microencapsulated to preserve stability.

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November 15, 2015, to December 01, 2015

Gastric Balloon May Be Answer To Weight Loss For The Desperate Obese

Swallowing a balloon-pill may prove to be an effective weight loss technique, according to a new study. The “procedureless” gastric balloon is ingested as a capsule – dubbed “Elipse” by manufacturer Allurion Technologies – that is then “inflated” with 550 ml of liquid. In the study, patients who kept the balloon in place for four months lost 37 percent of their excess weight. The device is not considered a permanent solution to weight loss, but it does have the potential to help people who are overweight or obese but are not candidates for bariatric surgery. After four months, a valve opens on its own, releasing the liquid that is then excreted naturally.

Need To Relax? Try New Skullcap Tea

With stress levels rising in the U.S. – 80 percent of Americans report increased stress in their lives – it should be no surprise that beverages, particularly tea, that deliver relaxation are finding a market. A company known as Traditional Medicinals recently added Stress Ease Cinnamon tea to its line of relaxation teas, sold as supplements. The new tea is unique in the market, according to the company, because a main ingredient is skullcap, purportedly a gentle and effective herb for reducing tension. Traditional Medicinals uses organic, non-GMO, pharmacopoeial grade skullcap blended with cinnamon and licorice.

FDA Recommends Limits On Daily “Added Sugar” Intake

The FDA has issued a recommendation that Americans limit "added sugar" consumption to no more than ten percent of daily calories. The agency also wants food labels to distinguish between natural sugar and added sugar. Except for children three and under, that would mean a limit of 12.5 teaspoons, or 50 grams, of added sugar a day, about the same amount as in a can of Coca-Cola. The problem for American consumers is that sugar, honey and high-fructose corn syrup are not only found in obvious things like sodas, cookies and candy. They are also in healthful foods like low-fat yogurt, granola, wholegrain breads, ketchup, pasta sauce, canned fruit, prepared soups, salad dressings and marinades. Food industry skeptics argue that new labels distinguishing between natural and added sugar will only confuse shoppers.

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November 01, 2015, to November 15, 2015

Millennials Not Content With Popping Nutritional Supplement Pills

Younger generations of Americans, particularly Millennials, are no longer content with knowing that their vitamin C tablet contains, well, vitamin C. They want to know more about the dietary supplements they take, and because they grew up in an age of information explosion, they know they can get that information somewhere, if not from the manufactuer. Where Boomers are content to know what’s in a supplement, Millennials want to know how the pill was made and where the ingredients were sourced. They want, in other words, transparency and traceability. Other important desirables: whole food ingredients (like nutritional greens), and functional foods and beverages delivered – not by pills – but alternatives like gummies, satchels, powders, etc.

Energy Drinks Are A – Potentially Harmful – “Guy” Thing

The main consumers of energy drinks are men, suggesting a connection between “masculinity ideology” and energy drink use, according to a U.S. study. Drinking energy beverages may be a way of “performing masculinity... a way to raise masculine capital." The researchers analyzed data from 467 adult males who were asked if they agreed with statements that suggested traditional masculine attitudes. They also asked what participants expected from energy drinks and whether they felt that the drinks affected sleep patterns. Young white men especially associated the drinks with participation in extreme sports or leading an active and competitive lifestyle. But the researchers warned that the high caffeine content of the drinks can have adverse health effects, especially when it comes to sleep.

Promising – And Delivering – Gluten-Free Cereals Is No Easy Task

General Mills is betting heavily that gluten-free food products – a hot industry trend – will help revive its slumping cereal sales. So it’s no surprise that the company acted quickly when reports started coming in that some Cheerios buyers were experiencing intestinal discomfort, a symptom of celiac disease, an immune response to gluten. Oats, of course, do not contain gluten. But oats mills and cereal manufacturing plants can often be contaminated with wheat, rye or barley flour. General Mills spent tens of millions of dollars to make sure its huge Fridley, Minn., flour mill was itself gluten-free. But the fail-safe systems in place somehow failed. The company last week recalled 1.8 million boxes of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios made at a plant in Lodi, Calif., after discovering the cereal accidentally contained wheat.

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October 15, 2015, to November 01, 2015

Calcium Supplements Increase Risk Of Kidney Stone Formation

After reviewing urine collections and CT scans of 1,486 kidney stone patients, U.S.  researchers concluded that calcium supplements – but not foods rich in calcium – increase the risk of a recurrence of stones. Patients who took calcium supplements had lower levels of the components of kidney stones in their urine. However, they also had a faster rate of kidney stone growth. Vitamin D supplements, however, may help prevent stone formation.

Adding Pumpkin Flavor Doesn’t Make Doughnuts A Health Food

Pumpkin-flavored treats and foods containing pumpkin – pies, breads, etc. – pop up frequently at this time of the year. Pumpkin has some healthful properties but not everything flavored with pumpkin is good for you, except in moderation. Pumpkin itself is rich in fiber and low in cholesterol It also contains vitamin A, phytosterols, magnesium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, protein, zinc and iron. But pumpkin snacks and desserts, not to mention the lattes and coffees, offer none of the benefits of pumpkins, and may contain a lot of salt, fat and sugar.

Lack Of Movement – Not Just Sitting – Is Unhealthy Behavior

British researchers say that, contrary to other recent studies, sitting for long periods of time does not lead to an early death. The study monitored 5,000 people for 16 years, finding no association between sitting and an untimely death. The real problem is lack of movement, not sitting or standing per se. “Any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health,” the authors concluded. The results also cast doubt on the benefits of sit-stand workstations.

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October 01, 2015, to October 15, 2015

Diet Of Dried Plums Seems To Reduce Colon Cancer Risk

U.S. researchers have found that a diet rich in dried plums might ward off colon cancer by helping the gut retain beneficial bacteria. Earlier research has shown that disruptions to the microbiota spur the onset or recurrence of intestinal inflammation that can increase the risk of colon cancer. Dried plums, however, contain phenolic compounds that serve as antioxidants to neutralize the effect of free radicals that damage DNA. The new experiments in rats found that a dried plum diet increased the proportions of two major phyla of bacteria in the gut, while the control diet lowered the proportions. The tests also showed that rats eating dried plums had fewer aberrant “crypts” in gut wall tissue, a strong cancer indicator.

Wine Contains Lots More Arsenic Than Water, But Poses Small Health Threat

A U.S. researcher has determined that wine on average contains a lot more arsenic than the U.S. EPA allows in drinking water, but the risk of poisoning is small unless you’re also getting arsenic from other dietary sources, like apple juice, rice or cereal bars. The problem is especially worrisome for pregnant women, children and the elderly, the scientists said. They are more likely to consume large amounts of contaminated rice, organic brown rice syrup, seafood, wine, and apple juice. The study analyzed 65 wines from Washington, New York, California and Oregon. Washington wines had the highest arsenic concentrations, while Oregon's had the lowest. Arsenic leaches into water and soil – and then the food chain – when rocks containing the metalloid are eroded by rain, rivers or wind.

U.S. Dietary Guidelines Not Based On Current Science, Journalist Says

The nutritional science on which the latest version of U.S. Dietary Guidelines is based may be outdated and misleading, according to a journalist writing in a scientific publication. Nina Teicholz argues that the guidelines, based on an expert report by a 14-member advisory committee, do not reflect recent scientific findings. For example, the committee said the association of saturated fats with heart disease is strong. But the panel did not review scientific literature on saturated fats from the past five years that had failed to confirm a link between sat-fats and heart disease. Teicholtz says that the committee’s analyses of nutritional study findings were less than rigorous, and may simply have relied on the outdated conclusions of industry-funded organizations like the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology. The article has prompted a congressional review of the expert report.
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