Friday, July 4, 2014

15 Companies that serve you wood

NEW YORK (TheStreet) — Are you getting what you pay for on your plate?
The recent class-action lawsuit brought against Taco Bell raised questions about the quality of food many Americans eat each day.
Chief among those concerns is the use of cellulose (read: wood pulp), an extender whose use in a roster of food products, from crackers and ice creams to puddings and baked goods, is now being exposed. What you’re actually paying for — and consuming — may be surprising.
Cellulose is virgin wood pulp that has been processed and manufactured to different lengths for functionality, though use of it and its variant forms (cellulose gum, powdered cellulose, microcrystalline cellulose, etc.) is deemed safe for human consumption, according to the FDA, which regulates most food industry products. The government agency sets no limit on the amount of cellulose that can be used in food products meant for human consumption. The USDA, which regulates meats, has set a limit of 3.5% on the use of cellulose, since fiber in meat products cannot be recognized nutritionally.
“As commodity prices continue to rally and the cost of imported materials impacts earnings, we expect to see increasing use of surrogate products within food items. Cellulose is certainly in higher demand and we expect this to continue,” Michael A. Yoshikami, chief investment strategist at YCMNet Advisors, told TheStreet.
Manufacturers use cellulose in food as an extender, providing structure and reducing breakage, said Dan Inman, director of research and development at J. Rettenmaier USA, a company that supplies “organic” cellulose fibers for use in a variety of processed foods and meats meant for human and pet consumption, as well as for plastics, cleaning detergents, welding electrodes, pet litter, automotive brake pads, glue and reinforcing compounds, construction materials, roof coating, asphalt and even emulsion paints, among many other products.
Cellulose adds fiber to the food, which is good for people who do not get the recommended daily intake of fiber in their diets, Inman said. It also extends the shelf life of processed foods. Plus, cellulose’s water-absorbing properties can mimic fat, he said, allowing consumers to reduce their fat intake.
Perhaps most important to food processors is that cellulose is cheaper, he added, because “the fiber and water combination is less expensive than most other ingredients in the [food] product.”
Indeed, food producers save as much as 30% in ingredient costs by opting for cellulose as a filler or binder in processed foods, according to a source close to the processed food industry who spoke with TheStreet on the condition of anonymity.
Inman said that in his 30 years in the food science business, he’s seen “an amazing leap in terms of the applications of cellulose fiber and what you can do with it.” He said powdered cellulose has a bad reputation but that more of his customers are converting from things like oat or sugar cane fibers to cellulose because it is “snow white in color, bland and easy to work with.”
Most surprising, said Inman, is that he’s been able to remove as much as 50% of the fat from some cookies, biscuits, cakes and brownies by replacing it with powdered cellulose — but still end up with a very similar product in terms of taste and appearance.
“We’re only limited by our own imagination,” Inman told TheStreet. “I would never have dreamed I could successfully put 18% fiber in a loaf of bread two years ago.”
He said cellulose is common in processed foods, often labeled as reduced-fat or high-fiber — products like breads, pancakes, crackers, pizza crusts, muffins, scrambled eggs, mashed potato mixes, and even cheesecake. Inman himself keeps a box of Wheat Thins Fiber Selects crackers, manufactured by Kraft Foods(KFT)’ Nabisco brand, at his desk, and snacks on them daily, clearly unmoved by the use of wood pulp in its ingredients.
“Most consumers would be shocked to find these types of filler products are used as substitutes for items that they believe are more pure,” Yoshikami said. “We would expect increased disclosure to follow increased use of cellulose and other filler products as the practice increases in frequency.”
To that end, TheStreet rounded up a list of popular foods that use cellulose. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and we suggest consumers read food labels carefully. Still, click through the slideshow to find out if your favorite foods contain the “all-natural” wood pulp…
(Please note the following lists are not exhaustive. Some companies list all ingredients on their Web sites. Other items were found in a local grocery store near TheStreet‘s headquarters on Wall Street in New York City.)
Pepsi uses cellulose in the following products:
 Aunt Jemima Frozen Blueberry Pancakes
 Aunt Jemima Original Syrup
 Aunt Jemima Original Syrup
Kellogg uses cellulose in the following products:
 MorningStar Farms Chik’n Nuggets
 MorningStar Farms Chik Patties Original
 MorningStar Farms Buffalo Wings Veggie Wings
 Eggo Nutri-Grain Blueberry waffles
 Eggo Strawberry Waffles
 Eggo Blueberry Waffles
 Cinnabon Pancakes Original
 Cinnabon Pancakes Caramel
 Cinnabon Snack Bars Original
 Cinnabon Snack Bars Baked Cinnamon Apple
Weight Watchers International uses cellulose in the following products:
 Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich
 English Toffee Crunch Ice Cream Bar
 Giant Cookies & Cream Ice Cream Bar
General Mills uses cellulose in the following products:
 Fiber One Ready-To-Eat Muffins (Wild Blueberry & Oats; Mixed Fruit, Nuts & Honey; Apple Cinnamon Bun, Banana Chocolate Chip)
 Fiber One Original cereal
 Fiber One Chewy Bars (90 Calorie Chocolate, 90 Calorie Chocolate Peanut Butter)
 Fiber One baking products (Apple Cinnamon Muffin Mix, Banana Nut Muffin Mix, Blueberry Muffin Mix)
 Pillsbury Moist Supreme Classic Yellow Cake Mix
 Pillsbury Mozzarella and Pepperoni Pastry Puffs
 Pillsbury Cheese and Spinach Crescent Pastry Puffs
 Pillsbury Artichoke and Spinach Bread Bowl Bites
 Pillsbury Buffalo Chicken Crescent Pastry Puffs
 Pillsbury Cream Cheese and Jalapeno Bread Bowl Bites
 Betty Crocker whipped frostings (Strawberry Mist, Chocolate, Cream Cheese)
 Betty Crocker Vanilla Amazing Glazes
 Duncan Hines Cake Mixes (Devil’s Food Cake Mix, Dark Chocolate Fudge, Strawberry Supreme, Fudge Marble, Classic Yellow, French Vanilla)
McDonald’s uses cellulose in the following products:
 Fish Filet Patty
 Premium Caesar Salad
 Chipotle BBQ Snack Wrap
 Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken
 Southern Style Chicken Biscuit
 Strawberry Sundae
 Natural Swiss Cheese (used in McRib, Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Angus Mushroom & Swiss, Premium Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich, Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich, Angus Mushroom & Swiss Snack Wrap)
 Shredded Cheddar/Jack Cheese (used in Ranch Snack Wrap (Crispy and Grilled), Honey Mustard Snack Wrap (Crispy and Grilled), Chipotle BBQ Snack Wrap (Crispy and Grilled), Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken, Premium Southwest Salad with/without Crispy/Grilled Chicken, Premium Bacon Ranch Salad with/without Crispy/Grilled Chicken, McSkillet Burrito with Sausage)
Sara Lee uses cellulose in the following products:
 Jimmy Dean Frozen Breakfast Bowl (Sausage & Gravy)
 Jimmy Dean D-lights Turkey Sausage Breakfast Bowl
 Jimmy Dean D-lights Turkey Sausage Croissant
 Jimmy Dean Breakfast Entrée (Scrambled Eggs with Bacon/Sausage and Cheese Diced Apples & Seasoned Hash)
Yum’s Brands’ Taco Bell uses cellulose in the following products:
 Southwest Chicken
 Caramel Apple Empanada
 Corn Tortilla
 Enchilada Rice
 Nacho Chips
 Red Strips
 Strawberry Topping
 Zesty Dressing
Jack in the Box uses cellulose in the following products:
 Cheese, Cheddar, Shredded (used in Grilled Chicken Salad, Chicken Club Salad with Crispy Chicken, Meaty Breakfast Burrito, Hearty Breakfast Bowl)
 Cheese, Pepper Jack, Shredded (used in Chicken Fajita Pita, Southwest Chicken Salad with Grilled Chicken, Meaty Breakfast Burrito)
 Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
 Ice Cream Shake Mix
 Log Cabin Syrup
 Mini Funnel Cake
 Mozzarella Cheese Sticks (also part of Sampler Trio)
 Smoothie Base (Mango, Strawberry, Strawberry Banana)
 Tortilla, Flour (used for Chorizo Sausage Burrito, Steak & Egg Burrito, Meaty Breakfast Burrito)
 White Cheese Sauce (used in Breakfast Bowl (Hearty and Denver))
Kraft Foods uses cellulose in the following products:
 Wheat Thins Fiber Selects
 Frozen Bagel-Fuls
 Macaroni & Cheese Thick ‘n Creamy
 Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Three Cheese W/mini-shell Pasta
Yum’s Brands Pizza Hut uses cellulose in the following products:
 Parmesan Romano Cheese
 Taco Bean Sauce
 Shredded Cheddar (for Taco Pizza)
 Breadstick Seasoning (used to make Cheese Breadsticks)
 WingStreet Bone-In (in the batter)
 Meatballs (for pasta products, sandwiches)
 White Pasta Sauce (used for PastaBakes Marinara, PastaBakes Meatball Marinara, PastaBakes Primavera, PastaBakes Chicken Primavera)
 Alfredo Sauce (used for PastaBakes Marinara, PastaBakes Meatball Marinara, PastaBakes Primavera, PastaBakes Chicken Primavera)
 Fat Free Ranch Dressing
Wendy’s Arby’s uses cellulose in the following products:
 Asiago Cheese (used in Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad, Asiago Ranch Chicken Club, Caesar Side Salad)
 Fat Free French Dressing (for Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, Baja Salad, Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad, BLT Cobb Salad)
 Blue Cheese Crumbles (used in Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, BLT Cobb Salad)
 Cheddar Pepper Jack Cheese Blend, Shredded
 Chocolate Sauce
 Coffee Toffee Twisted Frosty (Chocolate, Vanilla)
 Frosty (Chocolate and Vanilla)
 Frosty Shake (Frosty-cino, Chocolate Fudge, Strawberry, Vanilla Bean)
 Milk, 1% Low Fat Chocolate Milk
Sonic uses cellulose in the following products:
 Ice Cream
 Sonic Blast
 Banana Split
 Ice Cream Cone
Dole Food uses cellulose in the following products:
 Peaches & Crème Parfait
 Apples & Crème Parfait
Yum’s Brands’ KFC uses cellulose in the following products:
 KFC Cornbread Muffin
 Apple Turnover
 Honey Mustard BBQ Sauce
 Lil’ Bucket Strawberry Short Cake Parfait
 Lil’ Bucket Lemon Crème Parfait
 Lil’ Bucket Chocolate Crème Parfait
 Oreo Cookies and Crème Pie Slice
 Reese’s Peanut Butter Pie Slice
 Popcorn Chicken
 Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie Slice
Nestle(NSRGY) uses cellulose in the following products:
 Hot Cocoa Mixes (Mini Marshmallows, Rich Milk Chocolate, Chocolate Mint, Chocolate Caramel)

EXCLUSIVE: Group Finds More Fake Ingredients in Popular Foods

EXCLUSIVE: Group Finds More Fake Ingredients in Popular Foods
Jan. 22, 2013
Jim Avila More from Jim »
Senior National Correspondent

PHOTO: The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), discovered rising numbers of fake ingredients in products from olive oil to spices to fruit juice.

How to Spot Counterfeit Food
It's what we expect as shoppers—what's in the food will be displayed on the label.
But a new scientific examination by the non-profit food fraud detectives the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), discovered rising numbers of fake ingredients in products from olive oil to spices to fruit juice.
"Food products are not always what they purport to be," Markus Lipp, senior director for Food Standards for the independent lab in Maryland, told ABC News.
In a new database to be released Wednesday, and obtained exclusively by ABC News today, USP warns consumers, the FDA and manufacturers that the amount of food fraud they found is up by 60 percent this year.
USP, a scientific nonprofit that according to their website "sets standards for the identity, strength, quality, and purity of medicines, food ingredients, and dietary supplements manufactured, distributed and consumed worldwide" first released the Food Fraud Database in April 2012.
The organization examined more than 1,300 published studies and media reports from 1980-2010. The update to the database includes nearly 800 new records, nearly all published in 2011 and 2012.
Among the most popular targets for unscrupulous food suppliers? Pomegranate juice, which is often diluted with grape or pear juice.
"Pomegranate juice is a high-value ingredient and a high-priced ingredient, and adulteration appears to be widespread," Lipp said. "It can be adulterated with other food juices…additional sugar, or just water and sugar."
Lipp added that there have also been reports of completely "synthetic pomegranate juice" that didn't contain any traces of the real juice.
USP tells ABC News that liquids and ground foods in general are the easiest to tamper with:
  • Olive oil: often diluted with cheaper oils
  • Lemon juice: cheapened with water and sugar
  • Tea: diluted with fillers like lawn grass or fern leaves
  • Spices: like paprika or saffron adulterated with dangerous food colorings that mimic the colors
Milk, honey, coffee and syrup are also listed by the USP as being highly adulterated products.
Also high on the list: seafood. The number one fake being escolar, an oily fish that can cause stomach problems, being mislabeled as white tuna or albacore, frequently found on sushi menus.
National Consumers League did its own testing on lemon juice just this past year and found four different products labeled 100 percent lemon juice were far from pure.
"One had 10 percent lemon juice, it said it had 100 percent, another had 15 percent lemon juice, another...had 25 percent, and the last one had 35 percent lemon juice," Sally Greenberg, Executive Director for the National Consumers League said. "And they were all labeled 100 percent lemon juice."
Greenberg explains there are indications to help consumers pick the faux from the food.
"In a bottle of olive oil if there's a dark bottle, does it have the date that it was harvested?" she said. While other products, such as honey or lemon juice, are more difficult to discern, if the price is "too good to be true" it probably is.
"$5.50, that's pretty cheap for extra virgin olive oil," Greenberg said. "And something that should raise some eyebrows for consumers."
Many of the products USP found to be adulterated are those that would be more expensive or research intensive in its production. "Pomegranate juice is expensive because there is little juice in a pomegranate," Lipp said.
But the issue is more than just not getting what you pay for.
"There's absolutely a public health risk," said John Spink, associate director for the Anti-Counterfeit and Product Protection Program (A-CAPPP) at Michigan State University. "And the key is the people that are unauthorized to handle this product, they are probably not following good manufacturing practices and so there could be contaminates in it."
Spink recommends purchasing from "suppliers, retailers, brands, that have a vested interest in keeping us as repeat customers."
Both the FDA and the Grocery Manufacturers Association say they take food adulteration "very seriously."
"FDA's protection of consumers includes not only regulating and continually monitoring food products in interstate commerce for safety and sanitation, but also for the truthfulness and accuracy of their labels," the FDA said in a statement to ABC News.
Most recently the FDA issued an alert for pomegranate juice mislabeled as 100 percent pomegranate juice, as well as one for the adulteration of honey.
The Grocery Manufacturers of America told ABC News in a statement that "ensuring the safety and integrity of our products – and maintaining the confidence of consumers – is the single most important goal of our industry," and that their members have "robust quality management programs and procedures in place, including analytical testing, to help ensure that only the safest and highest quality products are being offered to consumers."

New Study Shows 59% of “Tuna” Sold in the U.S. Isn’t Tuna

New Study Shows 59% of “Tuna” Sold in the U.S. Isn’t Tuna
Michael Krieger |

Posted Friday Mar 1, 2013 at 12:02 pm
This is just the latest revelation in the stealth inflation and food fraud theme I have written about frequently in recent months.  The non-profit group Oceana took samples of 1,215 fish sold in the U.S. and genetic tests found that that 59% of those labeled tuna were mislabeled. It seems that “white tuna” should be avoided in particular as “84% of fish samples labeled “white tuna” were actually escolar, a fish that can cause prolonged, uncontrollable, oily anal leakage.”  Oh and if you live in my hometown of New York City, you should pay particular attention:
Big Apple has big problem with seafood fraud:  94 percent of tuna and more than three quarters of sushi samples in New York City mislabeled. 
Of the 142 fish samples collected in New York, 39 percent were mislabeled. New York City led the nation with the highest occurrence of mislabeled salmon as well as the highest amount of fraud among salmon collected from grocery stores and restaurants. 
Further reading

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Europe’s economy: Still in the danger zone

Europe’s economy: Still in the danger zone
May 20, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT
The latest economic growth figures from the European Union confirm that most of its member nations are struggling. It’s time to make some tough, painful choices.
FORTUNE — For the past year, we’ve been hearing that global growth, and the world’s equity markets, will get a major lift from a gradual recovery in Europe.
Indeed, Ireland and Portugal recently returned to the debt markets with well-received offerings, and the Greek government claims it will soon be in a position to issue bonds. Yields on sovereign debt remain remarkably low and stable. It’s indisputable that a mood of tranquility has returned to the eurozone.
But tranquility is not the same thing as progress, as the GDP figures released on May 15 by the Statistical Office of The European Union (Eurostat) alarmingly demonstrate. The 18-nation eurozone expanded by just 0.2% in the first quarter of 2014, half the figure economists were projecting.
Germany, as usual, was the leader, posting a gain of 0.8%. The problem spots are precisely the places where the comeback is supposedly underway: the beleaguered nations of Europe’s southern tier, as well as that tamed tiger, Ireland.

The latest figures confirm that most of these countries aren’t improving at all. Italy’s economy shrank by 0.1% in the first three months of 2014, matching the average of the three previous quarters. After expanding 0.6% in Q2 2013, France recorded zero growth. Portugal shrank 0.7%, following positive numbers in the preceding nine months. While figures weren’t available for Greece and Ireland in Q1, neither country is showing progress. Greek GDP dropped 2.5% in the final three months of last year, and Ireland limped ahead at 0.2%.
The lone nation demonstrating a sustained upward trend, however modest, is Spain. It grew at 0.4% in the first quarter of 2014 after pretty much flatlining for the last nine months of 2013.
Harald Uhlig, a German-born and educated economist at the University of Chicago, provides a balanced view of the current risks to the eurozone. For Uhlig, it’s crucial to understand the divergent courses taken by Germany and the southern nations since the euro’s introduction in 1999, and how those policies have led to the disparate economic outcomes in these nations today. “Inflation had always been a big problem in southern Europe,” he says. “Rates were high, and they also carried a big ‘risk premium’ because you couldn’t be sure that the separate central banks wouldn’t do something crazy, causing more inflation.”
The institution of a single currency in Europe led to the creation of a Bundesbank-like European Central Bank that then and now sets monetary policy in a rigorous, predictable fashion. “Rates dropped, and government and consumer spending exploded, driving high growth rates,” says Uhlig. What’s often overlooked, he notes, is that Germany didn’t join the party. “Germany was the ‘sick man’ of Europe. It suffered when the euro was introduced, in contrast to the southern countries.” Germany posted miserable GDP numbers in the early 2000s, while Ireland, Greece, and Spain all roared ahead.
Then, Germany made a turn that, in retrospect, seems astounding. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (who served from 1998 to 2005) championed reforms designed to create a far more flexible labor market. “His model was the U.S.,” says Uhlig. “Before that, I kept hearing from leaders in Germany who didn’t want to reform, [saying] what you hear now in southern Europe: ‘If we only have more growth in the next five years, we’ll get rid of the unemployment problem.’ But growth never came.”
Schröder decisively lowered pension costs and unemployment compensation, and he gave companies more flexibility with hiring and layoffs. Schröder paid a heavy price for securing the most dramatic labor market reforms in modern European history. “He should have been rewarded, but he was brutally punished,” says Uhlig.
Schröder lost the chancellorship to Angela Merkel in 2005. The fruits of his reforms didn’t surface until around 2006, when the German economy emerged as the strongest player in Europe, as demonstrated by its resurgence from the financial crisis.
Big spending inflated wages in southern Europe, and productivity gains couldn’t keep up, meaning labor costs in Spain and France for each unit of autos or steel produced grew at a faster rate than in Germany or the U.S. The crash exposed the competitiveness gap in southern Europe and Ireland. Global customers bought less and less of pricey exports from southern Europe.
So, what can these nations do now? “It can be solved in one of two ways,” says Uhlig. “One is exiting the euro so that costs decline in the new currency compared to costs in other nations. The other is a combination of productivity gains and labor cost reductions. That would be the far better course.”
The issue, he says, is that the troubled nations have done little to unshackle labor markets along the lines of Schröder’s reforms of a decade ago.
Uhlig is especially concerned about the deterioration in France. “Europe used to have two great stabilizers, France and Germany. Now it has one. In France, the retirement age is too low, and companies are often run by former government figures and are too politically connected, so that it’s difficult for entrepreneurs to challenge entrenched companies.” He worries that the future of the eurozone is increasingly “on the shoulders of just one stabilizer, Germany.”
The severe recession and high jobless rates have not done nearly enough to lower labor costs. “I keep hearing from colleagues that labor costs have come way down in Spain,” he says. “But they’re still too high. The southern countries haven’t solved the problem of letting wage costs run far ahead of gains in productivity.”
Uhlig also notes that Europe’s period of economic calm hasn’t been put to good use. “It hasn’t been used for the types of reforms that are needed,” says Uhlig. “The attitude is, the euro-crisis is over, yields are still fairly low, and we don’t have to do anything.”
Uhlig is particularly concerned with potential triggers that might undermine confidence in the credit markets. “If Greece defaults, it could set off a contagion that would raise rates for the other nations, causing more defaults and a possible exit from the euro.” Uhlig would much prefer that the euro stay in place, and the problem be addressed by the Schröder method. Unfortunately, he says, the Schröder experience haunts Europe’s current leaders. “They fear they’ll end up like Schröder and the Social Democrats,” he says.
Southern Europe may have missed its chance. The best time to reform was when times were flush in the mid-2000s. It’s far more difficult to undo regulations and restrictions imposed over decades when economies are stalled and budgets are stretched to the limit, making a fiscal spending jolt highly risky.
Europe’s leaders keep careening from one “solution” to another, fixating on the German elections, then on asset quality reviews for banks, then on huge monetary stimulus programs to prevent potential deflation. They’re missing what really needs to be done. If Europe doesn’t make some tough decisions, the market will make choices for them. That would deliver a giant, cracking sound heard round the world.