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  • PLU Codes Do Not Indicate Genetically Modified Produce

    Jeffrey Smith, The Huffington Post:

    Let's put a rumor to rest. No, the 5-digit PLU codes on produce do not tell you what is genetically modified or natural. This urban legend has circulated long enough, even on the best of websites. It's time to take it down.

    The 4-digit PLU codes on the sometimes-pain-in-the-neck labels glued to apples, for example, tell the checkout lady which is a small Fuji (4129) and which is a Honeycrisp (3283). She'll know what to charge you and the inventory elves will know what's what. If there's a 5-digit code starting with 9, then it's organic.

    These numbers, organized by the Produce Marketing Association, have nothing to do with you. According to Kathy Means, Association Vice President of Public Relations and Government Affairs, this is an optional convention for retailers and their supplier and is not designed as a communication tool for customers. If you want to know which items are organic, look for the word Organic; and stop squinting at

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  • Got Lice? Hold the Mayo—and Pesticides!

    Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff,

    Mommy Greenest:

    If you have a child in school, chances are he or she will get lice at some point or another. You can be the most vigilant hair-washer on the planet, your kid could practically squeak and sparkle, but one day you'll look over and she'll be scratchy-scratching at her head.

    I know, because two weeks ago my daughter came home with lice.

    Now this is not entirely surprising. She has (had) long hair down to her waist and so thick that it took 15 minutes to brush out every morning. (Prompting a daily discussion about how kids with cancer need wigs and how much good karma cutting 10 inches off her mane could do and how cute she'd look with a bob, all to no avail.) And despite the tightness of my braiding, the firmness of my pony tailing and the sternness with which I lectured that she'd get lice if she didn't keep her hair back, she always came home with it loose. Hey, if you had hair like Brooke Shields in that desert island movie, you'd

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  • Go with the Grain - Sandwiches: It’s What’s For Dinner

    Danielle Friedland:

    I am not exaggerating when I say that I am a terrible cook and the only part of meal preparation that I enjoy is when I get to eat. Fortunately for me and my children, not only does my husband excel at it, he enjoys it and so much so that he has a food blog. But even then, sometimes he doesn't feel like cooking and we don't have enough leftovers for a second night but, food genius that he is, he cobbles together something like tacos, omelettes, quesadillas or sandwiches. And even though it's leftovers, it's fun because it's a different dish and usually requires much less clean-up which, as the family dishwasher, I appreciate.

    I recently attended an event sponsored by the Grain Foods Foundation, a consortium of companies and suppliers in the baking and milling industries, in order to promote the nutritional value of grain in a healthful diet. A publicist confided to me that the nonprofit organization was formed in reaction to the Atkins and South Beach

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  • Genetically Modified Foods in Supermarkets: How Many?

    Marion Nestle:

    A reader writes that the discussion over genetically modified foods makes no sense because: "virtually every food we consume today has been genetically modified."

    The accuracy of this statement depends, of course, on how you define "genetically modified." If you include traditional genetic crosses done through plant and animal breeding, the statement is correct.

    If, however, you restrict the definition of GM foods to those involving actual manipulations of DNA (rather than eggs and sperm), and the insertion of DNA from one organism into the DNA of another, then the number of GM foods approved for production in the United States is quite limited.

    The FDA provides a list of such foods in its inventory of completed consultations on bioengineered foods.

    The list includes GM corn, soybeans, cotton, cotton, alfalfa, canola, and sugarbeets, most of which are fed to animals or used as ingredients in processed foods.

    But what about supermarket fruits

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  • New Interactive Tool to Help Your School Go PVC-Free

    Our nation's schools are in trouble - and this time, it's not the test scores.

    No, this time it is the toxic chemicals lurking in schools that leave children too sick to learn. Many schools around the country are literally made out of an emerging toxic plastic of concern, polyvinyl chloride (a.k.a. PVC or vinyl). This volatile vinyl is permeating our schools, from vinyl flooring, to computers, to vinyl backpacks and other school supplies.

    Two years ago Congress passed legislation banning phthalates in children's toys. While phthalates have been banned from PVC toys, they're still widespread in PVC products like flooring used in schools.

    In recent years, a number of studies have found a relationship between the phthalates released by PVC building supplies and asthma in children and adults. With over 7 million children suffering from asthma which, incidentally, is the leading cause of school absenteeism, our vinyl schools endanger students' health.

    Dioxin, lead and

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  • What Does “Organic” Really Mean?

    Robyn O'Brien, AllergyKids Foundation:

    Now I'm not sure about you, but when I first heard the term "organic" several years ago, I dismissed it. It connoted a "status" and conjured up two different images: the lifestyles of the rich and famous and an alternative, hippie lifestyle. Since I didn't relate to either, it seemed to be a select way of eating for a select few.

    Boy, was I wrong.

    The term "organic" actually refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. It includes a system of production, processing, distribution and sales that assures consumers that the products maintain the organic integrity that begins on the farm, according to the Organic Trade Association (OTA).

    The U.S. Congress adopted the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) in 1990 as part of the 1990 Farm Bill. This action was followed by over a decade of public input and discussion, which resulted in a National Organic Program final rule published by the U.S. Department of

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  • First Steps: The Diaper Debate

    From birth to toilet training, a baby goes through an average of 8000 diaper changes. This sheer volume of diapers makes one thing clear: Your choice of diaper - cloth or disposable - has a tremendous impact on the welfare of your baby and the planet.

    To help you decide what's best for your family, here are some things you should know.

    Diapers and Health

    Since babies have diapers touching delicate areas 24 hours a day, it's no surprise that health concerns have arisen.

    1. Diaper rash.

    Cloth diapers tell kids and parents when they're wet, while disposables may feel dry because the absorbent materials pull wetness into the middle of the diaper. This often means fewer diaper changes and possibly increased diaper rash. Therefore, regardless of the type of diaper used, it is important to change them frequently, every 2-3 hours, even if they feel dry.

    2. Synthetic chemicals.

    Parents are largely in the dark about the chemicals used to make the disposable diapers

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  • Straight Out of a Sci-Fi Movie: Salmon Engineered to Eat (All the Time)

    Robyn O'Brien, AllergyKids Foundation:

    Now I'm not sure about you, but these headlines about our food supply are getting pretty tough to stomach. From egg recalls large enough to feed every American two scrambled eggs to meat recalls warning us about e. Coli in our hamburgers, I can't help but yearn for simpler times.

    But the latest food headline sounds like it's out of a sci-fi movie: "Genetically Modified Salmon Safe to Eat, FDA Report Says". A fish designed to eat year round. And it comes with an "on switch."

    Could things get any stranger?

    Now if you're anything like me, you may not have been aware that about fifteen years ago a new technology was introduced into our food supply called "genetic engineering" since it hasn't gotten a whole lot of attention in the U.S. media. But from corn to milk to fish, the United States started manipulating the DNA of our food using all kinds of wild sounding tools and technology beginning in the mid 1990s in an effort to drive

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  • Breast Cancer From A Bottle—For Pre-Teen Girls

    Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff, Mommy Greenest:

    When my husband and I were first engaged, we went to a dinner party at the home of a family friend. Since the two of us basically got together and decided to get married in just under two weeks-long story, and no it doesn't involve a shotgun-most people at the party didn't know my intended. He got grilled-on his childhood, family, education, career, even past girlfriends. And he passed with flying colors, until the moment when he revealed his astrological sign.

    A cancer? Eyebrows were raised. Mutterings were heard. Moodiness. Intensity. My friend's Austrian grandmother leaned over and told me, "When the moon is full, you need to take him outside so he can cry." We looked at each other and laughed. Who needs to cry when you're falling in love?

    Flash forward 15 years and-like clockwork-my kind and wonderful husband turns moody and intense each time the moon is full. Only now he's joined by my daughter, whose birthday is three days after

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  • Zero-Waste, Healthy Lunch Guide

    These days it seems there's a brown bag lunch revival. Especially since so many parents want their kids to eat healthier food than what schools typically provide and so many have to deal with food allergies.

    Beyond just a brown bag with healthy food, consider packing a zero-waste (or very little waste) lunch. It may not always be a perfect lunch - some days the pantry and fridge may be a bit barren, some days maybe you're just too tired to do all the prep, and some days might call for a special "naughty" treat. But, have some goals and just do your best.

    Here are some tips and resources to pack your zero-waste, healthy lunches:


    • A reusable lunchbox. There are great boxes and bags available these days. Just don't get ones made from PVC.
    • A reusable sandwich wrap. Waxed paper or recycled aluminum foil are good options too, try to nix the plastic baggies.
    • A reusable ice pack to keep cold food cold.
    • Stainless steel or reusable plastic containers. If you
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