Friday, May 22, 2009

Newsflash: OREOS ARE VEGAN!... maybe.

Yeah, for real. I don't know when they took the whey out, but at least in the United States they sure as hell did. Here is a listing of their ingredients from the Nabisco website:

Ingredients: SUGAR, ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE {VITAMIN B1}, RIBOFLAVIN {VITAMIN B2}, FOLIC ACID), HIGH OLEIC CANOLA OIL AND/OR PALM OIL AND/OR CANOLA OIL, AND/OR SOYBEAN OIL, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CORNSTARCH, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA AND/OR CALCIUM PHOSPHATE), SALT, SOY LECITHIN (EMULSIFIER), VANILLIN - AN ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, CHOCOLATE. CONTAINS: WHEAT, SOY.

See what I mean? The only even vaguely questionable item is the sugar - we can't really know if they're using white sugar that was processed with bone char, and while this process doesn't leave residues of animal products in the end product, the whole using-animal-bones thing definitely doesn't fit into the definition of "vegan". So if you are a vegan that is concerned about this, you could call the company and try to find out (and let us know what they say!!). I'd love to tell you how, but oddly enough I can't find a phone number on their website. Personally, I'm shocked.

The thing is though, I think white sugar is more expensive... so I doubt they're using it unless they really have to. And why would they have to? Maybe for the "creme" center... Oh, the mysteries of mass production cookies. Anyway, this is one of those "how vegan" issues, akin to "Processed on equipment that also processes dairy and egg products". It's impossible to be absolutely 100% vegan all the time. Even raw vegetables aren't completely vegan if you think hard enough about it - tilling the land kills burrowing animals, and even organic farming uses some pesticides.
You have to draw a line somewhere or you'll lose your freaking mind.

I'd continue on to write a quipy, clever, adorable blog post about the wonders and horrors of the oreo cookie... but Vegansaurus has done it for me. Enjoy!

* * *

Wait a damn minute. Hold the phone. Do you see it? Down there at the bottom, the very last ingredient - "chocolate". Since when is that one ingredient? See, now I recall seeing this on the package in the grocery store, and being aggravated and perplexed by it. Well, let's see what Nabisco (or, actually, parent company Kraft) has to say about it.
I think I'll write an email! (Navigates annoying website that makes it difficult to find page on which to actually send email, finally succeeds, writes following:)
I have just looked up the ingredients of original Nabisco Oreo cookies on your website. They are listed as follows:

Ingredients: SUGAR, ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE {VITAMIN B1}, RIBOFLAVIN {VITAMIN B2}, FOLIC ACID), HIGH OLEIC CANOLA OIL AND/OR PALM OIL AND/OR CANOLA OIL, AND/OR SOYBEAN OIL, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CORNSTARCH, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA AND/OR CALCIUM PHOSPHATE), SALT, SOY LECITHIN (EMULSIFIER), VANILLIN - AN ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, CHOCOLATE. CONTAINS: WHEAT, SOY.

The last ingredient listed is "chocolate". However, "chocolate" is not one ingredient, but is rather almost always a group of ingredients such as cocoa mass, cocoa butter, and sugar. My question for you, then, comes in two parts.
1) what does your "chocolate" contain?
2) why is Nabisco allowed to simply list "chocolate" instead of listing its constituent ingredients, as it does with enriched flour?
While we wait for a response, a micro-background on Kraft. For the longest time, this well known wholesome family kind of brand was owned by Altria, also known as Phillip Morris - yep, the cigarette guys. But in 2007 the company was "spun off" and is now independent and publicly owned. Given my pitifully small understanding of how the business world works, what I can gather from this is that all shares of Kraft were sold so that the parent company Altria no longer had a stake in it. So in a way it's not quite as evil a company as it used to be... except that it's still an enormous multi-national corporation that makes billions every year by peddling overprocessed chemicals and animal byproducts, frequently to children. (Whoops!)

One immediate effect of figuring out how to email them: I got some contact info, in case any of you want to follow up on that sugar thing:

Phone:

1-800-567-KRAFT (5723)

Mail:

Kraft Foods Global, Inc.
Global Consumer Relations
1 Kraft Court
Glenview, IL 60025

(Plays Jeopardy! theme song in head... for a day and a half.)

Ah! Alright, a response. Oh, you're gonna love this.
Hi Melissa,

Thank you for visiting http://www.kraftfoods.com/ .

Chocolate is a blend of specially selected cocoa beans, roasted, crushed and ground. All of our label information is determined with great care and with much attention given to very detailed government labeling regulations

We make changes to our product formulas on a regular basis. Ingredient lists can become outdated very quickly, so, we don't maintain them.

We do have an online tool that lists the label information on some of our products. Just visit www.kraftfoods.com and then click on the product information tab.

Please remember that the best source of information for you is the ingredient statement on the product that you have purchased.

If you haven’t done so already, please add our site to your favorites and visit us again soon!

Kim McMiller
Associate Director, Consumer Relations
Well there you have it folks - the completely non-responsive answer we've been waiting for. Chocolate is made from cocoa beans - did you know?! I just can't believe it. So, uh, do they mean cocoa? And if they do, why don't they list that? Notice how they conveniently ignore my second question. My favorite part? "We make changes to our product formulas on a regular basis. Ingredient lists can become outdated very quickly, so, we don't maintain them." Wow, they really know how to engender confidence, don't they? I guess it just goes to show exactly how much you can trust large corporations. (How far can you throw a multi-national conglomerate, anyway?)

Now that we've got all the information it seems they're going to give... well, I believe I'll be sticking to Newman's O's, for so many reasons. But, as with all things, the choice is yours. Just make sure you're making your decision with all of the information - not just what's most convenient to believe.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

76 Pea Pods at the Big Parade...

What's right with this picture?



Everything! The Second Annual Veggie Pride Parade in NYC happened yesterday. I went! I saw! I took too many pictures! And I blogged it all, of course.

You'll find the post - where else? - on the Vegan Etsy blog. Enjoy, and leave a comment! Hearts.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This one's about flowers.

New post on the Vegan Etsy blog. Maybe you like it? Maybe you leave a little comment so that I feel the love?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Eat this, not that, and have a heart attack anyway because it's still junk food.

If you're hell bent on eating nothing but total and utter crap, boy have I got the books for you! They're called "Eat This, Not That", and they're some of the more recent in a long line of "diet" books that sell very well because they tell people what people want to hear.

And what is it, pray tell, that people want to hear? In a nutshell: "Don't stop eating junk food. And for the love of god, don't get off that couch at night! To be completely healthy, supermodel thin, and sexy/handsome, all you have to do is make this one teeny tiny insignificant change that you won't even notice (like eating this fast food burger instead of that fast food burger, or taking this new BREAKTHROUGH pill). It's that simple! Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?!"

And of course, it is.

The "Eat This, Not That" series basically works with the premise that the general public (and let's face it, the primarily overweight adult population of the United States) just isn't going to stop hitting up the McDonald's a few times a week. So why not tell them what the better options are there? And honestly when seen in that light they've kind of got a point. It's very hard to convince adults to change their habits. Even when they don't want to, people find themselves falling over and over again back into old bad eating habits - out of familiarity and comfort, out of convenience, or simply because it tastes good. So why not at least give them a little bit of education on how to get that burger fix with the least net damage?

Well, in my mind the problem even just from the single "personal health" perspective, which is the only narrow channel we seem to be traveling here, is twofold. First, it allows people to think that they really don't need to make a genuine change in their diets. And loves? If your diets predominately feature the high fat, high sugar, high cholesterol, uberprocessed foods featured in these books, YOU NEED TO CHANGE YOUR DIET. Period. Not a swap of one burger for the other. Perhaps try a swap of a fast food burger for some whole grains and raw vegetables once in a while! That might affect a real change... but it doesn't sell a whole lot of books.

Marion Nestle, Doctor of Nutrition and Public Health at NYU, seems to agree with me on this issue. In a recent response to questions from Eating Liberally regarding Oprah's endorsement of the KFC grilled chicken meal, she had the following to say:
Is a better junk food a good choice? Some would say that small nutritional improvements multiplied over an entire population will make an important difference to health. This is the philosophy behind shaving milligrams of sugar off of kids' breakfast cereals or adding a gram of fiber here and there.

But others, and I count myself among them, worry that such small changes merely create a "health aura"--the illusion that anything eaten in the vicinity of something healthful is automatically healthful too.

The second problem I can see is that even if the "that" choice is technically a "better" choice than the "this" - well, as I am so fond of saying, better is not the same as good. Bottom line? Anything that you choose at a fast food restaurant is unhealthy. It is not possible to make a good choice there. They do not sell food. They sell processed foodproducts. Fast food is to real food what cheeze-in-a-can is to smoked gouda. Not only is it not real food, but it's fake food so packed with fat, sugar, and salt that the companies who sell it are terrified for you to get ahold of their nutrition facts.

Now you're going to ask me about the salads. And our conversation is going to go like this.

"Well, did you order the salad?"

"No."

"Do you ever order the salads?"

"Um, No. But what if I did though? That's raw vegetables. It's salad! It's healthy!"

"Well, under the theoretical proposition that you would ever order one of the salads, would you put the dressing on it?"

"Of course. Salad without dressing is gross."

"Well then calorie, sugar, and fat wise, you might as well ordered a burger." (Southwest Salad with grilled chicken - because remember, grilled = healthy, plus one 1.5 oz serving of ranch dressing: 490 cal, 24g fat, 15g sugar. Quarter pounder with cheese? 510 cal, 26g fat, 9g sugar. Quarter pounder, no cheese? 410 cal, 19g fat, 8g sugar... 80 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 7 grams of sugar less than the "healthy" salad.)

"...Oh. But it's still raw vegetables though."

"Yes, but they're the very worst kind. They were grown 'conventionally' - that is, covered in pesticides from the time they were seedlings, or even before. Then they were picked long before they were ready to be eaten, and in the case of tomatoes they were ripened with gases after being shipped an average of 3000 or so miles. The longer the timespan between when a vegetable is picked and when you eat it, the less nutritional value it has left... and the vegetables in those salads are three weeks old or older by the time you'd get to eat them."

"But salads are healthy."

"I give up."

"So is yogurt. Yogurt has probiotics. They have yogurt parfaits; those must be healthy."

"Oh dear god. I have to go."

(I later send you an email explaining that introducing salads to the menu has caused a boost in sales for fast food joints like McDonalds - not because they're actually selling salads, but because since there are "healthy" options on the menu there's less of a stigma about going, despite the fact that once customers are through the doors they're still going to order a burger and fries. I also explain that the "probiotic" effects of yogurt are non-existent in the cheap, sugar-laden variety used by fast food joints, and that if you add granola (and you do, don't you?) there's just as much fat and sugar in those "healthy" yogurt parfaits as in a sundae. They're listed in desserts for a reason. I spare you the lecture on how cow's milk is a great food - for baby cows! - because you're not interested in that.)

But back to my original rant. Do I kind of hate the "Eat This, Not That" series? Yes, yes I do. Because they come from the same mentality that says, "I'm an environmentalist - I'm saving the planet because I changed my lightbulbs! I'm done, that's all I have to do!" It's practically a movement at this point, this belief that we can make real change in ourselves or in the world without actually doing anything differently at all.

The reality is this: if you are overweight and/or unhealthy, eating the standard American diet, and leading a sedentary lifestlyle, eating "this" instead of "that" may let you cut a few calories here and there. But in the long run it will not help you. In fact, buying into that mindset will hurt you, because as long as you do you will never make the real changes in your life that are necessary (yes, necessary) in order to become healthier.

And no, I'm probably never going to sell many books, because I'm not really about telling people what they want to hear.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Veg-fest-o-rama!

I put together a nice lil' list of veg fests and like events that are happening this month and throughout the rest of the year. I could re-post it here, but it's way more fun to make you go over to the Vegan Etsy blog and read it there. So what are you waiting for? Go read it!