When is milk not milk?

When the Court of Justice of the European Union says it’s not. They ruled last week that plant based products cannot, in principle, be marketed using terms such as milk, cream, butter, cheese or yoghurt as these are reserved for animal products. The case follows an action brought in Germany by The Verband Sozialer Wettbewerb against German company TofuTown, which produces and distributes plant based alternatives to dairy products. Because TofuTown does not consider its advertising infringes EU legislation the case was referred to the Court of Justice. The Court judged that despite product labels always referring to the fact that products are plant based they should still not use terms reserved for products of animal origin. It remains to be seen how this ruling will affect producers of similar products elsewhere in the EU. Commenting on the ruling the European Vegetarian Union said, “Today’s decision has triggered an important discussion which we will continue in the future”.

Glyphosate: lies, lies and more damn lies

Monsanto is being sued by families in the US who allege exposure to Roundup caused cancer following the classification of glyphosate in 2015, as ‘probably carcinogenic’, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). In reports thought to be heavily influenced by the agrochemical industry, accusations have been made that the IARC failed to include important scientific data in their 2015 assessment of glyphosate, which could have changed their classification. Whilst in the EU, Dr Christopher Portier has questioned the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Chemical Agency’s (ECHA) evaluation of the safety of glyphosate following a re-analysis of the data used. EFSA have indicated that they are ready to continue approval of glyphosate use in the EU for the next 10 years, despite mounting opposition from EU citizens. Alongside all the accusations, the Corporate Europe Observatory published a report showing nearly half of all EFSA’s experts have a conflict of interest (COI) with industry. We leave you to draw your own conclusions!

To tax or not to tax, that’s the question

Following publication of a report by the University of Stirling, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has called for the UK sugar tax to be extended to all sugary foods and not just drinks. Dr Gillian Purdon, FSS Senior Dietary Advisor said, “The report supports Food Standards Scotland views and recommendations for the need to extend sugar tax beyond soft drinks, to reformulate products to reduce sugar fat and salt, to resize portions, address less healthy food promotion and to provide clearer consumer information on products in both the retail and out of home sectors”. The food industry has already embraced the reformulation of soft drinks with additional artificial and non-nutritive sweeteners. This drive is now extending beyond the reach of fizzy drinks into other foods. But, there seems to be little acknowledgement of the impact to our health. What we need is less sweet foods and more educated palates. What we don’t need is foods laden with artificial and non-nutritive sweeteners. Merely replacing sugar with non-nutritive sweeteners is not a move in the right direction for our health and is storing up a world of trouble for the future.

Amazon to buy Whole Foods Market

In a surprising business acquisition, online retail giant Amazon has bought Whole Foods Market in a reported $13.7bn (£10.7bn) takeover. Amazon have made no secret of their desire to enter the high street and the acquisition of the Texas-born organic food chain marks Amazon’s first major push into this area. But, what could this mean for Whole Foods’ future? Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has already confirmed plans to considerably cut shelf prices to make premium fresh foods more accessible. However, with suggestions of Amazon looking to introduce its new ‘Elements’ line of supplements into the stores, all eyes are firmly fixed on whether the question of quality will waver. Despite their assurances of transparency, there is certainly still room for speculation considering that Elements’ first released “premium product” was quickly pulled due to cheap quality standards. Whole Foods Market operates 431 stores across the United States, Canada and the UK as of September 2016. Watch this space!

Vaccine like drug to lower cholesterol

Researchers in Holland have announced they are about to start human trials of a drug that acts like a vaccine designed to force cholesterol levels even lower following successful mouse trials. The drug, known as AT04A, is a form of immunotherapy that targets an enzyme, called PCSK9, that contributes to the formation of harmful plaque in coronary arteries. In mice AT04A led to a 53% reduction in the total amount of cholesterol and shrank atherosclerotic plaques by 64%. The drug, which is intended to be given once a year, like a vaccination, works by blocking the PCSK9 enzyme. Read more about why cholesterol is so essential to our health in our article For Fat’s sake, ignore these guidelines!