By Joe Romano,
Warren Buffett, the man who heavily backed President Barack Obama's reelection bid, recently made the largest transaction in food industry history, when he and other investors made a leveraged buyout of H.J. Heinz and Company for 23.2 billion dollars in cash. While this is a massive merger, the trend toward consolidation of giant food companies may not stop here. According to Michael Balaban of Forbes magazine and other industry sources, "Heinz is a stepping stone to a larger food conglomerate ... up next for a mega-deal could be the Campbell Soup Company, or even Kraft." Likewise, CNNMoney is reporting that "merger activity has been hot this year" signaling "that other companies will now want to follow Buffett's lead and look to the grocery shelves for merger opportunities."
We are not talking about farmers or chefs who are toiling to deliver the best quality food possible, instead we are talking about mega-moguls who view food solely as a source of profit. "Big Food merits a fresh look," declares Reuters and New York Times financial analyst, Quentin Webb. "Companies that are purveyors of meals, sauces, and spreads may offer better value than is immediately obvious."
By Becca Harber
A number of organic food companies, in most cases regional businesses originally, have been bought up by some of the world's biggest agribusiness corporations. These purchases tend to take place very quietly so that consumers won't know that these companies — and their products — are no longer what they were. Many such products can be found on GreenStar's shelves. The Hain Celestial Group, in a joint venture with Cargill, owns no less than Earth's Best, Spectrum Organics (oils), Garden of Eatin', Arrowhead Mills, Health Valley, Imagine Foods and non-dairy Dream brands, Celestial Seasonings, Westbrae, Westsoy, Little Bear, Walnut Acres — and that list isn't exhaustive. Smucker's owns Knudsen, Santa Cruz Organics, and After the Fall juices; Cadbury, Green & Black's; and Nestle, Tribe Mediterranean Foods and Poland Spring, which many communities are fighting, trying to stop them from taking their local water, usually for free. French conglomerate Danone owns both Stonyfield and Brown Cow. Note, too, that non-foods companies that once created pure products have also traded hands. Clorox now owns Burt's Bees, while Colgate-Palmolive owns Tom's of Maine and Procter & Gamble bought New Chapter supplements.
Because the priority for these mega-corporations is their bottom line, minimizing expenses in order to maximize profits, their products' quality, sooner or later, almost always becomes poorer. For example, in 2007 Danone had to recall large quantities of its yogurt after it was found to contain unsafe levels of dioxins. Kashi cereals actually found themselves in a lawsuit because of the large amounts of GMOs and pesticides discovered in their products, according to the Cornucopia Institute's report. Kashi's Heart to Heart Blueberry cereal was found to contain grains coated in residues of many pesticides. Other products were oftentimes found to contain 100 percent GMOs.
By Jennifer Ruffing
Bisphenol A, commonly referred to as BPA, is a clear, odorless, organic compound derived from petrochemicals that is used to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. It is widely used in food containers in its polycarbonate form and used as an epoxy liner in canned foods and beverages. If you have consumed canned foods or beverages (with a few notable exceptions), you've been exposed to BPA.
In my opinion, BPA in canned foods is the most pernicious source of this plasticizer, as heating the cans during the canning process causes the chemical to leach out in greater quantity than if it had not been exposed to heat. As reported by CBS News1, a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association found that "people who consumed one serving of canned soup a day for five days had a more than 1,000 percent increase in urinary BPA over people who consumed fresh soup for five days." Granted, the study used one brand of soup, Progresso, and had a cohort of 75 volunteers. Still, it's probably fair to extrapolate the data and assume that any canned food with BPA in the liner that has been exposed to heat during the canning process will deliver a whacking great dose of the chemical.
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New in Grocery
By Anngel Delany,
Grocery ManagerBaby food pouches are here. If you're worried about their environmental effect, they may be superior to glass —read on!
There are big changes in the baby food section! We've revamped the section and have moved toward baby food in pouches. Many are concerned about the environmental impact of pouches versus glass jars, so here's the skinny on the baby vittles. First, the pouches allow the food to be cooked at lower temperatures than glass-jarred food, which helps retain flavor and nutrients. Glass is recycled by most municipalities, but that is only one facet of its overall energy consumption profile. According to the Eco-Container Corporation, pouches take less energy and fewer materials to make and produce less air pollution than glass, tetra pak, or PET plastic bottles. Because they're so lightweight, they require much less fuel for transportation. Right now the packaging is not widely recyclable, but Ella's Kitchen, our baby-food producer, has teamed up with TerraCycle to offer recycling for the pouches. Get a free shipping label for any used pouches!