Friday, February 7, 2014

Tips for Avoiding GMO Foods at the Grocery Store

Here in the US, there are GMO ingredients in most processed foods that are NOT labeled that way, because our government and food producers alike don't think you have a right to know what's in the food you're eating.


How can a health conscious consumer find out if the food they want to purchase contains GMOs? Here are some tips that I'd like to share with you as avoidance strategies.  These tips are hard and fast, hold them in your mind every time you're in the grocery store.

Assume that all non-organic corn, soy, cottonseed and canola ingredients are GMO. In the US today, these plants are very likely grown from genetically modified seeds.  Essentially, if it's a food from the center aisles of the grocery store, than it is highly likely to contain one or more of the four ingredients I've just named. If you need something made with corn or soy, be sure to seek out certified organic products.  Certified organic products have gone through that certification process because it guarantees that they cannot contain GMOs.  This is a food shopping imperative; knowing what a certified organic product truly means.

Keep away from any and all artificial sweeteners!  I cannot emphasize this enough.  Aspertame is made using GM bacterial strains of E. coli.  In addition, more and more research indicates that consumption of aspartame carries a whole range of very negative health side effects. (I highly recommend watching the story of how aspartame received FDA approval, it is both chilling and informing.)

Acknowledge and beware of "invisible" GM ingredients that you will read on the food label, without necessarily understanding their origins. Some scientifically-sounding ingredients are derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Here's a short list of the most common ones found in almost all processed foods: whey, xanthan gum, glutamate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, cellulose, citric acid, maltodextrin and mono and diglycerides.

Be vigilant about choosing organic/certified organic dairy products. At the very least, you need to choose rBGH-free dairy products.  All of the conventional dairy products produced here in the US are made from cattle raised with rBGH.  This growth hormone very likely contains genetically modified components.  Fortunately for food shoppers, there are many options out there to choose from and they are being distributed much more widely, as a result of consumer demand.  For instance, there are dairy products with labels that declare the product  "rBGH free".  If you look carefully, they are becoming available in mainstream grocery stores. This option was unavailable even a couple of years ago.

Beware of produce stickers and PLU codes on fruits and vegetables.  There are many myths out there concerning these small coded stickers on produce.  Specifically, I've been informed that these codes can help identify GMO fruits and vegetables. However, while many people are convinced that a 5-digit code beginning with an 8 identifies a GMO, that kind of identification is completely optional.  As far as I'm aware, no produce providers have chosen to be so transparent.
There is one you can trust.  It is a 5-digit code starting with a 9.  9 identifies organic fruits and vegetables and by this classification, they are non-GMO.

I've talked about this before, but I want to just emphasize the worst 10 foods for GMO ingredients.  Obviously these are the ones you and your family must absolutely avoid.
They are:  corn, soy, sugar, aspartame, papayas from Hawaii, canola, cotton/cottonseed, dairy, zucchini and yellow squash.

If you want to eat these foods, consider organic but to be truly safe, I recommend certified organic.  You can think about gardening at home and growing some of these items yourself.  It's always a good idea to get to know a local farmer from your farmer's market and you can find out about the quality of the produce she/he is selling by building a personal relationship with her/him.  To me, this is getting to be one of the safest things we can do---eat locally from a farmer we've built a personal relationship with.

For great informational reading on all things natural, visit

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