Category Archives: Uncategorized

Walmart, Amazon Go Head-to-Head on Delivery Services


Walmart has been working hard, in recent months, to outpace and outdo Amazon as much as the latter has been disrupting many competitors in moving products  — including edible ones – to consumer’ doorsteps.

More and more, Walmart commercials and print ads tout its ‘no membership’ plan for no- or low-cost delivery service to consumers’ doors. The company also is growing its car-side delivery service – where a phoned- or emailed-in order is ready to be picked up at a designated store-side place. A  phone call from one’s car at that place to the store’s delivery department gets the order heading out the door.

Somewhat surprisingly, the delivery folks reportedly don’t mind performing their duties even in ‘off’ weather, according to a couple of them at a Lynchburg VA Walmart. Perhaps they are, justifiably, incentivized by tips.

Both of those services work remarkably well. The to-your-door service works better, perhaps, than Walmart imagined. But then, this is a smart company, and it may have realized a clever opportunity for customers living closest to Neighborhood Markets, the company’s scaled-down store model focused on food and little else: With the company’s entire product catalog available, much beyond what the Neighborhood Markets offer can be home-delivered, at no cost to the consumer. How? By delivering from the nearest full-service Walmart!

That is speculation on our part, but conceptually, it makes sense as a solution to a potentially serious challenge to Walmart.

This program also enables stores to cut inventory (in, say, pet supplies) and still offer a ‘full range’ of, products via the delivery option. In practice, this means that, for example, my local Walmart has been able – possibly coincidentally, possibly because of delivery issues – to leave shelves without some popular cat litters while still offering them through home delivery.

On another front – new patents – Walmart scored some seriously interesting ones recently. And Now U Know, the produce industry newsletter, reported on May 31 that recently approved patents included one for a navigation device for shopping cards, a wearable, tracking device designed to improve    employee productivity (think shelf stockers). And instore inventory trackers that can track when stock needs to be reordered – or shelves need to be restocked. A bit more esoteric is a patent that could  provide instore drone assistance for price verification and in-store navigation.

One or several of these concepts could be implemented in a store near you in the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, Amazon is boosting membership fees for Prime service – which most users value most for its free delivery feature. The company also recently expanded Prime to Whole Foods customers in select areas. More recently still, according to International Business Times, the company expanded Prime offerings to twelve states beyond the original test area around Ft. Lauderdale FL. A company news release said the expansion affects 121 Whole Foods stores in Colorado, Idaho, Arkansas, Louisiana, northern Nevada, northern California, Texas, Utah, and Kansas – as well as the Missouri side of Kansas City.

The company says Prime discounts also are now in place at Whole Foods’ Market 365 stores around the country. That Whole Foods sub-brand was launched in 2015, IBT noted.



“Hot” New Habanero Varietal Is Heatless


The shishito — another mild pepper varietal popularized by Noah Robbins.

Just as you’ve never heard anyone say they drink sweet tea just for the sugar, it’s highly unlikely you’ve every heard someone say they eat Habanero peppers just for their wonderful taste. That’s about to change.

A guy who clearly got bit by a ‘crazy-as-a-fox’ bug has found a way to consistently breed the heat out of the Habanero, leaving a “tangy, sweet, melon-like flavor,” Ark Foods CEO Noah Robbins told Munchies.vice. Robbins’ company, which has farms in New York, North Carolina and Florida, specializes in what he calls “interesting” vegetables, such as that mild, tasty Habanero and the shishito pepper, a sweet Asian variety.

Robbins first encountered the heat-free Habanero at a farmers’ market in New York City. The seller didn’t have many available, but Noah was so impressed with the different eating sensation – “you keep expecting heat, but it doesn’t come,” he told Munchies – so he picked up a few to generate enough seeds for some experimenting. It took about three years to come up with the one he now marketing, in a limited way across the country.

He notes on his company’s website that “the newest (and cutest) member” of the Ark Foods family is the cucamelon.

They’re strikingly similar looking to tiny watermelons, with the tangy, fresh taste of a cucumber. Delicious, refreshing, and tart,” the web site says.

Never let it be said that there’s nothing new under the sun!


Putin Bans All GMO Production, Imports

The following news article, reprinted in its entirety, was posted recently on the web site Natural News. This site bills itself as “The world’s top news source on natural health.” It seems to be produced by one man, Mike Adams, who couldn’t have a lot of time for sleeping: He produces a prodigious amount of information, all with a strong bias toward health (of course!) and ‘green’ products to enhance health. Make your own (advised) decisions on whether things he’s ‘pitching’ are things you want to ‘catch’.

Russia has adopted a new law that prohibits all GMO crop cultivation and GMO animal breeding in the Russian Federation, to prevent the release of GMOs into the environment. Furthermore, the new law allows the Russian government to restrict the import of GMO products that may pose a threat to human health or the environment.
In 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin told the Russian Parliament that the country should become the world’s largest supplier of organic foods. Later that year, Russia enforced a law that required strict labeling of products that contain GMOs, while the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich announced that Russia would not use genetically modified organisms to increase productivity in agriculture.
“Russia has chosen a different path. We will not use these [GMO] technologies,” he said.
As a result, a bill for a full ban on the cultivation of GMO crops was sent to the State Duma, which has now been fully approved.

Cleanest agricultural products in the world

The new law is a big win for anti-GMO advocates, including the Minister of Agriculture, Alexander Tkachev, and President Putin himself. Putin and Tkachev believe that the new law will aid Russia in becoming the world’s largest supplier of healthy, environmentally friendly and high-quality clean food – especially since the global demand for organic products is rising quickly.
Opponents of the new law are blaming the current Russian agricultural lobbyists of being afraid of competition and the development of new technologies.
As reported by We Are Anonymous, the first draft of the GMO legislation was a topic of heated debate. In an attempt to stop the law, pro-GMO lobbyists published a report claiming GMOs to be healthy and safe.
The study was written by ill-qualified scientists who used articles influenced by Monsanto and other GMO companies for their analysis. The researchers included Alexander Y. Panchin, of the Institute for Information Transmission Problems (IITP) of the Russian Academy of Science, and Alexander Tuzhikov, a research associate at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami specializing in Computer Science, Bioinformatics.
“We performed a statistical re-analysis and review of experimental data presented in some of these studies and found that quite often in contradiction with the authors’ conclusions the data actually provides weak evidence of harm that cannot be differentiated from chance,” Panchin and Tuzhikov wrote in their abstract.
Scientists from the All-National Association for Genetic Safety (OAGB) noted that the methods used for their report did not allow scientists to identify the toxic effects of GMOs; on the contrary, it disguised the toxic effects. Given the flawed nature of their results, Panchin and Tuzhikov’s report didn’t have the effect they were hoping for, which was to halt the non-GMO law.
In a last attempt to block the ban, GMO opponent and president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Fortov, requested a meeting with President Putin to try and convince him of all the benefits GMOs might have. It would seem, however, that the report and the meeting didn’t have much of an effect on Putin’s choice for organic, non-GMO food.

The ultimate GMO-ban

After almost half of the European Union countries opted-out of the decision to start cultivating GMO crops last year, Putin’s ban takes it a step further.
According to some experts, Russia’s ban on the cultivation, breeding and import of GMO crops may have long-term consequences for the global GMO industry. According toCapital Press, the new law could give Russian farmers a leg up with exports to the U.S. and Europe.
As the demand for clean, organic products continues to rise, Russia will be in a prime position to export its products to the world, while the GMO-orientated U.S. market will struggle to get rid of its ‘Frankenfoods.’
To avoid any of these altered foods ending up on your plate, make sure your produce comes from a reliable organic source, or start growing your own. Even if you don’t have a garden, your windowsill or balcony will do just fine.

Sources for this article include:

Cutting Down On Pasta? Don’t! It Could Be Good For You


‘Think pasta is fattening? Think again. A new study reported this month in the journal Nutrition and Diabetics indicated that moderate levels of pasta consumption contributes positively to a good BMI (Body Mass Index) and with “better adhesion to the Mediterranean diet.”

Put another way, pasta consumption balances well with “a diet of a type traditional in Mediterranean countries, characterized especially by a high consumption of vegetables and olive oil and moderate consumption of protein, and thought to confer health benefits; Researchers [have] found that people who eat a Mediterranean diet have lower odds of having a heart attack,” a Wikipedia article says.

George Pounis, the first author of the Italian study – the one cited above – sums up the results this way: “Our data show that enjoying pasta according to individuals’ needs contributes to a healthy body mass index, lower waist circumference and better waist-hip ratio.”

Previous research has touted the heart-healthy benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, which is a way of eating rather than a specific meal plan. It emphasizes fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, peas and olive oil plus fish and poultry.

However, little was known about how pasta — also a staple in the Mediterranean region — affected health, the researchers behind the new study said. This finding fills that gap, they believe.

“We have seen that consumption of pasta, contrary to what many think, is not associated with an increase in body weight, rather the opposite,” Pounis added in a journal news release.

Many people have shunned spaghetti, noodles and other types of pasta in recent years because of concerns they were fattening. The new study could potentially cause Americans and others to revise their views.

The Italian study covered thousands of people surveyed in several ways over several years.



Mintel: Canadians Getting More ‘Foreign Food’ Curious


A new report from the Mintel marketing intelligence organization says that as immigration continues to drive Canada’s population growth, the established population is increasing seeking to experience cultures beyond their own by sampling ‘foreign’ foods.

Many Canadians had an opportunity to do that multiple times in a single day, as I did, at Expo ’67 in Montreal. Some fine examples of the cuisines of a multitude of countries were there to be enjoyed, and may have something to do with the fact that, long before the recent Mintel survey, Canadians there and elsewhere in that country were able to find restaurants serving specialties from such countries as Italy, France, Greece and China.

Having had the ill fortune of experiencing Chinese food in both Montreal and Vancouver, even though I did so in both places some years ago, I would not encourage anyone who’s experienced that cuisine either in New York City or its homeland to ‘give it a go’ in Canada. (Nor would I recommend ordering lobster in a Montreal restaurant – but that’s a tale (no pun intended) for another day.)

England was for many years generally considered, by other-that-British folk, to offer little appealing in its ‘local’ cuisine (wherever in the country you ate), and many felt it offered little better in ‘foreign’ restaurants.

Since I resided in the Greater London area for six years in the 1970’s-‘80’s, and traveled widely around the country during that time, I have protested mightily that England does, in fact, offer up some amazing good food in various kinds of ‘domestic’ restaurants, from local workingman’s ‘caf’s to top-of-the-line places such as Claridge’s, where my friends and I sat once next to Michael Caine as he and his mother enjoyed lunch.  And London’s ‘foreign’ offerings, from some excellent Greek, Italian, French and Indian restaurants, rival their counterparts in their home countries – and the only one of the above-mentioned I haven’t visited is India.

(Yes, London does have some decent Chinese restaurants, and Thai ones, and no doubt many other types. But I don’t give high marks to many of the former, and haven’t sampled the latter. My best Chinese foods experiences in London were when I was in a party led by a Chinese woman. She not only knew where to go, but also what to order. Thanks, Linda, for introducing me to dim sum!)

I don’t mean to lump Canadians, as many tend to do regarding so-called Millennials, into an amorphous mass, but I’ve never thought of them – either of those ‘groups’, actually – as being particularly curious or adventurous, where food is concerned. Eating seems to almost be an afterthought, something that mixes well with the lively conversations Canadians clearly enjoy when seated around tables conveniently fitted out with food.

As for their recent trend to sample, to a greater or lesser degree, types of food enjoyed by people in far-flung parts of the world, I strongly encourage them to keep it up.

When I was in Kosovo, long before most of the world had heard of what then was an Autonomous Province of Serbia, even though my government-hosted party was being well feted twice a day (for a total of close to four hours, between lunch and dinner, and you don’t want to think about how much wine we were expected to consume!), I still made it a point to venture out and sample some ‘authentic, ethnic’ local food from a street-side vendor. That’s the kind of thing the locals tended to eat, as opposed to the ‘regional specialties’ provided (twice a day, for five days!) to a ‘distinguished group’ of foreign journalists traveling around a relatively small area, visiting vineyards and sampling wine. (It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it!)

I live in a small town in Virginia. There is one pretty-good restaurant here plus an assortment of fast feeders, a pitifully poor example of a Chinese eat-in/take-out place, an almost-as-bad Japanese place, and a few Mexican restaurants.

The chef-owner of the pretty-good place employs an Italian theme, and patterns his creations largely on Italian originals. But he is Moroccan, and confidently introduces something of his beyond-Italian self and training into many of his dishes. My wife and I dine there often, usually scoring at least one meal’s worth of take-home each time.

My cook-at-home options are ingredient-limited: Neither Walmart nor Food Lion, a southeast U.S. chain, enables an adventurous cook, which I sometimes try to be, to stretch much beyond the bare basics, ingredient-wise. For better fare, I need to drive close to 30 miles to an obscure ‘Oriental grocer’ or a Kroger store. The latter is, compared to what’s in my town, Food Heaven. But even there it’s hard to get a decent cut of lamb, or broccoli rabe, or some of the other items so readily available in at least some major U.S. cities.

Young Canadians are probably as or more adventurous than young Americans when it comes to trying to experience other cultures through travel. And I’ve admittedly not made a practice of observing what Canadian tourists eat when I encounter them. (Many for a long time were easily identifiable as Canadian through the Maple Leaf emblems on their backpacks!)

But I honestly can’t recall encountering any obviously-Canadian people in restaurants beyond their own country. Clearly, as tourists, they ate something, somewhere, and it’s more than likely that, as the Canadians I did encounter tended to be backpackers, their eating-out budgets were on a par with mine: Conservative, to say the least! So some of them more than likely sampled cuisines ‘foreign’ to them – and, a decade or two or so, which some of them may have come to long for, when back home. Alas, many of those ‘foreign’ tastes were locally unavailable across the width and breadth of that great country. Could that have helped spark the availability of ‘foreign’ foods for today’s Canadians to sample?

I think it’s great that, according to the Mintel study, three quarters (73 percent) of Canadian consumers like to experience other cultures through food. What’s more, nearly three in five (57 percent) Canadians are more open to trying ethnic foods now than they were a few years ago, as the majority (72 percent) of consumers turn to ethnic-inspired dishes to break the monotony at mealtime.

Ethnic-inspired foods such as Chinese (89 percent), Italian (84 percent) and Latin American/Mexican (82 percent) are the most commonly eaten by Canadians, however some less prominent dishes are also being sought out.

In fact, while just 20 percent of Canadians have tried African-inspired food, half (50 percent) are interested in doing so. Similarly, though just one third (32 percent) of consumers have eaten Southeast Asian food, 44 percent are interested in trying a Southeast Asian dish.

But the sad news is, a sizable minority of consumers are hesitant to create such dishes at home: 61 percent of consumers generally try ethnic-inspired foods at restaurants before preparing them at home. Further, more than one third (36 percent) of consumers agree that making ethnic foods is intimidating, with two in five (38 percent) agreeing that it is difficult finding ingredients to make ethnic inspired dishes.

Consider this, Canadians, Americans and others interested in trying to prepare ‘foreign’ foods you’ve experienced in a restaurant: Those places get their ingredients from somewhere – somewhere not a whole great distance from you.

My area is challenging, in this respect, yet I am able to find a good many of the raw materials I want when I set out to try creating a Thai dish, or an Indian one, for example. (The lamb issue continues to cause me consternation, though!)

And I cheat, when I want Indian food, which my wife finds too spicy: I stock up on prepared – boil-in-the-bag – Indian foods when we go visit her son or mother in North Carolina. These are, while a far cry from what you’d get in a good Indian restaurant – and the nearest one of those is 60 or more miles from here – it helps satisfy my cravings for the magical spice combinations Indians have developed for their dishes.

Anyone who is averse to sampling ‘different’ foods – domestic or foreign – is doing themselves a disservice.

Exercise Can Cut Risks For At Least 13 Cancer Types



The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has released results of a study on the relationship between physical activity and the onset of assorted kinds of cancer. The study involved researchers at the NCI and the American Cancer Institute and included reviews of data accumulated in numerous studies in the U.S. and Europe.

An NCI press release said the new study’s findings “confirm and extend the evidence for a benefit of physical activity on cancer risk and support its role as a key component of population-wide cancer prevention and control efforts.”

In short – and, as you’d expect, the findings hardly are that – it was discovered that “greater levels of leisure-time physical activity were associated with a lower risk of developing 13 different types of cancer; The risk of developing seven cancer types was 20 percent (or more) lower among the most active participants (90th percentile of activity) as compared with the least active participants (10th percentile of activity),” according to the NCI press release.

It noted that the study was led by Steven C. Moore, Ph.D., NCI, and colleagues, with their findings appearing May 16, 2016, in JAMA Internal Medicine.

While hundreds of previous studies have examined associations between physical activity and cancer risk and shown reduced risks for colon, breast, and endometrial cancers, results have been inconclusive for most cancer types due to small numbers of participants in the studies.

This new study pooled data on 1.44 million people, ages 19 to 98, and was able to examine a broad range of cancers, including rare malignancies. Participants were followed for a median of 11 years during which 187,000 new cases of cancer occurred.

The investigators confirmed that leisure-time physical activity, as assessed by self-reported surveys, was associated with a lower risk of colon, breast, and endometrial cancers. They also determined that leisure-time physical activity was associated with a lower risk of 10 additional cancers, with the greatest risk reductions for esophageal adenocarcinoma, liver cancer, cancer of the gastric cardia, kidney cancer, and myeloid leukemia.

Myeloma and cancers of the head and neck, rectum, and bladder also showed reduced risks that were significant, but not as strong. Risk was reduced for lung cancer, but only for current and former smokers; the reasons for this are still being studied.

“Leisure-time physical activity is known to reduce risks of heart disease and risk of death from all causes, and our study demonstrates that it is also associated with lower risks of many types of cancer,” said Dr. Moore. “Furthermore, our results support that these associations are broadly generalizable to different populations, including people who are overweight or obese, or those with a history of smoking. Health care professionals counseling inactive adults should promote physical activity as a component of a healthy lifestyle and cancer prevention.”

Leisure-time physical activity is defined as exercise done at one’s own discretion, often to improve or maintain fitness or health. Examples include walking, running, swimming, and other moderate to vigorous intensity activities.

The median level of activity in the study was about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, which is comparable to the current recommended minimum level of physical activity for the U.S. population.

There are a number of mechanisms through which physical activity could affect cancer risk. It has been hypothesized that cancer growth could be initiated or abetted by three metabolic pathways that are also affected by exercise: sex steroids (estrogens and androgens); insulin and insulin-like growth factors; and proteins involved with both insulin metabolism and inflammation. Additionally, several non-hormonal mechanisms have been hypothesized to link physical activity to cancer risk, including inflammation, immune function, oxidative stress, and, for colon cancer, a reduction in time that it takes for waste to pass through the gastrointestinal tract.

Most associations between physical activity and lower cancer risk changed little when adjusted for body mass index, suggesting that physical activity acts through mechanisms other than lowering body weight to reduce cancer risk.

Associations between physical activity and cancer were also similar in subgroups of normal weight and overweight participants, and in current smokers or people who never smoked.

The study was a large-scale effort of the Physical Activity Collaboration of NCI’s Cohort Consortium, which was formed to estimate physical activity and disease associations using pooled prospective data and a standardized analytical approach.

“For years, we’ve had substantial evidence supporting a role for physical activity in three leading cancers: colon, breast, and endometrial cancers, which together account for nearly one in four cancers in the United States,” said Alpa V. Patel, Ph.D., a co-author of the study from the American Cancer Society. “This study linking physical activity to 10 additional cancers shows its impact may be even more relevant, and that physical activity has far-reaching value for cancer prevention.”

Smoke Signal: Fried Chips/Chicken Pose a Cancer Risk – As Smoking Does


Photo: New Food Magazine

A not-quite-new warning has been published about the presence of acrylamide – a carcinogenic chemical that is industrially produced for use in products such as plastics, water treatment products, and cosmetics – in starchy foods that are cooked at high temperatures. Acrylamide also is found in cigarette smoke, according to the U.S. F.D.A. (Food and Drug Administration).

Just published in U.K.-based New Food magazine, this warning is from the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) committee on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM), whose scientific opinion on the issue was first reported in 2014 then confirmed last year. The ‘new’ report in New Food is a hardly-timely update reflecting the latter finding.

Acrylamide, New Food says, “is a chemical that naturally forms in starchy food products during every-day high-temperature cooking. The main chemical process that causes this is known as the Maillard Reaction; it is the same reaction that ‘browns’ food and affects its taste. Acrylamide forms from sugars and amino acids (mainly one called asparagine) that are naturally present in many foods.”

Given that, as New Food notes, “Acrylamide and its metabolite, glycidamide, damage DNA and are carcinogenic,” your answer to ‘do you want fries with that?’ should be “NO!”

The magazine continues:

Evidence from animal studies shows that acrylamide and its metabolite glycidamide are genotoxic and carcinogenic: they damage DNA and cause cancer. Following ingestion, acrylamide is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, distributed to all organs and extensively metabolized. Glycidamide is one of the main metabolites resulting from this process and the most likely cause of the gene mutations and tumors seen in animal studies.

Besides cancer, the Panel also considered possible harmful effects of acrylamide on the nervous system, pre- and post-natal development and male reproduction. These effects were not considered to be a concern, based on current levels of dietary exposure.

Evidence from human studies that dietary exposure to acrylamide causes cancer is currently limited and inconclusive.

The F.D.A. says, in a current web site posting, “In laboratory studies, acrylamide caused cancer in animals, but at acrylamide levels much higher than those seen in foods.” While somewhat encouraging – taking away the ‘let’s not eat fries anymore’ reaction – that kinda-sorta raises another question, of what we are consuming, thanks to modern food processing procedures, that could be  – and more than likely is – killing us.

This link gives you access to pretty much what the F.D.A. knows, or is saying, about acrylamide.

From the sounds of it, this is not something you have to be terribly concerned about – but it is something you should be aware of. That, and the fact that, for an assortment of other reasons, too much fried food isn’t something you should be consuming – on more than an occasional basis, at best.