Illegal? Really?…

There’s been some chatter over the past few days regarding a recent claim that the DHA Omega-3 our Horizon brand uses in a few of our milk products is a “prohibited” or “illegal” substance. That’s a very strong accusation. It’s also not true. The USDA has not banned the use of plant-based DHA in organic milk, nor has it questioned the safety of the ingredient.

Here’s the situation – late last April (2010), the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) chose to re-evaluate the process it had been using to approve various added nutrients for organic products. The question the NOP is asking itself, is should it, as part of its current ingredient approval process, add a few new steps. Steps like requiring a formal petition process with a public hearing.

The DHA we source from Martek (our DHA provider) falls into a long list of other ingredients that would be affected by the change. A list of ingredients (like Vitamins A, D, and DHA derived from fish oil) that, like the DHA we use, are currently being used in other organically certified products. Important to note though that the USDA is still trying to figure this out, no decisions have been made as it relates to the addition of the new regulations (I also want to point out that the DHA we use, has been scientifically proven to help with brain and eye development in children… It’s good for you).

The Organic Trade Association issued a press release about the situation when it it happened; you can read it here. Note the second paragraph, which reads:

“It is important to remember that the affected products remain in good organic standing with the NOP, and will continue to be found on store shelves while the National Organic Standards Board reviews the specific ingredients” said Christine Bushway, OTA’s Executive Director.”

So, when you hear that the USDA is evaluating Martek’s DHA as an organic supplement, they aren’t questioning the ingredient itself, just the process behind its (and a variety of other ingredients) approval. Rest assured that we at Horizon worked with Martek and the USDA to follow the correct process to get the DHA approved as an accepted additive to organic milk (in 2007 when we introduced our first DHA enhanced product).

Another important thing to note in the press release is the date – April 29, 2010. This is not new. It’s also something that we as an organic food provider support. Look, if the people that regulate organic food labeling want to do something that adds credibility to the organic label, we’re all for it. We’re also all for having an open dialogue about this topic, or any other that you’d like to discuss.

You can learn more about our DHA and other certified organic dairy products here. And you can also check out Horizon’s Facebook page, where we’ve been having really great constructive discussions with our consumers.

Where in the town…

Check out Blaine (our President) talking about WhiteWave as part of a “Where in the Town” segment on one of our local news stations…

Putting it together

I love Colorado and the experiences it brings to my life.

One of those experiences is skiing. I was a first-time snowboarder as an adult, which can be challenging. Being a fierce competitor and overall pretty impatient person, I often left the mountain in frustration. Everyone kept telling me “one day it will all come together – just keep at it.”

That faithful day finally arrived a couple weeks ago in one of my favorite places – Vail, Colorado. Vail Mountain is not only beautiful, but provides a scale that most mountains don’t offer. Over three days, we rode through powder, bumps, trees, and woops on both steep runs and slow roads. For the first time, I loved snowboarding and had a great time.

Also, throughout that weekend, I noticed how many companies and restaurants are making small changes in the hopes that one day it will all come together.

  • Our hotel offered a free breakfast, with compostable cups and flatware.
  • Vail Resorts has a recycling program, featuring various receptacles at each mountain lodge and eatery.  The site of a snow cat hauling about 24 recycling bins was impressive! (Sorry, I just stared rather than snapping a picture).
  • The town of Vail also features a recycling program with recycling bins for both paper and plastic appearing alongside trash bins.
  • At dinner, we had several local options to choose from. Flame restaurant offered Colorado bison, lamb and venison. Kelly Liken featured trout, quail, lamb and more from Colorado. Side note: Kelly Liken was one of my favorite Top Chef contestants who finished in the final three in season 7.

I’m happy it all came together for me on the mountain. But I’m ecstatic that people are starting to make small choices that will make a big difference for our future.

An all new – Check it out, and let us know what you think…

Better late than never…

This week the USDA released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These Guidelines are revised every five years, and serve as the foundation for federal nutrition policy and programs.

In a nutshell, the Guidelines recommend we consume more “nutrient-dense” foods (translation: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat/fat-free dairy products, and protein sources like seafood, lean meats & poultry, and plant proteins like soy foods, beans, nuts and seeds) and less foods contributing sodium , solid fats and added sugars (translation:  less fast food, processed foods, fried foods, fatty meats, sodas and sugary drinks, cakes, cookies and candy). Shocking, no?

While these recommendations haven’t changed much since 2005 edition, for the first time the Guidelines do specifically address the need for most Americans to EAT LESS.  This is an obvious, but necessary reminder in light of the sky-rocketing obesity rates in the U.S.

The full report is 94 pages long, but can be boiled down to the following key messages:

Balance Calories

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less
  • Avoid oversized portions

Foods to Increase

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk (Note: fortified soymilk was also recommended as a dairy equivalent)

Foods to Reduce

  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals — and choose the foods with lower numbers
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks

My take:  thumbs up to the nod for more plant-based foods and for enjoying our food while being mindful of calories (the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive!). I’d like to see even more specifics around how to make these guidelines actionable for Americans every day.

While some may take issue with the “politicization” of the Guidelines, they are certainly scientifically sound, and if followed, would go a long way toward improving the health of Americans.  There is a big opportunity to increase awareness – many estimate that fewer than 3% of Americans follow the Guidelines.

A clear sign of the communication problem (besides the fact that 60%+ of Americans are overweight): USDA Secretary Vilsack admitted that before he was appointed Secretary, he’d never read the Dietary Guidelines himself. D’oh!  It’s little wonder then that most Americans aren’t paying much attention. The USDA is promising a revised food guide pyramid in the coming months as well as other nutrition education initiatives in support of the Guidelines, so stay tuned. Here’s hoping these efforts can help bring them to life and into the everyday diets of Americans.